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‘Thanks for telling me I’m obese’, a not-so-fun return to the gym

One demotivating visit to the gym reminded (the rather svelte) Emma Heap, co-founder and CEO of Sudor, the fitness app, of how the old style, one-size-fits-all world of gym jocks (and jills, I guess) can destroy even the most self-assured gym bunny’s body confidence.

Emma says there are many reasons why she and her business partner, Mark Balkin, started Sudor, the app that helps people get/stay fit on their own terms. Her recent return to the gym floor reminded her of quite a few, not least among them the importance of an experience and programme that is tailored for the individual and takes account of their goals, personal preferences and context.

She writes:

One of the things I missed most in lockdown was the gym floor, so to say I was excited to return to the gym is a big understatement.

A friend and I were considering signing up as members, so we booked a trial and showed up for the obligatory sales pitch. Once done with that we were shown around the gym.

During the tour, the sales guy, who I will call Jock, made a point of showing us the body fat measurement machine and explained how to use it. He added that we could give it a try there and then which, of course, we did.

This friend and I have very different goals. He wants to bulk up after doing only cardio the past few months; I want to lose the tummy weight I put on after a bad ankle injury.

My friend didn’t really need a machine to tell him his body fat was low; I didn’t need one to tell me mine was a bit high. In fact, I was fully prepared for that.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my numbers to be nailed down so aggressively by someone who had made absolutely no attempt to understand the context.

One of the selfies I took to see if I really was ‘pre-obese’ as the machine was telling me

Most of our ‘scores’ were in the normal range – his mainly at the lower end, mine mainly at the higher end.

Yet we were both made to feel like total failures.

My body water was 34.4, which is towards the higher end of the “normal” range of 28.8–35.3. After peering over the machine, Jock instructed me to “reduce my water retention” without bothering to ask questions, or to understand the cause. He also offered no guidance on how to I might do that.

As a side note, 5 minutes on Google later confirmed two possible reasons for the additional water retention:
1. the time in my cycle
2. the fact that I was a week into a keto diet

Jock then moved on to my mineral report. My score was 3.5 (normal range of 2.9-3.5). Again, I was told this was very high. When we pointed out that it was in the normal range, Jock decided it was actually fine, good in fact.

Next up: body composition. My left leg had more fat and less muscle than my right leg. Jock helpfully concluded that this was probably because I was right-handed. I offered an alternative explanation – that I’d been out for a few months with torn ligaments in my left foot – but he wasn’t listening. This time he did offer a solution, though, use the leg press to reduce the imbalance.

The final straw for me was being told I was “pre-obese”.

Until my friend started asking for details about the levels, I was made to feel like quite the heffalump. It turns out there are 4 obesity levels above this. Jock advised me to do HIIT (high intensity interval training) classes to deal with this problem and burn some of the fat.

To say I was taken aback and somewhat demotivated by this experience would be an understatement. My body confidence is fairly high, and I can’t help but wonder how this experience would affect someone with low body confidence.

So how does this tie into Sudor – the fitness platform that we’ve spent the last 18 months and a lot of blood, sweat and tears building?

We built Sudor (Spanish for sweat) to encourage the world to move more. Just moving a little bit every day can have a significant impact on wellness and mental health.

You’ll never find scores or comparisons on Sudor. The platform is focussed on connecting people with trainers, workouts and classes that they will enjoy. We believe that if you enjoy something you’ll come back again and again. And if you move even a little more on a regular basis, you’ll feel so much better. And that feeling is worth a lot more than any number of machines telling you you’re normal.

Sudor assists and encourages people to get or keep fit on their own terms. The only person who can be responsible for someone’s fitness journey is that person. This means showing up, managing their workout schedule and investing the time to build their knowledge and experience around fitness and what works for them.

Ed’s note: Another thing that we particularly like about Sudor is that you can cancel your membership at any time. It is not a life sentence.

There’s a 7-day trial on all Sudor subscriptions: Apple app store Google play store

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