OMG: Gym Bans Skinny Women to Create a “Safe Haven”
Posted by Katie Ostoich on June 23, 2012 at 11:37 AM
We’ve talked here before about how women will avoid going to an exercise class or exercising outdoors because they are self-conscious about their bodies. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there at some point and can completely relate. So, in an effort to create a more comfortable workout environment for plus-size women, Body Exchange, a Vancouver-area gym, has adopted an unusual membership policy. It doesn't allow men or thinner women to be members, the British Columbia-based newspaper, The Province, reported.
The founder and CEO of Body Exchange, Louise Green, told The Province that the gym's members are looking for a place where they can exercise and get healthy without feeling self-conscious. “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 said.
While in theory I love this, and fully support actions taken to make people feel comfortable about getting healthy, isn’t this a form of discrimination? Mary McNary, one of Green’s customers, told The Province: “It’s intimidating going into a gym setting. I honestly think some people in a gym setting are judgmental to people who are overweight or have a different body type.”
But who’s judging now?
Body Exchange isn’t the first gym to create workout spaces specifically for plus-size customers. Downsize Fitness, a gym with studios in Chicago, Las Vegas and Dallas,targets “chronically overweight” clientele, although it doesn't specifically ban anyone, the New York Daily News reported. “We make it known that our specialty is working with people who have at least 50 pounds to lose," he told the paper. “Most people who come here, come here for that reason.” Michael Hayes, owner of Buddha Body Yoga in New York City, said that his studio has a similar policy.
Green told The Providence that her primary goal is to give her customers the ability to get fit and feel good about themselves. Weight loss is something that might happen as a result, but it’s not the focus of the gym, she said.
Our verdict: OMG. I like the idea, I really do. Creating a space for women to be comfortable and feel supported and not judged is such a great goal. But excluding others is acting in the same way that others might have treated them. And what happens when members lose weight? Are they kicked out?
What do you think? Has being self-conscious stopped you from joining a gym?