Monday, October 21, 2002

Simmons exercises proven judgment

While outrageous behavior gets people's attention, methods get results

By Llee Sivitz
Enquirer contributor

Richard Simmons is a fitness paradox. Known for his outrageous exercise outfits and court jester demeanor, his fitness advice is surprisingly down-to-earth and mainstream.

In the last 25 years, Mr. Simmons, 54,has released 30 fitness videos, authored 12 books (including three cookbooks and an autobiography), and sold 27 million of his fitness products.

He tours 300 days a year, hosts seven-day "Cruise to Lose" trips on Carnival Cruise Lines and has appeared on numerous TV talk shows and infomercials (even his own The Richard Simmons Show).

• What: Richard Simmons at Warm 98 Women's Home and Health Expo.
• When: 1-3 p.m. Saturday. During that time, he will exercise with the audience, speak and sign autographs.
• Where: Centre Court at Forest Fair Mall.
• Information: 671-2929.
Saturday, Mr. Simmons will exercise, talk and sign autographs during the Women's Home and Health Expo at Forest Fair Mall. His appearance will be 1-3 p.m. at Center Court.

Last week, we spoke with Mr. Simmons from his office in Los Angeles.

Question: I read that your fitness journey began with your own weight problem.

Answer: I'm a compulsive eater. I grew up in New Orleans. Have you been? Everything is fried. When my mother took me to the aquarium and I saw the fish, I didn't understand and said to her, "Where's the batter?" I weighed 200 pounds in the eighth grade, and 268 pounds in high school.

Q: How did you overcome your problem?

A: When I was 14, I took 30 laxatives a day, thinking that was the answer. Then I tried starvation. I lost 123 pounds and ended up half dead in the hospital. I got some nutrition books from the library and created (two weight loss programs) called "Deal-A-Meal" and "FoodMover." It really made me understand food and nutrition for myself, and then in 1972 I opened my own studio and began teaching other people.

Q: Do you still struggle with your weight?

A: I'm very much in control now. Whether I'm talking to someone in the airport, calling 50 overweight people a day who have written me, or sending e-mails on my Web site ( ), I have to be perfectly honest with how I am doing. (At 5-foot-6) I'm 148 pounds and I stay this way by eating 1,800 calories a day, just 30 grams of fat, and exercising six days a week.

Q: Have you ever been to Cincinnati?

A: Yes, and every time I do, my thighs quiver. All those chili parlors, three ways, 10 ways . . . And conies, I dream of them, they call my name. I won't partake, but I'll smell them and smile. I've had them before.

Q: You still teach aerobics at your studio, Slimmons, in Beverly Hills. How are your aerobic classes different?

A: My routines are silly and fun, with great music. I use real people in my videos, which I can hardly say for anyone else. You see someone dancing (in my videos), she looks great and then you see she has lost 156 pounds. That's very inspirational. Plus, there is no one like me.

Q: Some people find you eccentric or even over the top.

A: Oh, I totally am. If I was boring or quiet, people would never come to that mall or buy millions of my videos or listen to my message. I think humor is a very important quality that not a lot of people have.

Q: I've heard some other fitness experts don't take you seriously.

A: I don't think that's true. Kathy Smith, Denise Austin, Jane Fonda . . . a lot of fitness instructors walk up to me (I'm a certified instructor with the American Fitness Association ) and say, "You've been my role model. I think what you've done in this country is something to be proud of and I've learned a lot from you."

Q: Who is your target audience?

A: The largest audience in the U.S. It's not fashionable to work out with overweight people, the physically challenged or the silver foxes (over 55). I work with them. But in my classes I also have actresses, models, even kids from high school.

Q: Is there anything that you dream to do?

A: Exercise videos for children. This is my next project. Great music, real kids of all shapes and sizes.

Q: Do you have a message for Greater Cincinnatians?

A: Please love yourself more than you love food. Winter is coming and everyone will use 50 million excuses. Cincinnatians, your excuse card is full. Make the time to walk in a mall, go to a gym, or go to a track inside a school. Be a good example to your family.

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