Gold’s Gym Fat Shames Kids

WTF are you doingA lot of fatshaming nonsense happens around working out. There are people complainingthat fat people have workout gear, and there was a Gold’s Gym franchise in Egypt that decided it would be a great idea to market using fat shaming and misogyny.

It couldn’t get worse, right? Wrong. A Gold’s Gym franchise in Kingwood, Texas said, “Hold my Michelob Ultra” and took up that challenge. They actually mailed out ads with pictures of two kids captioned, “My fat may be funny to you but it’s killing me,” and “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.”

Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me. In case there are people who need to be told this (and there shouldn’t be) fat shaming kids is never, ever ok. And it does not lead to healthier kids. Convincing kids to hate their bodies doesn’t lead to them seeing those bodies as amazing and worthy of care.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics, in the last decade hospitalizations for eating disorders for kids under 12 are up 119%. Kids. Under. Twelve. Kids are plenty focused on their weight without getting a postcard from their local gym.

And if the gym is successful in getting them to try to manipulate their body size?

The outlook isn’t good. Research from the University of Minnesota: “None of the behaviors being used by adolescents (in 1999) for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss[ in 2006]…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors.”

Considering that, let’s look at the captions real quick:

“My fat may be funny to you but it’s killing me.”

Could they have done any more to drive home the point that any kid who looks like this kid (or is larger) should hate their body? No. Just no. Also, a kid who assumes that everyone thinks their body is a joke is a victim of a society full of stigma, and they need to support — not encouragement to join in.

“It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.”

Being a little girl is not hard because this girl is a bit less little than some of her friends; it’s hard because she lives in a fatphobic world where her local gym mails out cards that fat shame kids. How much of the suffering of fat people would be immediately relieved by an end to discrimination? Especially since research is showing more and more that discrimination is correlated with the same health issues that are so often blamed on body size or behavior.

Thanks to the work of activists, Gold’s Kingwood branch — including the man responsible for this mess — apologized and promised to do better, saying:

 “As a father and a person who is deeply committed to children’s health and wellness, I was devastated to learn that some people saw my ad as an attempt at body shaming…

Reflecting on your remarks helps me to realize that there are more positive ways to communicate my commitment about the programs we offer. Moving forward, I will be more thoughtful as to how we seek to move our message.”

Here’s hoping.  Luckily, it’s not that hard to do…

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15 thoughts on “Gold’s Gym Fat Shames Kids

  1. I’d ask that you not let this reflect poorly on Texans in general, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary. *winks*

  2. Is that little girl one not recycled feckery from the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta child fat shaming series?

    Time to bust out the ‘I Stand’ posters again?

  3. My heart breaks for children these days. I was a fat child in the 50s and it was miserable but it was only miserable in my neighborhood, church and school. Children these days can be shamed across the world in a matter of seconds because of the Internet.

  4. Fatphobe logic: “In order to spare this poor fat child the bullying and abuse they might face growing up fat, I must bully and abuse them until they turn thin!” Seriously, I’m so disgusted I wrote and then deleted about three novel-length rants, but the short version is, you really care about fat kids’ health, maybe stop hanging signs around their necks saying, “Hey, predators of all stripes and varieties, get your free victims here! Society doesn’t care what you do to kids who look like this! They might even approve if you say you’re doing it to change their looks!”

  5. That’s not an apology. “I was devastated to learn that some people saw (my ad for exactly what it was)” Not sorry for sending it, or saying it, but that some people objected. Bah.

  6. I can’t remember where I say it, but I recently read an article about how kids with low self esteem are more at risk for sexual predators, as they will be drawn to the adult who seems to like them as they are.

    Not there aren’t already heaps of good evidence for how bad it is to fat shame kids, but I wonder if that knowledge might make some people think again.

    1. Yeah, and if you have a pedophilic “chubby chaser” who objectifies based both on age and size, then that kid might as well rub meat all over himself and walk into the local dog pound.

      Parents who body-shame their children are setting them up for abuse by anyone who will tell them their bodies are beautiful (to them and no one else, because only THEY can see the beauty and everyone else hates them, as is clear by everyone else’s actions, amirate?).

      This is one reason I have a problem with the “romantic” line, “No one else will love you like I do.” Uh, no. If you say, “I love you more than anyone else does,” that’s fine. Maybe you do. But there again, that is a positive statement, not precluding anyone else’s ability to love you, nor your ability to inspire love in anyone else. But the negative “only I” statements that predators use are insidious.

  7. If a gym wants to encourage children to attend, how about a picture of Pippi Longstocking, with a caption “Get stronger!”

    Or pictures of children exercising with a caption “It feels good to move.”

    Or pictures of children doing fun exercises, like dancercise or Zumba, and saying, “Moving is fun!”

    Positive messages are good. And they’re not hard, AT ALL, to create. So why are they so rare? Really? I would love it some advertising person explained to me why positive messages, which are so darned easy, are so darned rare in advertising.

    I feel like Kermit the Frog in that old Muppet Movie, saying, “Sea Breeze soap will get you clean.”

    1. I’m sorry but you’re still fatshaming the kids. You’re assuming that the kids became fat because they are inactive or are eating too much. You’re assuming that the kids don’t know that moving is fun. You’re doing to kids what is done to adults.

      I’m a teacher. I have a student in my class whom I’ve heard others call fat. She hauls her backpack around on wheels. I’ve seen what she’s gone through (bullying).

      I also happen to know that two years ago she competed in the Ironkids challenge. She’s also scuba-certified. She’s competed in half-marathons. She’s going whitewater rafting this weekend.

      As her teacher, I’m privvy to the knowledge that she has an underlying health condition that requires her to take steroid injections every two weeks and that she’s seeing a physical therapist twice a week to help her deal with the pain.

      Please don’t assume fat is unfit. Don’t assume that the kids aren’t moving. Don’t assume that the kids don’t recognize a fat camp when one is advertised.

      1. I’m not assuming that fat kids are fat because they don’t move or that they eat too much.

        Stating a positive is by no means an assumption about the negative. That is the beauty of positive statements.

        “Get stronger” doesn’t assume you are started from weakness. StrongER means you’ve already been strong, and that you can do even more.

        Stating that moving is fun does not assume that they don’t know it’s fun. It is a simple statement, with which they probably would agree, given the chance. However, most of the time, they are told that they have to punish themselves, via exercise, and if they are having fun, “it doesn’t count.” Therefor a positive statement of fact can counteract all the lies they are being told.

        Good for your student! I hope she shows her friends all the cool stuff she can do, and educates them, because the world at large wants to tell them that she can’t do the things she already has.

        Also, a gym that allows children to exercise in a safe way is not a fat camp, any moe than a gym that allows adults to exercise in a safe way is a fat camp. It is simply a place where people of all ages can go to exercise in a safe way, preferably teaching you new skills as you go. Exercise is actually separate from size, and there are lots of fat athletes. So, I really don’t see how you went from encouraging kids to enjoy exercise to fat camp. Will you please explain the thought process to me, because I am confused.

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