Overweight-Only Gym Is 'Exclusive' in All the Wrong Ways

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woman working outThe Biggest Loser is back, and I'm sure there were more than a handful of Americans watching last night, wishing that they had somewhere like The Biggest Loser Campus to work out. And not just because it comes complete with amazing celeb trainers like Jillian Michaels. No, there's definitely something to be said for being able to work out around people facing the same challenges. Not to mention that when you're overweight or obese, going to a gym filled with perfectly fit, gorgeous people can be intimidating and just a downright drag.

Those are a couple of reasons why entrepreneur Francis Wisnewski founded Downsize Fitness, a gym catering to exclusively to people who are 50 pounds or more overweight. The goal of the chain -- which has locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, and Dallas currently -- is to help members "feel comfortable" while exercising. 

For example, there are no mirrors inside and the windows are fogged. Equipment is designed for heavier people. Sounds smart, I guess, in theory, but something about this rubs me the wrong way.

Believe me, when I first started working out with my trainer only a couple of months ago, I didn't want to be anywhere near a mirror. But then I realized that having them there is motivating. I wanted to be able to do kettlebell squats without cringing. And being around people of all different shapes and sizes is a benefit too. I want to be able to run like that super-fit chick I saw sprinting while I was on the elliptical a few weeks ago. I want to be able to do walking lunges like another in-shape member I spied the other day.

This "overweight-only gym" also raises other questions I'd love to know more about ... Like, what do you once you're less than 50 pounds overweight? What about when you hit your "goal weight"? Are you booted out of the gym? Banished to go work out at the "skinny gym"? I mean, come on!

While I understand what Downsize was founded for, I feel like they may have done better to open a gym where the atmosphere simply fosters inclusion, and everyone's encouraged to be less judgmental. Where there are people are all ages and levels of fitness.

But hey, if Downsize is helping people who wouldn't be working out otherwise actually get to a gym, there's something to be said for that.

How do you feel about this gym concept?

weight loss, exercise


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cmjaz cmjaz

Like anything else, if its not something you feel you need, then don't do it.

kelli... kelli0585

If you don't like it. . .


As far as a gym that fosters inclusion. . .they can foster all they want.  It isn't the gym that makes people uncomfortable.  It's the clientele. 

There's a "Christian-based" gym in my area that spits out bible verses in all of their commercials against a background of douche rock.  But that place is the snootiest, most intimidating "see and be seen" building in all of town.  Any overweight, middle-class person that waltzes in there doesn't stand a chance. 

nonmember avatar Kgeorge

I worked at a gym for 7 years. This is a fantastic idea. I spoke with so many new members that were too uncomfortable working out with smaller clients, they felt judged and were more likely to cancel their memberships. The staff was extremely accommodating in coming in at any requested times for these members to feel comfortable. But many women got to frustrated because they would be working out next to a size zero with only a sports bra. Those that came in groups with common goals were more likely to stick with it.

tuffy... tuffymama

I wonder what the hell about free enterprise in this country DOESN'T bother you, Maressa Brown. SMH.

nonmember avatar LizzieBorden

Honestly being intimidated by a gym's clientele just sounds like another excuse that overweight people make in order to deny their own personal responsibility in the situation and to keep feeling sorry for themselves rather than facing it head on and taking charge of their happiness and destiny.

singl... singlemama74

I think it is a wonderful idea!

Jscot... Jscott1216

I think it's a great idea and would be glad not to have to work out next to someone like you who is obviously judging others or busy staring at everyone else.

nonmember avatar may

I think it is a GREAT idea. That is the #1 reason I don't go to a gym now. I don't want to be around already fit people and I would feel I was being judged. I wouldn't want people on the street seeing me working out. Wish they had more gyms.

mande... manderspanders

As an obese exerciser (1200+ minutes of cardio/month) who visits the gym daily, I think its a crappy idea. I don't give a damn WHO is working out next to me, what they look, or why they are there. I'm there for me, to get in the zone, to get my sweat on. If anyone has a problem with my size or my workout, then they are the one with the problem as they aren't focusing on their workout. Oh frickin well.

It's just another excuse not to go to the gym, and if you can't go for YOU, then why bother wasting time and money on something you're not serious about.

I do know someone who used to be 100lbs overweight and is now at a normal weight, and working on decreasing her body fat percentage by dead lifting....she was KICKED OUT, membership terminated, from a Planet Fitness because she didn't fit in their overweight clientele. Hell, if I worked out at the same gym she did, I'd be motivated because she used to be like me....what an inspiration and proof that you can do it!

lulou lulou

If people want it, do it, supply & demand.  Now as for me, I just want the place where my kids play basketball and do karate to put in a few recumbant bikes for the parents and save me from gym fees.

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