Lately I find myself wading through articles that I must make sure are based in reality. It has taken me from avid reader to avid fact checker. Yesterday I read an article that I was utterly sure was satire. Luckily I did not wager on that assertion.
Apparently Carleton University removed a scale from their campus gym. To be clear, a weight scale. They did this because one student complained about the fact that it was triggering. I assume that is snowflake-speak for: the scale was making her uncomfortable with her actual weight. When she stepped on it voluntarily. I mean, I assume no one was forcibly shoving her on it. I’ve been known to
force encourage someone to do an extra set of burpees, but forcing someone on a scale? Not guilty, your honor.
One student complained. On a campus of 28, 289 students. Where the scale once stood, a sign now states that the university’s choice to remove the scale is “in keeping with current fitness and social trends.” Excuse me? Current fitness and social trends? I pride myself on staying up to date with most of what is happening in the fitness world and I can tell you with absolute confidence that not knowing what your personal stats are is not a trend. In fact, most fitness professionals encourage you to know as much about your current health level as possible. We even request that you see a doctor before embarking on any fitness program. A doctor that will likely weigh you in the course of their routine examination.
What really got my Lululemon knickers in a knot, though, was the fact that the manager of the university’s health and wellness, a chap by the name of Bruce Marshall, agreed with removing the scale. He said that focusing only on weight can have a negative impact. “Why obsess about it? Why not look at other indicators?” He explained, helpfully I might add, that people can also set goals in terms of cardiovascular fitness and overall strength, instead of focusing on the number on the scale. I agree with everything he said. That’s not what got my underpants twisted though. It’s the fact that a fully qualified fitness professional, I’m assuming, was too afraid to tell this fragile china cup that if the scale was triggering, not to step on it. I can tell you with absolute conviction that if I had been Bruce Marshall, that would have been my response. I would have fought tooth and nail to keep that scale right where it was. The choice to step on it is just that…a choice. If you don’t want to know your weight, that fine and dandy with me. It’s only one tool of many that can help you manage your health. Deciding that your actual weight is too triggering to face is cool. What’s not cool is deciding that you and your needs are vastly more important and outweigh (see what I did there) the needs of the many. Hah! I got a Star Trek reference in there!
Samar El Faki, a first year student at the University would disagree with me. She took to Facebook to send a message that she was appalled at some of the comments from students questioning why the scale was removed. “Scales are very triggering. I think people are being insensitive because they simply don’t understand. They think eating disorders are a choice when they are actually a serious illness.”
Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not everyone’s cup of latte when it comes to doling out fitness and wellness advice. I don’t sugarcoat things to my clients because I’m fairly certain they will eat that as well. I’m not Willy Wonka.
Samar is not my client, but if she was, I’d have to have a serious chat with her about how she is not the center of the universe, despite what her parents may have told her. How does this young woman navigate her way through this world? If she’s a vegan and stumbles into a steak house, is she triggered? Does she demand the restaurant be shuttered?
I’m not sure why she would assume that because the vast majority of people want to be able to step on a scale, that makes them think eating disorders are a choice. How does she make that leap? It’s impressive, though. I wonder if she can leap as far in lateral or bench hops? We’ll probably never know as she is likely too busy wringing her hands.
As someone who lives and breathes the fitness business, I’d like to make Samar aware (though I’ll stop short of composing an “open letter” because that’s dumb) that the vast majority of human beings have infinite compassion for people struggling with all sorts of issues. There are days I feel I’m more of a psychologist than a trainer. For many people the emotional and mental sides of them get squarely in the way of them bettering themselves physically. My job, however, is not to let them give in to that. It’s to push them. To make them uncomfortable. That’s when real growth happens. Regardless, I’d still support anyone’s right to not step on a scale. I’d just not allow them to take away that right from someone who wants to.
I discussed this event with a good friend who now lives, against her will, in Arizona. She gave me an hilarious perspective on this, so I asked her if I could credit her. Michelle was agreeable, even if it meant that she would have to publicly admit to being a Carleton grad. Apparently she can handle that. Besides, she went on to greater things. After completing Soviet and East European Studies at Carleton, she attended Wilfred Laurier University where she obtained her MA in Military History and she is currently researching the role of Civil Affairs in 21st Army group in the campaign for Northwest Europe 1944-1945 at the University of Ulster, Belfast for her History PhD. She said: “Oh my…. my alma mater. I didn’t realize stepping on a scale was no longer a choice. So strange too really since it takes a whopping C- to get into the place. Most people go for beer, beaver tails, and poutine, hence one doesn’t step on the scale at Carleton.”
For my non American friends who don’t know what beaver tails are, click here. It’s safe.
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