Dear Mr. DeFendis: I have read several of your columns and researched your name on the Internet, and found it interesting that you chose Greenville and Anderson to relocate to, after living in Palm Beach. I would think there is more fitness business in Florida because of the beaches and people being more conscious about their bodies. â€” CURIOUS IN ANDERSON
Dear Curious: Florida is beautiful, yes. The beaches … the ocean … the incredible mansions in Palm Beach. Itâ€™s a nice place to visit, but itâ€™s not South Carolina and it cannot offer my team and I the emotional rewards we receive from helping people who truly appreciate our work and our efforts in fitness and health. I am overwhelmed by the beautiful, appreciative, respectful people who populate Anderson, Greenville and the rest of the Upstate. And I appreciate the opportunity to come to a city as nice as Anderson and be able to make a living as a personal trainer, helping people attain their weight loss, health and fitness goals. After traveling the world I have yet to meet friendlier or more appreciative people than the ones here.
Our work and our priority is helping people become healthier by preventing obesity and its related diseases â€” diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The byproduct of our work is a leaner, shapelier and stronger body.
Let me tell you a bit about where my passion comes from. When I was 10 years old, my mother had her first heart attack. She weighed 320 pounds.
When my mother entered the hospital, it was traumatic for me and my brother and sister. Our dad was a novice at babysitting, and wasnâ€™t quite sure if children needed food and water every day.
(As far-fetched as that seems … it wasnâ€™t far from the truth!)
Dad was and is a great man, but until Mom had that first heart attack, he had played a different role in our rearing. But, when all the responsibility suddenly was thrust on him, he decided to spend time with us doing the only thing he was sure of â€” weight lifting.
I embraced the training enthusiastically and it became a passion for me. I started reading every magazine and book I could find about strength training, nutrition, weight loss and fitness. I set my lifetime goal of winning the Mr. USA competition.
By the time I was 15, I was competing and was considered a teenage prodigy on fitness and nutrition.
The next year, my mother suffered her second and third heart attacks and again spent many days in the hospital. I was only 16, but I decided that I would take the health knowledge I had acquired and apply it to helping Mom lose weight and become healthier.
Well â€¦ long story short â€¦ it worked!
Within two years, we were able to take 180 pounds off my mother and bring her weight down to 140. Her cholesterol and blood pressure also dropped to much healthier levels.
I believe we literally saved her life. And I thank God every day for blessing me with the gift of helping my mother. Iâ€™m proud to say that she is now 76 and lives a healthy, active lifestyle â€” more active than many people in their forties. Iâ€™m still amazed at the power of fitness and nutrition and the fact that a woman who had three heart attacks in her thirties could live more than 40 years after that.
I hope and pray I also can make a difference in the lives and health of people in this area.
John DeFendis is Director of Exercise and Fitness at Coopâ€™s Health & Fitness in Anderson and Greenville. A former Mr. USA and a personal trainer for more than 30 years, he has trained professional athletes and celebrities, including U.S. congressmen. You may e-mail your fitness questions to him at: email@example.com or visit his Web site at www.defendis.com.