Ron Williams said his own personal transformation from bodybuilder to master motivator has changed his life, along with the thousands of people that he has had the opportunity to work with.
Williams won over 250 competitions as a bodybuilder, including Mr. Natural Universe, Mr. Natural Olympia and Mr. Natural World seven times each. But success in his sport did not bring him lasting happiness.
As a teenager in Indianapolis, Williams competed in four sports internationally before the age of 20. When bodybuilding caught his interest, he retired from all other sports and made that his singular focus. Championships and global success followed.
Williams is a "natural" bodybuilder, which means he completely abstains from any type of steroid use. He remembers seeing his classmates taking "little blue pills" in high school. He recalls the prevalent steroid culture he witnessed during his early years in the sport, but he always knew he didn't want to take any shortcuts.
"Everybody told me that it would be an impossibility to do it without taking steroids. That became my mission," Williams told the Deseret News. "Once I won the Natural Mr. Universe, it made it almost impossible for me to go the other direction, even though I thought about it. My goal was to be the best and to win, but after I won the Mr. Universe, I said, ‘I am going to absolutely do it naturally.’ ”
Such an intent focus on fitness came with a price, however. Looking back, Williams said that he struggled with extreme bouts of depression and occasional suicidal thoughts.
"I realized that, as high as I had gone (with bodybuilding) … I was the saddest person on the planet," he said. "My whole young life, I was depressed. When I was utterly depressed … I thought that was 'happy.' I realized there was (no) fulfillment in bodybuilding or sports. So that’s when I started my quest … and that’s when I found God."
Williams continued, "When I accepted God in my life and really made a change, I felt joy for the first time. So that was a tremendous impact and it made me realize that there are so many people that are existing but not really living. It gave me a desire to want to reach out and help other people that I knew were in the same situation that I was in."
Williams now works as professor of exercise physiology and nutrition at the Professional Fitness Institute in Las Vegas. He is also a personal trainer and coach, an author ("Faith & Fat Loss," 2009) and the pastor of Back to the Foundation, a local nondenominational Christian congregation in Midvale (located at 7687 S. Main).
While physical exercise strengthens and builds a person's physical body, Williams teaches that religious activity like prayer and scripture study will strengthen a person's spiritual body and their relationship with God.
"If we don’t eat, physically, we’ll become thin, skinny, our bodies will eat away at itself … and we’ll die," Williams said. "The same thing happens spiritually. If we don’t feed ourselves, spiritually, the right nutrition and the things of God, then our spiritual body suffers for it.”
Williams' routine for physical and spiritual wellness teaches participants helpful physical exercises while encouraging reliance on God as they strive to change their lives.
"You can never acquire a transformation without the transformer — and that’s God’s part," he said. "What we do is we put ourselves in the best position possible for God to do what only he can do — and that’s transform our lives.”
As part of his "Faith & Fat Loss" program, Williams recommends a spiritual eating plan, which encourages regular scripture study and memorization. Each participant receives a list of Bible verses about comfort, discipline, encouragement, faith, strength and healing that will help them as they face the day-to-day struggles of life.
Williams said much can be accomplished by teaching both the spiritual and physical body to react appropriately to specific situations.
"The body only responds to signals," he said. "If you send it the signal of fat loss, it will respond. If you send it the signal of fat gain … it will respond. If you send it the signal of fitness, it will respond to that, as well."
Williams gives a recommended eating plan, based around a 21-day “jump start” that detoxifies fat cells and prepares participants for weight loss by sending the right signals to their bodies. The program similarly offers 21-day plans for scripture study, prayer and physical exercise.
"We've seen people lose well over 150 pounds, we've seen diabetics go off their insulin and their medication," he said.
"I think what gives me the desire and the motivation to really help people and to change their lives is that I really have developed a tremendous, tremendous love for people that are hurting, for people that are struggling, and it’s part of the reason why I do what I do," he said. "I like to find out what the problem is and also find out the answer and make sure that the answer is effective."