By: Matt Hagler, CEO – The Biggest Loser Resort

If you’ve been following our blog, by now you’re beginning to get a sense of who I am as a person and how much my life has been influenced by being the father of two daughters and to bonus-daughters (all incredible young adults). Three years ago my wife Natalie and I approached a crossroads, faced with the last of our brood leaving the nest and what we wanted to do with ourselves now that the daily rigors of parenting in the rear view. After significant cajoling, Nat convinced me to take a year to stop, take stock and decide how to spend this new chapter in our lives. She wanted to go abroad and chose Bali as a destination point due to the low cost of living, the natural beauty of the island and the Indonesian people, and in large part due to an educational experiment called “The Green School”.

Stigma, Rhetoric and Starting a Movement
Following an incredible time for reflection and introspection, we came away with slightly different desires. She decided she wanted to complete her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and I determined that I was going to invest my time and life experience in pursuit of a socially conscious endeavor, although not sure exactly what that would be. Serendipitously, the creators of the BLR (Biggest Loser Resort) concept reached out as they were looking for a CEO. After studying the CDC data and viewing the extent of what amounts to a global epidemic, I was hooked.

Source: The Lancet: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30054-X/

This week I return to discussing more of what I’ve learned from traveling to our resorts and working out, dining and talking to our guests that go through the program. Early in my hospitality career I learned that one of the most important skills to acquire and hone was listening to the voice of the customer. As part of the early team developing the Ritz Carlton Hotel brand Horst Schulze (CEO) invested millions in consulting fees and team time/effort making voice of the customer a cornerstone of the brand. This was part of why Ritz was the first service industry representative ever to win the prestigious “Malcolm Baldridge Award” given by the government to best-in-class specimens to keep America globally competitive. In taking the reins at BLR, my inaugural act as CEO was to invest a week at our resort on Amelia Island , participating in the program for the full week. At the check-in dinner on Sunday night, I was immediately floored, watching the 22 participants that week, (mostly female) sharing their vulnerability, their issues and life struggle associated with food, exercise, spousal support, kids. You name it nothing appeared off limits. Each time I visit and engage with our guest this open vulnerability and bonding between guests keep me humbled and determined to continue to find answers.

Stigma, Rhetoric and Starting a Movement
Certainly, many of the answers to this monumental issue will be linked to creating a movement to change the rhetoric around obesity/metabolic syndrome and the stigma, shame and embarrassment that burden too many. The number of guests, after effusively thanking our staff for the program granting them a new lease on life, that have whispered to me on the side that they lied to family, friends and co-workers about where they went is heart-breaking. Raising my daughters, I well remember tripping and stumbling as I attempted to discuss health and diet without being misunderstood as calling them “fat”. This is a tall order but vitally important. We owe it to our kids, our spouses and ourselves to work to figure out better language. With 68% of this country somewhere between overweight and morbidly obese (and trending in a significantly negative direction) we can no longer afford to be self-indulgently guilt-ridden. This is a societal issue affecting us all, fueled by an increasingly sedentary lifestyle as technology advances. In the near future, we’ll be reaching out to everyone that has gone through the program with a broad strategy to change the rhetoric. As a company, we’ll continue to have our own issues with one of the most significant being as core as our name “Biggest Loser Resort” and the trade out between brand awareness vs stigma. It’s a worthwhile fight, we’re recruiting an army and hope you will join.

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