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‘You need to diet for your whole life’

June 7, 2010 - 17:43 By
Sean Lee introduces practicable workout programs for the obese

Star trainer Sean Lee is one of the most sought-after figures among those trying to prepare a perfect swimsuit body for summer.

The 31-year-old has made his name known nationwide as a weight-loss expert through his “Biggest Loser”-style television shows which earned him the nickname, “the death angel for obesity.” They are “Diet King” of SBS’ talent show “Star King” and “Diet Wars,” which was aired on local cable channel Story On.

Lee has introduced on such shows practicable exercise programs which received wild responses from viewers. They enable people to exercise at home with just a mat and music, according to Lee.

Although Lee’s popularity largely comes from media exposures, he is not just a television personality.

Lee has been running a personal training gym, Sean Lee’s Body School, in Nonhyun-dong, Seoul, since 2007. His specialty is effective and healthy diet for overweight people.

Fitness trainer Sean Lee Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

“(As for my gym) I wanted to provide a place for obese people to work out because they are usually scared and ashamed to go to gyms most of which are full of good-looking, slim people,” he told The Korea Herald.

Lee added that he also wanted to prove his capability as fitness expert by helping ordinary, obese people shed weight, rather than by promoting himself through training celebrities, which is common among popular Korean trainers.

Lee serves as senior director of PROPTA/USPTA in Korea as the first-ever Korean master trainer of the organization. It is one of the top certifying bodies in the United States for professional fitness trainers. He has fostered more than 300 USPTA trainers so far.

Looking at his muscular physique, hardly anyone would imagine that Lee started bodybuilding because he was too skinny.

“I don’t gain weight constitutionally -- even now, I lose weight if I don’t work out. I got bullied a lot in (Canadian) high school by my Caucasian classmates because I was a scrawny Asian. I started working out, desperately wanting to look stronger,” said Lee, who also attended college in Canada.

At first Lee did some weight training to build muscles that he could show off.

However, he had to end those kinds of exercises when he came back to Korea and took physical checkup for military service in 2000, Lee said.

“I was diagnosed with lumbar disk for working out the wrong way, not knowing my body. So I had to fulfill my military duty as a public service worker,” he said.

Yet thanks to the proper workout he learned during the period, he was able to be healthier and fitter by the time he finished the service in 2004, he said.

Confident and motivated after the military service, Lee decided to try out for Musclemania bodybuilding contest in Canada upon going back to the country to finish college in 2004.

“The eight-week hardcore preparing process was really tough. Following a strict meal plan was particularly hard because I was interning at a hotel at the time,” he said. He majored in hotel management in college.

The hard work paid off. Lee became the first-ever Korean winner of the contest.

Lee impressed the judges with not only his physique but his unique performance which combined bodybuilding and hip-hop dance. An avid lover of the genre, Lee said he has enjoyed dancing since he was a little boy.

Winning the contest inspired Lee to turn pro as a fitness trainer, a job that he found more enjoyable and fulfilling than one in the hospitality business.

However, persuading his parents to approve of his career was tougher than expected.

“Not to mention my mother who wanted me to become a doctor following my father, even my father who used to understand me quite well opposed, saying that there is no future in being a trainer,” he said.

Lee sought his career vision in the USPTA certification and expertise in fighting obesity. Now that he has become a prominent figure in the industry, Lee said, his parents are very proud of him.

Although he tries not to miss a bodybuilding contest every year, he does not see it as his main job.

“Once bodybuilding becomes your main job, you no longer can enjoy it. So I consider it a hobby that I can continue enjoying for a long time,” he said.

Despite various business proposals that he has received so far-- such as establishing branches of his gym or launching new television projects, Lee plans to stick to what he is doing for now.

“I’m really not a business-minded person. I just hope that I can do this happily as long as I can,” he said.

Finally, the trainer revealed his idea of a good diet for women.

“Korean women are obsessed with having skinny bodies. They should focus on making their bodies more balanced and fit. They are too focused on fat rate or weight, so they ruin their diet by weighing themselves too often,” he said.

“Diet is something people should keep on doing for their whole life, not just for a certain period of time.”

By Koh Young-aah  (