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Woman Told She Is Too Fat To Use Her Gym’s Equipment

Woman Told She Is Too Fat To Use Her Gym’s Equipment

This story perfectly illustrates the double bind that faces obese people in the United States: shamed for being fat, they are also subject to ridicule and humiliation when they try to lose weight.  Employees at an Oklahoma City gym told a woman, Sandra Ruiz, that she was too fat to use their exercise equipment, citing a weight limit (and fear that she would break the equipment).  They offered her the use of their aerobics room, but when she pointed out that she could just as easily do aerobics at home, they gave her a refund.  Ruiz says that if they had some sort of weight limit, they should have informed her when she signed up.

It’s hard to know what was going through the employees’ minds, or whether there actually was a weight limit for the machines (a quick google search, very informal and unscientific, revealed that the weight limit for most of the machines I saw was either 350 or 400 pounds; Ruiz says she weighs about 385 pounds).  But even assuming that the equipment was in danger, the way that the employees handled the situation was absolutely appalling.

Ruiz says that she was riding a stationary bike when a gym employee approached her and told her to get off.  “The lady said I couldn’t get on the machines because we are overweight,” Ruiz said. “Everybody was watching seeing what was going on, and I got very sad because I’m so emotional about my weight right now.”  Clearly, the employee had no qualms about humiliating the already-vulnerable Ruiz about her weight in front of the entire gym, a common reaction in a society where obese people are often ridiculed for their seeming lack of control over their bodies.

The owner’s words were also cruel, saying that the gym created a special workout program for Ruiz, but that she was “like a kid in a candy store,” and wanted to try all of the machines at once.  And for someone who lives in constant shame about her body, that’s an understandable impulse.  Ruiz, who says that she’s “tired of being fat,” was trying to conform to these not-so-subtle pressures, but instead found that the stigma was just as great.  The message was loud and clear: attempts to lose weight are not good enough.  Until your physical appearance is acceptable, we don’t have to treat you with dignity or respect.  And if you don’t like it, go home.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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128 comments

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2:14AM PDT on May 17, 2011

I hate gyms, all they want is to make money. And I hate their unprofessional employees also. They don't care about their members. I suppose she was already overweight when she signed up.. see.. they only care about membership fees. They probably thought she'd never come to the gym anyway. My heart goes out to that poor lady.

7:37AM PDT on May 16, 2011

I think a lot of people aren't reading carefully here. It doesn't sound like they treated her right at all, but it looks like they did have cause to believe that she might break the machine. To say that they didn't want to let her work out because she was fat... that is false.

12:40PM PDT on May 13, 2011

The employee should have handled the situation differently. I think that s/he could have talked to the woman in private. To me, that sort of treatment is unprofessional

7:25AM PDT on May 7, 2011

If it wasn't the manager that told her to stop using the equipment, where was he/she? If it was the manager, he/she, doesn't deserve to work there anymore! Furthermore, the staff should have worked like furry to keep the person happy and coming back, after all isn't the staffs mission to make a better world?!

11:07PM PDT on May 5, 2011

Why is this under the "Saving Women's rights section?". Men that are too fat for the machine should not get on it either and cost the owner money. This article should be under the "Saving business costs" section.

8:36PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

I say only fat people at that gym for two weeks and NO ONE PAYS! How about staging a FAT PICKET? I would do it.
NO SKINNY PEOPLE ALLOWED at that GYM!
Where is that gym by the way , I'd like to know?
PHAT PICKET PHAT PICKET PHAT PICKET
NO DISCRIMINATION! PHAT Bastard Nation!

8:23PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

HOw funny that someone is never too fat to take money from , but she is too fat to use the equipment that she paid for and nobody told her she was too fat for. And the owner of the gym should be ashamed- EVERYONE tries out the machines when they start at a new club. She paid her money, she gets to use the equipment - end of story.
That stuff about liability is bigotry- and sizeism- what would you think if they said since you are white you can't use the equipment or because you have dark hair you can't use the equipment- this is even worse because she is working out to correct the problem. a problem that someone who is obviously an insensitive jerk doesn't have and never has had. I hope that person who gave her grief and the owner blow up to the size of the Great Pumpkin and he's big- big as the MOON! And then they have to work out and they've exceeded the weight capacity and break their own equipment. Power to the people- leave those people alone and let them on the gerbil wheel!
Exercising sucks, but I do it, let everyone exercise free!

7:59PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Oh and by the way- if you have thymus or cortizone issues- both of these hormones result when you have no adrenaline- YOU NEED ADRENALINE for two reasons- to burn fat ( impossible without it and to make your heart work properly- which will also result in fat not processing properly if your heart doesn't work right.
Be more sensitive indeed.

7:54PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

Steroids that occur naturally in your body CAN make you gain lots of weight ! Surprise!
You shouldn't be giving out advice about how to lose weight if you are this ill-informed.
A patient with Cushing's disease- which is a lack of adrenaline and an increase in the stress hormone cortizone - some can gain as much as 100-200 lbs in two to three months. People with Thymus gland problems too- the Thymus gland will make your bones thick and heavy and hair sprout everywhere along with making you gain 100 lbs in a very few weeks
People with these types of problems eat things they SAY are good for you on a diet - which are bad for them in these conditions and will aggravate the problems further- Dark leafy greens like spinach and things like nuts or mushrooms or
anything smoked or cured- like meats- lean turkey, ham,vinegars- these things can make these conditions worse and make you gain weight. And with the soil we grow things in and the hormones added to everything - organic food is better. Toxins make inflammation which is swelling water weight and looks like fat.
Telling people just to cut down on the food and then go to the gym - it doesn't work when you are over a certain weight- you need to do both. Let's face it, if it was easy to lose weight people would all be thin- hear yourselves and be a little constructive - someday you will eat your words. Your metabolism works?YOU LUCKED OUT! Karma's a bitch so shut up , here's wishing fatness on you for your evil comments

2:52PM PDT on Apr 30, 2011

While Teddie S. makes the good point that there are other things that affect your weight other than how much you eat, I would point out that even steroids will not make you put on weight unless you eat more calories than you burn. Of course the subject of the article was doing exactly the right thing in trying to burn a few more calories, but to have a significant effect on her weight it would have to be combined with dietary control. In my opinion, the most important influence on weight and health in general is state of mind. Many people have huge psychological barriers to maintaining a healthy weight. My advice: eat lots of raw vegetables (reducing the appetite for foods you want to eat less of) and do a session of exercise first thing most days.

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