“Oh ye of little faith” might be true for some. But for Health Hero Joseph Pecoraro, faith is the bedrock of his life. That’s because the 61-year-old Florida resident credits his Christian faith for helping him lose 123 pounds nearly 14 years ago. Joseph’s story began as a young boy in New Jersey growing up in an Italian family. For Joseph, food was associated with family, love, and feeling cared for. Over time, food began to occupy a large space in Joseph’s life—and eventually became an addictive habit.

Throughout those years, Joseph went to medical school in Tampa, went back to NJ to do his residency, and eventually became a vascular/general surgeon in Bradenton, FL. He also began participating in missionary work around the world. While on a trip, Joseph suggested to a colleague that they climb a volcano. The colleague gave Joseph a look that said, “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.” Joseph immediately realized it was because of the possible strain his weight could put on his body doing such a strenuous climb. At that time, Joseph was 5’6” and over 300 pounds.

That day, Joseph turned to his faith for the answer. Joseph recalls thinking that he was happy to die for his faith, but he didn’t want to die because of his relationship with food. And if Joseph was to do any more international travel, he knew he needed to face his addiction to food and get into a healthier mindset. Joseph’s help came in the form of his friend, Ron, who introduced him to the eating system that helped Joseph lose 123 pounds.

Now Joseph is giving the gift he received that day by working as a health and business coach for people seeking to improve their physical and financial fitness. His wife is also part of the family coaching business. Their philosophy is that conditioned ways of eating are simply a bad habit—so the trick lies in helping to replace an unhealthy habit with a healthy one. Cornerstones of the program include a structured eating plan, portion control, meal replacements, and drinking more water. Consistent coaching is also important, as it provides accountability, as is learning and implementing healthier eating habits in the long-term.

Just as Joseph’s clients rely on him to keep them accountable, Joseph also credits his clients with keeping him accountable. “Being an inspiration to others is of critical importance,” says Joseph. “Not just for our faith, but also for our health.” Joseph maintains his healthy lifestyle through good old-fashioned diet and exercise. “I love jogging and kayaking because it’s alone time with the water, manatees, and the beach. It’s a place where I can clear my mind. And it can be done in small cracks of time. Even if I only get 2 miles in, I can do it in 20 minutes or less.” In addition to Joseph’s workout routine, he also enjoys competing in endurance sports. Joseph ran the Disney marathon and completed an impressive 22 miles. He’s also completed four “fourteeners” — hikes on mountains exceeding 14,000 feet in elevation.

While Joseph’s clients certainly motivate him to stay healthy, his main motivation comes from his wife and children. “Family is of prime importance. Because my wife and I work as health and business coaches, we always make time for our health. Even though our children are grown, they know it’s important to us—they still recognize and respect that and have made better choices over the years as well.”

Joseph has 2 children, a son and a daughter, who also prioritize fitness. In fact, Joseph’s 25-year-old son recently hiked the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail — which usually takes 5-7 months to complete. Joseph, no stranger to elevation hikes, spent the first 3 days of his son’s hike with him, providing moral support.

“Health is our business and it’s also our lives. I find a lot of interesting statistics and facts in Health IQ’s quizzes,” Joseph explained. “I enjoy them. It’s a fast way to be able to get info on a variety of topics that’s up to date.”

When asked what his motivation motto is, Joseph quotes the English author and poet, James Allen: “Every great achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the human soul a waking angel stirs.”

“There’s so much more that people have inside them if they will give themselves a chance,” says Joseph. We at Health IQ thank you for taking that chance and that leap of faith for a better — and healthier — life.