Gyms for Overweight Members Only

Downsize Gym only admits people with more than 50 pounds to lose.
3:00 | 12/26/13

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Transcript for Gyms for Overweight Members Only
are already wondering how and when we ate so much. And in just a few days new year's resolutions will send millions back to the gym. Will they all feel welcome there? For many overweight americans, the answer is no. Tonight, we meet the man behind a special workout facility where it is just the size of your commitment that matters. Here's abc's alex perez with a very special story. Reporter: In a culture that values thin, the controversy rages on. There we go, big smile. Reporter: From plus-sized models posing for the cameras to actresses lena dunham bearing it all in "girls." I feel like I can't keep my mouth shut. Reporter: Rebel wilson tweets about cupcake hangovers while melissa McCarthy graced the cover of "elle," though fans complained she had to cover up too much. Plus sized is going mainstream with marketing cute clothes to big girls. In today's world when there are positive role models, adele, melissa McCarthy from "bridesmaids." "Vogue" magazine notorious for featuring paper thin figures, featured kate upton on the cover. Is there still real shame in being overweight? For chris, sharon, louis, and david, the answer is yes. They are all here at down size fitness. 15 seconds. Reporter: A chicago gym where membership is reserved for the overeight only. There is a need for a place that heavy people need to go and concentrate on losing weight. Reporter: They're all self-described outcasts from the mainstream gym scene. There is not a culture of acceptance in america for overeight people. You can still discriminate based on size. Reporter: Down size fitness is part of the national argument. Are overweight people still treated differently. One hot button issue, overweight airline passengers should they have to buy an extra seat. This blogger says she was humiliated by a southwest airlines gate agent in 2011. The gate agent came up to me and he began, asked me, how much I weighed. He said that I was too fat to fly. That I would need an additional seat. Sharon has also felt the pain of harsh stares and ridicule. She joined down size fitness last year. Starting weight, 376. And still reeling from the steing with a bad experience of a personal trainer at a mainstream gym. I don't know if she was afraid of training a fat person. All I was able to do was sit in the corner and work on the treadmill. Made me feel like a pariah, i didn't belong there. Tie was allowed to join. Reporter: In six months at down size fitness, sharon dropped 20 pounds. Workouts are stressful. Tiring. We ask people to come five times a week. We call people if they don't show up. Reporter: They allow membership to those at least 50 pounds overweight. Some argue you are segregating the obese people, why do they need to have their own gym? How do you respond to that? Gyms are built for fit people to stay fit. I don't think they're built for fat people to get fit. In a way, seg regating, but for a reason. Reporter: Goal weight, 225. Lewis more than a year ago, starting weight, 310 pounds. Th he tried to lose weight and was a member for 12 years paying $75. After one year he never went back. Reporter: For 11 years you paid for a gym membership and never went. It wasn't something I was comfortable going into the gym. You are on your own. There is no one there how to help you. No one to explain what you should be doing. Reporter: Lewis has dropped 50 pounds in six months. His goal weight, 180. You are doing a lot of soy and fish. Reporter: Jennifer ventrel says the program works. Is this a cop out in some ways. Where does it ♪ do you start having grocery stores for big people? Do you have bigger planes specifically for bigger people? All awe this is about making some one feel comfortable to make the change. To engage in a healthy behavior. It's not, oh, it is okay that you are big. You can stay the way that you are. Is is their biggest success story yet. His first day, he weighed nearly 550 pounds. Almost two years later, he has lost more than 250 pound, and hopes to get down to 190. Like I said, the fear got the best of me. Reporter: Chris took me back to the his neighborhood and we retraced the half block walk that's eventually brought him to down size. I was like this. Just trying to hold myself up. My back was hurting to much. Reporter: Now he is one of the most active members at the gym. His bmi has decreased by 35 points. And his body fat percentage is down 20%. A month ago he was part of of a group that completed a climb up the willis tower, more than 2,100 steps in 36 minutes. Full disclosure, this is a battle I am all too familiar with. When I was a teenager, I weighed 356 pounds. Size 54 waist. It took me years of dieting and exercising, alone, before I was able to bring down my weight and live healthier. Now having other whose understand the frustration of being obese helped. There is definite success here. People are losing a lot of weight and a great place to do it. For "nightline," alex perez, in chicago. Alex and many other people in

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