Becoming All You Can Be: The Body Exchange

Andrea Guzzo, The Body Exchange

Andrea Guzzo, The Body Exchange

Welcome to this special series Becoming All You Can Be, where I highlight people and organizations who make a difference and teach us all how to shine.

Many of us who have food and body-image issues need continuous ways to boost our self-esteem and self-confidence.

With daily practices of nurturing and loving actions toward ourselves, we get to be all we can be.

In today’s post you’ll find demonstrated courage of those determined to change the conversation and landscape for people about their bodies and what’s possible.

One of them is The Body Exchange, Canada’s pioneering fitness company exclusive to a plus size clientele. 

Their mission is to remove limited thinking and living due to weight. They consider their clients athletes.  

I met Andrea Guzzo at a Love Your Body, Love Yourself monthly Meetup that I facilitate.

Andrea is a Managing Director of Body Exchange, Vancouver, Canada and the owner of The Body Exchange, Burnaby.

I interviewed her this week by phone. 

Let yourself be inspired by what’s possible when you change your perspective and let go of old stories.

How did you get involved in the first place?

I met Louise Green, founder of The Body Exchange right after graduating from Douglas College Sports Science and we hit it off instantly. December 1st marked my 6th year with The Body Exchange.

Louise had established the company in 2008 and her vision to use fitness and adventure as the vehicle to better living really resonated with me.

Here was my perfect opportunity to be part of a great organization. Louise invited me to contribute my ideas and to be as creative as I wanted to be when designing class formats.

I was hired as a group fitness instructor for several Body Exchange locations and I provided fun and energetic workouts to multiple fitness levels.

What was it like to become a business owner?

The Grouse Grind

The Grouse Grind

I took over ownership of our Burnaby location 3 years ago. I was working the 9-5 routine, scared to make the transition to self-employment.

Like all new business owners, I wondered whether I’d ever see a steady pay cheque again and if people would want to work with me.

Now I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I get to work with a great group of women, some who have been with me since day one and others that have just recently joined. I am thrilled to have been able to retain such a wonderful group.

The Body Exchange community has created itself. These are professional women that over time build friendships with one another.

They hold each other accountable, encourage each other to work hard and have a great deal of fun along the way – and they’ll even notice if one of them has missed a class.

Finding the right person is important. It’s got to be the right fit for you.

You have to be willing to be outside and enjoy athletic style training program.

We invite you to a complimentary class to make sure this is what you are looking for.

You don’t have to have any experience and age is not an issue. We’ve had women ranging from ages 17 to 68 years old. The current average age is 35 – 65 years old.

I get asked a lot of questions at the beginning and it is important for people to feel they are joining a safe program.

After two classes any hesitation is gone and they are enjoying themselves.

What kind of activities you provide?

Our programs are based in the community at schoolyards, using different terrain.

We get people moving, loving our outdoor boot camps, and then we encourage other adventures like walking, running 5km local races, snowshoeing, surfing, and short and long local hikes.

Retreats are different and a fantastic holiday package that we offer.

It’s a get-away for a week where they unplug, focus on themselves, get to know people and it’s a very powerful experience for them.

Yearly retreats happen in September with our Learn to Surf program in Tofino, B.C.

In the fall we venture to Tulum, Mexico for a week where we hold boot camps on the beach each morning, yoga at sunset and a week full of activities for everyone to participate in.

What changes have you seen in the women who participate?

People come in with hesitation, not knowing what to expect.

They’re courageous. They come into a group of strangers and they become a little family.

People feel better day-to-day. If they had a rough day, are feeling stressed out or come to class with a headache, after the class they feel less stress, more energy and positive. It’s night and day for some.

Their increased strength and stamina gives them a new sense of freedom – mentally and physically. That usually opens up other doors for them.

Some people come in thinking that fitness is not their strength and then you see them sign up for Triathlons, hiking mountains, surfing and more.

Snow Tubing

Snow Tubing

They have such fun that they can’t believe that it took them so long to find out what they could do and enjoy doing.

Their bodies change. They get stronger, more muscle mass. They can walk five flights of stairs and don’t give it a thought.

My wish for my clients is to continue to stay positive in their everyday life with the high energy, good mood and optimism that they get in class.

Strengthening of the body gives you a different perspective about what’s possible. That’s what I want them for them.

What have you learned from your clients?

Everything. I enjoy listening to people and their stories, their trials and errors, what’s worked for them and what hasn’t.

I’m fortunate that I have clients who want to open up to me. These women are my friends.

How have you changed from the work you do?

My Healthy Heart patients at St. Paul’s Hospital who have had operations, strokes, or were at risk made it clear to me that health is everything and you can’t take things for granted.

I’m way more open. I didn’t share a lot. Learning about others made me ask myself why I was acting this way.

I had a hard shell and wall up because I thought I needed to protect myself in my personal life and at work, and that’s gone.

My clients have opened me up. I never used to give or get hugs. Now, I hug everybody. I have a much more positive outlook.

I am passionate about seeing positive change in people. They inspire me to work harder. 

Over to You

If you are a member of The Body Exchange, what impact has this community had on you? Comment below and tell Andrea, Louise or others. 

And for my regular readers, have you ever surprised yourself by doing something you never thought you would – and felt really proud of it? What difference did it make in your life? Write below. It matters to me and to others.

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© Miriam Linderman 2014

Middle Photo credit: teamboost / Foter / CC BY

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  1. I would not be where I am today without Andrea. I clearly remember showing up to Andrea’s first class, 370lbs, and barely able to walk one lap around the school. Exercise was so challenging and scary for me, but Andrea made it manageable and fun!! I went from having zero confidence to loving exercise very quickly. Within 5 short months I went from gasping for air in a 2 minute walk and pain all over my body, to running in mud run obstacle courses and local community 5k’s with the Body Exchange Team. Andrea and the team at Body Exchange always have a piece of my heart. It was Andrea who helped me change my life and become happier, healthier and more confident.

  2. Christy, I was hoping that some of The Body Exchange clients would comment and I got my wish! Thanks for sharing so openly. I love that you got to The Body Exchange in spite what I can imagine was the scary hurdle of showing up. I want everyone, men and women, no matter what size they are, to find the light within and shine. We are so hard on ourselves, and when we begin to care about ourselves and encourage ourselves, we can do anything and be anything. Shine on, Christy.xo

  3. Another Body Exchange client here! I joined the Vancouver group about 15 months ago as a (in my mind) former athlete, with a very sedentary lifestyle! This summer, I cycled 200km over two days and I have been reminded that weight is not a determining factor in one’s athleticism. I may be fat but I am now fit again … and loving it.

  4. Woohoo Rachel! You wrote! I get deeply touched by what we can do when we make that decision.I love that you reclaimed the athlete in you. I can only imagine the energy and how proud you must be of your accomplishments. And we and I are SO much more than our weight. We are beautiful, loving, creative beings. Let that shine on in you. xo

  5. Andrea, you are the magical ingredient to me achieving my physical goals. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for your encouraging, positive ways. You are one amazing woman, your passion and love for helping others achieve a healthy lifestyle is beautiful!!!

    I couldn’t even do one sit up 4 years ago… Thank you for keeping it real, always pushing my limits and challenging me. I’m ready for tonight’s session… Only thing missing are your hugs!! Xo

  6. Elisabeth, how wonderful that you have been gifted with your own determination and commitment. And you are also gifted with the angels that had the vision to create and lead The Body Exchange to where so many people can attend and enjoy. Thanks for sharing your appreciation here. xo

  7. Wow! Two of my favourite people connecting…what a lovely surprise to see Andrea profiled on your blog today!
    I have been part of Body Exchange since 2010, and it has been amazing. I participate in activities that I never thought I could do (running / boxing), and I have met many wonderful friends and together we have formed a community.

    Andrea is an amazing trainer, and a wonderful friend. From day one I knew that she was cheering for me, and very supportive of my healthy goals.

    I am tremendously grateful that I have ‘champions’ like you and Andrea in my life to guide and inspire me!!

  8. Barb, I heard about all of your adventures over the years and knew about your personal trainer. I just didn’t know about where you were doing all this fun stuff. I am touched by the vision and the women who attend. This is truly courage in action. And you are that. xo

  9. I went to the surf camp last year and it was great fun and totally outside my comfort zone. It was inspiring to see woman of all ages, shapes and sizes out on surf boards, doing boot camps and hiking trails. Andrea has a gift for encouraging and getting the best out of people and making it fun. I highly recommend the surf camp!

  10. Wendy, outside our comfort zone is a magic zone of new possibilities. Great to hear your experience.

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