Planet Fitness is one of the largest gyms in the United States. They have developed a way where you can join their gym at a very low price. They claim to fight for the ordinary gym goer and have set up rules at their gym so that they can be considered “Judgment Free”.

What I have learned is that they have judged me more than any other gym I have belonged to…

It was 2008. I was over 400 pounds and finally decided to change my life and lose weight. I started to eat a lot better and quickly lost 50 pounds.

I knew I needed to get more active as well. I decided to join a gym. I looked at different places but I really liked the concept of Planet Fitness. They claimed to be judgment free. I did not want to feel uncomfortable at the gym.

So I walked in and the first thing I heard was…

“Hey man…you can not wear that skullcap here.”

That was what the manager said. I was wearing my 5XL Reebok hoodie and shorts. I had untied Adidas shoes because I still could not bend down to tie them.

I also had an Under Armour skullcap on. I bought it because I could not fit into any other Under Armour clothing. I wanted to wear it because it made me feel like I belonged at a gym. It was the coolest thing in the world. It symbolized strength to me. I was strong enough to lose 50 pounds.

The manager pointed at the rules on the wall. You cannot grunt or use a cell phone or make other members feel uncomfortable. I looked and it did indeed say no skullcaps or bandanas. I guess I was a part of a gang and everyone who wears one is part of a tough mean part of society.

It was part of their “Judgment Free” zone….

So where was the “Judgment Free” when the manager rolled his eyes at me when I first joined the gym? A 370-pound guy (after losing 50 pounds) who could not tie his shoes. A guy who wanted to ask questions about the equipment, but after seeing the eye rolling realized he did not belong. It did not matter to me. I knew I needed to workout. I knew I needed to be active. Judging me has been a part of my life.

Where was the “Judgment Free” zone when the two girls laughed at me when I could not fit on the bench press? Maybe they were not laughing at me. You know, because so many 370-pound (after losing 50 pounds) guys struggle to get on a piece of equipment. When I could not get my balance. Judging me has been a part of my life.

Where was the “Judgment Free” zone when I went on the treadmill for 48 seconds? When I saw the guy next to me mouth to his friend “Is that it”? Maybe they were talking about something else. Maybe I was too sensitive in a sensitive world. Or maybe I have heard these comments for over thirty years. I was the largest man in that gym. I was the largest person at Weight Watchers meetings. I was the largest person everywhere I went.

Where was the “Judgment Free” zone when I left the gym for the first time in tears? Hating my workout. Thinking that no one was there to help me. Not wanting to go back.

Judging me has been a part of my life. At that moment I was not concerned about a “Judgment Free” gym that had rules set up to judge others. I was more concerned about judging myself.

The rules at the gym do not prevent judging people. The members and staff do. All bodybuilders do not grunt and yell and hate obese people. All fitness models are not nasty sassy people. Honestly, all people who wear bandanas are not part of a vicious gang or just came out of jail…

And one 370-pound man who wanted to wear a skullcap lost over 225 pound.

I quit Planet Fitness the next day. I went to another gym that was more expensive and asked one question…

“Can I wear a skullcap here?”

My reply was…

“Why would we care?”

I have worn a skullcap everyday since 2008 when I workout. I use my cell phone at the gym and I have yelled when I met some fitness goals.

I also try to make people feel comfortable and welcome at the gym. I also share my story and hopefully have helped people want to go to the gym.

When I was over 400 pounds many people judged me. I was fat, lazy and stupid in their eyes…

I do not need for them to see me now. I am proud that I can look in the mirror and judge myself.

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