On Segregated Health Clubs and Running From Bears

Caroline Burau
Caroline Burau

Would you join a health club that banned skinny members? “Plus-sized only” fitness centers are becoming popular in Canada and could be coming our way. The objective is to provide a place for heavier women to work out that isn’t littered with perfect bums and annoyingly six-packy abs, a place where women with fifty or more pounds to lose can feel a sense of camaraderie, minus that often present feeling of competition in a regular club. (Men are excluded entirely, even if they are portly, gay, and super fun to hang out with.)

I’m content with my weight, but in the last 25 years, I’ve been every size from four to sixteen. I have smashed my share of scales, popped my share of diet pills, and yes, I’ve had my share of skinny-chick-related mini panic-attacks. When you’re single, the world seems populated only “smug marrieds” as Bridget Jones calls them. When you’re heavy, the whole freaking world looks like Jillian Michaels.


It’s not that there is anything really wrong with these clubs, I just wish there wasn’t a demand for them. When I get all wrapped up in comparing myself to those around me, it doesn’t mean my environment needs changing, it means I’m letting my inner Bridget Jones run things.

I’m turning 39 in July, so my inner Bridget currently dislikes every attractive 23 to 26-year-old woman in the entire world. You know, the ones with the skin like crepe paper and laugh lines that actually disappear when they’re done laughing. Their boobs point to the heavens, as if lifted naturally by happy invisible gnomes. Their noses are perfect and pert and probably Swedish. Is there a mall I can go to, club I can work out in, gas station I can drive to, where they don’t exist? Not generally.

If I succeeded in banning all 23 to 26-year-old chicks from my whole entire life, would that make me feel more secure? Would my nose look less … er … Polish?

Here’s my other problem with clubs that kick the skinny chicks out. Skinny chicks aren’t evil.

I have never been discriminated against or excluded from anything for being heavy, so I don’t presume to know how heartbreaking that would be. But I don’t think that gets solved by discriminating against thin women.

Most assumptions we make about thin people are wrong . . . especially the assumption that they are actually fit. We also like to assume that they have all their shit figured out, or that they always feel attractive, or that they’ve done something super-human to get skinny, like eat only romaine lettuce for a year, or run around the world twice.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lapped by heavier swimmers than me; same deal with running. (If you’re ever confronted by a hungry bear, I am the girl you want with you.)

In yoga, flexibility and stamina has nothing to do with weight. I’ve learned as much from heavy instructors as I have from thin. We all have something to learn from each other, and it goes both ways. I’d hate to see us segregate because of how fit we appear to be. And just because I’m not heavy doesn’t mean I want to work out with all skinny chicks! (Now look who’s discriminating? Crap.)

Anyway, I recently started following “Tess Munster, plus-sized model” on Facebook, and have developed a mad, unhealthy crush on this woman. Tess (I like to pretend we’re on a first-name basis) is a size 22 powerhouse and budding celeb with the face of a classic fifties pinup angel and gorgeous, thundering, confident heft. Thanks to style, poise, and mad cosmetics skills, she looks far better on her worst days than I do on my best. She’s just got that certain something — plus 13,000 followers and counting — and it doesn’t depend upon where she is or who she’s working out with. She’s just fabulous. It radiates.

If Tess Munster was working out next to me, I might be intimidated as all hell, but I still totally want to work out with her. And carry her bag. And beg her to be my best friend. And then I would be kicked out of her health club not for being thin, but for stalking Tess Munster, Plus-sized Hottie.

I digress.

Let’s do what we can not to segregate. If you find yourself needing to compare to the treadmill to the right or left of you, just knuckle-bump the poor bastard, heavy or thin, and remember that we’re all basically in the same boat, no matter what it looks like.

Click here for more posts on MeaningfulWomen.com by Caroline Burau.

Caroline Burau is a freelance writer in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and author of Sugarfiend and Answering 911: Life in the Hot Seat. You can also follow her on Twitter (@carolineburau) or www.carolineburau.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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