(Photo courtesy Retrofit Inc.)
Kimberly Williams, MBA’92, isn’t just the COO: she’s also a client.
Chicagoans are still wrapped in their ubiquitous puffy black parkas, but it’s only a matter of weeks before magazines encouraging women to cultivate their “bikini bodies” hit the shelves. Americans throw a lot of money at weight loss schemes ranging from the draconian (the Master Cleanse) to the ridiculous (the Cookie Diet). Chicago company Retrofit aims to help clients lose weight in a more rational way, through a series of private consultations with nutritionists, personal trainers, and therapists, while keeping them accountable via devices like wireless activity trackers and smart scales. I spoke with Kimberly Williams, MBA’92, the company’s chief operating officer, about the company culture and how being a client (she has lost almost 60 pounds since joining the program) made her want to join the team.   Does the company see a surge of new clients come January? We do see an uptick in sign-ups, starting around December 28. It’s a time of year when people focus on their weight and reenergize around their goals. It’s a busy time in weight loss, even for our existing clients. During the holidays, children are home from college or off school, our clients are traveling, or they have relatives visiting. They get out of their own structure and so they refocus in January. Maybe they didn’t lose any weight, and so they’re like “Okay, I want to get back at it.” Is there a reason why Retrofit doesn’t use any celebrity endorsements the way Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers do? We really pride ourselves on confidentiality. The people who see your results are your team. It’s a very personal and private program. But if our famous clients wanted to speak out on it more broadly, we’d welcome that opportunity. Retrofit has recently branched out into corporate wellness. Have you been on the other end of that in your professional life? I worked at McDonald’s prior to this, which has a very active wellness program. They have a dietitian counseling their employees, and they take yoga or walk breaks for exercise. Despite the brand that McDonald’s sometimes has as it relates to nutrition, they’re very focused on their employees, and they have a reasonably healthful workforce.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1128","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"360","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"460"}}]] Retrofit’s online dashboard. (Image courtesy Retrofit Inc.)
Has your health changed since you joined Retrofit? It definitely has changed. I became a client before I joined the company, and it has been a magical program for me, and I wanted to bring it to as many people as I could. It reminds me of an old Remington commercial: “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.” I loved the company so much I took a position to work here. My health has continued to improve. People here don’t bring in birthday cake for people’s birthdays; they bring in fresh fruit from the market at Ogilvie [Transportation Center]. We take walking meetings. We all wear our Fitbit [trackers], and if we’ve been sitting around we say, “Hey, we only have 5,000 steps; we better get going!” What do clients seem to have the biggest trouble with when it comes to weight loss? There’s a ton of variability. For some clients, a big issue is consumption of alcohol, both for the caloric intake as well as how it decreases their focus. Maybe you just had a drink and then reach for some chips. We want our clients to enjoy life and have treats, so if they want to indulge and have alcohol, before they pour that first glass of wine, maybe have some fresh vegetables cut up and ready to eat. Another issue is time management, which is especially true for women who are caretakers to their children or their parents. Sometimes we go on progressions where it’s like, “Let’s get five minutes of ‘me time’ a day. How can you do that? Do you have a spouse who can watch the children?” You need that time to strategize when you’re going to go grocery shopping for the healthy foods. Are you wearing a Fitbit right now? How many steps have you taken today? It’s charging at the moment. I wear it pretty religiously; it’s like it’s become embedded in me. I panic if I don’t have it. Today has not been really high: I’ve done 3,200 steps, because I do strength training on Tuesdays. What I try to do is go for a walk at lunchtime and then a walk in the evening.