Home Social Construct Discuss: Pro-Plus Size Gym BANS Skinny People?

Discuss: Pro-Plus Size Gym BANS Skinny People?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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?

Really?

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.

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51 comments

4dabirds June 26, 2012 - 1:09 PM

Um, does this mean as you transform your body and become “skinny” (and/or healthy) you no longer have a place at the gym you have been toiling in for 6 months, a year, or more? This marketing strategy was not very well thought out…

KANEKA March 18, 2013 - 2:06 PM

This was my first thought as well. Once I’m not able to fit into this category that you’re creating, do I get put out. Is there a tribal meeting and the non-fat people are voted off the island like in Survivor? You’re fit, but due to that fact, you can’t stay here… This is a crazy gimmick.

MoreAndAgain June 26, 2012 - 1:58 PM

I get your argument, and their rationale behind the decision does give me pause (if for nothing else, what are they going to do with the “fat” people who become “skinny”?). However, I think the endgame is what’s important and everyone deserves an environment where they can work out and not be uncomfortable. . . even insecure people.

I used to go to the gym at 1:00AM to avoid everyone, not because I was insecure, but because it was so much easier to navigate, and I wouldn’t have to deal with annoying men (and, I hate people.lol). I don’t expect everyone to have the ability to do that, so if they need their own gym, so be it.

I think this is one of those things where you have to meet people where they are. This will at least get folks, who otherwise may not work out, into the gym. As their confidence builds, perhaps they’ll leave to join “regular” gyms, on their own. The same goes for Planet Fitness. Perhaps once people realize they need more of a challenge, they’ll take the training wheels off, and go find a gym that offers it.

Jame June 26, 2012 - 2:31 PM

I understand the sentiment, but I have mixed feelings on this. Wouldn’t it be better to have a true “judgement-free” zone for people of all shapes and sizes? And like everyone else, how “skinny” is “too skinny” for that gym?

Traci July 9, 2012 - 4:14 PM

Jame, it would be wonderful if there was a judgement-free workout area, but I haven’t found one. The problem is not always the area, but the society we live in. Even if every staff member and patron at the gym practiced “judgement-free” principles, we are influenced by our environment. In other words after spending all day getting bashed by society, it is hard to turn off the defenses that enable me to make it through the day with my head up. To have that judgement-free zone inside the gym, we need to have that judgement-free zone outside it as well.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 9, 2012 - 4:19 PM

So…only thin people judge others by size?

Because I’m sure I could drum up some comments left by other readers across the blog where they’ve admitted the fact that they, at a size “20” would look at the 26 and go “Damn, [insert judgy rhetoric]” so…

…I just want to iterate the reality that YES, we need a judgment-free environment, but there’s something ironic in assuming the only people doing the judging are thin ones. It also sounds like there’s an insecurity issue, here.

BalancingJane June 26, 2012 - 3:15 PM

I thought the same thing about if you get kicked out if/when you lose weight and no longer fit. It makes me feel like the gym isn’t very sincere about helping people meet goals.

The second thing I thought of–which may only be tangentially related–is a conversation I had recently about “fathletes,” people who are both fat and athletic because–as you so rightly point out–you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy. The conversation revolved around “fitspo” and how there are so few images of larger-bodied athletes working out. It’s frustrating on two levels: 1) healthy people who are also larger are just as inspiring with their athleticism as smaller people and 2) if you DO need/want to lose weight, shouldn’t the image of people who are large taking steps to do that be inspiring as well?

So in a world where most of the images of fitness are represented very narrowly (no pun intended), I understand some of the appeal for this kind of space. It could be inspiring to know that you are going to be around people who are closer to your actual body type and that might make your goals seem more attainable while making you feel more welcome in an atmosphere that used to feel off limits.

But I don’t think the solution to feeling isolated from an activity is to become isolated within that activity. For one, that does nothing to really tackle those feelings of inadequacy (it may very well reinforce them) and for two it does nothing to help combat the narrow definitions of health in the larger culture.

Tiffany Sudduth June 26, 2012 - 3:47 PM

I think that if people are wanting a gym where they can feel safe to work on their health without worrying about fat stigma then they should be free to go to one. Its not like its hurting anyone, or like it would adversely affect “skinny people” whatever that may mean.

We should not be judging people for wanting a safe haven to pursue fitness.

And I don’t really think we have a “fat privilege” problem in today’s society.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 26, 2012 - 3:58 PM

I knew, of all the things I said in that post, that THIS is the one thing that would be taken out of context:

“And I don’t really think we have a “fat privilege” problem in today’s society.”

Not once did I say we had a “fat privilege problem.” Not once.

What I did say, though, was the following:

“There’s even a hint of “creation of fat privilege” creeping around in here, and that makes me uncomfy, as well!”

By this, I mean creating a space where someone is considered wanted, prized and “ideal” for something… and someone else is excluded and cast off… and for once, it’s in favor of the overweight.

The problem isn’t that it’s The Overweight who are finally “winning,” for lack of a better phrase. The problem is the fact that we’re creating spaces where, once again, people have to feel compelled to compete or be compared against one another.

That’s the problem with privilege, period.

Shani June 27, 2012 - 2:30 PM

I agree with you Tiffany

curlsz June 26, 2012 - 3:48 PM

Yeah I’m thinking if you join a “plus sized gym” you’ll always be a plus sized person – you just met your heaven, your people, you can be comfortable for life – why change?

You know I’m one of those people that loves strength training, always have, but I get anxious when I look over and all the big boys are on the playground – the same kind of anxious you get when you are at a party and you don’t know anyone – I still get this – in fact it happened to me yesterday! But then I suck it up and go over there and just jump in – then I’m fine! I’m better than fine, I’m in my zone and I’m happy. And I usually push myself harder b/c the boys are on the playground – ya know! If I went to a place where everyone was just like me then I wouldn’t ever have to face this social anxiety issue of having strong me share this space with me

Erika Nicole Kendall June 26, 2012 - 3:59 PM

That begs the question – do all people join gyms to lose weight?

soulsentwined July 9, 2012 - 4:28 PM

I’m sure some people join to socialize, be active, tone up, train for a sporting event.

Tiffany September 20, 2012 - 4:34 PM

After seeing something sexy, tall, bald, brown and fit getting out of a yellow corvette at the gym down the street……..I now have a reason to join!!!!

Erika Nicole Kendall September 20, 2012 - 5:32 PM

You better hope I don’t holla first.

Hey…I like yellow, too. LOLOL

Belinda June 26, 2012 - 4:21 PM

I understand the concept, to a point. When I started my workout regime, I joined Linda Evens to avoid the “meat market” vibe some gyms have. Bonus: Linda Evens featured equipment that was built for women (shorter people) with more lighter weight options.

Linda Evens closed, and I couldn’t mentally get into either Butterfly or Curves, so now I’m at 24 Hour. I avoid the 4-7 (meat market) crowed and rely more on free weights. But I’m eternally greatful to Linda Evens for helping me get started.

I understand the exclusivity and the equipment geared to a certain physical demographic. But it seems that where one might be pushed to do better, to improve your fitness because you see the fitness phenom across the room, at these gyms one might hold back and progress slower out of fear of loosing their membership.

ke June 26, 2012 - 5:48 PM

what if a person looks average size but is mostly body fat ? For example 5. 6 but is 155 pd and 30 percent body fat. Are they still excluded because they look normal.

Dominique June 26, 2012 - 4:55 PM

I read about this a few days ago and my first reaction was, “What happens when you reach whatever they consider to be “skinny” or healthy?” Will you be kicked out because you can run 5 miles without getting winded or is it a weight thing? Is it a subjective test by some random person?

For the sake of plus-sized people feeling comfortable, I get it. But losing weight, even after you’ve lost a lot and are becoming more happy with your body can be very emotionally taxing. Could you imagine spending all this time in this place, building a relationship only to be told you have to leave because you reached your goals? And then being thrown into the situations you were trying to avoid in the first place?

That would be like if someone went to rehab because they recognized their drug problem, made progress in the program, and then was thrown out without being prepared to go back to their “regular” life.

LaShawn June 26, 2012 - 4:58 PM

I just joined a gym a few weeks ago, and one the things that made me feel comfortable, aside from it being female-only, is that I wasn’t the only fat person in there. So I *kinda* see where the idea would come from. But aside from the issue of what happens when a person becomes too small to attend that gym, there are no visible examples of my goal in that gym. As in “I wanna be as fit as HER!” I definitely need that.

Darlin Artiles June 26, 2012 - 4:59 PM

so what about the trainers and the people who run the classes? are they going to be required to be a certain size too? i guess that if this helps people get to a gym then so be it but it sounds like a terrible long term business plan for sure. also where would you get tips and advice from? who would be your mentor? the other overweight folks?

juniysa June 26, 2012 - 5:07 PM

I am a bit mixed on the premise – if the gym encourages more people to work out and commit to fitness, then by all means I am not against it. I think many see it as a private girls club where a lot of “skinny hate ” go on, but I don’t. I see it as “gym training wheels “and if the person feels the need to be pushed harder, they can move on. Then again I am for any marketing concept that would encourage people to include fitness in their life. Just wish the gyms wouldn’t barrage a bunch of ads in January then disappear until December.

Brookwater June 26, 2012 - 7:26 PM

I am all for what ever gets people in the door and off the couch. Someone people need a 24 hr gym so they can go when there are fewer people in the gym so they would not feel judged. It takes a whole lot more than ‘don’t worry about what other people say!’ for most people to make that first step. If late hours, a no skinny people policy or naked towel boys (I’ll sign up for that last one!) gets you in the gym and movin I say yeah! Nothing is one size fits all. When their needs change, they will probably change gyms, but I know there will be a host of other folks waiting to take their places.

Kenyetta June 26, 2012 - 8:32 PM

I really don’t understand these feelings that some overweight people are having. I’ve never felt this way. Insecure because of my weight. Feeling like others are judging me. And also when people have had others say things to their face about their weight or what they eat or make jokes. Never happened to me since high school and in high school, I wasn’t even really overweight. Maybe people now take one look at my face and know not to say anything, because if they did, I will really try to do my best to not curse them out.

CoCo June 26, 2012 - 8:58 PM

My experience with gyms has always been positive, so I don’t understand the fuss. Years ago, I worked out at a small gym that was FULL of sweaty, grunting, super-ripped meatheads, and they were the nicest guys ever! They were so encouraging and willing to share their stories and workout tips. I never felt intimidated by them at all. They were the ones who always pointed out that everyone has to start somewhere.

I guess I don’t understand how excluding “skinny people” addresses the problem. I feel uncomfortable with the idea of working out in a gym now, but I know that’s because of me, it’s MY issue. Deep down, I know that ain’t nobody steddin’ me, but I still struggle with feeling embarrassed. And, thing is, I’d feel embarrassed if I were in a room full of overweight people or skinny people; it wouldn’t matter.

Also, what about the staff?? The personal trainers, fitness instructors, etc. Did I miss something? It seems to me that only hiring overweight people will open a can of worms that no one would want to deal with in today’s litigious society. Shoot, they may as well lawyer up now if they’re planning on excluding qualified, “skinny” people from employment.

MoreAndAgain June 26, 2012 - 9:47 PM

These, “I never felt uncomfortable in a gym, so I don’t understand how other people can feel uncomfortable in a gym” arguments are not helpful at all. You’re pretty much just saying, “these people’s feelings aren’t valid because I can’t identify with them”. Your experience is not universal, nor representative of everyone else’s experience, even if you are “fat”.

Ok, carry on.

Kenyetta Hughes June 26, 2012 - 11:33 PM

Well, just like someone says this makes me feel uncomfortable, someone can say I dont understand why this is an uncomfortable thing because I never felt that way. Its not saying these people’s feelings are not valid. That’s just how you’re taking it. Some people are really confused by this. Like me.

MoreAndAgain June 27, 2012 - 12:13 AM

“Well, just like someone says this makes me feel uncomfortable, someone can say I dont understand why this is an uncomfortable thing because I never felt that way.”

This is a false equivalency. They’re uncomfortable in a situation and doing something about it for themselves. You don’t understand why they don’t feel comfortable, and the wording of your comment gives the implication that you feel they SHOULDN’T feel uncomfortable because YOU don’t feel uncomfortable. Otherwise, why bring it up? This story wasn’t about your comfort.

It’s like people talking about why they don’t like pizza, and you saying “well pizza’s never done anything to me”. What is that contributing? And, what are you trying to contribute to the conversation? Because just making the statement doesn’t change the facts of what we’re talking about (which is why it comes off as dismissive).

Kenyetta Hughes June 27, 2012 - 12:42 AM

It comes off as dismissive because that’s how you took it. It wasn’t my intention. So this all in how you read it. I voiced my opinion because after reading this blog for a few months, I keep reading this type of feelings from others in messages and questions and I have been really confused. I don’t understand why so many people feel this way, basing their self respect off of how someone else looks or what they have said to them. So I finally said something. If you took it as a negative thing, that’s on you.

MoreAndAgain June 27, 2012 - 1:32 AM

Just because you didn’t intend for it to be dismissive doesn’t mean it wasn’t dismissive. Also, asking “why do people feel this way?” is probably a better way of actually finding out why people feel the way they do, and coming to understand their viewpoint. Telling people you don’t share their insecurities isn’t going to make them any less insecure.

Also, in my original comment (pointing out that these arguments aren’t actually helpful to people who have issues going to “normal” gyms), I never specifically mentioned you or singled you out. You replied to me.

Navy Wifey Peters June 26, 2012 - 10:00 PM

This gym wouldn’t work for me because I like to stare at the “skinny” people for motivation, and I need gym eye candy to keep me coming back… 🙂

Heather E June 26, 2012 - 11:14 PM

I’m with the guy who caters to people who want to lose 50 lbs or more. It seems to me, that makes it not so much about what they look like, but what their personal goals are. I didn’t get the impression that he has a set of calipers at the front desk and is turning people away whose BMIs are too low. If people want to self-identify as having a certain goal and surround themselves with similar people that they can relate to, what’s wrong with that?

If they lose the weight, that doesn’t mean they have to leave. They joined under the appropriate circumstances and everyone else who joins can be inspired knowing that the “skinny” folk they see used to be big like them. You don’t know anything about the people around you at Curves or the Y and that can be intimidating.

If someone started just one aerobics class at Bally’s that advertised it was only for people who wanted to lose at least 50lbs, would anyone here even raise an eyebrow? It’s no different than yoga for pregnant people. It’s harder to move bigger bodies than littler ones. So what’s the big deal that a big guy (or a guy that used to be big) wants to fill a whole gym with the kind of people he is uniquely qualified to inspire and help?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2012 - 11:14 AM

Let’s be clear, here:

“So what’s the big deal that a big guy (or a guy that used to be big) wants to fill a whole gym with the kind of people he is uniquely qualified to inspire and help?”

The exclusionary aspect matters. You’re essentially saying it’s okay to say “only people who have certain traits that I’ve deemed desirable can enter.” Sounds familiar.

If someone started classes for people who had at least 50lbs to lose at a regular gym because “it’s harder to move bigger bodies than littler ones,” that’s a functionality issue much like any injury can be a functionality issue. A pregnancy, though it is a beautiful thing, can make regular yoga practice difficult. Functionality issues. That’s not exclusionary in the same way as “I’m uncomfortable being around thin people… I’m going to ban them from my establishment!”

What happens when people start making safe havens from people with OTHER qualities that have been deemed “undesirable?”

Heather E June 27, 2012 - 12:48 PM

I typed up a whole big LONG reply, but I have been on the Internet long enough to know when a matter is decided and I am spitting into the wind.

You guys have every right to dislike this business model. But I wonder if conversations like this is what let to the banning of bake sales and church potlucks because people who weren’t even involved thought these types of activities weren’t beneficial to overall public health.

I don’t think any one ‘type’ of person should tell another ‘type’ of person what they should and should not do or who they should or should not choose to associate with. Seriously… are we really in any danger here of ‘skinny’ people being the targets of oppression in this society? Really?

Fat people pay more for plane tickets, health care, clothes, they can’t go on roller coasters, or bungee jump, they are finding their pictures reviled on peopleofwalmart.com…. okay… here I go again. I’m gonna’ stop.

I just don’t get the negativity. I just don’t. Let the fat people have their gym! And if somehow it becomes the best gym in town and so popular that all the other gyms close down leaving all the poor, excluded skinny people with no place to go, then they can get all up in arms and protest and demand ‘inclusion’.

But at this moment I don’t see a whole lot of gym ads with people like me on the commercials. And if 4 out of 30,000 gyms in this country decides to cater to large people, I am not seeing this as an indication of a growing trend of skinny exclusion.

(Gah… I just replaced one rant with another. I just have no filter.)

Erika Nicole Kendall June 27, 2012 - 6:26 PM

“…a matter is decided?”

A disagreement on a situation that, in a sense, has very little to do with either of us isn’t a “matter” that has been “decided.” Jeez. We disagree, and that’s okay.

“Seriously… are we really in any danger here of ‘skinny’ people being the targets of oppression in this society? Really?”

As much as I write about what’s so wrong with body snarking and making statements about how someone is too-much-ANYTHING, to think that I’d say “it’s okay this one time since it’s fat people doing the oppressing.” No… it doesn’t work that way. Either “oppressive behavior” is okay, or it’s not. There are NO mitigating circumstances.

It doesn’t have to be a “growing trend of skinny exclusion” in order for it to be inherently problematic.

Side note: Have you SEEN this blog? As long-winded as I am, I WELCOME long replies. If y’all can read all the stuff I write, the LEAST I could do is return the favor. ROFL

Yolanda June 27, 2012 - 12:49 AM

I’m not against a gym that caters to plus-size clients, per se. However, I think it feeds into the society- and (often) self-imposed “separatist” idea. I am “different” or I don’t fit “the norm,” therefore I must separate myself. Or, “they” are different, therefore “they” don’t “belong.”

More importantly, though, those who opt for an “anything only” gym miss out on the benefits of an all-inclusive environment. Believe me, I understand the intimidation one feels when one is first starting out. Myth #1: Everyone in the gym is fit. NOT!!!! Myth #2: Everyone will be looking at me. NOT!!!! But you do have the opportunity to observe and MEET people who will motivate and inspire you, and I guarantee you, as you progress, YOU will inspire and motivate OTHERS!!! That kind of inspiration shouldn’t be undervalued or underestimated. I find it beneficial to see the spectrum of fitness levels w/ the knowledge that there are those to whose fitness levels I aspire and there are those who aspire to mine. Not everyone in the gym is fit, and those who are serious about working out won’t pay you any attention all…until one day they notice how much you have progressed.

LBrooke June 27, 2012 - 12:59 AM

I’m not even sure what to say about this. Do I wish there was a gym filled with fat people like me so that I felt better? No, because I’d feel singled out and put into a category that I’M uncomfortable in. Have I ever been at a gym where the majority of people are fit, and it made me extremely self conscious… enough not to go back? Yup! However, I hole-heartedly believe that, that is self hating. I also believe that as an over weight person who wants to be healthy… whatever that will look like (size 5 in my head, but who’s counting! 😉 that I need to work on accepting myself in public; because the only person who’s seriously criticizing the way I look, that I can hear, is ME. At the same time, if these places are working out for people… then why not? If it makes people get to the gym, then why not?

I think they’re going the wrong way about it, and being very superficial, and categorizing people… and of course I’m wondering like everyone else, what happens when you get thin?!

On the other hand, I could see this as a devious and sneaky ploy to just make a lot of money off of people who have something plaguing them. The diet industry makes billions of dollars, why not add another thing that takes advantage of people with an insecurity they have, make it seem okay to be insecure, and possibly continue to stay insecure so they never change?

*throws hands up* I don’t know!

Nikita June 27, 2012 - 10:11 AM

I go to Curves because I want to work out and not be stared at by guys. I am a bit uncomfortable with that idea right now. There are women of all sizes who work out there, and in general everyone is very supportive and encouraging. Frankly, I feel like having classes aimed at people of size who are uncomfortable is not a bad idea. I think the business plan is unwise and needs to be thought out more but the idea is well intentioned and may get more people to come and move their bodies. I remember when I went to the gym after gaining some weight back and the serious body shame I felt. Curves works because I do not feel that way at all anymore. Some people (like myself) prefer working out in certain situations until they build up their confidence, and frankly that should be ok.

I also think that a lot of folks feel that the only reason to report to a gym is to get skinny. I work out with a lot of women who are not at all tiny who work out to be healthy only. That means that their BMI number may say one thing but their health is improving and they may NOT need to leave the gym because their goal is not to become skinny. In other words they went from a size 24 to a size 14-16 and they are find with that and themselves. A lot of folks believe in and practice HAES and intuitive eating etc. It only takes working 2.5 hours a week to get healthy – and for a lot of folks that is what they want not weight loss neccessarily, so keep that in mind. Using myself as an example I go to Curves looking to do both, but it is not at a crazy pace and frankly I am more interested in getting healthy. I am losing weight slowly, and that is good to. I walk twice a week and go to Curves 3 times a week is what works for me, and no, it is not a long workout (I do 45 min) but I see weight loss results and my health is better which is really what I wanted. Just putting this idea and truth out there.

Rachel La Touche June 27, 2012 - 11:07 AM

One of the many concerns I have with this article is that it continues to ostracize individuals who are trying to improve their health, from being surrounded by others who are at or closer to that goal. The owners of these gyms thing the gap between the ‘thin & healthy’ (which are not synonyms) and the ‘unthin’ (and therefore unhealthy?) individuals will be bad for morale, or self-esteem or motivation. But I can testify to the fact that I walk into my gym daily and compete (silently of course) with women who are more fit than I am. I’m not trying to be ‘like’ them, but I am going to use them to hep me push myself greater distances.

I’m also alarmed at the fact that these gym owners don’t realize that creating an isolating space where ‘thin and healthy’ people don’t exist, is such a fabricated reality that it might be causing greater issues for clients when they are in non-gym settings. Am I to loathe my ‘thin and healthy’ coworkers too because I am forced to work with them and can’t have my own plus-size work space? (but i digress…) I want gym owners and clients alike to realize that in terms of fitness and health, it is more of a spectrum than it is two polar sides – individuals at all levels of health are at the gym to improve themselves, whether it be to lose weight, recover from an injury, beat a previous record, train for an event etc. We ought to be working together to help advance as a group, not make competitive scenarios out of circumstances that don’t need to be.

I couldn’t help but notice this quote: “Many of our clients have not had successful fitness pasts so I can see the anxiety before we get started…”

My anxiety before starting a regular fitness regime was NOT caused by ‘thin and skinny’ people – let me be clear. And I imagine this is the case for many others. Anxiety can be from a number of things, being overwhelmed by the task ahead and the pounds to lose, feeling uncomfortable in workout clothes, feeling worrisome about pushing too hard, or being injured or being defeated etc etc – none of which has anything to do with other people (skinny or otherwise)

I notice the gym makes no claims (other than the lack of weights) as to how they plan to target their equipment, exercise routines etc to their plus-size clientele. Rather, they identify only ‘thin and skinny’ people as the obstacles holding plus-size clientele from making progress and not only will an ‘exclusive clientele’ gym not address this issue, but removing the weights won’t either. I just think it’s a disservice to both healthy and getting healthy individuals.

Laurie June 27, 2012 - 11:37 AM

I laughed when I read your comment about planet fitness. My hubby is a bit of a weight lifter and one day he was working out, got done his set and put the weights on the rack and they made a clang noise. He didn’t toss them at the rack or anything that would scare anyone. Was not a loud clang.

The person behind the counter hit the Loud Grunt/Noise Alarm. We weren’t aware people manually hit that alarm from behind the counter, we figured it was a sound based thing.

Anyway so much for Judgement free and feeling all welcomed. He quit there soon after that.

Ten June 29, 2012 - 7:13 PM

So does this mean that if a person joins at 200 pounds and get down to 130, they’ll have to find a new gym? What about the community they’ve created? Not a fan.

Free July 19, 2012 - 2:41 AM

I don’t find it to be secluding at all. While one person made need to see that slimmer person to encourage them; another may find that seeing and working with others that are in a same boat striving for the same goal is motivating for them (take Biggest Loser as an example). I’m sure the gym owners have set some guidelines for when the membership will end before hand. For instance, when the individual reaches a certain percentage of body fat or when the client reaches their intended goal. Let’s face it going to the gym is great no matter how the membership is constructed. But we all know that weight loss begins at the table!

Daneeka October 2, 2012 - 5:06 PM

THIS. I understand the discomfort at the way that this gym is choosing it’s clientele. However, the general concept doesn’t bother me in any way. Would we be mad at a support system/program that specifically gears toward a certain mental illness or regular AA meetings where often all the people in those groups are battling some form of addiction? To me, this situation is analogous. The people who the gym is catering to may understand that especially at the beginning that intimidation and insecurity can be overwhelming and that finding a push at home can be just as hard for many people(their potential clientele). This way, those specific people can work towards goals with people who are or for certain have been in the same situations. I don’t know how they are excluding “skinny people” and I don’t approve of that language, but if they do factor in overall health in some way and working with people on their health and weight in a comfortable environment overall. I know for me that
there has been a few times when working out with a more fit friend left me in a state of self hatred, and not toward the “skinny” party at all. I worked on it and through it and I’m getting better with all of that, but I don’t assume everyone can or will without some stepping stones.

*Sidenote* Sorry if my comment is a little scattered, I’m off to my cardio kickboxing class!! It happens to be a womens’ only class for some of the same reasons that were noted for the no skinny people gym (discomfort, insecurity, just don’t want to be around men for a b c reasons). So that another question, is it the fact that it’s an entire gym? or that it makes a line between “skinny” and “fat”?

Alana August 16, 2013 - 3:55 PM

So, are fat/skinny people like addicts/non addicts? Is a gym like an AA meeting (or OA or whatever) or like a drug rehab program? If you are high/drunk (whatever) [the skinny person in this analogy] are you still allowed into the AA meeting? (I honestly don’t know). What about drug rehab? It makes a certain amount of sense to exclude the high/drunk/still using person from re-hab–it would be too disruptive to the others trying to deal with their addiction and learn to cope with it. Exclusion, in this case, makes sense.

Or–are fat/skinny people like Palestinians and Israelis, Native Americans (on reserves) and the “rest of us,” Blacks and white in Jim Crow’s south?

(I am the least politically savvy person in the Universe and I apologise profusely to anyone who may be offended by the terms I am using.)

Right away, I want to say segregation is never a good idea–(and I once made a significant career change because of an impending affirmative action policy that was intended to “help” people like me)–but, I send my daughter to an all girl Junior High. (Middle school to you Americans.)

In the end, it is a free market economy and a gym is a business–if it can succeed with such policies, then good for it.

I do wish society would just lose it’s attitude towards fat people. Is the gym buying into that nastiness and legitimizing it, by acknowledging it as a problem? I don’t know. I do know, though, that if you are bothered by it and you can find a place to work out which really is free of it, then I am not going to tell you that you shouldn’t go there or that it shouldn’t exist.

Yet, I agree, simply banning skinny people is NOT going to guarantee a “nasty-free” zone. Unfortunately, prejudice really does come in all shapes and sizes.

Melody October 2, 2012 - 3:03 PM

When I joined PF it was because it was affordable, those awesome massage beds and the free personal trainers. I had no idea what the buzzer and there motto was all about. I was simply there to workout. No one ever mentioned the motto to me upon signing up. I saw people of EVERY size there. It was a very friendly atmosphere. I never heard the buzzer go off on a grunter. However, if someone were to grunt, I wouldn’t notice because I would be too busy sweating! I could care less what the person next to me is doing as long as he or she is getting it in!

Aja October 2, 2012 - 3:46 PM

Honestly, I think the issue is more in language than in concept. A “ban” on skinny people is ridiculous to me for all of the reasons mentioned above: what happens when you lose the weight, it’s wrong to discriminate, how do we determine skinny, etc. That being said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with gyms that market to a certain demographic. Chances are, if they are truly targeting classes etc. toward those who are just starting out rather than those who are super fit, than those who are super fit will find what they want elsewhere and they don’t actually need a ban.

I personally go to an all-women’s gym, mostly because I do feel more comfortable looking like I just rolled out of bed to go to gym in the morning around a group of women than I do around a group of men. I will also admit that I have in the past felt a little intimidated in the weight rooms of other gyms when they’ve been full of men only. In my city, there are a ton of gyms, some are “meat markets,” some are full of old people, some are full of stay-at-home moms etc. I think a gym is a business like any other and people will either find what they want or move on to the next one.

Katia November 19, 2012 - 11:08 PM

I’ve been to many a planet fitness and I have not found much “working out” going. I’d rather go to a place that puts me a little outside of a comfort zone than work out in a place where a lot of people are not about the business of getting it done.

Monica November 19, 2012 - 11:17 PM

I know this is a ciiche but we are our own worst critic.When I used to go to the gym I used to feel like everyone was staring at me and judging me but one day I spoke to a trainer that told me 80% of the clientele at the gym had issues with health or they had to work out and that the people in there were serious about working out and not busy looking at me.

I have never been to Planet fitness, looks pretty on the outside. But for the gyms with the weight restriction I wonder what would happen when people started loosing weight. Are they no longer eligible to be members? Me personally, is just wondering if everybody is like you, how does it motivate you to want to change your eating habits or to be healthier if everyone is in the same boat? Sometimes, I like a little competition or setting a goal and being motivated by someone else better than I am. That’s just me.

Anita Breeze December 5, 2012 - 8:35 PM

Hey everyone
I own one of the Body Exchange locations and I have to tell you that so many of the quotes by The Vancouver Province were 1)not made by The Body Exchange and 2) those that were , were taken out of context. We DO NOT ban ‘skinny’ people or any people at all. Our classes are geared to a plus size audience and we let people make their own decision if the class is appropriate for them.
At my location we have people of all shapes and sizes. Having said this, it is very likely that a person who is very fit would not feel challenged by our workouts, and so that is the one and only reason for that person to go elsewhere. We also do have people who lose a lot of weight, and some stay because they have made bonds with other members and trainers and some do leave to take on bigger fitness challenges. So I hope I have cleared this up a bit, we all need to take what the media says with a grain of salt.

Bdsista February 1, 2013 - 12:09 AM

I hate the gym, I had a workout card that took 5 years of sporadic attendance to complete. I never understood all the machinery, and I felt very out of place. I would love to go to a gym that was all plus sized, but I felt isolated, confused and unsupported at the gym I attended. I ended up only going to a dance fitness class, and the nautilus machines. I teach bellydance and have found over the years that the women I teach who are all sizes, feel more acceptance in dance and as performers than in the gym. But the biggest issue I had was feeling like men were comparing me with the skinny fit (mostly white) women in the gym and that added an additional layer of stress on top of being plus sized, and unfit (in terms of weights). The only guys who spoke to me regularly were the one’s who worked there. Pretty sad. glad the previous poster and owner clarified what the clubs were about.

Diego April 2, 2013 - 7:45 AM

It can be very intimidating going to a gym for the first time when most people there look like they have been working out for their whole lives. Making a decision to lose weight and sticking to it is hard enough without having to feel self conscious at the gym. I think this might really help some ppl.

Melissa Craig June 19, 2014 - 9:36 AM

I think it’s pathetic that people and/or society make others feel like they need to go to a gym full of “fat” people.

When I first joined the gym, there were a few people who were mocking me because I was in pain. My legs hurt man!! I was slightly offended but I didn’t let that get to me. 🙂 Now I been going for 3 months, I’m getting fit! I can feel it! I’m still big and have a long way to go, but I’m going!! I went from baggy track pants to now I wear my spandex capris with a red stripe on the side! I feel hot! I’m rocking my pants and I am dedicated to that gym. No one bats an eye at me anymore! YES! I WIN! 🙂

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