“It seemed like the last form of open discrimination that’s OK, and I decided to put on a 350-pound suit myself and live that life for a day and see what happens. And it was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life.” Tyra Banks
Throughout history, we’ve seen hateful stereotypes crumble because of public outcry. There are words and phrases that are no longer acceptable in polite company and when uttered, the person using them is regarded as ignorant and insensitive…except when it comes to obesity.
I do belong to a gym… but some days it takes every ounce of strength just to walk through the doors. Seriously. The gym I belong to now I’m comfortable with, but it was a long road. As I explored other gym environments, it was painful. I’d feel the stares…the judgement… the disdain from those already fit who see my overly large frame grace their presence. They have no knowledge of where I’ve been or how much I’ve already lost… instead they judge and assume that because I’m overweight, I should put the big mac down. For the record – I don’t eat fast food except for rare occasions.
It seems like common perception is that if you are obese, fat, overweight, whatever the word you use to describe someone who is carrying more weight than they should, you are lazy or are choosing in some way to stay that way. Comments abound about how “No one is holding a gun to their heads forcing them to eat” even come from the very people who profess to want to HELP. Guess what? It doesn’t help.
I was looking for a gym because I know I need to use the weight machines. I need to because I love how strong I feel after a serious round of strength training. But my love for weights has never come from anyone at the gym. at one of the first gyms I explored, I was given a few free sessions with a personal trainer. That was a joke. We had 30 minutes and 25 were spent on the treadmill. I mentioned to him that I would like to learn more about how to structure an effective strength training circuit and he all but laughed telling me I wasn’t ready for that yet so just keep walking on the treadmill. The next 2 times were the same. Worthless. a waste of time. and the worst part was that I felt worthless because of it. I never went back.
If you know me AT ALL – you know that I ‘m all about solutions. Not just complaining. So here are a few of my suggestions for how we can all band together to make a change in the fitness industry… because change begins with each and every one of us.Another nationally recognized “gym” type establishment I went to basically said here’s the room do whatever you want – then went out to grab a smoke with a co-worker, leaving me in an empty room with no staff…no patrons… no one. Guess they have enough business and don’t need mine.
Recruit a partner – someone in the same or similar shape as you are. Together you will push each other at your own levels and recognize and reward the hard work it takes. it is true that there is power in numbers.
Gyms – Focus on building blocks of improvement. Create a welcome environment. Make ALL of your patrons feel welcome – not just the ones you deem worthy of your fine establishment.
Don’t judge each other… just like I don’t want to be judged by my weight, I shouldn’t judge all fitness people as one group. Be open to the idea that not all gyms are the same and the size of the muscles do not equate to their opinions or ideas about you.
Ultimately, your words and actions matter. Always. Not just about overweight or obese people but people in general.Don’t assume that everyone who is overweight is the same. Some may be battling a disorder and your hateful attitude might even be a trigger. Some may be struggling with depression and the step in the doors of your gym was the hardest thing they’ve done in a while. Your negative disposition may be the trigger that sends them right back out the door. Some may be struggling with past or even current abuse… and are looking to find their strength in a gym… jusdgeing them reminds them that they are worthless.
Another nationally recognized Gym once posed the question of “What do people really want from a health club?”
Their answer – in my opinion- fell short. They came up with:
“When you boil it all down, people want a convenient and affordable place to go – with quality exercise equipment and a friendly atmosphere – where they can “get in, work out and get on with their lives.” ~Chuck Runyon & David Mortensen – Co-founders Anytime Fitness
The key thing I think they forgot was respect. Treat ALL people with respect and the rest falls into place. So, when you see the overweight person running on a treadmill, respect the amount of strength and determination it took for him or her to walk through the doors. When you see the obese individual struggling to figure out a new piece of equipment, offer a hand or instruction. Respect. Isn’t that what ANY of us or looking for? Isn’t it what we all deserve?
I also think we are, even in small ways, looking for support. Support that will help us reach our goals.
Now, in all fairness, I have never stepped foot in an Anytime Fitness establishment… while I know of some individuals that have benefited greatly from one of their franchises, I choose not to. I don’t get the warm fuzzy. That’s my right to have that opinion.
And while we are at it, take a second the next time you are in a gym to share a smile or encouraging word with someone else – overweight or not - because you never know when you might have a positive impact on another’s life.
Remember, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.