Have you heard about the new gym in Canada? It has an interesting new concept. You must be overweight to attend. If you are like me, your first response was probably “huh!?”
This doesn’t make sense for so many reasons.
Sure I get it. It is easier to work out, and essentially, to feel good about yourself, when you are surrounded by people who are just like you. But is that why you’re going to the gym in the first place? To feel good and happy? To be in a safe environment? Or to BETTER yourself?
What kind of society are we living in if we are only accepting of those who look like us and we can’t stand to be around those who don’t?
I was overweight myself. And it was hard to go to the gym, seeing all those good looking, super in shape people running around half naked, doing ten times more than me with ten times less effort. I hated them. I wished they weren’t there. But guess what, I used them as motivation because I wanted to be one of them. I didn’t dislike them. They weren’t rude or disrespectful, and even though I felt like all eyes were on me while I was clumsily learning the ropes of my new gym, really these people were just there for the same reason, to get a workout.
In this new Canadian gym concept, thin folks are actually banned from being able to come to the gym, because the owner and other women feel that the overall mood and supportive environment is brought down when skinny people are there. Right off the bat it seems pretty clear to me, the negativity seems to be coming from these disgruntled women, not the thin folks who may choose to come in!
Besides basically discriminating against the skinny people who may be just as self-conscious as overweight people, what kind of motivation is this for anyone, anywhere? If you aren’t proud of your body, go hide where you are just like everyone else?
Women are self-conscious no matter what size they are. Many skinny women report that they feel more self-conscious after losing weight than they did before they lost weight, saying they felt like they could hide under the pounds. So why should women judge each other on who is allowed where, rather than being supportive and motivating to each other?
Although many people are claiming that this is not discrimination, it is clearly just that. Saying that anyone can’t go somewhere for any reason falls into a category of discrimination. While the intentions may be good and admirable, to make overweight women feel more comfortable, it is a form of discrimination since you aren’t allowing thin or ‘regular’ size women to have a choice in the matter or to attend if they so desire. Instead they’re being told no at the door and not given a chance.
While the company says the program is designed for its overweight clients, it may not be doing them a true service. The company combines cardio exercise with weight lifting and is designed for people with a lot of weight to lose. The gym is supposed to be an inclusive and supportive environment for those looking to lose weight.
Many are comparing this type of gym to Curves, the women’s only gym, although some see it much differently. While Curves targets women and excludes men, there are also many gyms that target men, including country clubs that are male specific. Having gyms specific to genders is different than excluding people once they’ve reached a certain weight loss goal. Are people being punished because they are working hard to be healthy? That is how this comes across.
Most people are not just naturally skinny; they need to put some effort into it. All women could be encouraged by this, and shouldn’t be offended by a thinner person. I’m sure the thinner person who wants to go to a woman’s only, accepting gym isn’t going to judge or put down the overweight women working out on the next bike. This shows the true crux of the issue- people are insecure.
The owner claims that the environment makes their clients feel safe. Well what were they truly scared of? Having the goal of helping the overweight, and even targeting the severely overweight is a great goal. But to go as far as to BAN others from attending, when they might feel the need for ‘safety’ as well- is simply focusing on the wrong issue.
If you don’t fit the criteria for attendance in your pre-screening interview, you are turned down from the program or told to go to a different gym. To protect the ‘safety’ of the overweight. Sure, most overweight women feel a little out of place the first time they go to a gym because the majority of people there may be smaller than them. But that is because healthy people are the majority of the individuals who are actually in the gym. If all the overweight people were at the gym, we wouldn’t have such a severe obesity problem in the world. Instead, it is a life changing thing to decide, I’m overweight and I’m going to put the work in at the gym. Because once you commit to it, you usually become one of those ‘thin people’ that this gym thinks so terribly towards.
Couldn’t we all use the motivation to see what we COULD become if we commit to our goals and work out? Or is it actually an ego problem? I know if I were overweight now and I went to a gym where everyone was looking thin and healthy, I would be jealous of them and wish I were more like them. I’d want to do what they’ve done, get in shape and stay that way. We need to stop making our problems out to be someone else’s. The real problem isn’t the skinny girl on the treadmill beside you that makes you feel uncomfortable. She actually isn’t paying any attention to you at all. Instead the problem is internal and feeling not good enough or angry that your weight is what it is. Let’s take some accountability for ourselves and admit the true issues we need to overcome.
If anyone were to invent a ‘skinny person’ gym, because the look or the attitude of overweight people offended or distracted them, they’d be out of business in a heartbeat. ‘You can’t discriminate against the overweight’ people would say! So why then, is it acceptable to discriminate against the thin? I’m not saying you can’t have a gym focused on training the overweight. But if someone thin wants to attend, who should stop them? Maybe they had trouble with weight growing up, or maybe they have other body issues that may not be apparent at first glance. Maybe they suffer from severe medical issues and also don’t feel safe in a regular gym. I don’t think anyone is debating that different types of gyms can cater to different types of people, but basing it solely on weight is wrong.
Once the women lose weight, and they now fall into the ‘normal’ category, are they banned from their own gym? Who gets to decide what is normal? How much sense does that make, to reward their hard work by throwing them out? Do they have to find a new gym where they better fit the mold? Are the personal trainers overweight or are they thin. Do the attendees find this ‘disruptive’ or ‘offensive?’ Does it make them not motivated to work out? Of course not.
We will never overcome our internal self-criticizing weight issues if this pandering kind of stuff continues. The women attending these gyms may think they are making themselves feel better, but truly they are excusing their weight issues to instead focus on inclusiveness and keeping others out. Having a circle of people you work out with that are the same size as you is fine and encouraging, but banning others is like making yourself feel better for being overweight while feeling higher and mightier than others because you can exclude them. The environment of bullying people, no matter what size, or excluding anyone from going anywhere, should be gone from the current times, not reinvented.
I’m sure this gym will continue and will be a success because some women will be attracted to the concept, especially those who have had a difficult gym experience in their past. And more power to them if it helps anyone get healthy. But if I were currently an overweight woman looking for a gym, I’d steer clear. Not only am I ok to be around all types of people, but I’d like to be able to be motivated, accepting, and not jealous of others. I don’t want to commiserate with like people only; as I have a feeling my progress would be small. I want to be self-confident enough to use any gym, and I don’t want to support an exclusive mentality, which this gym has. Let’s build each other up and eliminate unnecessary walls, not put them up.