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The Inspiring Life of Jack LaLanne

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant One of America’s enduring cultural icons is dead, at 96. Jack LaLanne, who preached the virtues and values of working out long before it was fashionable, has checked out, to the rhythm of Diana Ross’ jump-up classic, “I want muscles!” (Released, 1983.) Born the of son of poor French immigrants,LaLanne was noted, first of all, as a sickly sugar addict with a prodigious sweet tooth. He just couldn’t get enough pop, cakes, candy, each one more destructive to his health and well-being than the last. But for fate at the hands of pioneering nutritionist Paul Bragg, LaLanne’s might have turned into the garden variety tragedy: diabetes, its complications, debility, death. However, fate — and Bragg — intervened. Bragg, like all nutritionists, was a person on a mission. When overweight, pimply LaLanne showed up in Bragg’s dressing room following the master’s standard program on the necessity for a nutritional wake-up call, Bragg slammed Lalanne with the tough love approach: “Jack,” said his new guru, “you’re a walking garbage can.” So he was…. but LaLanne wanted more than sugar. Bragg , like all evangelists, knew that here was a man who was Ready to grasp his message — and life itself. Sugar babies were out, the benefits of brown rice, whole wheat, and a vegetarian diet were in. LaLanne got the old time religion and never looked back. This diet, now almost universally regarded as beneficial, in those days immediately established LaLanne as a kook. Right from the get-go LaLanne knew that people needed a supportive environment, fellow travelers to help you stay focused. LaLanne’s first attempt to create this environment was a makeshift backyard gym and exercise “facility.” In short order he had a bevy of fire and policemen pumping iron. It was a beginning, just. But it was what this quintessential “get going and do it.” guy with the mega watt smile needed… a platform. Piddly though it was it was all his… and he ran with it. He got what most zealots get… the back hand of the establishment. He was written off as a crackpot, a menace delivering hemorrhoids, male impotence, and women who looked like — men. Things looked grim… but LaLanne was nothing if not focused. What’s more he had the ultimate support center, his wife of 51 years, Elaine. In a statement she wrote, “I have not only lost my husband and a great American icon, but the best friend and most loving partner anyone could ever hope for.” We should all be so lucky. In 1936, in his native Oakland, California he made his move; he opened a health studio that included weight training for women and athletes. Now think for a minute. In those days of yore, there was not a fitness center on every corner; there was not a universal obsession with looking good and working out; there wasn’t a president of these United States whose workout sessions were covered by the media… and who had a supportive First Lady, adamant in her work against couch potatoes and obesity. There was hardly anything of this kind at all… but there was Jack LaLanne. It was enough. And, with the tireless energy that defines all evangelists, he got up and boogied. He did it for himself, of course, but he also did it for America. Over 50 years ago, LaLanne on his ground-breaking television program made it clear what he was doing, and why. His message was important, stern, even grim, the message of a man who had thought long and hard about a subject of the greatest importance. He walked over to the American flag, proudly displayed, not merely a prop… and he spoke deeply, sincerely. He said it was the “tremendous thought, the sacrifice, the lives lost, the toil, the fitness that went into” that flag. “But now,” he continued, aroused, unstoppable, “that we have too much of everything in this great land of ours, too many things are being done for us, we have become soft mentally and physically.” LaLanne’s solution… nutrition, diet, exercise… the tried and true formula of the ancient Greeks, though LaLanne may not have known it as such: mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body. However, to leave this summary of LaLanne’s achievements on this grave note would be wrong. For it would leave out insightful details on LaLanne the indefatigable showman and pitchman; the man, mischievous and laughter-loving, who would do Anything, go Anywhere to draw attention to the core beliefs of his life. Remember, then, at age 43 in 1957, he performed more than 1000 push-ups on television on the “You Asked For it” television program. America watched… and lapped it up. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. He was handcuffed, shackled, towing a boat. Ten years later, a peppy 70, he repeated this feat in Long Beach harbor; the better because he was older — and still fit. It was all in a day’s work for LaLanne, who by now got the deference and respect due to a Founding Father of America’s now obsessive focus on the verities LaLanne had devoted his life to promoting. Now gone, LaLanne’s optimistic, empowering message lives on because we need it so very much, now more than ever. To LaLanne’s irritation and alarm came horrifying statistics about obesity, the lack of proper nutrition in the schools, the lack, indeed, of even basic recess for children who are thereby condemned to disability and death by open mouth, insert poison. In 1985, there was no US state above 14 percent in obesity. Today, nine states are 30 percent obese, or more. Only Colorado and the District of Columbia are under 20 percent, but just barely. It is a national disgrace, and no one knew it better than LaLanne who knew that God shed his grace on we… who needed too shed excess pounds and poor habits, too. Still, LaLanne was never a scold, though his soap box always traveled with him. He had too much faith in America specifically and in people generally for that. And so, even unto the end, he could smile, he could laugh, as when he said “I can’t afford to die. It would wreck my image.” The man had nothing to worry about. But the rest of us, giving lip service but little more to nutrition, exercise, and diet, most assuredly do.

About The Author 

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Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., where small and home-based businesses learn how to profit online. Dr. Lant is also the author of 18 best-selling business books. Republished with author’s permission by Howard Martell <a href=”http://HomeProfitCoach.com”>http://HomeProfitCoach.com</a>. Check out Push Button Cash Site ->  http://www.HomeProfitCoach.com/?rd=ph916MMm

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