After my weight-loss surgery in 2003, most of the gals in my support group went to Curves. At that time, it was one of the few friendly plus sized gyms in the nation. Curves is an exercise club founded in Harlingen, Texas that is restricted to female clientele and offers a program of strength training, cardio and stretching.
It also has club promotions and events where women are educated about charitable causes and health related issues. The unofficial motto is “no makeup, no men, no mirrors.” All women are welcome but the club seems to attract women with average to plus sized figures.
In Vancouver, Canada, the approach to weight loss for women is a bit different.
The Body Exchange, a Vancouver-based plus sized gym, has adopted a policy disallowing men and thinner women from becoming members. The rationale is that the new policy will help to create a more friendly environment for larger sized women or, as the founder and CEO of the plus sized gym says, a “safe haven.”
The Body Exchange also has boot camps and offers exercise retreats.
The plus sized gym welcomes women of all ages although the majority of clients are between 35 and 55 years old. A phone screening process is conducted with all potential members. Should the callers not meet the criteria for membership, they are not invited to join.
It is hoped that this more restrictive approach will promote greater comfort for members and relieve some of the anxiety they feel when in a gym. One member stated she believed that the standard gym has members who are judgmental of overweight people and attributes the success she has had to her membership at The Body Exchange plus sized gym. She has been a member for three years, works out six days a week, has lost fifty pounds and has lowered her blood pressure.
The approach of The Body Exchange has raised some issues though.
While the environment explained above certainly has benefits for overweight people, there are questions regarding the approach of banning skinny people in the gym. Perhaps the first that comes to mind is the question of discrimination. If a gym were geared for some other specified group would there be protest?
Once members drop a sufficient amount of weight and can no longer be categorized as plus sized, do they have to surrender their plus sized gym membership?
If plus sized members have a gym to specifically help buffer feelings of anxiety or low esteem, how does membership help with those issues?
The founder and CEO of The Body Exchange maintains that the primary purpose of the plus sized gym is not necessarily weight loss but getting members to feel good about themselves and to get fit. How is this accomplished and how does it carry beyond the doors of the gym?
These are thought-provoking questions that deserve consideration if you are thinking of joining a plus sized gym. Questions aside, plus sized gyms have agendas and visions for their members.
Plus Sized Gyms in the US “Strongly Prefer” Obese Clientele
Downsize Fitness, a small chain with gyms in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Dallas, specializes in working with people who want to lose fifty or more pounds. While this plus sized gym does not ban skinny people, they do make their preference for working with the chronically obese clear. Buddha Body Yoga in New York City has a similar policy.
And of course, if you are like me, you can put a gym in your basement that bans everyone but yourself!
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life