My grandmother used to do her daily exercises in front of the television in the 60’s and 70’s, guided by Jack LaLanne during his morning show, the Jack La Lanne show. As a child I thought this was silly, but my grandmother wanted to lose weight and stay slim. This morning program helped her do it. She stayed fit and active into her later years and rarely took medication.
It is amazing to look back at excerpts of Jack Lalanne’s shows from the 1950’s and hear his views on nutrition. A lot of what he preached then is very similar to what is being advised now:1
– eat fresh fruit or drink juice from fresh squeezed fruit (don’t drink bottled juice)
– eat lots of vegetables, mainly raw, juiced or lightly cooked
– eat protein at breakfast
– make your own salad dresing with olive oil and lemon juice
– eat foods in their natural state, not processed
In a charming interview Lalanne conducts for Mother’s Day, his French-born mother mentions the demineralization of mass-produced agricultural products. The interview dates from the 1950’s! 2
He achieved many extraordinary feats of physical prowess, like swimming from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf handcuffed while towing a 1,000-pound boat at the age of 60. However, I didn’t realise until recently that Jack Lalanne was also an inventor: Several of the weight machines I used yesterday in my gym were his creations. Though his name is not on the machines, in 1936 and 1937 he invented the pull-down machine, the leg-extension machine and in the 1950’s the original model of the Smith machine.3
He also opened his first health club in 1936 in California where he promoted exercise, juicing and particularly weight-lifting – not only for men but also for women. This was unusual for the time. Doctors warned patients not to go to his club because they thought Lalanne was crazy and his exercises would provoke heart attacks. 4
He believed that it is not normal for humans to develop chronic disease and knew that “exercise and nutrition go hand in glove”. By paying attention to both “we’re going to assist nature.” 5
Some of Lalanne’s favorite sayings were:
“Nutrition is King, exercise is Queen, put them together and you have a Kingdom.”.
(Referring to the typical American breakfast at the time:) “Would you get your dog up in the morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a donut? No! You’d kill him!”
(Referring to unhealthy foods:) “10 Seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips.”
He reaped the rewards of practicing what he preached: During an interview with Jason Vale, the juicing expert, Jack LaLanne decided to do 90 push-ups. Why? Because the interview took place on Jack’s 90th birthday. He lived vibrantly, dispensing his health and fitness advice with conviction and humor until the age of 96.
Merci Mister Lalanne.
Have you ever heard of Jack Lalanne? Did any one in your family ever watch his show?
- YouTube: “Jack Lalanne – Talks about the best meal plan” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDq-9K9XmSQ
- YouTube: “Mother’s Day on the Jack Lalanne Show with Jack’s mother” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gNOLC1FAcy0
- Wikipedia, entry for Jack Lalanne
- James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, vol. 3, St. James Press (2000) pp. 81-83
- YouTube, The Jack Lalanne Show, “Changing for the Better.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzdj0WIhOo4