Category Archives: Rants & Raves

Return of the Blog

Our ComCast service is out this right now, so with no phone or internet available I’ve decided to revisit our blog. It hasn’t been touched in years, but lately I’ve been thinking about using it again. This seems like the perfect excuse to give it a kick-start.

Before the service went out this morning I received two very interesting e-mails. One was from a member who had experienced a minor medical issue and passed out while he was at the Club. He was writing to express how grateful he was for the care and concern he got from our staff. He described how he was checked on multiple times following the incident, how he was walked out to his car and then driven home by two employees. He talked about how there were follow-up calls to check in and see how he was feeling, and how employees had also asked his daughter (who is also a member) how he was feeling. He ended by thanking our staff and praising Walter and Mary Ann for being so kind and caring.

The very next e-mail I looked at was a marketing piece from a health club “sales consultant”. He wasn’t someone I know, but somehow I ended up on his e-mail list, and he was offering his expertise to develop some new sales strategies to help boost our Club’s bottom line. Here’s how it started out:

“Summer can be tough. You don’t get as many walk-ins, your
sales people are scraping by, and it can get a little lonely in
the gym during off-peak hours. Instead of waiting for the Back
to School rush, let’s generate some revenues NOW”

I had to chuckle a little bit, because that’s not how exactly the scenario around here. First of all we don’t have “sales people” working on commission. While that’s how many of the big chain health clubs operate, that’s something we’ve never done. Call me crazy, but the thought of having to deal with a sales person who is “just scraping by” just doesn’t sound very pleasant. I don’t want your incessant calls and emails and to listen to your high pressure sales techniques.

The other thing that struck me was the “tough summer” reference. We’ve never had the big seasonal ebb and flow that’s so common in this industry. Sure we’re always busy after the New Year…but it’s mainly from existing members getting back into the swing of things. And while we’ll usually sign up a few more new members in the winter than other times of the year, it’s really not a dramatic difference. But for reasons that I can’t quite figure out, this summer has been even more on an anomaly.

We don’t advertise, we don’t do a lot of self-promotion, heck, we don’t even have a sign on the street. But last month (June) our revenue from new member sign-ups was higher than in any previous month in our entire history. Why June? I sure wish I knew what the secret formula was, I could hire myself out as a consultant!
While we may never know the reason that we were so busy at such an odd time of year, the formula to our overall success isn’t much of a secret. When we first founded the Club 25 years ago we were only focused on two things. The first was to provide the top workout equipment and the best fitness classes available to our members. The second was to hire the friendliest and most helpful employees we could find. A lot has changed at HealthQuest over the years, but those two underlying ideas have never wavered. That first e-mail was confirmation that we have some wonderful, caring people on our staff, while the second shows the value of focusing on service rather than sales.

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IS DISCRIMINATION ALWAYS BAD?

I suppose we could debate that question and come up with some persuasive arguments either way.  But the bottom line is that as the laws are written, any form of discrimination is illegal  (and thus punishable).  For that reason, we have removed the signs from our upstairs weight room that reserve its use for women.

Below is a copy of the letter that we’ve posted that explains the entire situation:

CALIFORNIA COURTS RULE THAT “WOMEN ONLY” WORKOUT AREAS ARE DISCIMINATORY

 Unfortunately we have been forced to remove our signs that reserve use of this room for women only. An anonymous member (actually a wife and her husband) has threatened us with a lawsuit, and after investigating the matter, it appears that current California laws would not support our position.

It has always been our goal to provide an atmosphere where people of all ages and genders would feel comfortable. Because many women have never used exercise machines and are intimidated by a busy coed weight room, we felt that offering this small, sheltered area would allow more women to get involved with exercise.

It seemed to us like this was a win-win situation. Women who felt more comfortable working out with some privacy were able to do so. It also kept some of these “exercise novices” from slowing things up in the main weight room. There was nothing in the room that wasn’t available elsewhere in the Club, so it was difficult for us to see how anyone was being hurt by this.

We wish that we could have discussed these issues with the aforementioned members, but they were unwilling to sign their complaint.  Are “women only” areas discriminatory? Maybe so. But wouldn’t the benefits (getting more people to exercise) seem to outweigh any perceived damages?

Our trade association supports “women only” workout areas, and several states around the country have put laws on the books that allow them. But until California chooses to address this issue, we’re bound by the existing statutes. So for the time being, we will be changing this room to a space reserved for “novice exercisers”.

 We are hopeful that we can develop a list of rules and policies for this area that will help it retain its current feel, and that it will function in much the same way it always has. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

HeathQuest Fitness Center

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No-nothing Nanny

The board of supervisors in Santa Clara County just voted to take the fun out of “happy meals”.  If the popular child-size meals don’t meet certain nutritional standards it will be illegal to  give away promotional toys with them.

This of course is yet another symbolic gesture aimed at curbing childhood obesity that’s been enacted by people who have no real understanding of the problem.  They just know that they’re smarter than you and that it’s their duty to help you run your life.

Reading the quotes from board president Ken Yeager in this New York Times  article showed just how clueless our politicians can be.  Ken doesn’t have any children of his own, but he’s quite confident he knows how to best help you raise yours. 

He claims the new law would level “the playing field by taking away the incentive to choose fatty, sugary foods over healthier options.”  Sorry Ken, you can take away the toy, but the fatty, sugary foods are still going to taste good to kids.  Supermarkets sell plenty of candy, cookies, chips and other junk food without the need to include a cheap plastic trinket.

Mr. Know-it-all believes that children are choosing their meal based on the give-away that comes with it.  He then delivers this gem of parental wisdom: “Why would a kid say ‘I want a burger with fries’? It’s the toys that they want.”  That’s right Ken, give them a plastic whistle and they’ll be lined up three deep to eat brussels sprouts and tofu.

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Monday Grab Bag

Get in line now, the Double Down (angina on a plate) will be available at KFC starting today.  And while we’re talking about bacon, here’s a link to an article about America’s love affair with the meat candy.

Who watched Jamie Oliver\’s Food Revolution this past weekend?  Were you shocked (NOT!) that Jamie was able to instantly convert his nemesis the radio DJ?  Were you amazed by how easy it is to cook a simple stir-fry (when someone else preps and measures all the ingredients for you)?  Doesn’t anyone else find it shockingly phony to see a man worth $60 million driving around in an old International Wagoneer?   Jamie may have won his “bet” on this reality show, but in the real world many are giving him a failing grade.

And speaking of fostering an image  (let’s wear scrubs every time we’re on TV!), “America’s Doctor” is taking shots for offering advice that is unsupported by science.  “Dr. Oz promotes unproven approaches such as Reiki and Therapeutic Touch, and to support them he cherry-picks studies that are positive and ignores the negative ones,” says Dr. Mary Ann Malloy, a nationally known Illinois-based cardiologist.  Oz fans might be wise to seek a second opinion.

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Filed under Nutrition, Rants & Raves

Bang, You’re Fat!

Want to make sure your research project gets plenty of notoriety?  Just ignore the most obvious (albeit boring) conclusion and instead “speculate” that there’s a mysterious “switch”  that you can flip that makes you fat.

That seems to be working for this group of Australian researchers; their study was featured on television this morning, and I just ran across it again on Yahoo’s health news.  You can see the article by clicking this link.

What they found is actually very interesting and was previously unknown-that the human tongue can detect fatty acids in food.  It was previously thought that there were only five tastes–sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (a savoury, protein-rich taste contained in foods such as soy sauce and chicken stock).

Everyone that they tested was able to identify the fatty acids, however some needed higher concentrations than others.  They also found that the people who were most sensitive to fat, those who could taste very low concentrations, had lower BMIs (body mass indexes) and consumed less fat than the people who were insensitive.

Then the speculation about the “mystery switch” starts.  They suggest that some people, the ones who don’t detect fat as easily, don’t have a “trigger” that tells them to stop eating these fatty foods, which of course leads to weight gain.

 So if we can just discover a way to re-arm this hidden mechanism, out obesity problems will be solved.  All we need to do is fund a lot more research, and then maybe the pharmaceutical companies will be able to develop a pill that will make it all better.  Yeah, right… 

Answer me this, oh enlightened researchers…aren’t people on low-sodium diets more sensitive to the taste of salt?  Isn’t a can of cola sickeningly sweet to anyone who doesn’t drink it regularly?  So if fat is also a taste, wouldn’t the same principles apply? 

Could it be possible that the overweight people have become desensitized to the taste of fats because they consume them so regularly?  That the people who choose to limit their fat intake have lower BMIs because they make better decisions?  No, no, that’s not going to make anyone any money, it must be something else.  We better fund some more research.

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I’m Likin’ It, Bit I’m Not Eatin’ It!

Another Olympics has come and gone, thanks in large part to the financial contributions of The Olympic Partners (TOP).  These huge corporations pay up to $20 million dollars each to be the “official” sponsors of the games, and get to use the Olympic rings in their logo and advertisements.

Visa is the official credit card, Coke is the official soft drink, and McDonalds is the official restaurant.  If you watched any of the telecasts I’m sure you already knew that— their commercials were played over and over every night.  The McDonalds’ spots were particularly memorable.  They had commercials showing Olympic athletes endorsing their products, and another that told kids “you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to eat like one”.  

Using the most fit and active athletes to promote products is nothing new, but this attempt to link fast food consumption with athletic performance is really pushing the boundaries.  Telling kids that Chicken Nuggets are the preferred food of Olympic athletes is both irresponsible and immoral.  This video is a better representation of what most athletes think of fast food, especially when they’re in training:

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Cheap Eats

There are plenty of things to blame the obesity epidemic on–larger portions, cuts to PE programs, more snacking, etc., etc.  But there’s one excuse I constantly see referenced that I just don’t understand…that somehow it’s cheaper to go out and eat fast food than to cook healthy meals.  Says who?  Why do reporters just accept this statement and report it as a fact?

Sure, if you’re going for Kobe beef and organic veggies you can run up quite a tab.  But good, healthy food doesn’t need to be expensive.  And unlike the aforementioned reporters, I’ll give you proof.   Cheap Healthy Good is a website, that as its name suggests, seeks to deliver tasty and nutritious meals at bargain prices.  It blows the “cheaper to eat fast food” argument completely out of the water.

In one post, the author demonstrates what can be done with a roasting chicken, some planning, and a little creativity.    The result is 5 different recipes in four days that makes 17 meals  at a total cost of $1.52 per meal.  And they’re good-looking meals…no cop-outs like chicken quesadillas in the bunch!   That same buck-fifty might buy you a large Coke at your favorite fast-food eatery…you still want to tell me it’s cheaper to eat out?   

Eating healthy admittedly takes some  time and effort.  You need to plan ahead…you can’t just head to the nearest drive-thru every time you start to feel hungry.  But don’t kid yourself—you’re not saving any money and you’re definitely not doing your body any favors.

Obviously its easier to settle for junk  food, so if you want to tell me that you’re too busy or too tired to cook, that’s a different story.  Of course someone who’s more cynical might say you’re just lazy, but that’s a whole different argument for another time.

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