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Breakfast with Jack LaLanne

Published August 28. 2010 09:00AM

I've been on a walking kick to lose weight.

It seems to be working. It'd work much better if I'd stay away from fruit pies, but treats are important. Walking is good for the health, but too much of a good thing becomes bad. When I tried walking 10 miles, I developed blisters on my feet. So I came to the conclusion that too much exercise isn't a good thing. Or course, too much pie isn't a good thing either.

And so I've learned to balance walking with eating pie. I've developed my own system of rewards. Each person needs to figure out what works best.

Which brings me to my breakfast with Jack LaLanne and his wife Elaine.

When I worked at Blue Cross and Blue Shield, I was responsible for inviting health-oriented figures to the Poconos to speak at a once-a-year health care conference. It was a fun job. One year, Richard Simmons came and showed us how to exercise to music.

Another time, I phoned Dr. Jonas Salk. It was a special treat to talk with him. He was a legend, famous for his Salk polio vaccine. But he was too ill to travel and declined the invitation to Pennsylvania.

Instead, I was able to arrange a visit by fitness guru Jack LaLanne. It was a thrill to meet the original exercise fanatic, a man whose television show premiered before I was born.

We met for breakfast at the Woodlands Inn and Resort in Wilkes-Barre, site of the conference.

Jack LaLanne impressed me from the start. He is a pleasant, interesting character. I was surprised by his small stature. I'm short at 5'7" but he's even shorter. He appears much larger on television. But he has a solid build and is seriously devoted to living a healthful lifestyle.

When it came time to place our order, I asked for eggs and sausage. He ordered cantaloupe.

LaLanne's philosophy is to treat the body like a temple. He's an inspiration, even if he takes fitness to an extreme.

He doesn't eat meat. And he shuns processed and prepared foods. He says we need to eat things in the same form they grow in the ground. Sounds good. I'm looking for a farm that grows sticky buns.

"If man made it, don't eat it," says LaLanne.

He's also known for another motto: "If it tastes good, spit it out."

I don't agree with that philosophy. It might be healthy to live that way, but it reduces the quality of life.

Food should taste good and be enjoyed. Still, Jack LaLanne's lifestyle is paying big dividends for him.

Today, he's 96 years old and in good health, although he recently underwent heart valve replacement surgery.

He still advocates healthy living. He makes money hawking some kind of blender or juicer that pulverizes all things natural. It purees broccoli into a health cocktail. Thanks but no thanks. I'd rather have a White Russian.

I can eat broccoli but it isn't my favorite food. If I had a choice between broccoli or ice cream, it'd be an easy decision.

LaLanne says the key to eating healthy is to shop for bright colored foods a key to good nutrition. When I go to the food store, the brightest things I see are cheese curls. So I always make sure to buy a bag or two.

And I won't put myself through a guilt trip for doing it.

After all, if God wanted us to be skinny, He wouldn't have given us cheesecake.

I'm able to lose weight by walking a few miles, and so I'm not planning to give up cheese curls.

And I won't put them into a blender with broccoli.

Jack LaLanne might know a thing or two about nutrition.

But I've figured out what tastes good. It's as easy as pie.

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