Faith and fitness
48, is founder and CEO of Curves for Women and author of Curves:
Permanent Results Without Permanent Dieting (G.P.
Putman’s Sons, 2003). A born-again Christian, Heavin
has made Christian values and biblical principles the cornerstone
of his business — which has been named the world’s
largest fitness franchise by the Guinness
Book of World Records. More than 2 million women
are members of Curves, which combines a 30-minute strength-and-cardio
workout with nutrition and diet support. Heavin spoke recently
with Assistant Editor Ashli O’Connell.
PE: Would you
share your salvation testimony?
One morning when I was 13 I woke up hearing the school bus
go by. Why hadn’t I been awakened? I discovered that
during the night my mother had died. She was 40 years old
and she’d suffered from high blood pressure and depression.
My father had left the household and I was the oldest at home,
so it fell upon me to comfort my little brothers and call
the ambulance. It was very traumatic. While kneeling beside
my mother’s body I called out to God. I believe that
was the moment I was saved. He kept me safe as a teenager,
even though I was in some very difficult places.
Did your mother’s death play a part in your desire to
help women with their health and fitness?
When I was given an opportunity to go into the fitness business
I didn’t really understand why I had such passion for
it. I opened my first women’s fitness facility when
I was 20 years old. I’d been to college for two years
as a pre-med major, but I realized I wasn’t going to
be able to support myself through medical school. So I saw
an opportunity to treat people before they became ill. I loved
it, and I was good at it. For 28 years all I’ve really
done is teach women how to have a better quality of life.
But I didn’t
understand what was driving me until I was 40 and standing
in a room teaching women about fitness and weight loss. I
caught myself subconsciously scanning the crowd for the face
of my mother. I realized at that moment the reason for the
drive and the passion I had and it helped me understand what
my destiny was. Soon after I founded Curves with my wife.
PE: Was the
God raised this thing up. In seven years we’ve gone
from one franchise to almost 6,000. Entrepreneur magazine
said we are the fastest-growing of all franchises in the world.
CNBC recently said that on average somewhere in the world
a Curves opens every four hours. We’re a debt-free company.
God gave us the ability to grow an extremely large company
without having to take on people who might compromise our
Do you lose some potential franchisees over your commitment
to godly principles?
yes. I get blasted every couple of days. But we’re called
to love people, teach the truth in love and let God sort out
PE: What is
your philosophy on health and fitness and how they relate
Our physical health and our spiritual heath are intertwined.
When we’re depressed and ailing physically it takes
away from our spiritual walk. Statistics show that if a woman
at age 40 is overweight she is going to live a life that’s
eight years shorter than it should be. I don’t think
God wants us to die because we couldn’t get control
of our weight. Exercise is the best way to deal with depression,
heart disease and type II diabetes. It’s hard to do
what God wants us to do when we lack energy and a sound mind.
PE: Why do you
think women have responded so favorably to your message?
Ninety-five percent of people regain the weight they lose.
God showed me a way to raise metabolism and gave me all these
resources to help women and set them free. So many of our
women had given up on exercise and given themselves over to
obesity and chronic disease, but God has allowed us to create
a haven for them so they can get control of their lives.
There are some people out there who say that women, whatever
their size, just need to learn to love and accept their bodies
as they are. Is that healthy?
Our society has created a false image for girls to aspire
to. We have done great harm to our daughters by lifting up
airbrushed images of women who don’t even exist. Women
should not bear the unrealistic burden of achieving that standard
of beauty. What they should do, though, is not compromise
and give up on their weight. To carry excess weight and justify
it because that’s the way they’re made and they’ve
struggled in the past to get rid of it is not acceptable either.
We should use what we’ve been given and be the best
that we can be.
PE: How important
is giving back when God has blessed you financially?
To whom much is given, much is expected. I have a motto: live
well and give well.
PE: How does
Curves give back?
We give 10 percent of our gross revenues to charity. We also
had our fifth national food drive last March. More than 5,000
franchisees across the company worked together to raise more
than 4 million pounds of food for local food banks.
To do this in March
is unusual, but I volunteered at a food bank and understood
that this is the time of year they don’t have enough
food. Everybody gives at Christmas, but in March the pantries
are bare. So we help replenish their stock just when they
What would you say to another Christian entrepreneur who feels
that building a company on godly principles and being outspoken
about it could hinder its growth?
only comes if you seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
Seeking His kingdom means seeking God’s plan for our
lives. God raises kings up and He pulls kings down. If you
begin to compromise, He begins to pull away. He won’t
honor people who are not reflecting His character in their
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