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Woman lifting weights

The Gym Is Extra Scary When You Are Overweight 


I asked if I could write a blog about what it is like to be an overweight or obese person walking into a gym for the first time because I have been there. I write this to share that you are not alone. I write this in the hope that you will find the strength within yourself to take that first horrifying HUGE step into the gym. To make lasting healthy changes that will impact the quality of your life for the rest of your life.  

Many overweight and obese people have had a negative experience with a trainer, exercise group, or other people that lacked compassion. It is not your fault that you fear the gym because this happens every day. Not to mention that feeling of everyone else looking at and judging you. The misconception about overweight people is that they do not care about themselves or their health. In the United States, more than two-thirds of the adults are overweight or obese. These numbers are staggering yet there is still a weight stigma that comes with being overweight. A stigma refers to “an attribute that is deeply discrediting (disgrace, dishonor).”  

The cause of my weight gain was due to a few underlying issues. Unfavorable genes, family influence, and childhood trauma. Food was my comfort, my hiding place, my coping mechanism, my addiction. My heaviest weight was 275 pounds, and you’d better believe I was not about to walk into a commercial gym. Just the thought of people judging my size was enough to keep me away. I worked out at home as I did not have the confidence, unlike my friends' stories below, to step foot into a commercial gym until I lost 100 pounds and felt like a “normal” person. At 44 years old I have been fit for well over a decade, I have been a fitness professional for eight years, and I still struggle with body positivity. You are not alone.

Here are some testimonials from people just like you! 


  • "The first time I walked in the gym was intimidating because I was so overweight. I walked in feeling like every eye was on me and judging me. I looked around and I saw everyone appeared fit or athletic. I feel winded the first three minutes and the self-doubt set in. You feel like everyone has self-confidence except you. Everyone has fun working out and wearing cute workout clothes and I’m just trying to find something that fits. You over think everything. It helped tremendously to have a personal trainer to help me through it. Each time you go it gets easier. Each time you try something new, you also feel like you are claiming the gym as your own. You soon realize no one is looking or caring but that everyone is there for the same reason, regardless of shape and size or outfit." 


  • "When you first start in a gym it can be overwhelming, and the mirrors do not help! The YMCA made me feel comfortable. Everyone there was friendly and never made me feel judged, and the trainers are excellent. I connected with my Wellness Coach right away and she was able to put me on a good workout plan to build my strength as I lost body fat. We also talked a lot about nutrition and how to eat healthy for my body and lifestyle. I got stronger than I had ever been in my 40 years!"


  • "I had not been active in a gym since high school… I am now 37 and have 3 kids. The idea that I NEEDED the gym to be “with” my kids was terrifying. First, what was I supposed to do with the two that I stayed home with? Second, will there be a bunch of gym rats there watching me and laughing at me… will I become the next fat meme on Facebook or TikTok? Third, what do I even do once I get in the gym to get into better shape? All three of my fears were resolved when I checked out the Y! I walked in… pretending to be confident… while inside feeling like I was going to walk straight into hell… when in actuality I walked in and saw myself. I saw people of all different shapes and sizes, at different fitness levels… and WOW! I wasn’t alone. As soon as I saw that I was not alone in the fight of my life… I knew I had found my new favorite place. I have been able to put my kids in the daycare, meet with trainers through the Get Started program, then I started making friends! Now, almost six months later and a little over 40lbs lighter… I feel at home! We cheer each other on… we support each other when we are down… and we encourage each other when we struggle!"


  • "My journey as a small person, barely five feet tall, overweight, and out of shape, kept me out of the gym. I was so afraid that taller people would judge me like, “What is she doing here?” Because I was not “overweight enough.” The weight on my small frame was hard on my knees and my jeans! Also, the fear of people looking at my unflattering parts because none of my clothes fit me. I had so much anxiety and only wanted to attend yoga because it was dark. I feared using machines because I had no confidence or knowledge about how to use them and felt uncomfortable with fearing people would see me looking like a fool. I enrolled in the Y Weight Loss program at the beginning of the summer and learned that practice and setting small goals are helping me conquer gym fears. Knowing I have power over my journey makes me feel like the only person in the gym!" 


  • "When I first got back into the gym after having my second baby, at 235 pounds I was the heaviest I had ever been. It was nerve wracking! Especially because some of the people there had seen me fit before and now, I was starting all over... again. My first instinct was to get on the elliptical and go until I could not go anymore. Instead, I started lifting weights and doing functional core training. I saw what it was doing for a group of women who had been in my position, so I decided to try that. Now I look the best I ever have! At 155 pounds I look better than I did at 135 and I am not “skinny” I am strong!!! This is why we lift all of the things." 


Amber Cornist, Armbrust YMCA Health & Wellness Director

If you are scared to come to the gym, please reach out and we will connect you with one of our friendly and welcoming fitness staff! Each member receives 2 free sessions with a Wellness Coach. That's a great opportunity to chat with a professional, learn how to use the weights and machines, and get comfortable in this new environment! You can find a list of all our locations here:

YMCA of Greater Omaha locations

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Category: Health & Wellness
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Meet Amber Cornist:

I got certified to become a personal trainer in 2014 after struggling with my weight for over a decade. I had developed a passion for helping others take charge of their health and knew the Y is where is wanted to do that. I've been training at the Armbrust YMCA ever since! Over the years I have added more certifications to my tool bag including a second PT certification, Small Group Fitness, Fitness Nutrition, and some of my favorite YMCA programs including Y Weight Loss, and LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. As a Health and Wellness Director I am looking forward to many more years of cultivating health and physical activity in our community!