Weighting for Validation

Bring back the scales at the gym



Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick

During New Year's Resolution time last year, I was lured in by a bright purple sales pitch from the latest gym on the block, Planet Fitness. Their most appealing promise had nothing to do with my deltoids or abs - it honed in on my wallet.

Instead of spending $100 a month to not exercise at my old health club, I now would only have to pay $10. That wasn't their pitch, of course, but it reflected my reality. My lifetime of gym memberships has translated to outright charitable donations to the owners. I seldom show up.

Yet this induction ceremony was dramatically different. I was earnestly told in a confidential tone that I wouldn't be judged by other people during my workout routine. I could feel safe to be myself here. Planet Fitness, the sales rep assured me, is a "Judgement Free Zone."

There's a Judgement Free beverage cooler that offers sugary sodas next to bottled water. And there's Judgement Free locker rooms where presumably members don't let their eyes wander. The slogan, which deliberately misspells "Judgment" with an extra "e" to emphasize the verb you won't ever experience, is printed everywhere.

The assumption is that you, the pathetic pudgeball, are paralyzed with fear that the regular gym rats will snicker at you behind your back.

Sounds like the New Hampshire-based chain, which has been raking in a gazillion dollars in franchise deals, needs to offer unlimited psychotherapy sessions in addition to unlimited haircuts.

But they do stick to their promise.

During a recent visit, a staff member behind the reception desk didn't judge me when I greedily gobbled three purple Tootsie Rolls (a celebrated Planet Fitness fringe benefit). After my treadmill workout, which likely didn't even burn off the candy, I politely asked where I could find a scale.

If you're familiar with the gym culture, it's an asinine question.

To protect the emotional well-being of their clients, weighing yourself is forbidden at Planet Fitness.

The trainer admitted he gets requests for a scale all the time, but they undermine the philosophy of the Judgement Free Zone. Based on his facial expression, I sensed that he supported my quest, but he certainly wasn't going to ridicule his employer.

On "The Biggest Loser" TV show, the scale serves as a public humiliation station where weights are revealed with slot machine suspense. In a gym locker room, however, the number is discreetly shared between you and the floor.

Have you ever seen a fellow gym member sneak up to another person's feet to stare at their weight? Even if you're in a mean-spirited Judgement Zone, does someone need documentation to call you fat?

Yes, muscle weighs more than fat and numbers can be deceiving, but knowing your weight before and after you eat grape Tootsie Rolls is valuable information.

Imagine if the Red Sox ignored the standings every day and didn't really care what their win-loss record was - I guess that's a poor analogy unless the gym starts giving out purple fried chicken and purple beer in the locker rooms.

So go ahead and judge me, Planet Fitness, but I'd appreciate knowing what my number is after a workout. And I'm not alone.

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