Sizing Up Downsize Fitness
Trigger Warning: Exercise, weight loss and dieting are mentioned in this thread.
For those of you that haven’t heard of it, Downsize Fitness, founded by Chicago businessman Francis Wisnewski, requires its patrons to be 50 pounds or more overweight (how they calculate this isn’t explained). The workout equipment is designed for bigger bodies and there are no mirrors, so people exercising don’t have to look at themselves. It’s supposed to create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere for fat people who want to work out without having to see thinner bodies and without being shamed or made fun of by others. Now, I can get behind that mindset. However, the silver lining in this cloud has some tarnish to it and there are some elements to Downsize Fitness which may be problematic to those of us in Fat/Size/Body Acceptance.
First of all, this is not a place for those who simply want to increase their physical activity without deliberately dieting and losing weight. The goal of this gym is to lose weight (the title alone is a dead giveaway). Each member is part of a personal training team of five, and they must go on a diet that’s tailored to their specific needs. Now, if the members of Downsize Fitness want to lose weight that’s their right, but it would be nice to see a fat-friendly gym where people could choose to workout simply because they want the benefits of physical movement and not be made to change their eating habits because it’s assumed that what they’re eating is why they’re fat in the first place.
Second, Downsize Fitness is based on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, (although according to the company, a more realistic version). Shannon has already covered in nice detail the reasons how awful this program is. I think it’s very hypocritical that a supposedly safe haven for fat people chooses to imitate a show that humiliates fellow fat human beings and forces them to go through dangerous and often unhealthy practices in order to get thin. But since too many people are drinking the TBL-flavored Kool-Aid, I don’t think we’re going to see many gyms adopt a Health at Every Size®-based philosophy (Planet Fitness claims to, but they also support The Biggest Loser, so that’s for another topic).
Since Downsize Fitness has been on the media’s radar (and knowing that stories about fat people, obesity and dieting always seems to create the most spirited opinions), I decided to take a look at some of the stories and see what all the fuss was about. Surprisingly, there are a lot of mixed reactions to the idea of a gym that exclusively caters to fat people and, as always, reading these comments will use up a majority of Sanity Points.
Many thought the requirements of being 50 pounds or more overweight was discriminatory and wondered why members simply didn’t just join a regular gym. Many praised the idea because finally some of us fatties were getting serious about becoming physically attractive (oops, healthy), and if joining a fat-only gym was the way to do it, then they had no problem with the rules. Some didn’t like the no-mirrors aspect because they said mirrors were necessary for making sure exercises were done properly, not for self-esteem issues. Quite refreshingly, there were a few who pointed out that if society didn’t feel fat people were so disgusting, then we wouldn’t need places like Downsize Fitness, and that weight shouldn’t even be such a major concern in the first place.
To those commenters who wondered why fat people don’t just man up, get some self-esteem and join Bally’s, Gold’s, or any of the other gyms out there, you’ve got your answer. Many fat people who want to exercise would gladly go to any gym if there wasn’t the risk of being insulting, hearing disparaging comments about their bodies (even if they’re not directed at them), and, more importantly, if the gym equipment could handle higher weights.
We are told daily that we need to get off the couch and move, but when we do, we still get flak for it. Some of us are verbally harassed and/or have things thrown at us when we are exercising in public. Trying to find comfortable workout clothes can be difficult. So I can definitely see why some would want to flock to Downsize Fitness.
If you’re interested in checking Downsize Fitness out for yourself, they currently only have locations in Dallas and Chicago, with a franchise in Las Vegas that will be opening sometime this year. I’m sure the success they’re having now will lead to more franchises being opened. Hopefully as their business grows, they will realize that being healthy doesn’t just mean being thin. I hope they stop basing their workouts and nutrition plans around The Biggest Loser too.