How gyms use body shaming to attract new members

When I started teaching fitness kickboxing, my goal was to give women an opportunity to enjoy some of the benefits I was getting from martial arts — without the intimidation of sparring.

I knew the decision to limit the class for women only was right, but I didn’t realize how powerful it would be. The magic of kickboxing was that it helped women feel strong. They left the workout feeling like they could do anything. 

If you do a quick search for kickboxing, you’ll find many articles on how it’s a great workout to burn calories and get in shape. You’ll get something similar when you google fitness for women. The media saturates marketing with how products and services can help women alter their bodies and lose weight. 

Body-focused marketing is what women see when they are looking for a new workout or gym. The media has identified women’s fitness as a means to lose weight and alter our bodies.

And so, women find themselves working out because they feel like they have to, or to punish themselves, or because someone has told them they need to. 

In a study on gender differences in exercise habits, “women reported exercising for weight loss and toning more than men, whereas men reported exercising for enjoyment more than women.” (Craft BB, Carroll HA, Lustyk MK. Gender Differences in Exercise Habits and Quality of Life Reports: Assessing the Moderating Effects of Reasons for Exercise. Int J Lib Arts Soc Sci. 2014;2(5):65-76.)

Gyms and trainers have used language that focuses on body modification to hook women into signing up with headlines like:

  • 6-Week Complete Body Transformation
  • Lose 10 Pounds in 30 Days
  • Are You Beach Body Ready?
  • Four Week Bikini Body

And ads that look like this:

These headlines are a terrible introduction to fitness. No wonder why some women hate the gym!

We need to redefine what fitness means for women. That change is going to start with gyms and trainers and the language and tools they use. 

Fitness has so many incredible benefits:

  • It releases chemicals that will make you feel happy
  • It relieves your stress and anxiety
  • It provides you with mental wellness
  • It builds confidence
  • It makes you FEEL strong and ready for anything

Gyms have forgotten how responsible we are for the well-being of our members. When gyms and trainers target women’s feelings of guilt and pressure to have a specific size body, they perpetuate the idea that your body is not acceptable just the way it is.  

Why should a gym comment on your body at all!

We need a new movement in fitness. We need to focus on STRONG over scales. When I started my kickboxing studio, I realized that this mission was more important than anything else. We provide a safe space for women to feel supported and strong—and we leave their bodies out of it!

Who is ready to join me?

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Coach Stacy

Empowering women’s-only gym owners/trainers to build trust, positivity, and profit through mission-driven, ethical strategies.

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