At age 40 – swam the entire 8,981-foot (1.7 miles) length of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco (under water) with 140 lb of air tanks and other equipment strapped to his body – which became a world record.
At age 41 – swam from Alcatraz island to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco while handcuffed. When interviewed afterwards he was quoted as saying that the worst thing about the ordeal was being handcuffed, which significantly reduced his chance to do a jumping jack (crazy!)
At age 42 – set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on a television show called You Asked For It
At age 70 (!) – handcuffed, shackled, he towed 70 rowboats, one with several guests, from the Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary – 1 mile.
Let’s be honest… not many people are setting world records in fitness after 40, or after 70.
And that’s impressive and all – but what I’m most amazed about was the quality of jack’s life – the levels of his wellness until he died in his late 90’s.
Here are a few of those habits and principles.
Some Keys to the Jack Lalanne Diet and Meal Plan
#1 – If Man Made it, Don’t Eat It
A big tenet that Jack preached was the following:
“If man made it, don’t eat it.”
It’s ironic and funny just how true this little saying actually is.
Jack was fond of typically only eating food he cooked or food whose ingredients he was familiar with. He famously would go out to the same restaurants with his wife and be explicit to the waiter and chef about what to make – no added butter, salt, etc. He was meticulous regarding what he put in his body.
(Note: you can still be healthy while eating out! He said they eat out almost every night).
The biggest rule for him was avoiding anything man-made, which includes boxed stuff that typically has loads of preservatives & added sodium, but also tends to be low on the satiety index – so you can eat more, without feeling as full.
#2 – Jack Lalanne’s Workout Theory: The Body Doesn’t Grow Old From Overuse – It Grows Old From Lack of Use
Another concept that Jack preached was that we don’t get old, frail and weak from using our body improperly or using it too much – but overwhelmingly because we don’t use it enough.
Chiropractors and personal trainers know this very well – sure there are people that have back pain or knee pain from overuse (e.g. trying that P90x routine when you haven’t worked out in the past 5 years), but overwhelmingly, lack of use is the bigger problem when it comes to chronic pain, stiffness, and premature aging.
Lack of use can lead to stiffness, lack of flexibility, muscular imbalances, and more. And ultimately, these lead us down the road to pain.
And for the weekend warriors among use, who are rocking out at their desks & computers 40-60 hours a week, and then trying to aggressively do some kind of sport on the weekend, injury is usually guaranteed. Jack worked out two hours a day, every day, even on vacation.
#3 Eat Primarily Meats & Veggies
He also emphasized a mostly meat and vegetable diet throughout his life, and typically ate meat at each meal with eggs, and then plenty of fruits in the morning and then vegetables at night.
At one point, he was vegetarian for six years, but eventually found himself in a soft middle ground between being a meat eater and a vegetarian.
When he spoke on TV, here was the “meal plan” he typically recommended:
“He recommended the following meal plan; Breakfast: fruit, eggs and/or meat, and whole wheat toast . Lunch: Big salad, and meat/fish. Dinner: Big salad, two vegetables, meat/fowl, and fruit.”
Similarly, what I recommend here when it comes to real food (like in the awesome real food experiment I did here), is making high protein and veggies the emphasis of your meals, and then adjusting the carb ratios based on your lifestyle, activities, goals, and how awesome you are.
#4 Understand The Power of Daily Habits
Jack would start his routine at 4 am – and then workout for two hours, typically doing an hour of weights, and an hour of swimming in his pool. He did this because he said it made it hard for him to have excuses later in the day – something we talk about a lot here.
He also had the habit of having 10 raw vegetables per day and 5-6 pieces of fruit.
Key nutritional habits included:
Two meals a day
Emphasizing protein & veggies at each meal
When they would eat out for dinner (daily), he made himself a regular at certain spots so they knew how to adjust food for him – no butter, brown rice instead of white, etc.
In other words he knew that without a doubt, the best way to actually get anything done for your health was to anchor it in as a habit, do it at the same time each day, and set up routines (including if you eat out) that made it easy to be successful without relying on discipline.
#5 “Sugar Is Worse Than Smoking”
“There’s nothing more addictive on this earth than sugar. Not heroin, booze, whatever. It’s much worse than smoking.”
When he was young, he was a massive sugarholic which he blamed many of his health conditions on, including his childhood rage (involving setting his house on fire).
“As a kid,” he flatly states, “I was a sugarholic and a junk food junkie! It made me weak and it made me mean. It made me so sick I had boils, pimples and suffered from nearsightedness. Little girls used to beat me up. My mom prayed… the Church prayed.” (Video)
We’ve talked endlessly about how sugar disrupts your body’s satiety hormones, how it’s almost as addictive as cocaine in rats, and how it’s pretty much the worst thing we can eat (but it tastes oh soooo good).
It wasn’t until a talk at age 15 by nutritionist Paul Bragg that he decided to change and do something different.
#6 Dying is Easy – Truly Living Can be a Pain in the Butt
Something he once said that I 100% agree with was the following:
“Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the butt. It’s like an athletic event. You’ve got to train for it. You’ve got to eat right. You’ve got to exercise. Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen: together, you have a kingdom.”
I loved this. I spend so much time talking here about how at the end of the day, we just want a damn good life – and that includes looking and feeling awesome, because those are sometimes significant barriers to living the life we want.
One thing that amazed me about Jack was that as he got older, he frequently got better- including physically! Some of his most amazing physical feats that he performed were when he was 40, 50, or even 70.
And it all comes back to that one big lesson: Life never ends. And as long as we’re alive, we have to be constantly improving. We have to be constantly growing – and growth is often where we feel like life is fulfilling.
When we talk about why being healthy and losing weight is so hard, it’s really because it’s all a process – it doesn’t end. If we view it as a phase like “getting healthy for the beach” we’re never going to continue with the habits, discipline, and consistency needed to really make it happen in our own lives.
It’s just like a quote I heard recently, “Life is easy. Living is hard. Really, truly living is hard. Having a dream and going after it day after day despite setbacks and failures is hard. Coasting by and just existing is easy.”
Are you coasting or growing?
#7 A Few Nutritional Principles: No Dairy, No Coffee, 10 Raw Vegetables and 5 Fruits a Day
When asked about dairy, Jack once responded:
“It’s not good for you. It’s good for a suckling calf. Are you a suckling calf?”
This is was hilarious, so I had to post it anyway 🙂 I’m on the fence about dairy, for example this study showed that if they had to give foods a score based on whether the long term consumption was linked to weight gain, weight loss, or weight “neutrality” – dairy tends to fall in the neutral or positive space.
Meaning it wasn’t really strongly associated with weight gain over the long run, or was slightly associated with weight loss. So I wouldn’t necessarily be afraid of it unless you’ve got a chronic condition that won’t heal.
Personally, I avoid dairy because I have a history of G.I. problems (“IBS”), and you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with me if I drank a cup of milk. Simple as that.
What I love about Jack was not only the phenomenal shape he was in even as he aged (walking his talk seven days a week), but also the quality of his life – eventually dying of a peaceful, natural death in his late 90s.
This is something we can all aspire to.
How to Get Fit and Toned Like Jack Lalanne
If you want to focus on fast weight loss (that’s healthy) without counting calories, I would recommend changing little habits (not dieting).