Sort of, but it really depends on how you look at it. Body Exchange caters specifically to overweight women, describing itself as a “safe haven” for those without svelte, model-type figures. Body Exchange founder, Louise Green, says that thin women hurt morale of the overweight gym patrons and made them less likely to actually hit the gym and work out. She founded her new gym, Body Exchange, for overweight women to work out and feel motivated among their similarly sized peers.
“Many of our clients have not had successful fitness pasts so I can see the anxiety before we get started and I can see the relief and happiness after we finish,” Green told The Province. “People are often too fearful to become active,” she added. “There wasn’t a model that offered camaraderie. I used to walk into fitness classes where nobody would even say ‘Hi.’ This has got to be fun or it’s not going to work.”
While that doesn’t sound like it goes against anyone of a below-average size, Green explained that everyone who joins Body Exchange is screened over the phone–and if you’re too thin, you’re not in. Green insists, “The presence of that person in our program will bring down morale.”
We can see why someone out of shape or overweight may feel a little insecure in a spin class next to a triathlete or Victoria’s Secret model, but is it really fair to ban someone for being lean if you wouldn’t ban someone for being obese?
Of course, the article may have taken some quotes out of context and omitted a few, as many often do. But the piece presents Green’s statement that no one said “hi” to her in her fitness class alongside the point that she doesn’t allow thin women in Body Exchange, which sorta makes it sound like the thin women she encountered were vain, rude, and uncaring, doesn’t it? And that’s not necessarily cool. (And really, why couldn’t she say “hi” first? Maybe these people are just shy.) Additionally, Green herself says that the mission of Body Exchange was to get women to be active and healthy–and that weight loss was just a pleasant bonus. It’s a little hypocritical, then, to dismiss thin women from the workout club just for being thin. Not all thin people are in shape or active!
Obviously, we love anything that gets girls moving, healthy, and appreciative of their bodies–and we adore that Body Exchange and its owners are committed to getting women to embrace themselves as they are. But that also entails accepting and embracing others as they are, too. It also comes down to a level of personal responsibility, self-worth, and stereotyping: Remember those body judgments we all make? Situations like these may not help them go away, because they stress the differences and divisions that we create for ourselves as women. If seeing a thin woman in the gym lowers someone’s motivation to work out, they likely weren’t that determined in the first place. If you need to prejudge others to try escaping judgment yourself, there’s something not right there.
Do you think Body Exchange is being unfair by banning thin women? Or do you think Body Exchange is creating a more supportive environment for overweight women? Would you join a gym like Body Exchange? Tell us in the comments!