Should plus size women have their own gym? Body Exchange in Vancouver says yes. This gym does not allow either men or smaller-size women to become members. Their mission of “fearless fitness at any size” on their website is stated as such:
Our Mission is to remove limited thinking and living due to weight by using fitness and adventure as the vehicle to better living. We are a new approach to health and wellness one that is contrary to the sometimes extreme measures and disappointments of the weight loss industry.
Hundreds of clients have regained and sustained their health and wellness from our approach. They have found a community, a place to relate and challenge themselves and most importantly a place to start living out loud with no barriers.
I was turned off at first. I felt places like Body Exchange would serve only to marginalize larger women further. Why should they be forced out of mainstream gyms?
Bigger women (and men!) going to gyms are often looked at askance. Look at the extreme case of Sandra Ruiz, who was actually told she was too big to use the machines in a gym she’d just joined. Ridiculous. Though the gym eventually (begrudgingly) refunded her money, that’s got to have hurt her ego and inclination to work out in the future.
I thought about my own experiences with gyms. I’ve never been athletic. I dreaded gym class growing up. Gyms are really hard to stick to when fitness and exercise isn’t something you’re good at and doesn’t appeal to you naturally. When you’re made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, you’re even less likely to keep it up.
I’ve joined a number of gyms. Wasted a lot of money on gym memberships I didn’t use. The most comfortable I ever felt? Sadly, it was when I had my eating disorder. I was working out six times a week. I was making myself sick with guilt and obsessive behavior. But I had muscles in my legs. Muscles! I didn’t know that was possible for me. And yet, I weighed 110 pounds and hadn’t gotten my period for months. And I was starving myself, binging and purging. But I felt like my body was thin enough that I didn’t have to feel embarrassed. So I was able to get the muscles I’d never had before. Pretty screwed up right?
The only other time I felt like I belonged was at a women’s gym. There were classes, and some of them were for actual beginners. I started to get to know faces. I felt a kinship with some of the women around me. Sometimes I moved in one direction when most everyone else was going the other way. Sometimes I got so lost I had to stop and watch what everyone around me was doing. When I couldn’t do anymore, I took a little break without feeling like people were judging. It was great.
Unfortunately, the gym was hard to get to. And I started putting in too many hours at work. So I stopped going. I miss that. I’d like to find that again.
My husband Ted and I got a one month membership to a nearby gym heavily discounted—a Groupon. We thought we’d try it out, maybe it was something we could do together. But we didn’t go as often as we should. I was really interested in learning how to use the machines, because I need to build up the muscles in my legs because of my knee problems. Though I knew how to use the machines in the past, I was rusty. Ted didn’t know how to use them either. Continue reading