Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week 43 - A Rant Against New York Sports Club

What's my progress this week?  Nil as per usual!  I am really getting a bit frustrated that my weight refuses to budge.  I just can't get that scale or that tape measure to move.  I can't pretend that it's not my fault.  I have let my eating habits fall away a bit.  My eating habits are great maintenance habits, but currently they're not great loss habits.  I have my photo shoot in two weeks.  I accepted a long time ago that I wouldn't be triumphantly posing in a sports bra showing off my exquisitely sculpted body, but I hoped I wouldn't still look dumpy either.

Relax.  Refocus.  Don't give up.  I just want to lose another six pounds before this year is up.  That's not impossible, but it does mean I need to step it up.

Anyway, I don't want to sit around with another boring post about my weight and eating habits.  Today I have my hackles up and I need to get it off my chest.

My gym, like most gyms, is not exactly a bastion of body love, self acceptance, female equality.  I have complained before about their clearly sexist decor.  Gyms acquire customers by playing on insecurities.  You are weak.  We can make you strong.  You are fat.  We can make you thin.  You hate yourself.  We can make you self-confident.  Gyms promise much, but deliver little.  I believe strongly in the need for a good exercise program as a protocol for everyone's health and fitness.  I can also speak from experience that an exercise program, even a vigorous one, is not going to magically make over your body or your mind.  If exercise along were the key to a hot body, I wouldn't be spending hundreds of dollars on a nutrition coach.  I have been a dedicated gym rat for twenty years and it only took me so far.  It kept me from outright obesity, but didn't stop me from being twenty pounds overweight.

When New York Sport Clubs advertises for new members, it uses all kinds of clever campaigns that are often associated with health, but just as often associated with self esteem and body issues.  They put up signs like,  "If you think monsters are scary, wait until you look in the mirror after eating Halloween candy."  They are sometimes a little less body-image focused and say things like, "Exercise decreases the risk of cancer."  Either way, the advertising plays upon our fears, whether it's the fear of being sick or the fear of becoming fat.  They also set up some very unrealistic expectations about what a gym membership can do.  I don't blame them for using these campaigns.  They are a business - and one that is constantly losing customers and has a strong need to always be attracting new ones.  They have to do what works to draw in new members.  Most members quit after six months, and the ones who stay try to lock into the same rates year after year.  They have competition from two other gyms in the area.  They need to keep membership growing.  They do what it takes.

After saying that, I have to say that the current ads are beyond irresponsible.  They are really just plain dumb.

The ads suggest that you have only two options to avoid holiday weight gain.

1.  Don't eat.
2.  Join

That's very responsible and accurate, isn't it?

First I hate the way it plays on everyone's fear of gaining weight.  It tells us in no uncertain terms that you will gain weight over the holidays.

Second I hate the way it gives you an all-or-nothing approach.  Don't eat?  Are you assuming that anyone and everyone doesn't know how to eat responsibly over the holidays?  Is it impossible for anyone and everyone to practice moderation?  Even if everyone does go overboard and eats too much on Thanksgiving or Christmas, does that mean we're all eating like that every day, and that it's an automatic assumption of weight gain.  There is no middle ground.  You will eat it all or you will have to starve yourself.

Lastly, I hate the simplistic solution.  The only way to avoid holiday weight gain is to join the gym.  It doesn't say that once you join the gym you will have to actually go.  If exercise were the solution to holiday weight gain, one could do any number of activities that wouldn't include joining New York Sports Club.  But even if you're a die-hard exerciser, exercise alone can't undo the damage of overeating.  A good exercise program is a great tool to have in your box when you are trying to lose weight or avoid gaining, but I know from many years of experience it's not the only tool.  Appetite, hunger, and satiety awareness as well as a willingness to prioritize healthful foods over less healthful ones (not eliminate the poorer choices, but simply prioritize better choices) are more important than exercise. 

I would love to dump New York Sports Club altogether, but it's hard to dump a gym that is just a block and a half away from your home and all other gyms in the area would require driving.  It's not as if they will ever listen to my complaints.  There is no point in saying they are wrong.  The truth is that most of their customers and potential customers believe it.

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