How to deal with criticism of your body
July 29, 2006 12:37 AM   Subscribe

So I am about to join a gym. In most ways, I am a rational human being - but this membership comes with fitness evaluation and body composition test and if I have someone tell me that I am a big, fat, pudding of a man I am going to be posting an "ask metafilter" thread about how to hide a body. How do I handle this is a constructive manner?

I'm not a total loss, I look okay and have been in exercise programs in the last few years but job demands took their toll on my exericise routines. I know the numbers aren't going to crunch well and my BMI is fairly high. I think I understand my situation well enough, and I am not really in the mood to play nerds vs jocks especially when I have every intention of conducting some lifestyle reforms.

Bottom line is this could yield some good information but I think I am also going to take the criticism badly. In most other ways, I am logical and rational, but how do I take this as advice and not as shameful and insulting?
posted by Deep Dish to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Here's the thing - I'm joining a gym at the beginning of August, and I didn't want to have to do it. I told my roommate (who is also joining) that I don't need some aerobics instructor with a leotard up her ass telling me my BMI.

But, my roomie told me to think of it as a benchmark. Having all those numbers will help you see how things are coming along in two months, or six, or eight. It's a yardstick, not a judgement.

Further, the fitness evaluation is so that they can give you pointers on where to start. I think most people who haven't worked out for a while need a little bit of encouragement and to have someone point them in the right direction - I certainly do.
posted by SassHat at 12:44 AM on July 29, 2006

The person who will be doing your fitness evaluation will be a trained, responsible professional, one who most likely has a number of certifications and has been doing this for years. He/she will also take a tremendous amount of shit from his/her manager if his/her insensitivity loses the business any clients, up to and including getting fired.

Relax. They are there to make you feel good about your decision to get fit, not point fingers and laugh. They will most likely take their cues form you. The days nerds vs. jocks are behind us.
posted by lekvar at 12:54 AM on July 29, 2006

And tell them person you're dealing with that you realize this and need them to be as constructive as possible in discussing things.

They really do want to help you succeed. Some of them don't know which way to go with new clients though. So if you flat out tell them how to handle you they'll be happy to do that.

And I agree about the benchmark stuff. It goes beyond that though. They are there to work with you and to tailor a fitness program that will work for you and challenge you, but not hurt you.

And by all means if you get someone who doesn't respond/pay attention to your request - stop them in their tracks and tell them they are being inappropriate.

Alternatively, when a good friend of mine joined a local gym. He used humor to diffuse the situation. "I know I'm fat, you know I'm fat... we don't really need a scale and body calipers to confirm this, do we?"
posted by FlamingBore at 12:55 AM on July 29, 2006

You don't have to submit to this test as a condition of your membership, you know. While the info is useful, they're ultimately trying to upsell their personal training services. If you already know what you want to work on, you could skip or even delay the test.
posted by frogan at 12:58 AM on July 29, 2006

Frogan has it.

I joined a gym two weeks ago -- I found out today I have lost six pounds since then. Yay me! -- and I didn't want to do all that either. I know what I am there to do, and the fit of my clothes will tell me everything I need to know about whether it's working.

Screw em. Just hop on the stairmaster and go.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:18 AM on July 29, 2006

1. tell them up front what you don't want to hear.
2. chances are, they'll be saying things like "Having looked at your bmi, and [x] analysis, I think we should start by focusing on [y] type of exercise, because that will concentrate on [z] part of your body, and once that's worked on the rest will be easier." this won't be a condemnation, it'll be a plan. learn to see it that way.
3. If they start telling you how you'll have to change your lifestyle, or in some way tell you that x or y lifestyle choice is wrong, think of it this way: "I've asked them for help. This means I'm unhappy with what has lead to my situation, whatever that is. If they're making these suggestions, it's because they recognize that disatisfaction and are trying to pinpoint its source." looking at things like a process of honing technique, rather than a criticism of WHO YOU ARE, will help hearing these things.
4. some trainers are total douchebags. ask for another one if you think yours is.
5. good luck.
posted by shmegegge at 1:34 AM on July 29, 2006

My gym does this-and even includes a cholesterol test.

I was over 200 pounds at five feet tall when I had my initial eval. So I got you trumped on the embarassment. But the advantage of all this measurement is you can go back periodically and be reevaluated to see your progress-after all the scales do NOT tell the whole story.

(ps I lost 35 pounds and a lot of inches. So be encouraged!)
posted by konolia at 5:32 AM on July 29, 2006

I lost ... a lot of inches.

So now you're four feet tall?


What one needs to develop is an objective view of one's body (as far as that's possible), allowing one to make management decisions rather than value judgements.

Such information as BMI is useful for that - when I was a lot younger (and thin, actually) I had a pervasive perception of my body as hugely fat, then I got as large as the self-image. Later when I lost a lot of weight, and I saw pictures and videos of myself during the Large Period I was shocked - I hadn't actually seen the extent of my vastness, though I knew I was overweight.

We distort the "information" we get from photographs and mirrors, but numbers ought to be just numbers, and an opportunity to make less judgemental decisions about our bodies.
posted by Grangousier at 5:46 AM on July 29, 2006

frogan is exactly right. You can refuse the session, or you can accept it, and resolve that you are not going to fall for their pitch for personal training.

Personally, I find most people who work in gyms to be irritating beyond belief. I would rather risk inefficient and dangerous workouts than spend thirty seconds being talked at by them. The important thing is that you start spending time in the gym; whether or not you listen to their self-promotional spiel is just a detail.
posted by bingo at 6:06 AM on July 29, 2006

The person doing the eval is really a sales person. It would be quite unlikely for them to be blunt or unpleasant, because they want something from you, i.e., the upsell to the trainer. If someone is that rude to you, the best response is to ask to work with another representative, if you really want to join *that* gym, or you just leave. The loss of the sale is the best consequence.

I've been to a gym for the signup, and the rep was very polite, although pushy. I joined at work(university), and the eval was very professional.
posted by theora55 at 7:09 AM on July 29, 2006

If you go with plan B scarabic has got you covered.
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 AM on July 29, 2006

A little personal training might not be a bad thing. It could help you start to recognize 'what works', help you get into a regular routine. But (like everyone else says) the sales pitch is the thing. If you sign up for ten sessions, they'll ask for more, that's their job.

You're very much in the target demographic for mass-market gyms. There are only so many oiled-up bodybuilders to go around, you know.
posted by gimonca at 7:28 AM on July 29, 2006

My wife joined health club. She found that the evaluator in fact wanted to sign her up for a personal trainer. She signed. She is very delighted with her progress. These places are there to make money, to help, not to insult you or make you feel bad. Go with it. You can always tell the person to be nicer or you will complain.
posted by Postroad at 8:12 AM on July 29, 2006

If you're not self-motivated, and you have extra cash to burn, go through with the eval (since, as others have pointed out, its true purpose is to lead on to a personal trainer). If you don't lack self-motivation, and your budget can't afford the extra dough for a personal trainer, skip the test (and, by proxy, you'll skip the hard pitch for a personal trainer).

I've had a personal trainer (had the extra cash) and he really helped motivate me (I had a hard time motivating myself in the beginning). Then, as I started to see results, I want to go off on my own, so I didn't renew my trainer.
posted by Merdryn at 8:16 AM on July 29, 2006

Be prepared for some bad news. I had a gym eval a few months ago, and judging by my results it's amazing I am still alive. (Whereas in fact, I am in the healthy weight range, and had been working out moderately for years.) If you do the eval - which I agree, you certainly don't need to do - try to take your eval results with a grain of salt. They have to show you some room for improvement. (Which seems silly to me in cases where clearly there is room for improvement.)

That being said, I'm glad I did the eval, and the free training session that came with it. I learned some areas I need to work on, and I got some good tips that I have used to improve my workout. I've started doing some reading on my own in fitness magazines, and I've started watching how other people work out, and incorporating some of their programs into my own. But those two initial sessions gave me the impetus to try some new things at the gym, and I've been quite pleased with the results.

As for your question about how not to get pissed off, if you do the eval, maybe you can remind yourself of your own strengths - you may not be in gym trainer shape, but I'm sure you excel at something(s).
posted by Amizu at 8:43 AM on July 29, 2006

At our fitness center the eval is NOT a sales pitch. It is done by the floor exercise physiologists, who then design a custom workout for you. If you want a personal training session there is a list available of trainers you can choose from. Of course my center is owned. by a hospital and is probably not typical .

My earlier reference to inches lost has to do with the fact that if you work out you can often fit in skinnier clothing without the scale showing anything. Muscle really does weigh more than fat (and of course takes up much less room in the process.)
posted by konolia at 8:50 AM on July 29, 2006

The gym I joined in Dublin made me do this, I tried to get out of it but they wouldn't let me. Something about the policy being in place for the gym's insurance reasons or something (though they could just have been lying.) It wasn't fun, but once you do it it's over, and you know everyone else had to do it too. I have a high standing heart rate, and the guy taking my pulse kept looking at me funny and saying, "Did you sprint over here or something?" "No." "That's so weird, your heart is racing and you're just sitting there." "Hmm." "Are you really scared or stressed out right now?" "No, but I'm getting there."
posted by np312 at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2006

Have you thought about joining the Y? I don't know about the specific services offered at your local branch, but the one I go to in L.A. offers a complimentary series of meetings with a personal trainer -- there's no sales pitch, they're just there to get you started on your regimen (such as how many lbs./inches you'd like to lose, types of exercise, areas of concentration, etc.) and to take you through the equipment a few times so that you're using it safely. And they are certainly not there to insult you -- they are there to help you set and achieve your goals for living more healthily.
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on July 29, 2006

Arrange to visit this gym you're about to join, if you haven't already. Chances are very good you'll notice an agreeable percentage of large people among those already present, working off their pudding. Prior to joining, many believe health clubs are only inhabited by jocks (and I was like that, myself) but once inside, they discover the clientele has representatives of all types.

And yeah, delay the evaluation for awhile, and indefintely if you find the people who'd do it insulting (not my experience, but every gym is different).
posted by Rash at 6:38 PM on July 29, 2006

I think I am also going to take the criticism badly

Stop thinking of it at criticism. Yeah, cause it's so easy to divorce ourselves from observations of our body, right? But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

Try to place any discussion about your health in proper context. If someone on the street tells you your car is a scratched up piece of crud it's probably annoying. If you deliberately take it to a repair shop for an estimate on fixes you wouldn't take it as an insult if they enumerate the problems tho, would you?

Don't be ashamed of your body; it's just another vehicle and it doesn't reflect on your quality as a person. At most it's indicative of who you have been in the past and previous decisions you've made. That was yesterday. You're the guy taking steps to health-up at the gym today.
posted by phearlez at 2:57 PM on July 31, 2006

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone is still following this, but it was a very positive experience. I got information I can use, and I'm already weighing in at about 5lbs less.

Good experience.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:42 PM on August 11, 2006

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