Juan-Carlos Asse, owner of the Gainesville gym Zen Fitness and creator of the documentaries Unsupersize Me and Unsupersize Us, which picked up seven Import DOCS awards in February. (Photo courtesy Juan-Carlos Asse)

Gainesville Gym Owner Grabs Awards For Weight-Loss Doc


Juan-Carlos Asse directs and produces documentaries.

The Gainesville native’s latest, Unsupersize Us, has yet to be released to the public, but it is already award-winning.

In February, it received two awards of merit and five awards of recognition during the Import DOCS Awards competition.

Unsupersize Us is a follow-up to Asse’s first documentary, Unsupersize Me, which was released in 2013 and was featured on the streaming service Hulu for six months.

The documentaries show how Asse — who owns Zen Fitness on Southwest 76th Street in Gainesville — transforms people’s lives with exercise and a plant-based (vegan) diet.

“I want as many people to see my documentaries as possible,” the 40-year-old said. “People need to know that there is a way for everyone to feel and look good.”

Unsupersize Me star Tracy Ryan lost 200 pounds on Asse’s recommended diet and workout regime.

“My goal was to actually be happy rather than pretending to be,” said Ryan, who’s from Fort Myers but recently moved to North Carolina.

Meanwhile, Unsupersize Us features five participants, who each lost 20 to 30 pounds in a month. This one won’t be released until six months from now because Asse is showing it at independent film festivals.

Asse said his weight-loss strategies have people, like Ryan, “go from being miserable to feeling good.”

“The best part,” he said, “is that after a couple of months with me, people don’t need their medications anymore.”

Asse said his employees at Zen Fitness, like Alyssa Gonzalez, help him with his documentaries.

“Immersing myself into a life of fitness has not only helped me physically but mentally, as well,” said Gonzalez, who served as a trainer for the five participants in Unsupersize Us but has since left the gym.

Now, Asse is focused on planning for his third documentary, which will focus on the war on drugs and how nonviolent offenders serve long prison sentences. He doesn’t yet have a production timeline for this one.

U.S. laws are set up to fail and don’t have reward systems for getting off drugs, said Asse, who himself is familiar with the court and prison systems.

He served seven years in prison for selling drugs on the University of Florida’s campus while attending the school in the ‘90s.

“It’s hard for me to not get emotional about the subject,” Asse said.

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