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

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

by Erika Nicole Kendall

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.

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Kami December 3, 2012 - 9:47 AM

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 - 9:27 PM

“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 - 8:40 AM

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

Cole December 3, 2012 - 2:17 PM

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 - 1:48 AM

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.

curlsz December 3, 2012 - 3:07 PM

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 - 3:14 PM

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


Shannon December 3, 2012 - 5:23 PM

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 - 2:36 PM

I wonder about this a lot, too, actually.

Kasey December 4, 2012 - 12:48 AM

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 🙂

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

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

Annette December 4, 2012 - 2:06 AM

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.

Charey December 4, 2012 - 11:54 AM

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.

Lynne February 10, 2013 - 9:24 AM

There are no words..

Terri March 8, 2013 - 2:43 AM

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!

mishala March 8, 2013 - 11:18 AM

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.

Kitana March 8, 2013 - 8:38 PM

Hmm. I definitely think gyms charging overweight people more than thin people is wrong, there’s really no two ways about it. Especially when they prey on people with those one-size-fits-all training packages. I also think that working someone to the point of puking isn’t healthy either and I don’t know why anyone would try to play like it is.

At the same time, I can understand opening a fitness place for overweight people even though it also seems discriminatory. Until I got to the gym I’m at now, I never felt comfortable because I absolutely KNEW people were watching me negatively. I’ve also had negativity thrown my way when exercising outdoors (don’t even start me on the time I was jogging outside and this lady CAME OUT OF HER HOUSE to call me fat) so, yeah, I get wanting a safe space to workout that’s not your living room.

Part of my new found confidence in my own power is that my gym ISN’T a chain gym and the environment is really positive — almost every day there is someone who says something encouraging to me about my fitness endeavors.

Kay Tee March 11, 2013 - 7:09 PM

Thank Goodness for my neighborhood bare-bones gym. 19.00 a month …in and out. EOS … I stay away from the big chains … and watching this – I will stick to my neighborhood gym, you tube and videos.

seejanesweat March 12, 2013 - 9:30 AM

This is sad.

Katia March 16, 2013 - 5:30 PM

The main problem is that most of these gyms (unless they are the low cost/no frills kind) don’t list their prices ANYWHERE. Any time that I have joined a gym outside of some kind of corporate structured pricing, the sales pitch is so furtive with cost being discussed in these hushed tones and writing numbers on a piece of paper, passing it across a desk. While my gym at work is not open on weekends, it costs the same for everyone (nothing).

Maria June 3, 2013 - 9:31 AM

WOW.. I am just in shocked. I never know this even happens.
This is sad, because i am person who need to lose 130+ pounds.
A few years, ago I had join a plant fitness gym, the gym was ok. But I felt lost and confused because I didn’t know how to use the machine and I was too shy to even ask how to use the machine as well. After watching this video, I dont think I will join another gym any thing soon.

As of right now, Jullian Michaels will be getting all of my money. LOL

Shon September 6, 2013 - 12:47 PM

I live in Asia, and I work in nightlife. It is an absolute fact that the models have discounted memberships, and if they work PR in some of the clubs, that membership is a part of their perks package.

I also know that some of the fitness clubs, nightclubs, and talent agencies are run by the same groups and they keep this image of an “in-crowd” where everyone is tall, thin, tanned, and always in the hottest spots drinking the best drinks and eating the best foods. The truth is, they are paid very little, given free access, food/drink comps, and money incentives to encourage others to come with them to the party.

This is all the same idea to encourage the cute, and get more money from the “other”.

Denise E. September 6, 2013 - 2:14 PM

This is just scandalous. Isn’t this illegal? I wonder do they treat men in the same way? This is one of the reasons I don’t like coed gyms. A gym should be a serious place for people who truly want to get healthier, not a “club” for people to pick up or gawk at others. And don’t get me started on the ones that come in FULL makeup, hair done and PERFUME! The gym is not a singles dating club. Smh

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