The last time I discussed gyms with funny rules, I talked about Planet Fitness, and I wasn’t very kind about it, either:
Planet Fitness is… a strange place, I think. I mean, I get it. It’s profiting off of making a place where those who are insecure about hitting the gym can come and be in peace, I guess. I spoke about my insecurities regarding being in the gym when I first joined. I even went to the gym at 11 at night – it was a 24-hour location – so that I could avoid all the people who would see me sweating and all gross and nasty slaving away on a treadmill. (Obviously, I was one of those self-loathing fat girls. I really don’t recommend that life for anyone, because no one should be afraid to be seen anywhere.)
Realistically speaking, I think there’s something to Planet Fitness’ end game, here. The truth of the matter is that the big huge weight lifting dudes can appear to be aggressive, scary and kinda obnoxious with all the grunting. That is… if you’ve never lifted 300lbs to your shoulders, before. The “no grunting” rule is silly – YOU try to lift 300lbs to your neck and see if you don’t grunt a little bit. Hell, once upon a time, the BAR ALONE was giving me grief, shoot.
However, as with most people that we unnecessarily stereotype or assign hateful qualities to, they’re usually nowhere near as evil or bully-ish as we think they are. It’s usually just in our minds.
That being said, having “the workout environment that doesn’t make you feel like you’re working out” feels a little troublesome for me, but I’m merely going off of what’s in the article. Someone will have to tell me if there’s more to Planet Fitness than there is in the article, but not having heavy weights? Assumedly, because they’re intimidating?
I can understand not wanting to feel intimidated in an environment where people are already tacitly admitting that they’re there to work on their flaws, but you have to try to develop a thicker skin and understand that we’re all in different points in our journeys. While there may be lots of people there who are farther away from their goal than you, there will always be that ONE (at LEAST) person there who is closer than you, and you can’t let that intimidate you.
And think about where that intimidation factor comes from? Is it about anything legitimate? Or is it about “Oh, in comparison to THESE people, I’m huge!” So what? You’re there to develop fitness, not to “compare” yourself to the people around you. Besides, no one pays that monthly fee to gawk at other people and beat themselves up for not looking like them. If it’s like that, you can do that outside of the gym for free. Stay focused.
Well… consider this round two:
As anybody with a gym ID mouldering in their wallet, purse or glove compartment can tell you, there are a lot of obstacles to going to the gym regularly. There’s just not enough time in the day. Gyms are just too expensive. There’s that Real Housewives marathon on Bravo. And then there’s one of the hardest reasons to admit: what if your gym just has too many skinny, healthy people in it?
For some gymgoers, a plethora of thin, peppy gym rats can prove to be too big of an obstacle to overcome. That’s why Body Exchange, a Vancouver-based gym, has made a bold business move and banned skinny people from their establishments in the hopes of fostering a friendly work-out environment for a primarily plus-size clientele.
Body Exchange founder and CEO Louise Green told TheProvince.com last week that she considers her gym is a “safe haven” for overweight clients. The fitness center has a strict policy of only allowing plus-size women to join. “Many of our clients have not had successful fitness pasts so I can see the anxiety before we get started and I can see the relief and happiness after we finish,” Green told The Province. “People are often too fearful to become active. There wasn’t a model that offered camaraderie.”
Body Exchange isn’t the only gym to launch a weight-based policy. According to the New York Daily News, similar rules exist at gyms like Buddha Body Yoga in New York City and Downsize Fitness, which has branches in Las Vegas, Chicago and Dallas. Marty Wolff, a former competitor on the reality show The Biggest Loser, owns and operates Square One in Omaha, Nebraska which caters to people who aim to lose 50 pounds or more. ”Clients want a place where they can get fit without feeling like they’re being stared at or criticized,” he told the Daily News. “My whole life, I have always wished there was a place for other big people. So I created one.”
This entire article made me want to just nose dive out of a first-story window. Seriously.
Five things really made me uncomfortable while reading this: 1) the idea that “skinny, healthy people” being around is a problem; 2) the implied assumption that “skinny” and “healthy” are one in the same; 3) the idea that there’s something wrong with being a “peppy gym rat;” 4) the belief that the answer to people being “fearful” about becoming active is to create a space where the thing that so many people want… is unwelcome; and 5) the idea that it’s only “skinny, healthy” people are the only ones doing the staring and ostracizing.
Why is “healthy” a pejorative? Why, if you acknowledge that you’re not fit and healthy, and you go to a gym to, ostensibly, become fit and healthy, is it then a problem to be around people who’ve already done what you’re seeking to do?
If you’ll notice, I’m completely sidestepping the use of the word “skinny” here. No, not everyone wants to be skinny, but not everyone identifies “skinny” as being the same thing… so my next question becomes, are you then booted from the gym once you reach a certain size? And what size would that be? And, if you are allowed to remain a member after losing weight, what makes them think you won’t be one of those people who loses weight and then begins to hate “fat” people?
Skinny and healthy are not interchangeable. We’ve allowed the conversation about health to be reduced to “‘healthy’ looks like a ‘skinny’ person” and all of these people who live in that glorious middle range of “not-a-single-digit-size-but-still-healthy” start developing body image issues. It’s creepy and weird.
There’s nothing wrong with being “a peppy gym rat,” especially since there’s nothing about being a gym rat that says a non-“thin” person is banned from being one. What is it about being a “thin” peppy gym rat that’s so much more offensive and worthy of being banned than being a non-thin peppy gym rat?
And, furthermore, why are we acting like “skinny, healthy” people are the ones staring at others in the gym, silently judging? We insist on pitting people against one another and making people feel like they absolutely must compete to be better than someone, so what’s to say that there aren’t overweight people gawking at people more overweight than them and “being thankful that they’re not that fat?”
Listen… I get it. Society makes people feel like crap for who they are, they look to change – for the better, even if its for the wrong reasons – and they want to do it in a space that makes them feel as little negativity as possible. I get it.
That still doesn’t change or excuse the fact that places like this – with poorly-thought-out practices like “we don’t carry heavier weights… they’re too intimidating” and “we don’t let anyone above a size X become a member” – are placating people with serious insecurity issues and potentially hindering, not helping, their progress. (There’s even a hint of “creation of fat privilege” creeping around in here, and that makes me uncomfy, as well!)
But, truthfully, this is where I’m torn. It’s obvious to us that society encourages that “fat people” feel bad about themselves, and that guilt is what society hopes will compel these people to change. I’m a firm believer that these kinds of shifts in mentality don’t happen overnight. They take time. If you’ve never believed it was okay to love yourself – and allow others the space to love themselves, too (that means no clowning other people’s bodies or the fact that they may be happy with them) – then it will take you time to get comfortable in your own skin, changing, though it may be. I get all that. I’ve even been there. But is this the way to go about it? To seclude yourself?
Let me hear it, y’all, and be honest.