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Should I say something to the gym staff?

(99 Posts)
Snowballschanceinhell Sun 14-Jun-15 18:40:09

I went to the gym earlier and noticed a girl there who I have seen a few times in the past two weeks. She's painfully thin, but I obviously cannot diagnose any kind of eating disorder because I don't know her.

The past few times I've seen her push herself quite hard (I admit I do watch her only because the first time I noticed her I was shocked by the size of her frame) running to the point of exhaustion on the treadmill.

The same happened today, and when I finished, I ended up walking behind her toward the changing rooms. She looked quite unsteady and almost 'collapsed' onto a bench in the changing rooms. I got unchanged (kept looking over at her as we were the only two in there) and the whole time she was leant forward with her head between her legs, like you'd do if you were feeling faint. As I left, I touched her shoulder and asked if she was ok, but she just waved me away. She looked dreadful, no colour in her face and obviously struggling to even speak.

I didn't want to meddle, but have been thinking about it all afternoon. Should I have said something to the gym staff? I assume they do some kind of induction/fitness assessment when new people join to ensure they're healthy enough to work out.

WIBU to not say anything?

CheekyNandos Sun 14-Jun-15 18:43:22

No - I don't think you'd BU not to say anything. At gyms/aerobics classes I've been to - I've seen women who seem to be on the verge of anorexia - I've not said anything.

akaWisey Sun 14-Jun-15 18:45:18

Staff at the gym have a duty of care (as do we all) to those who use the facility. If it were me I'd say something to the gym staff about my concerns.

FindoGask Sun 14-Jun-15 18:46:56

I don't know what you could say to them that would help her. What a difficult situation.

Fatmomma99 Sun 14-Jun-15 18:48:13

I agree you could say something to the staff.

IceCreamAngel Sun 14-Jun-15 18:50:13

There was a girl like this at the gym I used to attend. I'd see her there all the time, she was very, very thin. Think jutting shoulder blades and hip bones. She had that distinctive anorexic/malnourished look. She always seemed to push herself very hard all the time.

I used to question whether or not I should say something to staff but I never did.

ItsTricky Sun 14-Jun-15 18:51:44

The gym is a business and it's not really their responsibility, it's hers. It's a bit like saying a pub shouldn't serve an alcoholic.

If they approach her showing concern she'll probably just join a new gym.

Nice of you to care though, op

akaWisey Sun 14-Jun-15 18:53:04

I knew a woman with a serious ED who would visit gyms miles away from her home to avoid her over-exercising being identified by local gym staff. I agree with findo that all gym staff can reasonably do is refuse her entry or ask her to end a long and gruelling workout but that won't in itself help her if she's in the grip of an ED. It's very difficult and in the end I would say something because I'd feel it was wrong not to. I wouldn't ignore someone with obvious heart problems if they seemed to be in difficulty.

hooliodancer Sun 14-Jun-15 18:55:38

I have been in this situation recently. There is a woman at my gym who is definitely anorexic- she is so painfully thin, she looks like a skeleton really. She seems to spend all morning at the gym and goes to at least one class every day.

I mentioned it to one of the members of staff, who said she would talk to her manager. I don't know whether the manager said anything, but there is no way staff can't notice how awful this woman looks.

It makes me feel uncomfortable as it is like the gym are colluding in some way. But having had an anorexic friend I know that they need to want to be helped, so if the gym manager did say anything it's unlikely to make this woman seek help. But I would say they have a duty of care so should try.

Snowballschanceinhell Sun 14-Jun-15 19:01:21

Thanks for the replies - the 'gym is a business' reply really struck a chord because if someone is willing to sign up, I guess they won't turn them away. I know I've joined gyms and waved away offers of inductions because I know how to use all the equipment, so there's a chance they have no idea that her weight or BMI is seriously under what it should be.

I guess either way (whether I say something or not) it's her decision to exercise and she won't stop until she decides she needs help.

walnutsandwillow Sun 14-Jun-15 19:17:07

I expressed concern over a similarly thin girl at my gym but the response was essentially that they could do nothing.

I have a friend who attended the gym to build up core strength whilst she was trying to gain weight mind you - it doesn't always follow people use gyms as a weight loss method.

Georgethesecond Sun 14-Jun-15 19:22:28

But these skeletal women often are plainly burning calories deliberately. There was one at my gym many years ago. She just used to run and run, then as she got weaker, swim and swim. She had no bottom at all, you could see her genitals from behind, it was really distressing. I'm pretty sure she has died now.

Incandescentage Sun 14-Jun-15 19:24:26

Yanbu OP

I have seen the same thing at my gym and I did speak to the staff. only because I knew them.

But would a restaurant refuse to serve a super morbidly obese customer? Or a pub an obvious alcoholic? They would serve them because they are not doctors and are in no way qualified to help and the person will always find a way to continue with their illness until they are ready to stop.

I hope the woman finds her own strength to fight the disease.

ImperialBlether Sun 14-Jun-15 19:26:55

You have a duty as a person living in society, surely? What kind of world would we live in if we turned our backs on someone who's starving themselves?

Don't gyms ask for the name of a doctor? I'm sure they're supposed to.

They are meant to look out for people with eating disorders, just as they're meant to look out for people on steroids. They're not just renting out machines.

I would speak to the manager, though I'm sure they'll know who you're referring to?

ImSoCoolNow Sun 14-Jun-15 19:29:21

When you join a gym don't you have to put your GP details on the form? Could they not contact the GP if they had concerns? Not sure if that would breech confidentiality issues or not however if a persons health is at risk then surely they have a duty of care? Not that it matters, like a pp said, she would just go join another gym. I'm not sure I would say anything but, like you, I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it like: should I? Etc. tricky one op

Raveismyera Sun 14-Jun-15 19:30:54

I've seen the same - in fact I'd say most gyms have a member like this. Don't forget anorexia is common and most do huge amounts of exercise so not u common at all. I know it's distressing but I don't think you should say anything to the staff.
Don't take this the wrong way but telling the staff is making you feel like you've done something (because short of talking to her yourself there is nothing else you can do) but, you're not really doing anything. It's none of the gyms business and they won't do anything. At the very most it would be a friendly word asking whether she thinks she might be working out too much. No anorexic has ever got better from that.

lighteningirl Sun 14-Jun-15 19:32:14

Good gyms have policies to cover this mention it to reception/manager this girl needs help and should not be in the gym. If your gym does not have a policy write to the manager and say you are deeply worried. It maybe she is relapsing/hiding how bad she is at home or work and being banned from the gym is for her benefit. My gym requires a doctor's cert to say exercise is permissible should management t request it. This is only enforced for obvious eating disorders but can be requested by any member of staff via management.

akaWisey Sun 14-Jun-15 19:38:51

If she has an ED she is not making 'choices' about her exercise and food intake. The illness is in control of her decisions and her brain is not functioning properly so it's a mistake to think that you would be unreasonable to say something, if you are concerned. I think that's the point of intervening in some small way if you believe someone to be ill and putting themselves at risk (which a person with an ED who is over-exercising will be).

And we do all have a duty of care to each other, and there's a legal duty of care in the workplace too. So staff would need to be educated and prepared to act if necessary. It's so hard. ED is awful, a really disgusting and insidious disease. What does it cost to just have a quiet word? If you're wrong, great. If not, you might have done something to help.

scarlets Sun 14-Jun-15 19:41:22

Poor woman. It shouldn't take that long to start recovery from a workout, even a long aerobic one (I am assuming you were in the changing room for about ten minutes). All you can do is mention it to the manager. It's likely that she's known to staff and that they've already tried in vain to talk to her about her training programme, but it'll put your mind at rest.

ImSoCoolNow Sun 14-Jun-15 19:49:22

For pps saying that pubs will continue to serve alcohol to alcoholics etc... Very good point, however if someone had drank to excess and was obviously making themselves ill then the bar staff are within their rights to refuse to serve them. Likewise if an obese person were to eat to excess in a restaurant and start vomiting, for example. This girl was obviously exercising to excess and was making herself ill by doing so. Gym staff should definitely be intervening if someone is causing themselves harm

sparklewater Sun 14-Jun-15 19:55:57

Even if the gym staff had a word with her she'd likely be defensive and dig her heels in or leave the gym as she'd feel like she was being watched by all the authority figures.

By asking her if she was ok you did a really nice thing - if she's that far gone then she'll know how she looks. What's to stop you from asking her again? A friendly word from another woman is much easier to deal with than being told to slow down by someone in charge...

Not that it's likely to achieve much - but where strangers are concerned a drip feed of concern is more helpful in the long run than an intervention!

Mygardenistoobig Sun 14-Jun-15 20:06:57

Several years ago the gym I belonged to told a woman that she had to weigh a certain amount before she could exercise there. She was painfully thin and had been a member a while

She never gained the weight and died soon after from anorexia
Yes I think you should say something.

PenguinsandtheTantrumofDoom Sun 14-Jun-15 20:15:29

They may be aware.

A friend of mine spoke to her gym about someone like this a few years ago.

Their response was that they were scared she would simply start running in the next door park where there would be no medical assistance if she did collapse. sad

Gabilan Sun 14-Jun-15 20:25:40

"It's a bit like saying a pub shouldn't serve an alcoholic. "

Slightly different, but it's illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk.

OP, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. Perhaps see if the gym have a policy relating to this.

MrsBojingles Sun 14-Jun-15 20:35:08

I don't think you'd be out of order to say something. I used to be that girl, and it took someone who was practically a stranger to me talking to me to help me start to come to my senses. Friends and family I ignored. They might not do anything, or they might. It might not help, but it might. It's impossible to tell as the illness is so thick it's impossible to think rationally about it all.

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