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The Journal Gazette

  • In this Dec 6, 2012 photo, Downsize Fitness founder Francis Wisniewski is seen at one of his gyms in Chicago. The gym chain he started caters exclusively to people who want to lose at least 50 pounds.  (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Monday, January 07, 2013 8:05 am

Overweight-only gym fosters supportive atmosphere

By JOHN L. MONEAssociated Press

Downsize Fitness is an exclusive health club, evocative of the nation's trendiest gyms. But there's a strict requirement to join: You must be 50 pounds or more overweight.

The chain wants its members to feel comfortable while exercising, so there are no mirrors inside and the windows are fogged. Even the equipment is designed for heavier people.

Chicago entrepreneur Francis Wisnewski says he started the gym because "I've been overweight my whole life, and I was embarrassed to go to the gym myself."

The first locations opened in Chicago and Las Vegas in 2011, and expanded to Dallas in 2012.

Gym member Janie Busch said she likes the supportive atmosphere.

Krisanne Hale, a personal trainer in Dallas, is still trying to lose weight. She says that helps members relate.


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