After ditching a run-of-the-mill corporate job to work for Jim Karas, the local celebrity fitness trainer, Phil Chung got a wake-up call from his new boss. “You’re a fat trainer, Phil,” Karas told him. “If you want to succeed here, you have to lose 30 pounds.” For Chung, then packing 205 pounds on his five-foot-nine frame, the mandate was foreign territory. “I never had to lose weight before,” he says. “As a kid, I was taught ‘clean your plate’ and ‘go for seconds.’” Chung vividly recalls competing with his two older brothers for food at the dinner table and getting earnest pep talks from his dad on how to squeeze the most value from an all-you-can-eat buffet. “I had to reverse that mental relationship with food,” says Chung, who within three months brought down the bulk to a svelte 170 pounds. He maintains his weight by working out intensely for 45 minutes three days a week. Chung, today the senior managing director at Jim Karas Personal Training, says he simply doesn’t have time for more exercise—especially now that he and his wife, Abby, are juggling newborn twins and a one-year-old toddler. Chung devotes what little time he has left to leading a youth group in Elk Grove Village called Christians in Action, volunteer work he has done for the past ten years.
Photograph: Maria Ponce