WebMD Checkup: Jack La Lanne

Jack La Lanne, the godfather of fitness, tells us how he really feels about exercise, nutrition, and health in America today.

From the WebMD Archives

You had the first nationally syndicated exercise show on TV. What's been the biggest change in the U.S. attitude toward exercise since you became one of its first advocates?
I had the first, modern health spa in the world --- 1936, can you believe that? I was the first one to have women working out with weights. Now, everything is fitness. Still, there are more fat people in America than there's ever been in our history.

What's been the biggest change in nutrition?
I've been preaching this message about eating more fruits and vegetables and natural foods for 75 years. They used to call me a crackpot. Now the doctors are recommending it. It makes me feel so good. I feel like I've won a battle.

You are almost 92. What's your current fitness routine?
I get up at 5 a.m. and work out for two hours. I lift weights for an hour and a half and I spend another half hour in the pool. I never miss my workout. And I hate it.

Did Jack La Lanne really just say he hates working out?
Yes! But I like the results. You've got to use your mind and body every day. You've got to sacrifice. It's use it or lose it. Life is wonderful. Life is fantastic. Anything in life that's meaningful, you've got to work at it.

How is your health right now?
Couldn't be better. I keep my wife smiling occasionally. Not like I did when I was 21, but everything still works.

What's the best health advice you've ever gotten?
I attended a health lecture when I was 15. I'll never forget it. The gentleman speaking said, "Anything in life is possible if you make it happen. You can be born again if you start eating properly."

He got to me, boy. My eyes opened up. I was a full-blown sugarholic. That's why I dropped out of school for six months when I was 15. I was a trouble-maker. I was contemplating suicide. And when I quit eating sugar, my whole life changed. Boom! I started eating natural foods in their natural state. I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted the girls to like me. I wanted to have a nice body. I wanted to get rid of the headaches. And this man said I could do it.


What's your health philosophy?
I tell people living is a pain in the butt. Dying is easy. It's like an athletic event. You've got to train for it. You got to eat right. You got to exercise. You've got to have goals and challenges. Forget the good old days. What you do this moment controls the next moment. Your health account, your bank account, they're the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out.

What's your best health habit? Your worst?
My best is what I eat and the exercise. My worst is --- I don't have any.

What do you eat for breakfast every day?
I eat two meals a day. At my 11 a.m. meal, I have a bunch of fruit, three to four pieces. And I'll have four egg whites.

Would you get your dog up in the morning and give him a cup of coffee and a cigarette and a donut? Why, you'd kill the dog. You'd be amazed at how many people in America get up with a cup of coffee, a cigarette, and donut. And then they wonder why they're sick and tired. It's the wrong fuel for the human machine.

Do you take vitamins or supplements?
You kidding? I've been taking vitamins since I was 15 years old. I started juicing when I was 15. Have you seen my juicer commercial? That's one of the most successful things in the history of television.

Is it hard to go out to eat and follow your diet?
[My wife] Elaine and I eat out at a different restaurant every night of the year except Christmas and New Year's. I get there and I say, "I want 10 raw vegetables. I don't care what it costs." I don't tell my stomach I'm a poor man. I have a piece of fish, 3 or 4 ounces, and a salad. I bring my own soup because the soups in restaurants are terrible. And a banana or an apple. And maybe a glass of wine. I drink half red and half white zinfandel.


What's your favorite part of your body?
I have never liked any part of my body. Even when I was Mr. America and won all those contests. When you get satisfied, you give up. Keep the carrot in front of the horse.

What do you look for in a doctor?
I go for younger ones. They're all up to date with the new things.

What disease would you like to see eradicated in your lifetime?
Heart disease. That's one of the No. 1 killers. It comes from being f-a-t. F-a-tal. People need to make good food choices.

What is the solution for a fitter America?
It's in the schools. You've got to teach kids about nutrition, exercise and how it will make them more beautiful. You've got to teach it like everything else. What the hell good is all your money and education, if all you end up with is a Ph.D. and you're constipated, you've got no energy, your sex life is gone? The only important thing in life is your health and your body. Can you make love to your money?

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD
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