June 25, 2009

Segregate fat people: a good idea?

Does size matter? Should it?

It's hard to keep up with tall people, I can vouch for that.

Photo courtesy of foxtongue

Usually, when I see the word "segregation," I think the phrase "not a good thing." But is that always true?

The New York Times wrote an article on yoga classes designated specifically for larger-sized people. Apparently yoga instructors who teach regular yoga classes do not know how to teach yoga to larger people. (For example, some obese people can't manage all of the typical yoga positions, but they still want to do yoga.) The idea of segregating classes by size seems to be catching on.

I haven't encountered these sort of classes myself, so I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not. Belly dance classes have people of varying sizes and nobody seems to care. On the other hand, there is gender segregation at work in belly dance: they're very much female oriented, though there's no reason that a man couldn't do these exercises.

Does it help to segregate?

Back in ye olde darke ages, private schools, especially colleges, used to be for male or female students only. Some schools are bringing this trend back, claiming that female students tend not to speak up in classes that are mixed.

I saw this myself during a women's self-defense class. So long as they were only speaking to other women, all my classmates were able to act out scenarios where they had to practice breaking someone's hold on them, or knowing when to be firm and say "no!" During the last class, the teacher brought in some big intimidating men for us to practice with, and suddenly half the women in class were hanging back. They were shy.

Excuse me, could you introduce yourself before doing that?
Photo credit: KyleMac

Can you apply the same idea to exercise classes?

Would you feel less shy about working out if everyone around you were the same sex or size? Except for workouts designed for pregnant women, I can't think of a biological reason why workouts should be separated by gender. I can think of a lot of psychological reasons for gender or size segregation:

- Some women worry about looking "unfeminine" around men, i.e. getting all flushed and sweaty.

- A lot of men don't like to look weak and wimpy around women. Personally, every time I pass a male cyclist, he makes a point of passing me again, even if he practically has to burst a blood vessel to do it. (Hint: it's easier to pass someone going downhill rather than up. Wait a few minutes and you won't have to work so hard.)

- If everyone else were the same size (or gender), perhaps people would feel accepted and be willing to work out hard.

I know "in theory" it shouldn't matter what other people think of your exercising, but it does.

Example: at lunch time, I have a choice of two green areas where I can walk. One is a sports center with walking trails around the soccer fields and tennis courts. You'd think that would be a good place to walk or jog, even if you're a larger than usual size. But the only people exercising are all small children. The adults sit on the sidelines and stare at you as you walk by. Frankly, they don't look in very good shape themselves (the adults, I mean), but apparently it never occurs to them that grown ups need to move the body too.

The other choice for lunch-time walks is the headquarters of a company that sells sports equipment. Even larger-sized people can walk the trails around their campus without receiving a single smirk or stare. Everyone is on their lunch break exercising, so you're met with a polite nod or a smile from passers by. All the difference in the world from the sports center.

If classes and gyms are like the first example, then definitely segregate.

Another problem is pacing.
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If I'm next to a thin, lithe size 0 who's kicking my butt fitness-wise, I'd feel intimidated. If I'm next to someone who's my size and they're kicking my butt, then I think "hell, I can be that fit too!" It's a whole lot easier to keep up when you're thinking like that.

I'm starting to talk myself into thinking that voluntary segregation might be a good thing in this case. Anything that helps get people out there working out is a good thing. So long as it's voluntary.

Do you think this is a crazy idea, or will it actually help people?


  1. Segregation is not always a black-and-white issue ;)

  2. Don't forget yoga is about peace of mind as well as a physical workout. If a person feels intimidated, uncomfortable, or unable to keep up with the class they will miss out on a lot of what yoga has to offer. The bottom line is we have the right to choose 'voluntary' segregation.

  3. I guess in the sense of getting people to do healthy things it is ok. I can understand the yoga thing.

  4. When I used to do yoga at the uni gym I would always come home and eat myself stupid afterwards because compared to everyone there I felt soo fat. In that situation yoga sure didn't make me feel at peace. So from that point of view segragation would have been good.

  5. I am all for this. Not gonna lie. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I am definitely one of those females who hates working out in front of 1. guys 2. already fit people 3. family members and many friends. The last one may seem strange, but I just don't like doing it. So I would LOVE to be in classes of only females and/or people closer to my size. I strongly feel that if I'm feeling insecure for any reason I'm just not going to get a good workout, and will probably stop trying. (For example: the only working out I do is DVDs at home when no one else is around with the blinds closed. I don't even like to go out walking in public. This is how insecure I am. Stupid, I know. But you get my point.)

  6. I would love to do a yoga class for larger people! That makes sense from a practical point of view...

  7. Speaking as a (currently semi-retired) Pilates teacher, I think it's a pretty good idea. It's a lot simpler to cue appropriate exercises (and more beneficial for clients) when people are of a similar ability, and let's face it, body shape. Simply grouping people by beginner or intermediate categories doesn't always work very well. You can have a heavier person who's been doing Pilates for ages at an intermediate level, but certain exercises will still never be appropriate without significant modifications.

    And even though Pilates is not a "competitive sport", I often found that thin ones become a bit show-offy, bored, or stroppy if they feel like they're being "held back" in a class, when the instructor is sticking to more elementary exercises, or cueing lots of modifications. Even though some of the "simplest" exercises are often the most difficult to really do correctly and well.

    Result: heavier ones are intimidated, and the thinner ones aren't benefiting as much either, because they're out of that mind-body place and they're busy admiring themselves (comparing) in the mirror.

    I'm all for strategies that improve people's comfort levels, and get them to beneficially exercise more often. If "segregated" classes help with that, bring 'em on!

  8. I'd never really thought about segregated classes!

    It actually makes a lot of sense, both physically and, it sounds like, psychologically.

    However, it's one of those things you could only do in one direction--you could design a class specifically for larger participants, but not the other way around. And lots of larger folks are in GREAT shape and very flexible, so you wouldn't want to discourage them from regular classes.

    For about half the year I work out at a gym in a senior community (long story), and I've felt too weird about attending any of their classes, even though I'm entitled to with my membership. I don't think anyone likes to feel conspicuous, and there's something about working out with your own "tribe" that just feels more comfortable.

    But gotta be careful to not exclude anyone, but instead encourage specific populations who are often ignored with exercises designed more for them.

  9. The whole idea of segregating for teaching has been bandied around under many different scenarios. Teachers apply the same question to gender segregation at the high school level. There's a lot of logic to the idea.

  10. Dude. I totally want to join fat girl yoga.

    'cause there is no way that I'm going to regular yoga with all the gym bunnies.

  11. When I weighed 300 pounds, even if you had begged me or paid me to go into a gym and work out along side fit people I wouldn't have gone. Even with something more relaxing and individual like yoga I wouldn't have done it. (I know that's my own weirdness.)

    So, although I hate the word segregation in its negative context, in this context, it might be okay. For me, I would have been more likely to try a gym if I knew I would be alongside people that were more my size! As it was, I just used my own neighborhood roads to walk my way thin. Thanks for an interesting post and great pictures!

  12. I think if it gets the participants there and moving and working out because they feel comfortable than I am all for it. I'm not a big fan of regular gyms I really do think it's the intimidation factor of being larger, but when I found the current gym I go too, there are heavier people, super skinny people, average people, and everyone is sooo super friendly and ask how your weekend was etc that the feeling awkward just goes away. I go to a gym that is just classes, they have equipment if you didn't want to do the classes but everyone just does the boxing, bootcamp classes. Not that I want to have a conversation if I was on the treadmill at a normal gym, but in the locker room or something, or if you see people you see all the time can't you say hello? Maybe if the tension was broken a bit you wouldn't feel like the skinny chic thinks you need to be on the treadmill a lot longer than an hour and is silently condemning you. Which truth be known she probably doesn't think about us nearly as much as we think she does.

  13. It would be nice to join a class where people that look like me (although I'm on the thin end of plus sized) and are working out, working hard. A lot of people at some gyms (like mine) are 18 and never struggled a day in thier lives...are super fit and couldn't even understand. Good for them! But, it's nice to have someone that looks or feels like you and can understand...or at the very least won't make you feel like their staring at your giggly parts. I know, most probably are too worried about their own workout to care. And, should we be secure enough? Yes. Are we? Sometimes not!

  14. In the area of special education, I am in the "mainstreaming" camp, meaning not to only have segregated classes for those kids designated with special needs, so I guess I feel the same here. Perhaps a mix of inclusion and exclusion is the ideal way.

  15. I hear this from some friends of mine from time to time; Oh, I'm too FAT to go to the gym, and I get all blinkie. I mean, say what?

    I was a little hesitant the first couple of times I went to the gym if there were other people there, but now, so what, don't care.

    (On the other hand, I do NOT like doing exercise in front of my HUSBAND. how weird is that? I'll do pushups, squats, lunges what have you in front of anyone else, but I'd rather he not watch me...)

    On the other hand, I have a lot more guy friends than women friends, so I wouldn't know what to do in a class full of chicks, anway...

  16. It sounds like a good idea, as it's true, there are some poses that an overweight person would not be able to do easily, and if that person were a beginner, it'd be incredibly demoralizing.

  17. Like others, if it helps a person start exercising & feel better about it & themselves, sure, why not!

    I personally don't care if a guy sees me sweaty & smelly & the rest BUT I am older now. I think I would have cared when I was younger & also the guys that like to stand behind nicer & fitter women & not for the exercise class. That is another reason why I am sure some women prefer all female classes.

    Anyway, if it helps to have classes specifically for heavier people & that will get them going & feeling good, why not.

  18. During the last class, the teacher brought in some big intimidating men for us to practice with, and suddenly half the women in class were hanging back. They were shy.

  19. I can see the merit in the idea of segregated classes, but where my concern lies is in how a gym or instructor would advertise for a yoga (or Pilates, or spinning, or whatever) class for overweight people.

    Am I wrong in thinking that if the reason to have segregated classes is to make people feel more comfortable and less self conscious around those who might be thinner and/or in better shape, then it would stand to reason that these same folks might also feel self conscious signing up for a class that has been designated for larger folks?

    Personally I'm ok with working out in front of anyone. My attitude is that we're all doing what we're doing to be fit, healthy and to look good. There's always going to be someone who is better, faster, stronger, thinner, heavier, weaker, slower, than I am so why bother with the angst and anxiety. But I do understand that's just my point of view.

  20. I think this could actually be a really good idea. I know a lot of people who, before joining a gym, want to lose weight so they feel comfortable at a gym, just like some people clean their house before cleaning people come. I imagine that it's much of the same logic.

  21. Oooh - SUCH an interesting question! My gut instinct is to say no to segregation but that's just because *I* wouldn't like to be told to go to a special class because I'm a girl or I'm bigger or even because I'm pregnant (I still do all my regular classes). But that's my personality. If it helps someone else to have a special class - and there is one at my gym for just Muslim women - then it could be a good thing!

  22. As long as it is a free choice and I'm not being told I'm not allowed in the "thin" yoga class - cause that would be so very wrong - I would love it if classes were offered for plus sizes. To begin with, my body just isn't going to get into the same positions as a smaller body will so I'd like a workout tailored to my body's needs. I'd also like the instructor to be fat-positive instead of shoving the idea down my throat that I need to not be fat. And yea, the bonus in this class is that I'm with other women (or men) who look like me so I'm going to be less self-conscious. Though, that wouldn't stop me now from joining a class, if there were any offered that met my other criteria. As it is, I just do yoga in my living room. And the upside to that is that I don't have to shower or even put on pants before I begin. :)

  23. Giving people a choice is the most important thing. A larger sized but flexible person should just go to the class where she feels she'll benefit the most.

    I'm convinced that lots of people avoid the first steps towards fitness because they feel so intimidated by the gym bunnies. Offering a beginners, "all sizes welcome" class could help them to take that first step.

  24. Must admit to kind of liking this idea as I'm quite shy/intimidated/scared sh*tless about entering a workout class when it's loaded with really fit buffed-out types and their color coordinated spandex outfits which never show a muffin top or bulge of any kind. I am definitely at the bottom of the food chain in terms of that and would prefer to hang with others who feel likewise. Alas, the only thing along those lines at my gym is the "Silver Sneakers" class. Ugh - not ready to go down that path yet.

    BTW - that would have to be one secure dude who would sign up for belly dancing. Send pictures if you've got 'em.

  25. As an overweight person who has tried to participate in group fitness classes at the beginner level (e.g. spinning), I found that most of them were too difficult and as a consequence I dropped them. I think segregating aerobic type fitness classes for the horribly out of shape from a cardiac perspective is a good idea, and anyone who already has or who in the course of working out in these classes achieves a semblance of cardiac fitness should be "graduated" to a "non segregated" class so as to not discourage others who are struggling. However I will say that the Hatha Yoga classes I have attended have all been accommodating of all sizes and fitness levels without holding anyone back and not making me feel ashamed.

  26. Back in the day, I remember being a member of a certain, unnamed fitness club. The one I normally went to was in a wealthier suburb where a lot of women stayed home and pampered themselves like Barbie Dolls...er... were fortunate enough to be able to focus on their families during the day. Lots of size 2's in matching Lycra.

    I loved the work-outs but always felt like, if I was huffing and puffing they were thinking, "fat chick can't get it done".

    So I went to a different location, in a less wealthy part of town. And guess what? There were lots of size 12's and 16's and 18's and we were all in our t-shirts and puffing along like walruses and having a grand old time.

    So yeah, I love the idea of classes that let us voluntarily segregate.

  27. I never really thought about it! I know the whole deal behind 'curves' is women only, but I guess it makes sense to do it if it's voluntary - see what the interest is. How would that work though? You sign up for a weight group? Eek!

  28. If the women were shy when men appeared at a self defense class, that DEFINITELY indicates to me, at least, that there should absolutely be men at self defense classes! The point of it is to protect yourself from any attacker. Considering men make up about half the population, there's a 50-50 chance the attacker will be male, so it's probably a good thing to be prepared to deal with that...

    I understand the point of segregation, but I work better when there's a mix in a class. I think that that's the only way that we can become truly comfortable with who we are and with others, and to be able to be aware of the differences and similarities between people.

  29. Some of the women in the self-defense class couldn't overcome their early conditioning. And those were some damn nice men -- I mean, they put on protective cups and had mattresses to fall on, but basically they were putting themselves in a position to be kicked and hit simply to help us develop confidence. Not their fault they were well over six feet tall.

    A friend teaches self-defense classes geared toward younger girls, which I think is a great way to overcome 'feminine shyness' issues.

  30. Hmm. I think this could work but maybe the instructors should invest some time in a screening-and-advising process. Have a brief meeting with potential students to guage their fitness/flexibility levels and then recommend a class based on the student's current abilities. In that private moment, the instructor could also mention the class that contains modified poses for people with larger bodies, if that is something the student would be interested in and if it would be appropriate for that individual -- after all, not everyone who is larger is unfit or inflexible. :)

  31. Several times over the years, when I have decided to "get fit" I looked through various class catalogs trying to find a class I would like. When I looked at gym class descriptions I always looked for classes that were designed for larger, more out of shape people. If I couldn't find one, I just didn't go. If I did, I went and felt like I "fit in" because I was not sticking out like a sore thumb at 250+ pounds. I knew I could not keep up with most other people. I wanted to work together with other people to get in better shape.

    I don't mind men at all. And in fact, more important than SIZE in segregation is fitness level. I wanted a class of people who I could be on a similar level with and have some hope of keeping up with. Because even obese folks can get fit and once I could keep up with the thin people, I sure wouldn't mind being in a class full of them, at any size.

  32. I don't mind working out with any one- I am not shy. I did belong once to a women only gym, which was a great place, but that was because it was the closest to my house, not to avoid men. That said I have sometimes been put off yoga because I have a lot of belly fat and poses like child pose which put pressure on the fat are hard for me to do without feeling nauseous. I did go to one class where the teacher was explaining some of the mods she was doing because of her pregnancy (eg in child's pose: spread knees) which I copied and found better. I am divided- if the teacher can't practically cue for different body shapes, maybe a segregated class is better. But unless the class is segregated by ability and experience the teacher should cue for different levels of attainement anyway (and for things like pregnancy and back problems)

  33. @sagan: I suspect statistics would show that although half the population is male, the chance of an attacker being male is higher than 50-50. Having said that I do agree with the main point you were making!

  34. I think if it will help people feel comfortable and encouraged, then I am all for it! They already have "segregated" classes for pregnant women, and for older people. I think segregation is the wrong word here - I agree that it must be voluntary. There are also womens' fitness classes, for much the same reason, so that women will feel more comfortable exercising with other women. I'm all for it!

  35. I always thought it was strange that heavy people think thin/fit people are thinking nasty things about them in the gym. To me, that's insulting. I've never been overweight, and I've never thought it was weird/inappropriate/whatever for a heavy person to participate in any form of exercise.

  36. I have a client who is obese, but is also a swami and teaches specialized yoga for all body types. She is quite good, and is very strong and healthy despite the weight.

    Ultimately, it comes down to what works best for the person. *takes a bow for dropping such a profound ideological nugget*

  37. I think having that kind of option is a very good thing. It's sort of silly to think or expect every person to be on the same page. We are all different and have different needs, abilities.

    If an all female gym were an option for me (which it isn't where I live) I would be on it. I don't mind having guys around, but I would actually prefer an all female environment - especially in the weight room.

    And I know I once went to a kick boxing class where some of the people were in just insane shape. The instructor was too, and she sort of taught to those people. I just could not keep up and I felt really discouraged. I did think I could maybe improve over time, but I still was left feeling a bit down about myself. And I honestly had the feeling like I would have to get into shape before I could go to this class. It would have been nice to have the option of a beginners level class, something more my speed and not quite so overwhelming. Again, no class is suitable for all - so having an alternative choice would be a welcome thing.

  38. Wow, I didnt realize I had such a negative opinion on this one, but I surely do. First off, anyone ever hear of "Ladies Only"? I think that is a pretty self explanatory fitness enviroment.

    That being said, why can you have fat girl yoga classes and thats good but not skinny girl yoga? That would be unfair to the fat girls right? What about "non-flexible" people yoga. Any way you try to segregate anything, it will get skewed the wrong way and some P.C. group will be teed off because you are forcing them out.

    Maybe I am just irritable about the whole thing because my job is primarily male and I am weary of "girl" accomodations having to be met. Maybe we just need therapists to work on self confidence for these people so they dont care who they exercise in front of and they feel they have the right and ability to raise their hand in school. I am in no way perfect or good at every workout I do...as a matter of fact I am usually the slowest, weakest, and mostly the only girl, but I do my best and dont care who doesnt like it. Come on ladies, gain some self esteem!

  39. I would totally have joined a "fat girls" class - my fear was always that I would be the only one in a class who couldn't do the moves because of my size. I think this is a good idea!

  40. I'm opposed to this idea.

    If my gym or my yoga studio started to offer classes for larger people, I'd be annoyed. For one thing, these classes would take the place of other, more diverse offerings that would appeal to me, and the majority of the gym-goers. It would result in fewer choices for most of us.

    Apart from the actual physical reasons why overweight people would need a class, is the issue of insecurity.

    I don't think a gym like mine is a place that should cater to insecurity. It's the opposite - a place of empowerment.

    I also can't imagine what would happen if a class like this was created - would others follow?

    Would we need a class for- compulsive exercisers (who want to go at a faster pace), anorexics, overly sweaty people (who slip around on the floor more than others), heavy breathers (louder music?)?

    Classes like this should only happen at gyms like Curves, that already cater to a niche. At most other gyms, I think there would be resistance.

  41. I think segregation at the gym works well in some cases. For example, we have a couple of pilates classes geared toward seniors. The classes are challenging without being intimidating for anyone who may have physical issues, and more advanced exercisers know that this is probably not the class for them.
    I used to belong to a female-only gym, and I have to say that I loved it. The atmosphere was very relaxed, non-competitive, and non meat-market. It was geared toward women who were there to work out, not hook up (unlike some other gyms I've belonged to).
    Finally, as an instructor, I want my clients to feel as comfortable as possible. So if creating specific classes for them helps, then that's what I would prefer to do. IMHO, it's not about what you look like but about showing up and challenging yourself. I have one client who is in her 60's, has quite a few medical issues, shows up every week and kicks butt. The other day she came in with a bandage on her foot; she'd fallen off of her bike because she was, in her words, "going too fast." I just love her!!!!!
    I have another client, same class, also in her 60's, who has been battling cancer and the drugs she's prescribed are giving her menopause and arthritis-like symptoms. But she's there every week, and she kicks MY butt! She's awesome!

  42. I'd be for it, although I have to admit that Smokey's comment, these same folks might also feel self conscious signing up for a class that has been designated for larger folks is a really good one.

    But rather than "plus-sized yoga" or something like that, I'd be all for "Yoga for the Not-So-Flexible," or something like THAT. Because honestly, I wouldn't feel self-conscious about working out next to a thin person if she were struggling just as hard to reach her toes as I was. Plus it wouldn't be nearly as emabarrassing to sign up for. And you could also have "Advanced Yoga" for the folks who are super-fit and flexible.

    Man, I'm liking this more the more I think about it!

  43. I could never stick with a gym routine until I found a Curves where the clientele was composed of high-end of middle-age women wearing baggy shorts and tee-shirts, like myself. Wish I could find a similar yoga class. Maybe paranoia. but I kind of sense the (young uber-fit) instructor's frustration when I sit out or modify a pose. Segregate, segregate, segregate.

  44. If segregation is at the sacrifice of others, I disagree. The different levels of intensity/capability should give enough diversity for everyone and at most gyms I've frequented, the instructor has been capable enough to notice struggling students and give them extra attention or alternative moves. Certainly gyms should make an effort to make their classes more accessible to everyone, including making sure their instructors know how to aid overweight or disabled patrons. But as long as the gym is protecting its customers from harassment, it's doing its job. It isn't the gym's job to make sure you don't feel bad compared to someone who has put in a lot more effort than you have. Instead of shame-spiraling yourself, maybe you should turn that negative energy into inspiration and get to work.

  45. I think it's all in the context of how it's delivered. If it is done truly for the benefit of those involved then it's a good thing, even if it involves a sensitive issue such as weight.

    I think there are absolutely times when men and women should have separate classes.

    If it's done for punitive purposes it blows.

  46. Very thought-provoking post, definitely inspired people to share many different views, which is wonderful!

    I tried to make a comment but it went on forever and turned into a post so instead I posted it in my blog.

    But I guess my 2 cents could be summed up thus: we all have different degrees of physical ability and self-esteem, and we all make choices based on our own priorities. Providing more options is generally seen as a good thing, especially if it results in more people being interested in being active and fit.

    Most gyms already offer variety, why would someone frown if their gym wanted to offer more variety? Is the concern that prices will be raised for everyone to accommodate more classes being offered? Or is it that some classes would have to be dropped in order to make room for new ones? If not, what's the big deal?

  47. Hmmm...I would be intimidated being with people way more fit than me, but size was never an issue. If I saw someone tiny exerciseing their ass off I'd feel less intimidated by them, cuz they worked hard to look that way.
    There's other people like my husband who is VERY selfconsiouc when he exercises. We bought an elliptical so he can work out here at home...and he doesn't want me to watch either. Damn.
    I suppose if it is something that kept you from exercising it would benice to have the option.
    I know seeing the girls of all sizes in our bellydance class made my sis-in-law *want* to sign up...so who knows. There should be options for everyone...

  48. I don't think it's good to say, "Oh, you're big so you need to be in THIS class." However, if a yoga class were marketed for people with weight problems, more than XXlbs overweight, whatever, I would be MUCH more likely to try it out.

    I once tried out an exercise class at a church. It was mostly for seniors but the ladies said I would be welcome. They were in some seriously impressive shape and the class kicked my butt!

  49. i like marste's idea of the flexible/non-flexible yoga instead of the fat/skinny yoga. because i've been to regular yoga classes with a whole bunch of super-flexible people and i struggle because i have never been super-uber flexible.

    balance i've got (tree, anyone?), but a ton of flexibility? nope.

  50. I think I'd much prefer more clearly defined beginner/intermediate/advanced classes than simply by size.

  51. I don't think segregation based on weight is necessary, or even good. My dad, in his early 70s, goes to senior yoga, because he can't do handstands and stuff. At another gym, there's beginner, regular, advanced. I think that's a better option. Fortunately, my current gym is a mix of all sizes, ages, colors, and it's not a place where guys pick up on girls nor other guys, just a gym, we all get sweaty there.

  52. I think segregation options would be great as long as it didn't become a situation where people felt like they couldnd't go to a "regular" class just because they are heavy.

  53. to me what you're describing isn't so much segregation as it is specialization :-)

  54. In the end, I feel strongly that the only exercise regime anyone will stick to is the one that feels best, is the most convenient, fits with the budget, and yes- does not make one feel like a loser. Aerobics class just didn't cut it for me and don't even get me started on step aerobics! Running is prefect for me, but I respect that it is not for everyone.

    Anything that makes you sweat and doesn't kill you is a good thing!

    Ciao, bellas!

  55. I teach a yoga class for full figured women. I advertised it as a class for every body, loving the bodies we have. I offer modifications and variations for all the women in the class...I should mention I have all size women in my class and all ages.

    What made me decide to teach this niche class was my work with body image and weight preoccupied women, and the realization that yoga is an activity that is about building that body mind connection which is so helpful to those who suffer from body image and weight preoccupation.

    I have a full class, and new people joining every class. It is clearly something that there is a need for. I didn't think of it as segregation, but rather presenting women an opportunity to do something that they might not otherwise do, in an environment that feels safe to them.

    I offer the class in a studio that offers many classes in a variety of levels of yoga. What I would love for these women is for them to develop comfort in the studio and in yoga so that one day perhaps they could/would attend a general population class in the studio and feel competent and confident to modify or take variations that are suited to their bodies without being prompted to do so.


  56. Anon, thank you for your comment! It's wonderful to hear from an actual teacher of larger-size-yoga and get a firsthand impression of its success.

  57. Awesome idea! Why don't we move on to segregrating people by their height, fears and medical conditions too! Because you know I'm totally self conscience working out with someone whose a foot taller than me. Ooh, and don't forget that I have a skin condition so I can't be beside the person who thinks it's contagious.

    That's exactly what's going to happen if we start doing this, because we as a human race can't look past ourselves.
    I don't like working out in front of guys, or the gym bunnies either, but I'm not doing this for them, I'm doing it for myself. It's time we stop being so damn into ourselves, maybe then we wouldn't have topics of segregating fat people.

  58. I would pay A LOT of money if someone would open up a gym for people above a certain fat percentage.

  59. Every class I've been in women speak out more than boys, so that isn't true in my experience. Big people and skinny people preformed equally in my boxing class, it was more about how often they came. Maybe for yoga, just because they can't do the same exercises.

  60. I was just talking about this same concept with my husband last night. I belong to a local gym and started a conversation with 2 new women members who are obese. They were talking about how they feel really intimidated in certain classes and when wanting to work out on the weight machines because all the skinny girls and bulky guys would give them looks like they shouldn't be there. I totally think a gym like this would work. It could offer not only classes more "designed" for larger people, but also nutrional counseling and a referral service to a psychologist to help them get to the real reason why they're stuffing their emotions down with food. I wouldn't be surprised if the Biggest Loser started their own gym franchise soon.

  61. For me it's not about being self-conscious. It would be FANTASTIC to be part of a class specifically designed to overcome the physical boundaries my still obese body puts on me. There are things that I simply cannot do because of the size of my belly and how heavy my mid section is. I want to be more flexible but I can't even do a downward dog because of all the weight my arms are trying to hold up, and my body just gets in the way of most poses. A class for heavier people wouldn't be embarrassing - it would be a liberating, helpful step in the right direction for those of us trying to better ourselves!

  62. I am so happy to see this discussion.
    Yes absolutely I would prefer to exercise with people who are in the same physical, and emotional arena that I am .. 50 pounds overweight - definitely unable to do what fit-exercisers can do. And I am intimiated ..
    Also, definitely not inspired to continue.
    Matter of fact, this blog came up when I searched the term "Overweight/beginner exercise Las Vegas"
    I pray there will be more attention to this subject.

  63. I take a yoga class at university, and I would MUCH rather the classes were segregated by gender and size/fitness level. First, it's really annoying having guys look you over while you're trying to work out, as if it's some kind of singles bar or something. As for size, there are mostly larger/obese women in my class, and it's bothersome for a number of reasons. It's a yoga class, and I hate hearing people grunting, giggling, farting, etc because they're struggling with fairly simple asanas. It also limits what can be taught during class, because if the fitness level of some or most of the students is so low, then the class can't include more challenging poses without a lot of plaintive noises and disruption. It's just too distracting having all that noise and low morale when you're a person who's serious about fitness. Then there's the fact that larger women are constantly hating on you because you're in good shape, and they refuse to believe it's through your own hard work that you've gotten good results. That type of negativity shouldn't have any place in a normal fitness class.

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  65. I really like the idea but I think it's tricky. I think a beginners class for everyone is an excellent idea and people can be assigned from there. It may well work out to be a size thing, but it doesn't have to be a "fat" class, just a certain level. I think the gender segregation is a fabulous idea, but make sure there are a few co-ed classes for the people who work out for that reason. Some folks need the hot person to try to ask out for motivation, let them all be together too. In the end it will likely end up a discrimination issue though. There's a lot of hatred between fat/skinny. There's going to be that person who wants to go to the "skinny" girl class, who just isn't at the right level and hello lawsuit.


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