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A gym that is only for fat people has been making headlines lately. Before I say anything else, if people like this gym then I think that's fine.
I also think we can do better.
First, their language suggests that they think all fat people are fitness beginners. The founder is quoted on the website as saying: "Typical gyms are for fit people to stay fit, not for fat people to get fit.” While many people (of every size) are beginners, suggesting that you can tell someone's level of physical fitness by their body size is just stereotyping. The truth is that there are plenty of fathletes doing everything from step classes to running marathons. Fat is not the opposite of fit and someone who owns a gym for fat people should know that and take care not to even give that insinuation.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing to me is that there are no mirrors. This is concerning on two fronts. First, as someone who was first certified as a personal trainer in 1995, I can tell you that mirrors aren’t just for primping and awkward flexing and bicep admiration — they serve a vital purpose in the gym by helping people check for proper form. This is not just for beginners. It’s also for people who are fatiguing or having an off-day. It’s important to see if you are bending your wrists on your military presses, out of alignment on your squats, or slumping over with your head forward on the stair climber. Training with poor form can lead to injury. And, if you can’t see it, you can’t fix it.
Secondly, what message are they sending by saying: “Hey fatties, come workout here where you don’t have to look at yourselves”? Instead of encouraging people be grateful for their bodies and what those bodies can do, this gym is giving the message that fat bodies should be hidden, even from ourselves, even if it’s to the detriment of actual fitness. As Golda Poretsky says in the piece, “'Oh, we can hide out while we lose weight until we become more societally acceptable.' That doesn't appeal to me in the least." And injuring ourselves while we do it? That doesn’t appeal to me either.
The article suggests that the goal of these gyms is to “make fitness gratifying instead of degrading.” I agree that’s a good idea, but I don’t think we need gyms with no thin people or mirrors to get that done. I would like to see a gym that’s actually about health, where people are encouraged to appreciate the bodies that they have now, to focus on actual fitness rather than body size, workout based on their own goals (whether that’s completing a triathlon or picking up their grandkid), and where everyone of every size is celebrated not as a potential “before and after” but as a perpetual “during.” The goal is a life-long love of movement and a planet where people are not encouraged to hate and hide their bodies until they look “good.”
I don’t personally want a gym to ban thin people, but it would be spiffy if they would ban fatphobic jerks. Weight and health are, in fact, two separate things and it would be nice to go a gym that understands that.