Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Oh really?: "Plus-Size Friendly Gym" Bans Skinny People

So, this is...interesting:

(via Time)

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 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.” 
Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/06/21/plus-size-friendly-gym-bans-skinny-people/#ixzz1ywuP8fvE

I'm torn.  I can understand a need for a safe space where people can feel comfortable working out, but I think it contributes to the us-versus-them dialogue that sometimes pops up during discussions about weight loss.  (Check out the comments on the article.)  Erika at A Black Girl's Guide to Weight Loss raised great points on this:
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.
What happens to the clients once they reach their fitness/weight goals?  Or, is this going to be one of those places that doesn't actually encourage people to reach their goals?  (This is about making money after all.)

I'm curious to see how long this business model lasts.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't self-segregation a fun topic? It feels like people should be able to go wherever and surround themselves with whomever they choose in a private setting, because freedom. But that feels bad to the people in the 'out' group, because equality.

    The easy answer is 'it depends,' but that inevitably results in a decision that depends on some invented moral hierarchy of the in and out groups. In practice, that's how all such decisions are made. It's acceptable if the in group is more moral than the out group. (I'm intentionally being vague about the delineating metric because it's poorly, if at all, defined. But it all comes down to who are the good/bad guys based on some gut feeling).

    Case in point: a gym that bans fat people, not okay; a gym that bans skinny people, fine. A gym that bans women, not okay; a gym that bans men, well accepted everywhere.

    Look at the 5 points raised by Erika, they're all arguments for why thin people are moral people too.

    My verdict. Don't whine, let people have their gym. In the mean time, figure out a better test for when self-segregation is acceptable, or at least define a metric.