A Gym in the Right Direction

At some point last week is seeped through to my conscious mind that my gym was PLASTERED with weight loss propaganda. There’s a huge scale in the ladies locker room and several times a year they try to get me to buy personal training to help “jump start my weight loss”.

At first I assumed that every gym is probably this way, but I decided to look into it just to be sure. Enter Planet Fitness (no, they aren’t giving me anything for saying this).

There are no scales.  There are no weight loss mantras.

There are tootsie rolls at the front counter

There’s Mountain Dew and Rockstar with the Gatorade

There’s a Lunk Alarm in the free weight area

There are pizza nights once a month.

Above the front desk is a sign that says that they are creating a space where “anyone and we mean anyone can be comfortable working out”.

It’s also really cheap, my old gym was almost $300 initiation fee and $40 per month.  This place has memberships from 10-20 per month some of which have no initiation fee.

This is what I’m talking about when I talk about giving everyone access to healthy options.  This gym is focused on health, not weight, and is trying to remove economic barriers as well as challenging stereotypes about a gym and modeling a balanced lifestyle where health is not about being obsessive, hating ones current body, or trying to achieve a specific height/weight ratio.  How kick ass is that? The gym is populated by an amazingly diverse group of people and everyone so far has been super friendly.

This gives me tremendous hope!  I think that we need more of exactly this.  What if every gym, every Zumba class, every yoga class tried to be as accessible as possible and modeled health as balanced choices (not a body size) that can include tootsie rolls and squats and pizza and treadmills and fun?  To me, this is what Health at Every Size is about.  Health is multi-dimensional – it includes behaviors, genetics, stress, environment and access.  Obviously some of those things are partially or completely out of our control and health is never guaranteed.  Access is even trickier because it’s not always within our control.  Some people only have access to gyms  that are clinging to the antiquated paradigm that thin and healthy are the same thing.  Some people only have access to gyms that aren’t affordable.  Some people, for whatever reason, don’t have access to a gym at all. Or to whatever movement option they enjoy.  So I think that a gym that tries to remove as many barriers as possible is a huge step in the right direction!

36 thoughts on “A Gym in the Right Direction

  1. Planet Fitness sounds like a great place! There’s one near my house even! Right now I got to the park district club and feel completely out of place. I miss Woman’s Workout World where I always felt welcome!

    Tomorrow I am starting a Zumba Gold class–for the older, novice exerciser. I figure it’ll be a nice way to start out with my inflammatory arthritis! I’m excited to dance!

  2. Sounds nice! I workout at Curves- because i’m not a fitness buff and i don’t know what i should or shouldn’t do or how much I like that each machine is timed and you just go in a circle so you automatically know what to do. Although yes, I do hate all of the diet talk and the weight loss propoganda. There is a scale in the back that I have to see every time I go to the stretching room and there are games and contests to see who can lose the most weight. My current gym isn’t as bad as my last Curves which listed people’s weights and how much they’d lost whereas my current Curves just posts people who have exceeded a certain number of workouts.

    1. Since Curves are a franchise, each owner is different. When I used to work out at Curves,the owner was quite open to body acceptance. You might want to bring some of the more fun Health at Every Size information to your Curves and see how the owner and clients react–you could be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Finding a place to work out is a challenge – I’m disabled, and our local women’s gym’s cardio equipment is up in a cute little “loft” where I can’t get to it! Everything else is super expensive or far away. My disability means a 30 minute workout is enough, and who wants to pay big bucks for 30 mins at a time? Anyone who wants to bring a PF to Marin, I’m IN! And I have a LOT of friends! 🙂
    PS thanks for blogging… I’m reading!

    1. Carol,

      Thanks for this comment – it speaks to whole other issues of access to movement. I hope that someone builds a gym you love and that accommodates you perfectly!


  4. I think this is brilliant! I’d seen the ads for Planet Fitness while traveling, but unfortunately there don’t seem to be any near where I currently live.

    It’s funny, but I’ve been having a hard time getting motivated to go to the Y. Even for the water aerobics classes, which I LOVE. Just yesterday I realized why. A few weeks after I started attending, I did their health assessment, which I answered as honestly as possible. Including my weight. After my initial assessment, I wasn’t able to work out there b/c I had to travel. I started getting emails with subjects like “We’re confused! You did this blah, blah, blah, but you haven’t been back to workout!” Then as soon as I got back, my assessment results were waiting on me. There were only 2 areas they marked me down on: my weight and not eating enough fruits & veggies. That was it….out of a 3 page health assessment. But my score was 49/100.

    The whole process left me feeling like I was already a failure. It brought up so many feelings of shame and self-loathing. Why would I want to go somewhere that makes me feel like that?

    Now that I’ve identified the source of those feelings, I’m hoping that I’ll get myself to the next H2O class on Wednesday. Because I do love the classes and I LOVE being in the water. I’m trying my best to remember to go for me.

    1. PM, have you thought about writing them a letter telling them how this made you feel? You can use what you wrote above. Maybe when they hear that what they did is bad for customer morale (and therefore bad for business, because it made you LESS likely to return) they may consider changing their tactics.

      1. i work out at the Y, too. they send that letter out anytime you haven’t been in the gym for a few weeks. it has nothing to do, as far as i can tell, with your questionnaire, just attendance and if you’re not doing enough cardio/strength/whatever. also, as far as i can tell, it’s automatic and since your letter sounds just like mine, not written by a human at the gym.

        i don’t do much cardio at the Y (because i’d rather poke myself in the eye than do cardio indoors, sweating all over a bunch of strangers, bored out of my mind), but i do my strength there, so i always get the “you’re not doing enough cardio” e-mails.

  5. Not to be a downer here but do they also have bananas somewhere? Why is the only alternative to supplements and self-hate tootsie rolls and mountain dew? (Maybe I’m just biased because I don’t like tootsie rolls or mountain dew, so there’s that…LOL)

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I don’t see these as alternatives, but as options on a spectrum. So I’m not suggesting substituting supplements for tootsie rolls (I happen to take both). I also consider self-hate to be a completely separate thing from tootsie rolls or mountain dew, or whatever. They don’t have fresh fruit but my guess is that’s because it doesn’t keep. The point is not that you should substitute mountain dew for water, but that both can be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle (unless you don’t like mountain dew, then you can definitely pass 🙂


      1. My PF has an array of drinks for sale (at the usual mark up, of course) including water. You can choose between tootsie rolls and a hard, grape flavored candy.

      2. Ugh, I hate mountain dew. And tootsie rolls, for that matter. 🙂 My favorite drink ever was propel, but I stopped drinking that after I started a personal campaign against aftificial sweeteners. I loved the flavor and the vitamins and its subtle sweetness…why can’t they use a touch more sugar and omit the splenda?

        I started my anti-artificial sweetener campaign thanks to Ragen’s Truvia post!

        Love you Ragen, check your blog every day. Also thanks for honoring my one beautiful thing with its very own blog post!!!!

        Keep up your beautiful efforts!

  6. I’m a member of Planet Fitness. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! I encourage anyone – fat, thin, somewhere in between – to join if looking for a new gym!

  7. Wow, I dream of a gym like that – in fact I was thinking this very subject over the other day. I said I’d have a gym where we’d help members follow whatever magic dream thin plan they wanted and we’d be really supportive, but we would never harangue someone for not losing weight, for not sticking to the latest magic thin plan, for not burning enough calories, for eating the snack foods… Planet Fitness sounds better, I wonder if they do franchises and if they want to set up over the Atlantic? I want a gym like that! 😀

  8. Ooh that sounds great! I don’t go to gym myself, but my (skinny) friend sometimes goes to a local place and she was recently miserable after having to work out on an exercise bike which, amongst other things, “weighs” you and flashes that weight for everyone to see on big red numbers. I put the quotation marks there because it also turned out that the number was way off, like +22lbs on her. Which she totally believed and then felt sad about secretly “gaining” all that weight, at which point I suggested that she’d actually find a scale. Way to attract customers, lol.

    (Maybe this feature could have been turned off, but she didn’t know how.)

      1. Hehe, I don’t know if I made it sound like there’s a public announcement or something. It’s not quite that bad – just the bike weighs you when you begin and displays said number for a while when anyone who’s close or passing by can see it were they interested in looking. Still think it’s horrendous though 😀

  9. LUCKY.

    My own gym? It has a poster that has been there for a few years that reads along the lines of, “Friends don’t let friends get cankles.”

    I’m not expecting anything better with the ten other gyms in my town. What’s interesting to observe is how two of those gyms replaced book stores, which says a lot of people’s mentality these days….

    1. I’ve heard the term “cankles” before, but never saw a definition of it, so I just got the urge to google it.

      Really wishing I hadn’t. 😦

      Those are my ankles! Except I can vouch that sometimes, that shape is achieved with almost no fat involved. It’s all muscle/bone/tendon on me. My fat is stored much higher on my body.

      Wow. *sigh* Time to hit up the lolcat blogs, I think.

      1. “While you were busy worrying about “muffin-topping” over the waistband of your jeans or the “cottage cheese” on your thighs, you should have been fretting over the shapeliness of your ankles.

        “Cankles,” or less-than-svelte ankles, are the thunder thighs of the new millennium”

        This was an article on abc news. and you know what? It is total bull shit. I see svelte curves in that, not harsh angles. (less than svelte? I always associated svelte with the term voluptuous). Now, I don’t have this shape in my legs, for some reason the muscle on my calf is really super defined (maybe by the fact that I’m a cyclist and prefer elipticals and that just has that effect on me?)

        However, my sister and mom do have this shape in their legs. Both me and my sister have always said, ‘Mom, thanks for giving us your awesome legs!” My mother’s legs are GORGEOUS! I have always loved the shape and curves of them. I inherited a lot of the shape in the calf but not as much around the ankle; still, my legs have always been my favorite part of my body. So screw abc news and the stupid canklephobia. Thick curving legs are beautiful…and there is a curve even to thicker ankles—it’s a curve, not an angle.

        By the way, the term volutpuous means lush and sensuous. This is not to say that women with thinner ankles aren’t beautiful, but it’s in a different way. Embrace your thick, sturdy, curvy beautiful ankles and thank God for every part of your body. God made each of us unique, and you’ll notice the beauty of creation comes from the rich diversity of it. We should all send in pictures of our ankles to Ragen and she could have a beautiful ankle diversity post.


  10. When I worked out at the original Planet Fitness in Dover, NH, when it was on the river, it was a great place to work out. It really was a gym for everyone. But that included us “lunkheads.” I find that their current trend to be offensive towards those of us who are fitness freaks (regardless of size). I’m saddened that in order to attract one segment of the population the folks that had been enjoying their gyms for years are instead ridiculed.

    I chose to work out there because of the price, location and because of all the gyms that didn’t hire me when I applied (I was a personal trainer) they were the only one that didn’t have a mandatory weight-loss sales pitch I’d have to give if they had. I got into fitness to get strong and healthy, not to sell a fake image of fitness created by Madison Avenue. But there was such diversity. Including serious weight lifters, both bodybuilders and powerlifters, who I learned a lot from. I didn’t see them judging those who were at other fitness levels or had other goals, they were too busy doing their thing. But not too busy to offer advice to someone WANTING it (I never saw them push it on someone who didn’t). It was a nice diversity.

    There WAS judgement however, not often, just a couple of very skinny women I over heard a couple of times in the locker room. All about certain “fat guys” who “should get more cardio because they’re going to have heart attacks from being fat and lifting weights which they’re doing wrong!” And that always included “I don’t want to have to look at all that fat over there!” Of course, those “fat guys” were powerlifters. So, now the women complaining don’t have to look at those fat powerlifters any longer as they are no longer welcome at PF.

    I think getting rid of the weight loss propaganda is great (I’ll also admit that as I’m getting back into PTr, it’s really tough to sell fitness without it when all the other trainers and the one gym here are making all sorts of promises). I think the idea of judgement free gyms is great, however it has to work both ways..mocking someone as a lunkhead is prejudice. I think grunting while lifting weights is just the way it is for some of us, it’s a prayer as far as I’m concerned. And powerlifters DO sometimes have to drop weights hard, that’s what mats are for. That’s a LOT of weight they’re throwing and they’re doing it correctly.

    Okay, now that I have come across all negative here, I have been meaning to let you know I love your blog. After years of being away from the fitness industry, in part due to my frustration at the weight-loss emphasis as opposed to strength and health (but also due to various other life events) I’m making a stab at getting back in and have been happy to find that Health At Every Size is a wider spread concept than it seemed to be 18 (or 10 or….) years ago. I want to see more talk in the fitness world about being fit, not skinny. I just don’t think that message has to come with it’s own form of hate which I feel PF is promoting.

    1. Oh, and when I joined PF back then, the trainer who I had a consultation with was new there. He did sort of give a knowing smirk, not judgmental as much as “I figured as much,” when I told him I had no interest in losing any weight but would love to put on several pounds of muscle. After all, he had been one of the ones who interviewed me at another gym where I flat out said I would not sell their weight-loss program and ended the interview. Of course, given the timing, that means that he got the job at PF that I had applied there for. I wonder if he got sick of selling skinny too.

  11. I also belong to Planet Fitness, my husband and I love them! They say they are the “Judgement Free Zone” and they mean it! It is a great, relaxed place to work out.

    Our gym does have scales however, tucked away in the locker room but there is no emphasis about using it. It’s just there for the people who want to use it.

    I think it is only fair to point out that the membership is cheap, but unless you buy their slightly more expensive membership (the black card) you can only attend the PF that you sign up at. This means that if you go on vacation somewhere else, unless you have a black card membership you cannot use a different gym.

    BUT, that being said, you can get free personal training no matter WHICH membership you buy and they have classes to help you decide which machines to use and how to use them. They even have a “design your own workout” class so you can personalize your workout plan with confidence.

    Planet Fitness is AWESOME!

  12. Huzzah! Always nice to hear about a business that truly “gets it.” *wonders if he can convince Tucson’s Fit Center to stock Tootsie Rolls at the sign-in desk…*

  13. Man… this is an amazing gym. Where are they hiding, here in Australia? Not that I would like to have a tootsie roll or pizza around when I’d finished my workout – the thought makes me queasy. All those good intentions and you have things like that right under your nose? Nah, I don’t think I’d go for that. But the rest of it, the humour, acceptance, understanding etc – Brilliant. Bring it on – more please! 🙂

  14. I just spent a year in the UK, and I loved my gym. It was in an area that had a significant Defence population.

    On the wall was a poster that I really loved “Being fit is an issue of personal pride. It is easier for some people than others but it is a matter of discipline and dedication.”

    I like that. I am fat and short, but I’m fit. It is an issue of personal pride: I’m proud I’m a runner. Some people find it easier to run than I do, some people find it harder. For me to run, it is a matter of discipline and dedication.

    1. “I am fat and short, but I’m fit.”

      We should all learn from Winnie the Pooh–“I am short, fat, and proud of that!” Pooh accepts his body unconditionally and still loves his life. He’s not afraid to eat his favorite foods, he listens to his body (I’m so rumbly in my tumbly) does his exercises which make him hungry (I go up, down, touch the ground, it puts me in the mood, up, down touch the ground, in the mood *smack smack* for food!) and isn’t afraid to eat after working out for fear of gaining more weight. I’d say Pooh is fit and fat and short and he loves himself unconditionally. Then look at how he loves everyone around him unconditionally, even the cranky Rabbit.

      Sounds like HAES (r) — even MHAES (mental health at every size!)


  15. Wow! I haven’t been to a gym in years. Partly because I love swimming and Nia so much. Mostly because they stopped feeling welcoming somewhere around the time I topped 200 lbs. Yes, I gained huge amounts of weight, even as I was going to the gym on a regular basis… Truth be told, there are aspects of “working” out that I used to really enjoy.Thrilled to hear your reports of Planet Fitness! I think I’ll actually check them out.

  16. I agree with you–Planet Fitness is my gym, too. I’m pretty out of shape, and the trainers are eager to work with me on specific issues that I’M interested in strengthening, not what they THINK I should be working on; I find this refreshing. I’m not ready to start eating their Tootsie Pops, but I know they’re there, and when I want/need one, I’ll help myself!

    Thank you for citing Planet Fitness. Oh, they also have t-shirts for new members, that read “No Judgement” (British spelling theirs).

  17. I’ve always said there should be gyms like this. I looked them up and there are only two in California but it looks like they are expanding a lot. I just cancelled my gym membership because I’m in recovery from anorexia and there is zero possibility I can walk in there without triggering a relapse. I’m incorporating moderate exercise back into my life but I feel so strongly that commercials gyms are nothing but a breeding ground for my, and so many others, exercise and food disorders. In many years if I ever felt the need to join a gym it would be hard for me to find an environment I’d feel comfortable in. I hope Planet Fitness doesn’t give way to the cultural pressure and monetary temptations that come with exploiting clients.

  18. There are only 3 Planet Fitness in Washington State, but 1 is in the town I hope to move to after youngest daughter goes off to college (1 short year from now). I may even have my 2nd hip replacement done by then & really be able to take advantage of a gym! Will definitely keep them in mind!

  19. Woohoo for Planet Fitness!
    I recently moved to Bastrop and signed up for the Jazzercise center there. Lots of weight loss propaganda on the walls.
    I’m thinking I might have a conversation with the owner of the center about health at every size.

  20. I’ve had mixed experiences with Planet Fitness. My husband and I belonged to PF in Daytona Beach and we loved it. The atmosphere was great, the staff was awesome, and the machines were always clean and well maintained. We really loved working out together there; if he was at work and I had nothing else to do, I’d go work out there just for the fun of it. If you live in that area, it’s on Nova Road – go join right now! We moved to Orlando earlier this year, and we joined the Planet Fitness at Dr. Phillips. Big mistake! The 30 minute circuit is so crowded together that it’s impossible to get through without crashing into someone, and the staff couldn’t get the billing right if their lives depended on it. Every time I go in, we have to spend 15 minutes at the front desk trying to figure out what went wrong this time. So now I have a choice of working out at a gym where I feel uncomfortable with the atmosphere (our apartment gym), or going to PF and being stressed out by bad customer service. Planet Fitness is awesome if you get the right one, but remember that each franchise is individually owned and operated. Talk to some of the members and get the scoop on their experience before you sign up.

  21. Thanks for letting me know about a great gym! Regrettably, I live in one of the -seven- states they don’t have a location. *pout* They look excellent, though, and I’ll keep them bookmarked and check back from time to time until they open up here. 🙂

  22. Hmm… I wonder how interested they’d be in expanding to New Zealand? I would like to open a club in a couple of years, once I finish qualifying as a trainer, and this is definitely a great representation of the model of health and fitness I want to promote!

    I attend a franchised gym that is so yawn-inducingly unimaginative: if you’re a man, you want big muscles. If you’re a woman, you of course want fat loss. Try telling them anything else and they look at you like you’re a space alien. I started off trying to evangelise for change, but it’s become easier just to work out with my mental blinkers on and store up any frustration as fuel and inspiration to eventually create change when I have more resources to do so.

  23. The only problem I had with Planet Fitness was the lack of classes. I currently have a YMCA membership–there’s a branch two miles from my house–and I love it unquestioningly. My yoga, Zumba, and Pilates classes all welcome me at 200+ pounds, my trainer (and yoga instructor) wishes all her clients came in with a goal to get healthy, and two of my three main teachers would probably be “obese” on the BMI scale. (One is trying to lose weight, but she’s doing it in a healthy and non-obsessive way, to the point that she rarely weighs herself, and the other is muscular as hell, but definitely more squishy than ripped. Hell, we discuss gluten free cookie recipes while doing Pilates!)

    Honestly, the entire Y experience has made me wish I weren’t disabled. I’d love to be a personal trainer–in whatever shape and size my body decides it’s happy at. I think there’s definitely a market out there for people who want to get healthy rather than bulked up or runway thin, and a personal trainer who demonstrates that you can have strength, flexibility, and stamina while wearing your most comfortable and natural body would be an attraction (or even a relief) to quite a few people. (Alas, my disability isn’t something that can go away. Stupid immune system. I WANT MY MONEY BACK, MOTHER NATURE!)

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