This past month has been a tornado of events with me moving office locations, celebrating friends’ events, balancing work/life, starting at a new gym, and somehow still finding the time to wash my clothes! But within this chaos, I had a realization when I started at my new gym and I couldn’t help but share.
Throughout my life I’ve joined handfuls of different gyms and they all have their own way of trying to lure you in to join. Whether it be the towel service, the low montly fee, the “no down payment”, the classes, the saunas, the hot tub… the list goes on! “But we have THIS feature!”. I’ve heard it all. I’ve shrugged it all off as a sales pitch. But there is one thing that I’ve shrugged off for far too long. It’s the part of their sales pitch that should be banned completely. (If not banned, at least… reworked).
I call it… THE “PUT DOWN” PITCH
You walk into a new gym with the hopes and dreams of a healthy lifestyle and the determination of a hawk baby trying to fly out of the nest. This is the year to make changes! You are greeted by the overly friendly attendant at the front desk who immediately helps you, throwing in a random compliment or maybe they just try to seem interested in YOU. They say, “let’s take a tour and talk about your goals”. So on you go, touring the awesome facility with tons of equipment – some of it you will never use (is that for pilates or medieval torture?). Everything is shiny, everything is wonderful. This is where baby hawks go to soar!
Then they sit you down to go through your goals. If it is anything close to weightloss or “toning” or “better shape”, they’ll take all your measurements. You’ll get weighed, you might even have to hold a contraption that looks like the steering wheel controller from a Nintendo Wii as it slowly counts to your death. Just kidding. But it WILL show you a number. It’s your body fat percentage and it’s probably off the charts. You are too young to have such a number! And your weight versus your height puts you in the “overweight” or “obese” section on the BMI chart… so OF COURSE you have to start training right away. Panic hits… Wait, what?… you are overweight??
If you haven’t already started feeling like a bag of ____(insert mushy brown noun)___, don’t worry! There’s more! According to the gym attendant, you’ll have to lose “X” amount of weight to be in the healthy range and they can help you get there! They are supportive, they are motivating and they are there for YOU, you helpless baby hawk. In order for an overweight baby hawk to gain the ability to fly, baby hawk has to pay an extra fee for personal training.
Shiny hopes and dreams of starting a healthy lifestyle turn into feelings of guilt, shame, self-pity, self-loathing.
Whether you are the type to turn criticism into power and energy or the type to curl into a ball and cry… you are trapped with the feeling you have to sign up for this or else you will continue to be overweight, or just not good enough in some way.
That is where I draw the line. _______ (<<see? it's a line.)
Don't get me wrong, let me be clear. I am all for motivational speeches and I know that sometimes the truth can hurt. Sometimes we do need to ask ourselves, "Am I happy? Am I healthy? Can I change for the better?". But it's all about the approach and the outlook at this point.
I think many people might feel so discouraged after meeting with a trained professional telling them they are overweight and they need to lose weight. Literally a trainer had told me, "You need to lose 20-25 pounds, does this sound ok?". In the moment, I was so in shock… I haven't weighed that little since high school and back then I was so unhealthy about food – practically starving myself half the time. So no, it wasn't "ok". Let's take this vulnerable mind into account. They are taking advantage of someone who is now emotional, and worse… in a state of low self-esteem.
I couldn't stop myself from imagining all the other women (and men) he has told the same thing to in the past, only maybe their reaction was to look down at themselves in disgust while they handed over their money to workout out over and over again to the point of exhaustion. In how many cases did this trigger an eating disorder or continue to encourage one? In how many cases did this spark compulsive over-exercising? We have enough negative self-esteem triggers in the world, why should a gym (a place we seek to be healthy) continue to add to the list?
Instead of continuing to inspire my desire for a healthy lifestyle, this person has given me an unhealthy goal with an unhealthy attitude.
While I cannot stop gyms from using this method, I can at least spread a message. I just hope that anyone joining a gym and faced with this "Put Down Pitch" can take a step back and realize that it is just that. A sales pitch. Strip down any commercial and instead of hearing "You need this product because without it you are nothing", you can hear "You DON'T NEED this product, you are wonderful and beautiful without it, but maybe you want it and that is ok too."
Take their words and rework them in your own head. Tell yourself, "Ok, I am wonderful and beautiful now and I don't NEED to be exactly what they want me to be. I don't NEED a trainer. But… I choose to pay for one because I WANT to try new things and have someone there to help. I choose to sign up for this gym because I WANT to come here. I choose to workout not because I have to, not because someone told me I'm not good enough without it, but because I WANT to and it feels good. For myself!"
Like in any sales pitch, someone is going to try to convince you why you really need to spend the extra bucks for their product. It's ok to buy the product, but let's embrace ourselves and do it for the right reasons. Love yourself, love your body, and don't let anyone tell you to do otherwise because part of being "healthy" is in your mind.