A super-fit CEO may seem like an oxymoron, but triathlete, marathon runner and chief executive David Low doesn’t see why it should be. Low, a third-generation overseas Chinese, has won the inaugural ‘Hawaii’s Fittest CEO’ competition, where CEOs of both sexes took an array of international-standard fitness tests. Now he wants to bring the competition to Shanghai, and is looking both for chief executives who fancy their chances, and backers to help him organize the event. His only caveat: “I expect to clean up.”
It wasn’t always thus for Low, the 45-year-old CEO of Hawaii Capital Management, an investment firm in Honolulu. A few years ago, he was a typical fat guy in a suit; in fact, he was morbidly obese, weighing in at 102 kg. “At the time, I was living in a big house on top of a hill,” he says. “I could barely get to the top without having a heart attack. It wasn’t enough to change my habits, though, because I was in denial, and I actually thought I looked pretty good. But then my girlfriend dumped me for being a fat, lazy, miserable wretch – I was so depressed I couldn’t eat, and that was when I changed.”
Indeed, Low started running, changed his diet, and lost 34 kg in just four months. Eventually, he regained his high school weight and found himself a beautiful new girlfriend. Now he trains 10-20 hours a week, and takes part in triathlons and marathons.
The re-invention has not only benefited Low’s health, but his company as well. “Being fit has made me a better CEO, and it’s helped the bottom line in my business,” he says. “When you invest time in your body, everything else follows. I’ve become more efficient and a role model, which is a big thing when you’re running a business.”
He also hopes that his example can help inspire people to avoid obesity, particularly in China. “Given China’s explosive economic boom, I want China, and Shanghai, to avoid the obesity epidemic which has been the result of increased wealth in America. If we can get ‘Shanghai’s Fittest CEO’ started, it will at least raise awareness of this looming health issue.” And it will be fun, he says, because CEOs are “competitive bastards who love to compete for business, accolades and all the accoutrements that come with success.”