Jack LaLanne: More than a guy who sold juicers

Perhaps the universe has a touch of irony. After all, what are the odds that I happened to catch the episode of  the Gilmore Girls in which  Sookie and Lorelai have a brief debate on whether Jack LeLanne was dead or alive on the morning an NPR report informed me the 96-year old fitness guru died  from complications from pneumonia?

I laughed out loud. OK, maybe it was inappropriate. But it was just too weird.

When weird things like that happen, it usually means I need to go further in that direction, and so began a bit of self-education about Jack LaLanne. Because really, I only knew him as the crazy guy with too much energy on late-night TV trying to sell me on the power of juicing, and a juice machine in the process.

But that, it seems, was actually part of his charm and part of his success. Blog posts on his website not only offer bits of encouragement, but deals on his latest cookbook, just in time for the holidays. He seemed to be utterly comfortable with the sales pitch, unashamed to give you good advice and sell you a product at the same time. The salesmanship was not only for products but to sell his message — one that that at the time (oh, you 1950s mores!) seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

Eat right and exercise? Women should participate at his health clubs? The elderly and disabled can exercise despite their limitations?

Oh, Jack. You’re just crazy!

Seriously, this guy knew the score long before anyone else caught on.


The sad thing is, we still need to learn those lessons. Lack of exercise, empty calories and nervous tension? Still the lessons we’re trying to teach society at large. Doesn’t matter if you have a Jack LaLanne juicing machine or not. Taking steps to be healthy leads to happy and nobody seemed to get more joy out of life than LaLanne:

The only way you can hurt the body is not use it. Inactivity is the killer and, remember, it’s never too late.

We don’t know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we’d be bored, wouldn’t we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge.

I don’t care how old I live; I just want to be LIVING while I am living!

Granted, I would not fare well on the LaLanne lifestyle which, according to a piece by Richard Goldstein in the New York Times, included just two meals a day and no coffee (gasp!) but he loved life, loved being active and loved helping others in their own health quests.

That energy and passion of his? That’s something I’d buy any day.

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