John Terilli was born in Italy and while he was still a young boy his family to Sydney, Australia. He was an over-weight child for most of his pre-teen life. While struggling to change himself he developed Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa at the age of only 11. However, he managed to turn this severe disorder around by the age of 12. He began following a far more sensible nutrition and exercise program, developed mainly from his own observations and experimentation.
John began bodybuilding after first seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger, his lifelong inspiration, on a magazine cover. His amateur career started at home - simply lifting bricks tied to each end of a broomstick handle.
By 1976, Terilli had developed a very impressive physique, mainly through his calisthenics training. He employed very little actual weight training in a gym. In that year he also entered his first bodybuilding competition, the Teen Mr. New South Wales, which he won. His success in the teen competition, and the caliber of his physique, saw people encourage him to enter the overall Mr. New South Wales competition, which was being held later that day. He won that category as well, becoming the youngest person ever to do so (which has yet to be equalled or bettered).
John began competing in other Australian contests which culminated in him winning the best in Australia in 1980 at the Sydney Opera House - on the same stage as his inspiration Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the 1980 Mr Olympia that night. In 1982, John won the Mr. Australasia title and the 1982 Amateur Mr. Universe title. In 1983, following his Mr. Universe win he decided to turn professional.
John placed fifth in the 1983 New York Night of Champions. Quite an achievement for a relatively unknown bodybuilder competing in a contest of that calibre. He then placed second to Lee Haney in the 1983 Caesar’s Palace Pro World Cup, losing by only one point. The audience attending the event expressed the consensus that John Terilli had won.
In 1985, John moved to the United States. In 1986 at the 1986 Professional World Bodybuilding Championships (now dubbed The Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic) he qualified for Mr Olympia. He also achieved the finals in the 1986 Mr Olympia competition.
Thereafter, John shifted his focus to experimentation with a variety of dieting, nutrition and training protocols. He worked with a team of medical practitioners at the St Luke’s Roosevelt Woman’s Hospital Obesity Centre in New York to study the effects of food on body composition and body fat levels, as well as ways to accurately measure body fat. He developed a keen sense of the way you should eat to maintain body fat levels and body composition. John returned to Australia in 1989 and kept working in this field and as a personal trainer until he opened gymnasiums in the Sydney Area in 1992. In Australia, he is now seen as a leading expert in gender specific biochemical effects on the endocrine and adrenal systems when dieting.
John continued to compete in professional bodybuilding contests and in 1993 he placed second in the Professional Mr. Universe. In 1994 he became the only Australian male to win the Professional Mr. Universe Title. Terilli retired from participation in bodybuilding competitions in the same year.
His passion for the media, and in particular film making, has led to numerous small roles in feature films, short films and television commercials. He has also been the cover model for numerous health and fitness publications internationally throughout his career.