Richard Simmons is Still Hungry
Richard Simmons knows all too well the struggles of weight gain and weight loss.
He was a chubby child growing up in New Orleans who was constantly picked on and tried to deflect the pain with humor and by obsessing over food. Growing older, he ballooned to 268 pounds and battled his weight problem with starvation, vomiting, laxatives, shakes, Weight Watchers and diet pills. He has lost 100 pounds on four different occasions.
But Simmons, who turns 62 in July, never gives up. He found his path to healthy living through daily exercise and has been singing the praises of fitness since 1973.
"My advice to people is to have hope, eat healthy, turn your weight around and keep up your self-esteem and your self-worth," Simmons says. "Don't be afraid. This is your life. You're not coming back as a poodle in Beverly Hills."
I met Simmons recently in Atlanta, where he teamed up with Jane Fonda for World Fitness Day. He turned out early on a Saturday morning in his trademark uniform--purple sequined tank top hanging over matching striped Dolphin running shorts--and zipped through the Georgia Dome singing, joking and kissing everyone in sight, even Congressman John Lewis.
When Simmons spied Fonda near his dressing room, he ran up to her singing Olivia Newton-John's "Let's Get Physical." Everyone laughed. Fonda smiled and said, "Do you ever rest?"
Simmons' reply: "Life is just a dress rehearsal!"
It's hard to believe, but Simmons is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his first "Sweatin' to the Oldies" video. This month, he releases "Sweatin' to the Oldies Vol. 5." He's appeared in 50 fitness videos that have sold more than 20 million copies and is the author of nine books, including his 1999 autobiography, Still Hungry--After All These Years. Since 1974, Simmons has owned the Slimmons fitness studio in Beverly Hills and still teaches there when he's in town.
Most days, Simmons is up at 4:30 a.m. and in his office by 5, ready to start reading the avalanche of e-mail waiting for him. The messages come from people dealing with many of the problems he's battled all his life."I go one by one on the e-mails," he says. "I reply to the e-mails and I call people."
Simmons says he sometimes talks with 100 people a day.
"They are obese, anorexic, bulimic. I sing to them. I laugh with them and most importantly, I help them make a plan," he says. "I call it 'people exercise.' There are so many different types of people with so many different types of issues. At Slimmons one day, I taught a class that had a 16-year-old and a 100-year-old person, so I know about issues, believe me."
He tells people: "We only have today. We don't have tomorrow. I've walked in their shoes. I'm still a compulsive eater. You have to love yourself, move your body and watch your portions."
Simmons travels 200 days a year. Many people still remember him from his General Hospital days (he was on GH for four years).
"If I didn't have exercise, I would be dead," he says. "Listen, I know how stressful life can be, what with people losing jobs and having to find something new to do. And the last thing you want to do is eat salad and lift your legs. My most important message is 'You have to give it one more try.'"