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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Vendor fair

There are about a handful of vendors at today's session, peddling everything from fitness videos and equipment to nutritional supplements and vitamins.

I'll be spending a few minutes with the vendors -- many of whom are leading workshops this weekend -- today and tomorrow to get a little more information on the products they represent and what has led them to make a career out of serving the obese and morbidly obese population.

Bariatric Advantage
Seth Felix is the Bariatric Advantage sales rep attending this weekend’s event. The son of a bariatric surgeon, Seth says he grew up with knowledge and interest in both bariatrics and obesity-related issues. He’s been with Bariatric Advantage for a little less than a year, but is an avid proponent of the products and confesses to snacking on some of the food items at work.

I used Bariatric Advantage vitamins – all of which are chewable – from three months before surgery to about a year afterward. I only switched brands because I was tired of the flavors. I’m happy to see the company debuting new flavors of vitamins and branching out beyond just vitamin and mineral supplements.

Seth told me the company will introduce two new flavors of its already-popular 400mg calcium supplement lozenge. BA already has mint, cinnamon – the top seller – and chocolate. Within the next two months, lemon and sour cherry will also be for sale. Seth excitedly tells me that they taste like Sweet Tarts and will offer a nice change for those who are tired of the original flavors.

BA’s No. 1 selling product, according to Seth, is the orange-flavored multivitamin for gastric-bypass patients. Like me, this is the BA product most bariatric patients start with, because all surgeons recommend a good multivitamin.

Bariatric Advantage also offers a multivitamin for LapBand patients that is called VitaBand. Because Bandsters don’t have to worry about malabsorption, their vitamin and mineral needs are different than bypass patients. Seth says the main difference is that VitaBand has iron included, and it’s the only BA vitamin that comes in watermelon flavor.“

We’re starting to get a lot of complaints from people who want our other multivitamin to be offered in watermelon as well,” he said.

Seth also spent a little time telling me about the company’s new products, such as their food supplements. BA is now offering food items for early post-ops, such as protein supplements and cereal. Packaged for easy travel, the products come in smaller, bariatric-friendly portions. He says the chocolate cereal reminds him of Cocoa Crispies. The cereal comes in chocolate, vanilla and banana – which can be exciting for post-ops sick of just chocolate and vanilla.

Another new product is the Promend AGB, which Seth says can work for bariatric patients but is actually geared toward post-ops who have cosmetic surgery. It’s a drink powder that provides 10g of protein and various herbal supplements to promote healing after cosmetic surgery.“And it tastes just like lemonade,” he said.

Excel Weight Loss Solutions
Karen Donaldson of Pocatello, Idaho, has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. As the founder of Excel Weight Loss Solutions, she works with people on nutrition, exercise and weight management.Karen started in the fitness industry focused on the disabled and those of limited mobility, which led to her eventual exposure to the obese and morbidly obese population.

“I’ve never been interested in working with jocks,” Karen said. “Those people will work out no matter what. I’d rather serve the rest of the population. It’s about real life.”

Dr. Monica Ganz, director of events and support groups for ObesityHelp, is a strong supporter of Karen and her program. Monica invited Karen to attend an OH event about 2.5 years ago because she was impressed by the workout video she produced.

“The nice thing about it is that anybody can do it – regardless of their fitness level,” Monica said. “And the videos feature normal-size and overweight models, which is important to me.

That fact has not been lost on Karen.

“Nobody is motivated by seeing somebody prance around in a thong leotard,” Karen said. “But if you look at someone who looks normal or is close to your size, then you believe you can do it; and you’re much more motivated.”

The other reason Monica is a big fan of Karen’s is that her exercise programs use resistance bands and exercise balls.

“This is something that everyone can do,” Monica said. “When I had surgery, it never occurred to me that I could exercise while sitting down. At that time, I couldn’t even walk.”

Also, as someone who travels more than 100 days each year, Monica favors the portability of the resistance bands. They don’t take up much space in the suitcase and are easy to do in hotel rooms.

“This keeps me on track,” she said. “I would never use the hotel gym, but I can use these in the privacy of my own room on my own time.”

Karen, who is presenting workshops this weekend on insulin resistance and strength training and on using exercise balls, also has her own line of aromatherapy products.Monica favors the aromatherapy locket with a piece of felt anointed with Appetite Balance, which helps curb cravings.

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