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Fitness guru Jack LaLanne still exercises two hours a day -- and has the taut biceps and 31-inch waist to prove it. At 89, LaLanne hasn't lost his passion for helping others trim down and shape up, either. On May 13, he spoke with Mark Hyman, BusinessWeek's contributing editor for sports business, on a wide range of topics, from his long-running TV show to healthy eating and the secrets of a long life. Following are excerpts:
On urging his TV fans off the couch and into his exercise routines:
I had one thing in my mind: to encourage people to put down whatever they were doing and help the most important person in the world -- you. Not your mother, not your wife or children, but you. You're the most important person in this world because without you, what good is anything else?
On why the TV exercises were done with common household items -- a chair, towel, and broomstick:
In those days, who the hell had weights at home?
On junk food and the celebrities who pitch it:
I'm so disappointed when I see famous athletes selling candy and hamburgers. What will kids do? They'll eat and drink what these famous athletes tell them to eat and drink. These athletes are selling their souls for millions of dollars. Then when Jack LaLanne comes along to explain the deleterious effects, kids look at you like you're nuts.
On fad diets:
There's so much bull out there. The average person throws up their hands in despair. It's ridiculous. The Atkins Diet says, "Don't mix this and that." The low-carbo diets say you can only eat so much of this or that. Where can you get a better food on this earth than an almond, a walnut, a pecan? Than wheat or barley in their entirety? If nature or God didn't want us to have these things, they wouldn't exist.
On his theory of diet:
If man makes it, don't eat it. It's that simple.
On his profession:
I'm a salesman. I sell people the truth about what life is all about.
On being kind to animals:
Would you get your dog up in the morning and give him a cigarette and a doughnut? You'd be killing the dog. So why do it to yourself!
On setting goals:
I always tell people, "Keep the carrot in front of the horse." Create new challenges. I've never been satisfied with the way I look or feel. I always want to be better.
On the Golden Years:
I don't think about dying. I can't control that. I think about living. Any stupid person can die.
On a possible stunt to celebrate his 90th birthday in September. (On his 70th birthday, LaLanne towed 70 boats with 70 people a distance of 1.5 miles):
I'm going to tow my wife across the bathtub.