When I first moved to Chicago, I lived in Andersonville, and I joined a little storefront gym called Know No Limits. It was friendly, welcoming, laid back and non-judgmental, and I loved it.
This is not that gym.
What I *thought* we had made an appointment for (and Randi was with me the whole time, but I was too lazy to draw her tonight, sorry Randi!) was a quick tour of the weight machines, so I can use them without hurting myself. Our appointment ended up being a “free personal training session” which quickly turned into a Very Pushy Hard Sell for expensive personal training. No weight machines though.
To be fair, the personal training was good, and hard, and fun. I’m achy all over. And to be fair, they were only doing their jobs. But DUDE. I didn’t say I wanted to lose weight, so to suggest that as my goal is pretty rude. To suggest that I lose twenty pounds in a MONTH is just effing UNHEALTHY, and you have no business advising anyone on nutrition. Also, it’s a fair point that I should probably be having something to eat midmorning and midafternoon, especially considering my long bike commute, but surely there’s some ACTUAL food that I could be eating then, instead of the weird chemical formulas that OH, BY THE WAY, are coincidentally for sale in the gym’s lobby. And she seriously didn’t believe me when I told her I didn’t snack on chips all night. I don’t think she heard me when I told her I’d been keeping a very public comic food diary for a year and a half. I had a hard time convincing her I haven’t had fast food in years, too. None of the staff listened to a word I said, they just looked at my size and shape and made up their minds about me.
Also, it should be horrifying that anyone would cry just from stepping on a scale. It shouldn’t be matter-of-fact, and it shouldn’t be normal. Ladies – no, EVERYONE : YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT STUPID NUMBER, and you shouldn’t let some sports bra let you think it’s NORMAL for that number to make you cry.
I know I’m ranting. I’m sorry. The whole thing has just made me angrier and angrier. I would honestly quit this gym out of principle, or spite even – except that it’s three blocks from my house and it’s $20 a month. Randi and I decided we’re going to keep our memberships, but make every effort to avoid ever talking to the staff there again. I can figure out the weight machines on my own, buttholes.
I’m told this is how gyms usually are, so now I feel like Know No Limits spoiled me with their awesomeness.
I think we baffled the staff with our lack of pointless-goal-in-a-meaningless-time-frame. They must get 90% people who are desperate to lose X pounds before a wedding or something. There were several questions on the enrollment forms about what our goals were, and what timeframe we wanted to accomplish them. I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I kept writing “soon” and “eventually”.
One last thing, even though I know I’ve written a Russian novel already. Usually, when I spend any time working out, it leaves me feeling lots more charitable about myself. I will pass my reflection in the mirror on my way to go running and think “if only I could lose that belly”. 25 minutes of jogging later, I’ll pass my same reflection and think “why was I so harsh on myself? Not bad, lady.” Obviously I haven’t lost any weight or inches in 25 minutes of running, but the act of working out makes me think kinder thoughts about my body.
Leaving this particular workout – and the personal training session was a crazy heavy workout – I felt worse about myself. Walking home, I felt fat and dissatisfied with my body. Was it having my weight and BMI recorded by these people? Was it the “20 pounds in a month” comment? The assumptions about my eating habits? Was it just the general culture there? I have no idea. But I know myself, and I know that shame doesn’t motivate me. I doubt shame really motivates anyone. In HAES they say if guilt and shame were effective motivators for weight loss, there wouldn’t be any fat people. Because all fat people GET from the world is shame.
Basically I think a lot more people would be members of gyms if so many gyms weren’t staffed with so many shallow, judgmental people.
I’m going to really enjoy having access to their machines in the dead of winter, but I think the secret will be to never interact with any of the staff there, ever again.