Nobody is ever obligated to go to the gym or work out. But for fat people who want to go to the gym, it’s important to remember that it’s our gym too and we deserve for them to act like it. Here are 5 things that they should already be doing
Asking about your goals and then training to them
If you work with a personal trainer at your gym, it is their job to either use their expertise to help you reach your stated goals, be honest that those goals are not realistic, and opt not to train you if necessary. That means that they should ask you for your goals, not make assumptions or impose their ideas on you. If you ask to increase strength, stamina, and/or flexibility, and they talk about weight loss, they are out of line. If they say that you have to lose weight before you can work on strength, stamina or flexibility, (this has happened to me) then they are either grossly incompetent or a liar.
Abolishing Fitness Myths
There is a ton of misinformation that floats around out there about fitness, your gym owes it to you to separate myth from fact. There are no such things as lower abs. You will not get “flat abs” by doing abdominal workouts. You can’t “melt away” fat. Women are not going to “bulk up” by lifting weights. There is no such thing as toning. Fitness and health are not the same as body size. You do not have to workout hours and hours a day to get health benefits – the research shows that 30 minutes of movement a day 5 days a week provides tremendous health benefits. If your gym buys into any of these myths or perpetuates them through signage, workshops, classes, or any other messaging then they have some explaining to do.
Put the Focus on Health
Research shows us that while movement is really bad at creating weight loss, it is really good at supporting health. Instead of selling people a cardio room and a bag of magic weight loss beans, your gym should be educating people about the actual possible benefits of exercise. I would suggest starting by offering to measure things other than weight. Offering tests like VO2 Max scores, blood panel, strength, stamina, flexibility etc. People could choose the baseline tests they want at the beginning and then take them again three. six months in etc. to see if there are any changes. That way people wouldn’t think that exercise is “failing” just because they aren’t losing weight.
Hire People of All Sizes
When we only see one body type represented as “fit” at the gym, it perpetuates the myth that “fitness” looks a certain way or is the same thing as body size, and the gym owes it to their clients to show the true diversity of people who are involved in fitness. People of all sizes deserve to see themselves represented in the staff at the gym. People at the gym should have the opportunity to take classes form instructors of all sizes.
Create an Environment Free From Stigma and Shame
It is inappropriate to try motivate some gym members by suggesting that they should workout to try to avoid looking like other gym members. That creates a situation wherein the gym is encouraging shaming and stigma. There should be no messaging that one body size or body type is better than another. The gym’s focus should be on encouraging personal goals, not on trying to look or not look like other members, or trying to stigmatize or shame a group of paying customers for the way that they look.
It’s your gym too – you pay the same membership fee as everyone else. You deserve an environment that makes you comfortable and honors you goals and desires, and you have every right to demand it.
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I do size acceptance activism full time. A lot what I do, like answering over 4,000 e-mails from readers each month, giving talks to groups who can’t afford to pay, and running projects like the Georgia Billboard Campaign etc. is unpaid, so I created a membership program so that people who read the blog and feel they get value out of it and want to support the work I do can become members for ten bucks a month To make that even cooler, I’ve now added a component called “DancesWithFat Deals” which are special deals to my members from size positive merchants. Once you are a member I send out an e-mail once a month with the various deals and how to redeem them – your contact info always stays completely private.
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