In 2007, The Anti-Gym made its appearance on Colorado television with commercials featuring a buff, aggressive “trainer” mocking overweight women saying “you’ll never get a hubby if you’re a chubby.” The Anti-Gym boasted techniques such as DJs, cage dancers, and hurling cupcakes and insults at overweight members while they walked on a treadmill. Sounds horrific, right? Well, they were mismanaged and unsuccessful enough that the Colorado branches went under pretty quickly.
Any gym that dares to treat an entire class of gym-goers poorly can’t be successful, right?
Enter Body Exchange in Vancouver: a gym that has a literal ban on thin people. The gym is exclusively for the overweight community, and the owners make absolutely no apologies for that fact. The Body Exchange website states “Canada’s Only Fitness and Adventure Company Exclusive to a Plus Size Clientele,” and encourages “fearless fitness at any size.”
There is a fair amount of rage being spattered throughout the internet about “reverse discrimination” and how unfair this is, but I’ve seen both sides of this and have to say that I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.
I have been all over the map. I used to be overweight, then I was a personal trainer at a gym once I got fit, and now I write for Curvy Girl Guide and interact with amazing women of all fitness levels. I’m also a fitness junkie and spend a *lot* of time in my gym. My gym is very “aesthetically focused,” and I’ll admit that I do my sled drags and squats and kettlebell swings while wearing coordinated lululemon outfits and lipgloss. There is a distinct “see and be seen” vibe at my gym, and I buy into it. It doesn’t bother me; it motivates me to work harder, faster, longer. I’m one competitive beeyatch.
However, it can be devastating for people who are new to fitness. I remember the first time I walked into a gym: I felt scared and insecure and on display the entire time I was working out. Seeing girls in cute, tiny lycra outfits with swingy ponytails made me want to hurl myself into traffic, and then possibly into a McDonald’s for comfort fries. Having a hot, ripped trainer explaining fitness to me and pinching my rolls for body fat percentage was nothing short of utter humiliation. There was nothing motivating or positive about the experience whatsoever, and I left discouraged and returned only a handful of times. Fitness FAIL.
Had I been offered the opportunity to work out in a safe, judgment free place with people who looked like me and understood the struggles I was going through, I would have likely succeeded much sooner and learned to love the gym much more quickly. I applaud those who are overweight and want to make changes in their bodies to be healthier and stronger. I doubly applaud those gym owners and trainers who are creating safe, motivational environments for overweight individuals who are ready to start working out. I think we should do whatever we can to make fitness fun and accessible to every population.
To those who are already “fit” and believe that they’re now victims of reverse discrimination? No. Just…no. Some people think being thin and fit can mean cuter clothes, more positive attention from the opposite sex, less embarrassment on airplanes, being able to sit and eat a sandwich in a restaurant without feeling like you’re being picked apart by everyone around you, better paying jobs…you name it. There is an entire world waiting to reward thin people just for being thin, so I don’t even want to hear the word “discrimination” in regards to someone who is a size 6 and physically fit. High-five yourself for rocking that bikini and start being encouraging to other people, even if it means they get a separate gym and some needed motivation.