From Tragedy to Fitness

A Chamblee personal trainer honors his mother’s legacy by getting fit and helping others

Jude Jean-Marie, owner and personal trainer of Energy Fitness Atlanta, grew up in Rahway, N.J., the youngest child of French Creole speaking Haitian immigrants. As a child, Jude was interested two things – church and sports.

After Jude’s father passed away, Jude’s mother moved to Georgia, and in 2013, Jude visited his mother and made Georgia his home. Jude recalls that his mother had supported him during many pivotal times in his life, including during a difficult heartbreak and a serious knee surgery. She was his help and comfort during his times of need. But tragically one evening in 2016 while visiting his mother, Jude watched as his mother suffered a heart attack. Despite doing all he could to save her, she died later that night in the hospital. After the loss of his mother, Jude fell into a deep depression and deep despair and found himself trying to eat his way through the darkness and grief. After gaining 30 pounds in 30 days, he’d had enough. He picked himself up and found health and fitness as a way to honor his mother and to help others in the community.

What happened after your mother’s heart attack?

I was just eating. I didn’t know I was an emotional eater. When people didn’t know what to say, they brought food. It was a nice gesture. But for me, I was consuming food for comfort, so they were enabling me without knowing it.

On my way to the store, I stopped at the gym where mom and I had memberships. With a burrito in hand, I went to the front desk to cancel her membership. When I went to leave, I felt paralyzed. There was a sign in the lobby for a 12-Week Challenge. I felt God telling me to do this challenge. So I finished my burrito and went back to the desk and said I’d like to join the challenge. They took a photo of me and I paid $40. Back in the car, I thought that if I can go the rest of my life without my mom, then I could do 12 weeks of exercising and eating clean for her. I did the challenge in her honor.

I started meal prepping, and I started working out. While exercising I looked like I was sweating, but tears were streaming from my eyes as I thought of my mom. I was working out, losing weight, and documenting my journey. By the end of 12 weeks, I’d lost 60 pounds, 23% body fat, and inches off my waist. It was a nationwide competition with 20,000 participants. I came in first place, and that’s where it all started for me.

How did you go from getting fit to becoming a personal trainer?

After growing up in church, helping religious organizations, and spending a lot of time praying, I realized I’ve learned about faith, family, finance, and fellowship at church, but I never learned anything about fitness. I wondered what the church body was doing about health and fitness. I started my company call BUFF – Believers United For Fitness. And it's my frustration that motivated the spark to open the training facility.

And how are you feeling after your transformation?

There’s a lot of purpose that can come out of pain. I’ve felt a new level of confidence. I’m also happy I can tell the story of my mom and her legacy. I want to revolutionize the fitness industry, and at Energy Fitness, we’re providing free life coaching with each membership because change is more than just physical change.

One of the hardest things you can do in the gym is a pull-up. And one of the hardest things to do in life is pull yourself up mentally. A workout lasts about 45 minutes and then you’re done. Most anyone can make it through a 45-minute workout. But there are certain struggles that last for 45 days, or 45 months, even 45 years that you’ve got to go through. What’s a 45 minute workout compared to that?

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“There’s a lot of purpose that can come out of pain.” Jude Jean-Marie

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