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.