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February 01, 2012

Company Spotlight

Take Shape For Life: Success through Support

by Barbara Seale

Click here to order the Direct Selling News issue in which this article appeared.

Take Shape for Life

Company Profile

  • Founded: 2002
  • Headquarters: Owings Mills, Md.
  • Leadership: Margaret “Meg” Sheetz, CEO, Take Shape For Life Inc., and President and COO of Medifast Inc.
  • Products: Weight-loss meals and plans

It’s the second month of the New Year. Do you know how your diet is progressing?

If you were a Take Shape For Life client, you’d probably still be going strong as you watched your waistline shrink throughout January. Helping people get slim and healthy has resulted in some fat growth numbers at Take Shape For Life® (TSFL), the direct selling company that is part of Medifast.

TSFL is certainly in a unique position, as the obesity epidemic continues to create critical consequences throughout the country. Consider this: According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, less than one-third of U.S. adults are at a healthy weight, and obesity-related illness costs America $39.3 million in lost workdays. The Office of the Surgeon General estimates that some 300,000 deaths a year may be attributed to obesity. And the problem isn’t getting better. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that the health burden of obesity, measured by the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) lost, more than doubled from 1993 to 2008.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, less than one-third of U.S. adults are at a healthy weight.

As alarming as those statistics are, America’s appetite for weight loss and health has created a big marketplace for Take Shape For Life. In the third quarter of 2011, revenue increased 6 percent, compared to the same period in 2010. Increased product sales were driven by a 14 percent increase in the number of distributors, which TSFL calls Health Coaches. More than half of those coaches earned more than $300 a month. In direct selling circles, it’s an impressive number—even more so because the Health Coaches don’t sell anything.

Support, Don’t Sell

TSFL’s model is unique. About 95 percent of Health Coaches have successfully lost weight and improved their health using the Medifast 5 and 1 Plan, which is based on five Medifast Meals a day, plus one “Lean and Green” meal the dieter prepares at home using Medifast guidelines. Medifast meals are individual meals that control portion size, calories, carbohydrates and fats. Clients can choose from more than 80 different foods and flavors—everything from scrambled eggs to chili or brownies. “Lean and Green” meals include lean proteins and low-carbohydrate vegetables.

Not so different than buying diet meals from your grocer’s frozen food case, you say? Ah, but that’s where Take Shape For Life’s not-so-secret weapons come in. Health Coaches—those weight-loss veterans who have successfully shed pounds and achieved Optimal Health using the TSFL program—support their clients through the weight-loss process. Just as important, they’re still there as the client learns how to maintain a healthy new body and lifestyle. They advise, encourage, educate, model and answer questions. Discussions often center on what TSFL calls the Habits of Health—proper nutrition, adequate sleep, regular exercise and stress reduction. It’s a client-driven relationship. Health Coaches use the contact format—face-to-face, phone calls, even email—and frequency their clients prefer. The combination delivers the measurable results clients seek. On average, they lose two to five pounds a week.

What coaches don’t do is carry inventory or sell meals. Clients purchase Medifast calorie-controlled meals through the company website, and the Health Coach earns a commission from that purchase ranging from 20 to 35 percent.

Michelle Jones
Michelle Jones

The Medifast family of companies supports the process too. Medifast develops, produces and ships the products, and Medifast Direct often refers clients who want more personal support. Still more come through the TSFL website, where interested prospects can request a coach. Those referrals supplement the coach’s own personal contacts—the people who have noticed the coach’s personal transformation. Their natural question: How did you do it? The Take Shape For Life Health Coach uses that opening to discuss the program and the service they offer.

“It’s the one-on-one conversations, the relationship building that is creating an income for you,” explains TSFL Senior Vice President Michelle Jones. “How easy it is to share the program when you’re looking so good!”

Medifast’s Apple Cinammon Oatmeal
Medifast’s Apple Cinammon Oatmeal
Medifast’s Maryland Crab Soup
Medifast’s Maryland Crab Soup
Medifast’s Cranberry Mango Fruit Drink
Medifast’s Cranberry Mango Fruit Drink

Clinically Proven Health

Clinically Proven Health

Take Shape For Life’s nutrition program is backed by more than three decades of success. Its genesis is from its parent company, Medifast, established in 1980 as a weight-loss program offered through doctors’ offices.

Medifast’s management realized about 10 years ago that people wanting to lose weight didn’t always turn to their doctors for help. So they expanded from their physician-focused program to other models, including the one-on-one support offered through Take Shape For Life. Each program relies on Medifast meals and healthy lifestyle recommendations.

Developed by a physician and recommended by more than 20,000 doctors, the program is backed by volumes of clinical studies by researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as other major teaching universities, which have shown the plan to be both effective and medically safe.

“Scientific research is at the very heart of Take Shape For Life/Medifast products and programs, which have delivered great weight-loss results and unequalled safety for more than 30 years,” says Lisa M. Davis, Ph.D., PA-C, C.N.S., L.D.N., Vice President of Scientific and Clinical Affairs, Medifast Inc. “We have 11 published clinical trials to date that support our claims, including our recent SUCCESS Tracking Study. This six-year study compares weight-loss outcomes of different diet programs, and it shows that individuals who became Health Coaches during the study were over six times more likely to reach their goal weight. Health Coach success may be related to a sense of personal accountability that comes with role modeling. Health Coaches may feel more compelled to adopt and maintain healthful behaviors so they can continue to serve as inspirational guides for their clients.”

Changing Lives Virtually

Jones knows the power of relationships. In her 15 years at another major direct selling company, she saw that company’s consultants build their businesses on personal relationships, as well as on the company’s products. When Direct Selling News talked with her, Jones had been with TSFL for only 10 weeks, but she loved what she saw, even as she did her initial research.

“We aren’t just making a difference in the financial lives [of Health Coaches], but also in longevity and quality of life for both them and their clients.” —Michelle Jones, Senior Vice President, TSFL

“As I researched Take Shape For Life, their whole mission moved me,” she says. “I’m at a point in my career where I want to do something to make a difference. It’s quite emotional. I go to events and see Health Coaches who are committed to the 5 and 1 Plan. Some of them have lost hundreds of pounds, and they’re paying it forward. We aren’t just making a difference in their financial lives, but also in longevity and quality of life for both them and their clients. It’s staggering. The plan is so effective. People are wholly embracing what TSFL has to offer everyone.”

Jones wants more people to know about Take Shape For Life so that they can improve their health. Her first goal is to tap into the benefits that the virtual world can offer to Health Coaches. From social networks and computer apps to tablets and smartphones, she wants to take advantage of them all to connect coaches and clients.

“As I look at Health Coaches, they could be in Portland coaching someone in Chicago,” she imagines. “I want to make sure that their experience is as ‘live’ as if they were sitting in a coffee shop together.”

That good-friends-having-coffee experience is one of the draws for some TSFL coaches. They enjoy the relaxed, helpful feeling of sharing their know-how, and helping others to achieve the success they’ve had using the program and products. Others thrive on the positive, nurturing environment TSFL creates for its coaches. The final motivation is one that Jones wants to foster: the Take Shape For Life business opportunity.

Fueling Success

Even though the number of coaches has grown, Jones believes it can grow at an even faster rate, boosting overall success in Take Shape For Life and its health-seeking family of coaches and clients. She has plans to enrich the TSFL experience at every step.

The first investment in this process began with the company’s new online training portal, which it calls Trilogy Training. The word trilogy reflects TSFL’s three-pronged focus: healthy body, healthy mind and healthy finances. A healthy body results from weight loss and dedication to the Habits of Health. Healthy minds flow from the confidence coaches and clients feel in themselves once they have reached Optimal Health. And healthy finances—well, every direct seller understands that. It’s the business opportunity. But at Take Shape For Life, coaches achieve it by helping their clients achieve the first two, and then by showing those new success stories how they can help others by offering what their own experiences have taught them.

The company’s new online training portal, Trilogy Training, reflects TSFL’s three-pronged focus: healthy body, healthy mind and healthy finances.

While new Health Coaches are mentored by their own field leader, TSFL recognizes that sometimes questions pop up when those leaders aren’t available. Trilogy Training answers their questions on demand, 24 hours a day. The site opened in late July 2011. Since then more than half of TSFL’s Health Coaches have used the site. More enhancements are under development and will launch throughout 2012. Jones says that the new features will do more than take training to the next level. She predicts that it will set a new industry standard.

She explains, “We’ll offer just-in-time training. For example, when coaches are approaching a client for the first time, they will be able to sit in their car, call up the Trilogy Training site on their smartphone or tablet, and they’ll actually be able to role play before they go into the meeting.”

Jones says that the company is making major investments in its online presence and training, and Trilogy is the foundation.

“The Trilogy Training site is the go-to place that creates standardized, duplicatable training,” she notes. “If I’m someone who has to know everything right away, I can. If I prefer to take weeks to learn, that’s fine, too.”

She adds that other types of training are also available that cater to the coach’s preferred learning style.

“Some adults are visual, some are logical, some prefer to read,” she says. “Trilogy literally has print-and-read materials for folks who want to hold their training material in their hands and read it. Others are experiential. So events play a huge part in two ways, too. The first is training and development. The other is the elimination of self-doubt: Did I do the right thing? Events provide an injection of energy, inspiration and motivation to do something different to change your life.”

BeSlim LIfestyle: Priceless

BeSlim Lifestyle: Priceless

The BeSlim® lifestyle is composed of six core behaviors that have been proven to help maintain a healthy weight:

  • B is for Breakfast
  • E is for Exercise
  • S is for Support
  • L is for Low-fat meals five to six times a day
  • I is for Individual plan
  • M is for Monitoring

BeSlim has a financial benefit, too. Clients who join Take Shape For Life’s BeSlim Rewards Program get free shipping, substantial discounts on orders, and even free meals. TSFL’s Michelle Jones describes the program as cost neutral. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average adult American spends $16 a day on food, including grocery store and fast-food purchases. Clients who purchase TSFL’s Variety Packages will spend only about $11 a day, plus the cost of food for their Lean and Green meals.



Share the Love

All that training will be doubly useful as it supports recruiting efforts. Jones notes that a whole roster of incentives is already planned throughout 2012 to keep Health Coaches motivated to offer the business opportunity as well as support weight-loss clients.

Health Coaches can choose to simply coach clients, or they can choose to offer the business opportunity. The flexible business model allows individuals to grow and develop while they gain knowledge and skills to create a business that matches their goals.

Health Coaches can choose to simply coach clients, or they can choose to offer the business opportunity.

If they desire, Health Coaches may move progressively from Health Coach to Business Coach, then to Business Leader. Health Coaches focus on acquiring and supporting clients. Business Coaches sponsor and support Health Coaches. Business Leaders support teams of Health Coaches. Take Shape For Life provides training that ensures competency at any level. Beginning coaches, for example, must successfully complete the Take Shape For Life Basic Competency Exam within 30 days of enrolling. Health Coaches may also achieve certification through TSFL’s Health Institute. Certification reflects TSFL’s newest training and information and is centered on Dr. A’s Habits of Health and Living a Longer Healthier Life: The Companion Guide to Dr. A’s Habits of Health. Dr. A, as he is affectionately known throughout the company, is Dr. Wayne Andersen, TSFL’s Medical Director and Co-Founder. If Health Coaches find that they want to reach even more people with TSFL’s message of health and support, they can train to become a Business Coach. Then as their business grows, they can take advantage of the leadership skill training they’ll need at their specific level in the Take Shape For Life career path. The choice is theirs, but TSFL’s network of in-person and online support backs them every step of the way.

While some companies have struggled in the current slow economy, Take Shape For Life has grown exponentially over the last three years. Health Coaches, clients, the average number of clients the coaches are serving, and overall sales have all been up year over year. With the company’s renewed focus on sponsoring in 2012, the trend seems likely to continue.

“We have a fantastic story,” Jones says. “I want to make sure everyone in the marketplace knows the story and who TSFL is. Our story is not just about weight loss. Our coaches and clients have not just succeeded in their weight-loss journey. The ultimate goal for us is maintenance. We have clients and health coaches who have kept the weight off. That’s the story we celebrate.”