According to this article, there are now gyms that exclude slimmer clients so that fat people will feel more comfortable.
In the article, NAAFA board member Lisa Tealer expresses concern about this trend because she feels it is just another version of size discrimination (this time against the average-sized person). I see her point, but unless this becomes a common trend, I don’t think creating a niche market like this outweighs the benefit of providing a “safe” place for fat people to work out.
Lisa states that an ideal fitness club should create a safe and welcoming environment for both fat and thin, but this doesn’t always work well in practice. The article points to Planet Fitness as having a “judgment free” policy. However, as of January 2012 Planet Fitness was a sponsor of The Biggest Loser, and a patron in New York reportedly had his membership canceled for grunting while exercising.
Even a fatties-only gym isn’t necessarily a safe haven. The idea behind fatties-only is that removing the slimmer patrons makes the gym judgment-free – because, you know, fat people never judge each other.
Reality check – people judge each other – pretty much everybody does it. I know I judge people so I am not surprised when people judge me. However, that doesn’t mean I want to hear about your opinion any more than you want to hear mine. Okay? So the idea of a judgment-free gym is nice, but what we are really talking about is a place where you don’t have to have your face rubbed in that judgment by hearing nasty comments or dealing with nasty looks.
And while I do not want to be exposed to someone else’s judgments about me and my fat ass, there is another form of judgment I don’t want to have to deal with at a gym.
I don’t like it when someone judges me based on my body; but I HATE it when someone assumes that I am (or should be) motivated to lose weight.
I belonged to Curves for awhile. I really enjoyed the work out I got there, but I hated the weight-loss focus, having to listen to all the diet-talk and the focus on body hatred (by the patrons) while I was there. So I quit, and I have not been able to find any weight neutral place where I can exercise in peace.
And let’s be clear. I am not saying that you should not exercise to lose weight. Whatever reason you have for exercising is your business. Okay? You can make your own decisions. I just personally find it damaging to be exposed to body hatred.
The names Downsize Fitness and Body Exchange (both mentioned in the article) make it clear their goal is weight loss; and looking into Square One, I found that its focus is weight loss.
Buddha Body Yoga, however, does not have a focus on weight loss, and does not list weight loss as a “benefit” of participating in their classes. I also understand why they cater to large clientele. They are adapting yoga for the larger body – they are not providing classes of average-size yoga to larger-than-average sized people. They are tailoring something specifically to help large people get in touch with their bodies. So, yay, Buddha Body Yoga.
So if I go to a gym – no matter who the other members are – how is it a non-judgmental place if the focus is weight loss? The staff will be judging my progress based on my weight – not on the health benefits everyone gets from exercise, nor on how I feel about my own body.
I don’t need a fatties-only gym. I need a gym where I set my goals and I decide if I am meeting them; and where the staff and members are not allowed to make judgmental comments (however “helpful” they may feel they are being) about my goals or my body.
How about a gym on the lines of Regan Chastain’s motto – “Boss of Your Own Underpants Gym”. Now there’s a place where my fat ass might fit in – literally!