As a gym-goer, I see people with abs proving they work out every day. I see people who joined the gym as a New Year’s resolution. And then I see a person, almost always a woman, whose arms are merely bones with skin draped over them, whose frame is similar to a pole.
What do you do when you see someone who most likely has an eating disorder — but is still ferociously working out? You don’t want to approach them because you don’t know them, and besides, maybe this woman naturally has a very, very miniscule frame.
And then you look around the gym. Signs everywhere scream to work out more and control your food intake. There are always people stronger, skinnier than you, and they arrived at the gym before you and are still working out after you’ve taken a shower.
In other words, this is not an environment that will make someone who has an eating disorder feel more secure about themselves. Yet more than once, I’ve seen people who most likely have these disorders work out in the gym.
What is the gym’s responsibility, if it has one? Many gyms offer trainers to tell you how to work out and what to eat. Couldn’t they also have some knowledge of eating disorders?
If this isn’t possible (because the gym doesn’t have trainers or those kinds of resources aren’t available), gyms could merely advertise the National Eating Disorders Association hotline. This solution isn’t a cure-all, but if just a single person decides to call, the gym has had a positive effect.
Does the gym have a societal responsibility to help people with eating disorders? If so, what should they do?