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Stand Up, Sit Down: Jack LaLanne’s Nutritional Legacy

Jack LaLanne, televisions first fitness guru, moved on to that 24-hour gym in the sky just last month. No matter whether you idolized him, dismissed him, or derisively laughed at his utter kookiness, LaLanne made a profound impact on the concept of modern fitness. With his long-running fitness and exercise show (starting in 1951) and his innate showmanship, LaLanne became a weekday TV phenomenon (primarily for women) and begged, prodded, and urged America to get moving and shed pounds and numerous bad habits.

While he remains largely known for his adherence to, and enthusiasm for, physical exercise, LaLanne was equally as emphatic about nutrition and eating right. LaLanne liked to say, “Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together, and you’ve got a kingdom.” In his youth, LaLanne was a professed “sugar addict” and “troubled.” When he was 15 he had an almost religious revelation surrounding health and nutrition, and he made it his personal mission to disabuse Americans of the notion that a body was built from “cigarettes and coffees and cakes and pies and donuts and French fries,” to wean them from “foods that have been demineralized” and steer them toward the fresh fruits and vegetables that would restore “a youthful tonicity” to their prematurely desiccated flesh. Most famously he did this through the aggressive selling of his Jack LaLanne Power Juicer, which he professed was the most successful thing ever marketed on television and turned just about anything into a healthy juice drink (LaLanne’s favorite was carrot and celery juice).

Jack LaLanne’s Sample Menu

While many people found LaLanne’s approach to be grating or laughable with his persistent enthusiasm and his one-piece jumpsuit zipped open halfway down his chest, the undeniable fact is that he was, not only a television pioneer, but also a nutrition pioneer. During the 1950s, when LaLanne got his start, his perspective on health and nutrition was not met with universal acclaim. “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” LaLanne remembered. “The doctors were against me — they said that working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they would lose their sex drive.” Many health and nutrition gurus followed Jack with elaborations on his approach (think Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, etc) but none quite reached that iconic realm of health guru that LaLanne attained.

Related:
The Healing Power of Fresh Juice
Do TV Fitness Gadgets Work?
Home Fitness on a Budget

Read more: Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Fitness, Following Food, Food, Health, Raw, Women's Health, , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

38 comments

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1:02AM PDT on Aug 20, 2011

Thanks for the article.

1:30PM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

In the Far East they don't exploit the innocence of youth to mass market the purchase of sugary sodas, candy, and donuts. They teach them Okinawa nutrition, nutrition which will if followed result in a centegenarian, a 100 year old Oriental male or female.

5:08PM PDT on Mar 16, 2011

Thanks, I'd almost forgotten about him. It's like remembering a friend.

1:45PM PST on Feb 20, 2011

thanx for sharing

12:11PM PST on Feb 13, 2011

Love Jack. He went from a human garbage can to a Kingdom.
They could still play his shows and they would still be timely.
Bless you Mr. La Lanne and thank you for all you gave us.

6:48PM PST on Feb 11, 2011

I remember him...He was great. I used to exercise with him.

8:54PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

I remember my mom working out with him. He never "let himself go" that's for sure.

11:02PM PST on Feb 9, 2011

When Jack passed away at 96, he was still an incredibly strong and vibrant man. He could still do push-ups on his fingertips! I am so appreciative for his courage to live his beliefs.
It's hard to imagine that in the 50's, NOBODY ate salads. So his menu was very revolutionary. I remember my Mum would say she adored him and loved his exercises but just couldn't eat "rabbit food".
Thanks, Jack.

8:44PM PST on Feb 9, 2011

'bout time I took out the juicer!

8:13AM PST on Feb 9, 2011

I loved to watch Jack Lalanne with all of his energy! He was more full of life than most young people you see today. He was and is still an inspiration to me!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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