Men Ahead of Their Time


I had the honor to have a few of my clients in my home Friday night. They were the top winners in my fitness contest earlier this year.  They were Carolyn Herren, Linda Herren, Barbara Hutchison and Kathy Sparks.  It was a great evening.  First they came to the gym and worked out with the Group Fitness class.  Then they came for a summer dinner of assorted salads with fresh strawberries for dessert.  Their reward included a health workshop.  During that workshop Carolyn Herren talked about her father, Luther Hendrix.  He was a man ahead of his time, and she attributes her healthy habits to him.  She has graciously granted me permission to use this story.

Growing up in the 1940’s her diet consisted primarily of vegetables and fruit.  Her Dad didn’t believe in eating meat because he thought it could lead to disease — they only had fresh chicken after church on Sundays.  He did believe in vitamins.  He didn’t believe in bread or other processed foods.  They did have fresh corn bread.  He was a cigarette and candy salesmen, but never smoked a day in his life.  His feelings about chemically processed foods mirror mine, but he was about 70+ years ahead of me.  I wish I had known him.

Another man ahead of his time is my favorite person in history, Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson too ate very little meat. Primarily he ate vegetables and used meat as a seasoning for those vegetables.  His healthy habits didn’t stop there.

He also strove to get at least 6 hours of sleep a night, but regardless of how long he slept, he was up at sunrise, started his own fire and washed his feet in cold water.

Jefferson’s frequent bathing was unusual for those times.  Most people hardly ever bathed and his friend Benjamin Franklin prefered the air-bath.

His favorite vegetables were cucumbers and peas

He did grow “tomatas” (the spelling in several of his garden journals and letters) in his garden and sell them at market. Many of the family recipes included tomatoes.

Jefferson drank 3-4 glasses of wine with dinner and at no other time.  Historians believe that colonists drank more spirits than any other time in history.  Jefferson believed wine stimulated conversation, but he considered himself a moderate man.

“…you are not to conclude I am a drinker. My measure is a perfectly sober one of 3 or 4 glasses at dinner, and not a drop at any other time. But as to those 3 or 4 glasses I am very fond.” (As cited in Garr, 1997)

He believed alcohol wasn’t good for the healthy developing minds of students at the University of Virginia.  So, in planning their meals had them drink coffee, milk or water. They also had very little meat and mostly vegetables and fruits.

Although his big cash crop was tobacco, he never smoked.

He was a 21st Century person with his high fiber diet, regular exercise, non-smoking habits and moderate drinking set him apart from the men of the 18th Century.   He wrote to one of his daughters when she was 15 years-old:

 “It is your future happiness that interests me, and nothing can contribute more to it than the contracting a habit of industry and activity. Of all the cankers [authors note: cancers] of human happiness none corrodes with so silent, yet so baneful a tooth, as indolence. Body and mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burthen, and every object about us loathsome, even the dearest. Idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochondria, and that a diseased body. Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends.”

His habits are what we know to be the foundation for a healthy lifestyle!  Luther Hendrix knew that too.  The spirit of health and fitness is marching through history and our bodies can lead us there.  Listen to your body when it says it doesn’t like processed, packaged, fast and cheap food!  The magazines tell you, your doctor tells you, even Dr. Oz tells you about how to eat and care for yourself.   If you won’t listen to them take a tip from Luther and Tom and start cleaning up your act.

Be Well!

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