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Eileen LaLanne says her life can be divided into two acts: before Jack and after Jack.
Jack, of course, is Jack LaLanneHer late husband whose TV show was The Jack LaLanne Show (1951-1985) helped redefine America’s approach to health, fitness, and nutrition.
Aside from promoting what is now known as jumping and opening the country’s first modern health club in Oakland, California, in 1936, Jack was also Inventor of many staple foods – Including the world’s first leg extension machine, weight setting machine and cable/pulley machines – plus the first nutrition bars and “Instant Breakfast”.
Through it all, Elaine has been his silent business partner—and wife, of 51 years, before Jack passed away in 2011 at the age of 96. Their illustrious career has earned them the titles “Godfather” and “First Lady” of fitness.
“My life is an open book,” Elaine, 96, tells Yahoo Life in a video interview from her home office, where stacks of Jack’s old photos and diary notes lie on her desk. “Research,” she says, which she is putting together for an upcoming book about her late husband’s early life in television.
Reading his old diary entries was instructive, Elaine says, and in many ways reminded her of the reasons she fell in love with him in the first place.
“You inspired me again,” she explains. “If you knew Jack, you wouldn’t be around him and you wouldn’t be so inspired. He was funny. He was short.” [spoken]. And it made a lot of sense. I was like, “I want to extract all that stuff in this brain.” Of all my books I’ve ever written – I’ve written seven – guess who I went to? I asked him about this. I was asking him about it. I learned a lot from him. But he also learned a lot from me.”
The Jack LaLanne Show It was a local daily aerobics program in San Francisco when it debuted in 1951. Eventually, the program grew to national syndication and ran for more than 30 years, during which time the couple—along with their dogs, Happy and Lucky—challenged viewers to think differently in their eating habits.
When it first aired, Ellen said most critics called the duo “crazy to health”.
She explains about the nutritional education that Jack gave viewers, especially about refined sugars (This was not the case that amazing For you), butter (same theory) and the idea of eating naturally sourced ingredients. While these ideas are very common today, it was a hard lesson for American viewers to swallow at the time, since most home diets consisted of “mashed potatoes and gravy” and “butter sticking on everything,” she says.
“That’s exactly what we ate in those days,” Elaine points out about the American diet of the late 1930s and 1940s. A lot of people would make fun of him in the papers, you know, he was a ‘criminal on TV.’ But he had a way about him, and more and more people would listen.
She references his message: “I remember saying, ‘That makes a lot of sense.’” He can put it in a way, in a simple way. See, Jack was a very simple person. He wanted to keep everything simple. He wanted to make the exercise simple. He didn’t want to make it complicated. That’s just the way it was.”
“It’s amazing what Jack can do,” adds Elaine, who worked in television before meeting her husband, noting that her team dubbed him “One Take Jack,” for his ability to come up with a last-minute spot on live television at any time. I asked him to stop.
They were saying, “Give us 10 seconds of pitch to the station.” Whatever the station was, in Cincinnati or New York or whatever, they always wanted him to make a little spot because he already knows that in his brain.”
As his partner in life and business, Elaine helped implement many of his artistic visions, which, earlier this month, earned her and her late husband (and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who sparked the aerobic fitness movement) a 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
However, though their success was in many ways a joint effort, Elaine says she never cared about being second to her amiable husband.
“Since I was a little girl, I haven’t needed accolades. All I want to do is help people,” she says, noting that “helping people help themselves” was a common mission.
In the present, Elaine carries Jack’s mission forward, using her own experience to speak about health, well-being, and longevity. It comes down to one basic principle, she argues: “Keep it simple.”
“Jack was once asked a question about exercise: ‘Do you really like to exercise, Jack?'” He said, “Well, I don’t know, but I love the results,” she says. “If you go to the gym, think about the results you’re going to get, because if you stick to it you’ll get the results. And you’ll live longer, I guess, because here I am today at about 97. I know full well that I’d be six feet under if I wasn’t so attentive to my body. It is, as he says, “the temple of the living God.” You don’t treat your car like you treat your body, do you? You don’t put water in your tank. “
“I just try to do the best I can with the equipment I have,” she adds. “Jack was a great motivator. He talked about how you can stay motivated, dare to dream and overcome obstacles, how your attitudes influence your life and how they change your life.”
Elaine continues, “A mind is a mind. It’s full of diamonds, and all you have to do is dig them up.”
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