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Start your own "Biggest Loser" program
Use the TV weight-loss show to inspire clients.
TV weight loss shows help people shed pounds, and veterinary technicians Erin Burrell and Stacey Sortor figured a similar regimen would help pets. So the two started a six-month program called "Looking Fine in '09" at their clinic, Ellisville Veterinary Hospital in Ellisville, Mo.
"We invited clients with overweight pets not on a diet and clients who relied on prescription food but whose pets were not losing weight," Sortor says. "We had a first weigh-in for the 10 participants, called them two weeks later to check in, and set up monthly weigh-ins. We required the use of our prescription food, phone contact every two weeks, and monthly weigh-ins—and we held clients accountable."
Three "Cs" helped the team succeed:
- Commitment to the program and to clients from all levels. "Every hospital member was behind the program," Burrell says. "It began with the doctors who talked about medical reasons to lose weight, to technicians who put the wheels into motion, to receptionists who greet clients at their pets' weigh-ins with enthusiasm."
- Connection with the families. Technicians listened to clients' needs and created personalized programs for each pet. They also celebrated their successes and acknowledged their difficulties.
- Communication between doctors, staff, and clients. "Clients felt fully supported and open to discuss their progress," Burrell says. And because they opened up, the team was able to discuss how to tackle any setbacks.
The practice encouraged other clients to join in the fun by placing a weight-loss display with photos and updates in the lobby. Clients not in the program commented on the contestants' progress and inquired about participating in the next contest.
At the end of the six months, the clinic had a weight-loss party and announced the winner—Chevas, a yellow lab who lost 31 pounds. Each participant was given a goody bag with motivational items for owners and treats for the pet—inedible, of course.