Local weight loss clinic gains while its customers lose

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012
— Chris from Beloit shed 37 pounds.

Elaine from Roscoe dropped 29 pounds and is getting closer to her goal weight.

Dan from Janesville lost 79 pounds in nine weeks.

Meanwhile, Jeff and Denise are expanding, and that's a good thing.

Jeff Dedrick and Denise Bergen own Medithin Weight Loss Clinics. Since opening 14 months ago, the business has muscled its way from six to 16 employees and is eating up available space in the building it leases at 2605 Kennedy Road in Janesville.

"The business has ramped up quicker than I thought," Dedrick said. "It's really grown through word of mouth."

So much so, that Dedrick and Bergen—his wife—plan to open clinics in Madison.

"We know that if it works here, it will work in Madison," he said. "It's working here, and last year was a tough year with the economy.

"But a tough economy is not a reason to not follow through on a good idea."

Dedrick, a Janesville native, has a history of spotting opportunities and pushing them through to successful businesses.

He and Mark Groshan, another Janesville native, watched the Little Caesar chain expand and decided to open a franchise right out of college in 1988. They saw similar popularity with the yogurt chain TCBY and opened one of those next.

They ended up with four pizza places and one TCBY, all in the state of Oregon.

"After seeing those chains making mistakes on the corporate level, we decided to start selling our stores and look for other opportunities," Dedrick said.

That brought the pair home, where they bought the Janesville and Riverfront Athletic Clubs in 1999. Dedrick sold his interest to Groshan to start a business focused on Internet advertising and marketing.

He still runs that business, in addition to the Medithin venture.

Medithin is a physician-supervised weight-loss program that Dedrick and Bergen say is safe, effective and affordable. Patients get an initial medical assessment, and a doctor and nursing staff monitor their progress.

The program combines medical therapy—primarily FDA-approved appetite suppressants—with a diet that's high in protein and low in calories and carbohydrates. It's administered with a strong psychological support system, and exercise is encouraged.

Bergen said the clinic has had more than 1,000 patients since it opened. Several travel to Janesville for weekly reviews from central Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. One woman even inquired about flying in from New York.

The latter inquiry could have been the result of a recent New York Times story about women trying to lose weight for their weddings.

The story started with the tale of a Rockford woman who visited Medithin in Janesville to drop 34 pounds so she could fit into her grandmother's wedding dress.

"Most of our patients have been successful," Bergen said. "It's not for everyone. There's a lot of commitment involved.

"There's certainly an unhealthy side to the weight-loss industry, but our program provides structure and a support system to help people keep the weight off."

In opening the clinic, Dedrick said he sensed a growing willingness among potential customers to come to a weight-loss clinic.

That willingness extends to men, a smaller demographic in the nation's estimated 75 million dieters who fuel the $61 billion annual weight-loss market.

Bergen said a typical Medithin customer wants to lose between 40 and 80 pounds. Some want to lose more, some as little as 10 to 20 pounds, she said.

The program starts with an initial 90-minute visit and medical tests, which Bergen said is the most costly part of the program. It then continues with weekly reviews until a goal weight is reached.

Bergen and Dedrick declined to disclose the program's cost structure, but they said food is bought at grocery stores.

One patient, she said, lost more than 100 pounds, which puts him among the clinic's biggest losers.

There's no doubt "The Biggest Loser," a popular show on NBC, has increased awareness and business at Medithin.

But it's also caused problems.

"People come in and expect to lose all this weight in the first week, like they do on the show," Denise said. "Then they lose five or six pounds the first week and are really disappointed.

"They eventually understand it's all relative and progress toward their goal weight."

Bergen and Dedrick said it's satisfying to see smiles grow as pounds fall away.

"I had a woman tell me the other day that I changed her world, and that made me kind of uncomfortable," Dedrick said.

"I didn't change her world. She did."

Last updated: 8:41 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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