Q&A with Bill Gobin, former Kentucky State University basketball player turned personal trainer and founder of The Get America Fit Foundation.
Bill Gobin was supine in his recliner watching "The Montel Williams Show" when he experienced an epiphany. Eleven months earlier, before severely rupturing a disk in a work-related accident, the former Kentucky State University basketball player, competitive kickboxer and gymnast weighed 180 pounds and could bench press nearly twice as much. But at 235, bloated by medicinal steroids, and sinking deeper into his chair and depression, Gobin answered Williams' "Flabby to Fit Challenge." His road to recovery from near permanent paralysis - from walking laps in a pool to running on a treadmill - was later chronicled on the show. Today, as a certified personal trainer and founder of The Get America Fit Foundation (getamericafit.org), a nonprofit that negotiates the purchase of health club memberships and home fitness equipment for the underprivileged, Gobin has shared his and others' success stories at virtually every stop on the daytime talk show circuit. Paul Steinbach asked Gobin, now 35 and a trim 190 pounds, about his current campaign - launched in December with help from the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association - that will attempt to document the loss of 10 million pounds of fat from America's midsections.
Q: Oprah once wheeled 67 pounds of fat onstage in a toy wagon. What would 10 million pounds of fat look like? A: That is the equivalent of 1,710 Hummer H3 vehicles. It's literally a mountain of fat.
Q: Why is America so overweight? A: It's about prioritizing. I've heard more people say, and it just makes me cringe, "It's easier to buy bigger clothes than it is to go out and run." That's flat-out lazy.
Q: How are you going to track 10 million pounds? A: We want to get health clubs involved. A club manager can encourage members by saying, "Every time you've lost weight, write it on a piece of paper and drop it in this box." The club can create a free profile on our web site and update it: "Our club has been responsible for 227 pounds of fat lost this month." It's really time to call this industry to action, and this is a way to hold trainers accountable. Now that they're certified, how are they changing the lives of clients?
Q: How long do you expect this campaign to last? A: I call it a five-year campaign, but it's ongoing. Obesity is not going away, so neither are we.
Q: Is that pessimistic? A: It's realistic. A family that I was dealing with had an eight-year-old girl who weighed 160 pounds. I managed to get the family memberships in eight different fitness centers over the course of three years, but they would always stop going. The girl kept putting on weight and so did the family. By December, the girl, now 11 and 280 pounds, had gotten so big that for four months she was sleeping on her knees by the bed, as you would pray. She went in to take a nap, rolled off the bed onto her back and didn't wake up. I really thought that I was motivated to do what I do. I didn't think my commitment could get any stronger. Well, it has, because that's the most senseless death that I can think of.