Y Stories

Claudia’s Y Story: A Healthy Spirit, Mind & Body

The YMCA more than a gym. People like Claudia, a member at the Mississauga YMCA for over 7 years, come to us in search of emotional support and guidance. In turn, she became healthy in spirit, mind, and body.

Read Claudia’s story to learn what sets the YMCA apart from your average gym:

Brazil is a beautiful country, but it’s extremely violent. When my husband was transferred to Canada I felt relieved to leave that country, where bullets fly over your head on a daily basis

When we arrived in Canada, I was struggling with obesity and a series of related health complications. In Brazil, I had a very stressful job that required me to work 16 hours or more every day, in a very dangerous area of the city. I would eat whatever I could, whenever I could find the time. Hitting the gym wasn’t an option, not only because I was so busy, but also because it was too dangerous. I also didn’t want to go for psychological reasons: to go to any gym in Brazil, you have to be physically perfect. If you are overweight, people stare, judge, and shame you.

In Mississauga though, the YMCA was just steps away from my home. I still had extremely low self esteem, but I worked up the courage to go inside. I knew I had to make a change in my life, because my blood work was horrible and I was feeling the effects of inactivity on my health.

The very first day I went into the Y in 2008, I was introduced to Sam to be evaluated. She did some measurements and tests, and told me that half of my body mass was fat. I still remember the number: 48.5%. She took the time to explain to me the dangers of being sedentary, but she also did something I had never experienced in Brazil: she listened, and didn’t judge me. She understood why I led the lifestyle I did, and why I wasn’t able to be active back in Brazil.

Sam helped me get on my feet. She went around the gym with me and walked me through all the different ways I could use the equipment. I would have been totally lost on my own, but Sam showed me each and every exercise I could do to get started.

I felt so comfortable being in a place where people of every shape and size were pursuing a healthier lifestyle together, rather than being laughed at or judged. I saw the obese and the skinny, the elderly and the young, the poor and the rich all together, sharing the same space for the same purpose.

Then I became addicted to the Y.

I realized I could change my life inside that paradise of equality and respect.

I started going to the Y every day. It took me a lot of time (5 years!) and persistence but I lost 100 pounds. When I first started out, I couldn’t handle 20 pounds on the leg press; now I move 170. I couldn’t row for a full minute at the start, and now I do 45. The first time I was able to run two laps in a row on the track, I cried, because I used to have to stop to catch my breath after walking three laps. Sam was there for those tough moments, for my triumphs, and for every step of my journey in between.

Thanks to the Y, I’m in the best shape of my life  – I feel better than when I was 18, and I’m 48! My blood work is perfect, and my cardio test results are amazing. I lost literally half of my body weight, and gained a new mind and soul.

I know there must be lots of people like me, afraid they’ll get out there and not be able to do anything. But I’ve learnt something from my time at the Y: I don’t have to be like anyone else. I don’t have to lift 250 pounds or run for hours. Each individual is unique, in her qualities and defects, abilities and limitations, and in life overall. I guess most people who are obese like I was think that going to the gym is so hard and intimidating because they are expected to lost all this weight in no time. But that’s not what it’s about. I’ve learnt that slowly and steadily, you become healthier.

The YMCA has finally helped me understand that. Sam’s guidance, corrections, expertise, and constant support have taught me to listen to and respect my body.

Stepping into the Y allowed me to leave my fear and body-shame behind, so I could embrace my healthier, happier self.

I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the YMCA. Obesity, coupled with my formerly sedentary and stressful lifestyle, could have literally killed me. But now, when I get on the elliptical every day, I feel alive in body, mind, and soul. I wish that everyone suffering right now like I used to, could understand just how welcoming the Y is: how it can change your entire life, one step at a time.”

For more motivation, read Colette and Emily’s stories. Then follow in the footsteps of these inspiring ladies and begin your own journey to good health by visiting your YMCA today.


Join us a the Mississauga YMCA Open house January 23rd.
We are inviting all families and friends in the neighborhood to come in and try the newly renovated facility for FREE! Come in for the day and warm up to winter! Burn some calories in the newly renovated conditioning area, play around at the Family Play Gym, take a dip in our heated pool or join a fitness class! Choose from a wide variety of programs and activities you can try, all for FREE!