Is A Gym Exclusively For The Obese A Good Idea?

When I was 16, I switched high schools and began eating to deal with my anxiety. I quickly shot from being 5’7″ and around 118 pounds to approximately 155 pounds in just a couple months. Though I was just under the cusp of medically “overweight,” I was still so depressed by the way that none of my clothes fit and how people kept commenting on me growing into a “big girl” or would give me unsolicited diet advice. I went to a friend’s gym once to see if I wanted a membership, only to have a male personal trainer insult me for being out of shape; I did not return, being a 16-year-old girl who was very displeased with being criticized while wearing spandex. But then I found Curves, a gym chain for only women. It was exactly what I needed: we all worked as a demi-group, people were friendly, there was no shaming and nobody seemed competitive. It was perfect for my self-conscious needs.

One small gym chain is taking this idea in a similar direction, but with a different group. Downsize Fitness, of Dallas, Chicago and Las Vegas, is exclusively available to those needing a loss of at least 50 pounds of fat from their bodies.

The gym has no mirrors, frosted windows and equipment designed for the overweight. Considering nearly every gym I’ve ever stepped foot into feels like a ballet studio in a terrarium, I can certainly appreciate the image and privacy aspects of Downsize Fitness firsthand. And though I don’t know what it’s like not to be able to use certain gym provisions, I can imagine that it’s very stressful to know that it’s that much more difficult to improve your healthiness because things just aren’t designed to fit you.

This is why these types of gyms are a mostly great idea, in my opinion: they allow people who need to work out and drop some weight in order to improve their health do so in a non-judgmental environment with trainers who know exactly what they’re going through. This lessens the anxiety some people face when attending a “normal” gym.

Latrice Irwin, a member interviewed by CNN, said:

“I had looked at a gym before, but never actually joined. Never felt comfortable working out with skinny people… When you’re on my side of the scale, it’s not inspirational to look at other people in, you know, half uniforms, showing off their body, showing of their abs. And I’m sure y’all don’t wanna see me in a half uniform showing off what abs you can find.”

On the other hand, I do find it deeply frustrating that people still feel they have to join a separate gym in order to work out. We know the country’s obesity statistics, and thereby are aware of how important it is to accomodate those who wish to change their health and lives. So why haven’t most gyms already adjusted to this better?

We also know that you can be non-skinny and very healthy, so why do most gyms still show commercials and ads primarily consisting of thin models? As Irwin said, it’s not inspirational; it just makes people feel fat-shamed into working towards an “ideal body” as opposed to a healthy one, regardless of what it looks like. We shouldn’t have to have separate gyms to feel comfortable about working out; if body equality was already in place, gyms like this wouldn’t need to exist.

Photo:  Kye R. Lee/Dallas News

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    • Sarah

      So….what happens when you lose the weight? Do you get kicked out or what?

    • Sean

      I’m all for having a gym where everyone feels comfortable and accepted, but what happens when you’re a client of Downsize Fitness, and after a period of time, you lose a considerable amount of weight?

      Do they show you the door because new customers no longer feel comfortable exercising around you?

      • Samantha_Escobar

        @cd30ead3469e69b66927ea63b1ef3700:disqus @b13f00863883ee5ce3b27623d7409e2f:disqus I just called and the management said that members are free to keep their membership no matter how much weight they’ve lost. =)

    • Ms. Pants

      I love this idea. I hate that I love it at the same time. I’ve always said “I’m too fat to go to the gym” and this shit nails it down.

    • WitchHazel

      I was excited to see that there is a location in Vegas but I looked up the monthly membership fee and $300 is way out of my price range. This is a great idea though.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Oh good god. That’s higher than the premium membership at Equinox. Nuh-uhhh. Hopefully more gyms like this will open with a small price tag!

      • Francis Wisniewski

        its $200 in Vegas, $300 elsewhere but it includes working with a trainer everyday. Equinox trainers are $100+/hr for private training
        -Francis, Owner Downsize Fitness

    • Alisha

      Excellent topic!! Mostly people neglect their fitness regime or gym going, thinking they are still not obese or bulky to join a gym and burn calories. They take it casual getting little weighty than normal, when it doesn’t look like an obese, but this can lead to unknown stocking or piling up of calories which can prove fatal by leading to diseases. It is must and should that every person should take fitness regime serious and do it regularly and stay fit.