β†’β†’Video Vault: 20/20 Shows Fitness Centers Price Memberships Based On Weight

Video Vault: 20/20 Shows Fitness Centers Price Memberships Based On Weight

When I saw this segment, which @shoeology alerted me to, I had to honestly admit that I was shocked. Not because of the blatant size-ism… but because… let’s just say that I’m intimately familiar with one of the gyms in the beginning of the clip:

I’m beyond embarrassed that I associated with a place that would do this kind of stuff… and really, I’m just hoping that they only shot footage of the girl walking out of the place instead of it being a gym she actually visited. (I know… I’m Stretch Armstrong reaching, here.) I was even more amazed by the explanation of the “model discount,” where they admitted to having “partnerships” with “local agencies” which basically sounds like they offer cheap/free memberships to girls through “modeling agencies” so that their floors can be flooded with “cute.”

And, what’s more, listening to them talk about dangling ones insecurities in front of them to manipulate them into purchasing personal training sessions? I keep talking about developing my philosophies as a trainer, and foolishness like this is why. I’m serious. I’m seriously struggling with the idea of breaking someone down in that fashion just to get their money. Money is important, but damn – so is integrity.

So, now, I’m curious. What are your thoughts on the video? Do you have experiences that relate to this? Just how prevalent is this kind of size discrimination? At this point, I’m curious as to how wide-spread this is. It couldn’t possibly just be NYC… and it couldn’t just be my former fitness spot… something I am beyond embarrassed to admit.

Ugh…feel like I need a shower.

By | 2017-06-10T11:22:48+00:00 October 31st, 2014|Video Vault|23 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Kami December 3, 2012 at 9:47 AM - Reply

    As a graduate student, this is why I stay at the fitness centers at the universities because of all this madness. I have not gone to the gym ever since my experience at trying to join two gyms the personal trainers worked me so hard I could not feel my legs after that I gave up on exercise. Now I only been to small fitness centers such as yoga centers. Since I am out of shape I buy a month off of living social at a very small environment.

    • Rooo March 16, 2013 at 9:27 PM - Reply

      “I have not gone to the gym ever since my experience at trying to join two gyms the personal trainers worked me so hard I could not feel my legs after that I gave up on exercise.”

      Kami, this sounds terrible (and borderline abusive), and I’m so sorry you were treated like that.

      You want to remember you always have the power to say “No, you can’t treat me like that.” Before you start to work with a trainer, you are always entitled to ask them questions about their methodology. Let me say it again — you are entitled to ask questions. You are the prospective client.


      • Erika Nicole Kendall March 17, 2013 at 8:40 AM - Reply

        You shol’ do. And, if your trainer can’t explain their methodology to you, you need to find a new trainer.

  2. Cole December 3, 2012 at 2:17 PM - Reply

    Wouldn’t this have been more revealing to send in a less model looking woman? This seems to argue more that “hot” women (petite blondes or the occasional Asian) get discounts more so than thinner women in general. Did anyone else get that impression? Gym discrimination goes beyond fat and thin, in my experience, but I’d like to hear what others have to say.

    • Annette December 4, 2012 at 1:48 AM - Reply

      I agree with you there. There seem to be an issue with the 24 hour fitness center near me. It just opened up. Now the area is predominately white. Yet it is near a hospital, the nursing staff and professionals in the area which commute to NYC started to go there.

      Someone made the comment to my friend when she wanted to join “how can she afford it”, “what type of job does she do to be able to afford it”. Basically she was harrassed and not treated well. Then I looked on line at the reviews and it seems like most of the people that complained about that gym were African American.

  3. curlsz December 3, 2012 at 3:07 PM - Reply

    It’s infuriating – but anytime you are slapped in the face with the brutal unfairness and hatefulness that surrounds discrimination you should be infuriated. I hate that trainers are used to intimidate and manipulate, no wonder people join and then never show up! We have a gym here that is local and has a policy of never changing their prices, they don’t even run specials. As far as I can tell from the talk around town, they stick to it.

    I still think it’s weird to build a business around discriminating against thin people – I mean I get the premise but it’s the same thing as discriminating against fat!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall December 3, 2012 at 3:14 PM - Reply

      “I mean I get the premise but it’s the same thing as discriminating against fat!”


  4. Shannon December 3, 2012 at 5:23 PM - Reply

    Yeah, that’s disgusting that they can do that.

    I have a question though…for that gym that only accepts overweight people..what happens if they lose the weight? Like once they’re in a healthy BMI range are they unable to stay there anymore??

    • Cole December 5, 2012 at 2:36 PM - Reply

      I wonder about this a lot, too, actually.

  5. Kasey December 4, 2012 at 12:48 AM - Reply

    I’m a long time lurker but feel the need to comment. I haven’t experienced this though I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that is happens since people who are overweight tend to be discriminated against in one form or another.

    In my experience, I tend to join gyms that have set rates/memberships that I can find in advance whether by calling or via website. This way I am not surprised by the cost. Interestingly, I got a really good rate from a national gym chain though it was definitely not based on my appearance. I’m overweight and while I work hard to get stronger & reduce my weight, I made an argument for a lower membership rate based on my circumstances as a student with limited means. Since the gym really wanted the business, they offered me $25/month. It’s basic, no training included (not that I wanted it). So I think it depends on the individual gyms.

    My apologizes on the length. BTW Erica – I love your site. Been following you for over a year πŸ™‚

    • Erika Nicole Kendall December 4, 2012 at 8:43 AM - Reply

      Heyyy….if you’ve been reading for over a year, then I’m sure you know the comments get FAR more long-winded than this. ROFL

  6. Annette December 4, 2012 at 2:06 AM - Reply

    I will say this I was never comfortable at a going to a co-ed gym. I have always gone to a gym that was primarly women only. There isn’t any stress and I don’t have to deal with rude men. Seems like these gyms think they are doing you a favor.

    It doesn’t cost them anything extra to teach and instruct someone who is heavier. All I can think about is maybe the strain on the equipment. Maybe it causes damage. Yet a person who is large is very vulnerable, emotional to some and looks like a sucker for the taking.

    I understand some people’s way of thinking and I am on the lookout for it. My best friend went to HRC which is co-ed. She was a size 8 that got down to a size 0 and exercised to maintain it. Just to say I am no where near that size so it made me very uncomfortable to be there. I prefer a female gym and if I need a personal trainer I will look into it very carefully.

    Personality, methodology, someone who is a good communicator and explains in detail with a plan to get results. That is what I look for. I just hate the sales techniques they use. I think they are charged the most cause many don’t use the memberships long term. So the make a huge profit.

  7. Charey December 4, 2012 at 11:54 AM - Reply

    I was about to say I’m grateful to not have experienced such discrimination but hell, how would I know I haven’t unless I conduct a similar experiment?! I usually test out the gym by calling and asking about the rates then showing up to see if the rate is the same as what we discussed over the phone. It usually is. I’m 35 pounds away from a normal BMI and honestly I don’t mind working out amidst all the hot bodies (guys and girls) in the gym. I see them as motivation. My trainers have always been kind and supportive. Maybe DC is different than NYC as far as less snooty gym owners and clientele. Also, due to the recession, the handful of cute, high-end, boutique gyms in the DC metro area seem to have better deals and are willing to take anyone with money. Anyways, the video was an eye-opener.

  8. Lynne February 10, 2013 at 9:24 AM - Reply

    There are no words..

  9. Terri March 8, 2013 at 2:43 AM - Reply

    This is one thing Alabama makes me thankful for is my $29/mo gym membership! With the option to go on hiatus in lean times with no penalties!!! Winning over here!

  10. mishala March 8, 2013 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    Wow…I can’t say Im surprised. This is just enough to make me scrap the whole gym membership I was thinking about purchasing and just keep it here at home.

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