LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo -- A dispute between a business and a former customer played out on social media. At the center of the issue: claims of fat-shaming.
After losing almost 50 pounds from dieting, Michelle Kleoppel joined Shredd Gym in Lee`s Summit to firm up and change her body. It was a great experience, Kleoppel said, until she and gym owner Ryan Waters had a falling out.
They agreed to part ways and Kleoppel joined a new gym.
"I said that I am seeing different results than I did at Shredd. I am so glad that I found this place, and that was basically the just of it,” Kleoppel said of a post she wrote on her Facebook page. “I didn't think it was a big deal to me, so I didn't think it was going to turn into a big deal.”
Kleoppel didn't expect to see derogatory comments she considered fat-shaming from her former gym owner -- accompanied by a meme of a flabby belly.
“It hurt. It hurt real bad because I am very self-conscious of my body,” she said.
When Waters spoke to FOX4, he rejected the classification put on him by Kleoppel and others who commented on the post.
“I have helped thousands of people lose thousands of pounds, and there is not one single person the 12 years I have been trained who would say anything close to I am a fat-shamer," he said.
Waters' office at Shredd Gym is plastered with pictures of success stories like a 24-year-old woman who he helped lose 170 pounds.
“And I put my heart and soul into her,” Waters said.
Never having heard the term fat-shaming until being accused of it, Waters said after their falling out, he was shocked to see Kleoppel’s post.
He felt it was an attack on his business he lashed out.
“I apologize for making the post. I shouldn't have done it. I really do,” Waters said. “After I posted it, I knew I shouldn't have done it.”
Licensed counselor Tina Dodson said body image issues often starting in childhood are very difficult to overcome.
“A lot of people who are overweight and do get picked on and bullied, their self-esteem gets trashed, especially with women,” Dodson said. ”He is protecting his business, and he is striking out, OK. And yes, he is doing a one-two punch at a very sensitive issue.”
“If I saw her right now, I would give her a big hug and say, ‘I am sorry, Michelle,'” Waters said.
Kleoppel and Waters agree on this: They hope this story goes viral to show the dangers of posting on social media and exposing the issue of fat-shaming.