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Leslie Sansone Interview

with Randy Robison

Randy Robison of LIFE Today recently spoke at length with fitness instructor Leslie Sansone. Leslie’s best-selling Walk Away the Pounds videos have sold more than 4.5 million units.  She is the #1 selling name in fitness videos, and the #1 fitness personality on QVC.  Her videos have held the top spots on the Billboard, Amazon, and Nielsen Video scan charts for the past two years. Leslie developed In-Home Walking 25 years ago, an idea that became the fastest-growing indoor fitness program in the country.  She now offers more than 60 In-Home Walking videos and accessory products.


Her first book, entitled, Walk Away The Pounds: The Breakthrough 6-Week Program That Helps You Burn Fat, Tone Muscle, and Feel Great Without Dieting, is scheduled for release in January, 2005. It features principles, exercises, and recipes for healthy living, in tune with Leslie’s non-intimidating, positive spirit. 



Randy: As a nation, how critical are the issues of health, weight and exercise?


Leslie: We're at a time where you just can't avoid it. We're in a serious situation about our health and it's the modern world that has so many great things about it. These are the repercussions of all of our advancements and all of the wonderful things; information can come to us in a second. But we have the tools to get back on track and do the right thing. It's just making people aware of these tools.


Randy: Do you travel and speak quite a bit?


Leslie: I do, I do. One of my favorite things to do is to spread the good news. I always think of the great, firm faith that I have that I think we're so lucky and I feel so blessed to be in a business that is very positive, giving people hope to say, “Come on, I want to feel good every day physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and do my best every single day.”


I know some of my business looks really heavy on this weight loss issue, but it is so much deeper for me. I would never be so motivated to stay in this business for 25 years if it was so shallow as just weight loss. But, it isn't shallow to be concerned about the fact that we have a real problem here.  Our weight is sneaking up on us daily and we have to do something about it. We can't be ashamed or think we were bad or we did something wrong. There are so many variables as to why a lot of us are carrying way too much weight and we're just unhealthy.


Randy: How widespread do you think it is especially in the church?

Leslie: I do think sometimes in the church, Randy, people feel like it is so superficial or wrong to take care of your physical self or spend time on the way we look.  But I think it is a very healthy brain that says, “I care about this body God gave me, it is the only temple I have to house my Spirit.”  It is very healthy to think, “I care about how I look today. I want to put my best foot forward.”


To dwell on that and be excessive about that is not the right thing.  But in balance, to be taking care of yourself in all ways is the right thing.




Randy: Where do you come down on the whole diet -- I don't mean drop five pounds and go back to your old ways, but the overall eating habits of people?


Leslie: I was just doing a little piece for my web site about the low carb craze and I love to address the hot topics of the day. I love when anything brings dialogue. If it has people talking I just love these modern subjects, whatever the contemporary buzz is. The low carb thing especially, is really giving people a lot of talk.  They're interested, they want to hear about it.


Too bad, again, a lot of people don't dig deep enough to get the real facts. They just go into the stores and buy a package that says "low carb" and they think it's going to make a difference for them. But it will never make the difference.


The key to all of life is that we need to be, first of all, focused on the food God gave us – the foods of the earth, vegetables and fruits and things that really are the medicine foods, the miracle foods. If we incorporate those into our diet first, then we make everything secondary, like the protein and the fats and even the sweets and things that we still love to enjoy, that is the way to go.


So you have the foundation of your diet is about fresh, plant-based food. Then from there we have to say, “What makes it a balanced diet that will give me the highest nutrient to fuel my body?  Because I want to perform at high levels all my life. I don't want to be another statistic of disease and overweight and all of the diseases that come because simply we gained weight.”


I think that is the biggest issue of all that much of our diseases are simply because we gained weight.  And if people would hear it that way, if the doctors would be a little more proactive about saying, “Your medicine on Monday is to go walk for three miles.  On Tuesday you have to lift some weights.”


If a doctor is very precise, we found through some studies of our fitness industry, people are more likely to listen to exactly what the doctor says. But if the doctor says, “Just go exercise,” it's too vague. People just don't get it, don't know what to do and don't have a prescription. But of all the people who can influence the physical body the most is our own doctor.  And if he or she would get into specifics we could really make a dent in some of this business of obesity.


Natural Foods


Randy: How do you feel about some of the products out there right now that focus on eating not just fruits and vegetables, but staying away from fruits and vegetables that may have pesticides.  Or staying away from meats that have hormones and not eating meats that are not approved by Levitical law, like pork and shrimp?

Leslie: Sure, organics is a big move and things like that. Don't you wish we could live in this bubble and keep everything bad out! We know that is not possible. When I have a choice, I do make the choice for my children and my family of organic fruit or pesticide-free vegetables.  And when I know it is the mainstream grocery store and I'm walking in it and buying my greens and veggies, you know you just have faith that you're doing good things. There are a whole lot of nutrients, no matter what, to a grown food, a fresh food, even if you have to spend a little time taking those pesticides off and rinsing and things like that. I agree, those toxins are getting in our bodies, but remember, we can counterbalance that with really high nutrition; that's our food.  I do believe in supplementation, too, so I love a little dose of a multivitamin. I don't like mega doses of anything; there are just too many studies that prove we should all be on low dosage of a mild multivitamin.




Randy: Now to the exercise, which I think is where people might recognize your name more.  How important is exercise?


Leslie: Oh, dear, isn't it everything! You know I picture God is heaven with those beautiful endorphins. One of the biggest gifts God gave us was this gorgeous feeling of not only empowerment, but also coping and peace that exercise brings us.  And no drug, no pill, nothing takes the place of what our natural body produces when we are in motion because God's design for muscle and bone is to be active; locomotion is what muscle and bone do.


So we're not meant to be creatures sitting. We're meant to be active, physical, spiritual beings and when we're in motion we're happier, healthier, more creative, smarter, and all the things that we want to be


You know you can it yourself. If you've been sitting at your computer for hours and you can feel the drain of the energy just coming down and your creativity is down, you get up and do a brisk walk for four or five minutes and I'm going to tell you you're a whole new person. You can cope again, you can think clearly again and it is the movement and circulation of body fluids and blood that make our brain healthy.


Exercise is just like oxygen; it is so critical to life. God built us and designed us for that specifically.  But again, Randy, it is nobody's fault.  I think it is fabulous that we can go onto our computers and learn about anything in the. We're at such a great time in our world and we're lucky to be experiencing it. We are blessed to be experiencing this time and I'm excited for my children because they'll experience much more. 


But this “instant” thing is causing some problems.  Instantly, I can find information. Instantly, I can have things delivered to my home. I did not have to physically go out and get anything because that delivery man delivered it to my door.  He's burning all of my calories, so I'm sitting around storing all of these calories and it is causing problems.


So we have to balance our day and we have to say, “Okay, I've been here enough at this computer or I've been sitting at my desk job long enough. I've got to get up and go.“ You have to make a conscious effort to be active nowadays.


Emotional Health


Randy: I hear you saying that the exercise not only affects the physical body but the emotions, too?


Leslie: If people aren't faith-based all they have to do is talk to a psychologist and he or she will tell them the reactions in the brain -- what happens during exercise -- is so unbelievably potent. It is the most potent. It can turn our mood around in a second.


If you're wondering, “Why do I have these negatives thoughts?  I'm just not feeling right, I have the blues, or life just isn't exciting for me.”


We have to put ourselves into positions to create positive living.  And you have to make choices that bring these good feelings of life. Very few people just wake up full of these sunny thoughts…”Oh, I'm happy. Oh, I feel good!”


There are some of us like that, I'm an optimist, I think but we can really affect our spirit in basic, basic ways. It is this human foundation that we need to take care of ourselves, first because God made this gorgeous unique person – me -- and I'm to be a good steward of this person.  To take care of yourself is not selfish. It is not wrong. It is really what's needed, because if I take care of me first and I'm strong-minded and I'm strong physically and my spirit is strong I can help masses of people. But if I don't take care of myself, others are going to have to care for me. So I think it is a selfish thing when you don't take care of yourself.


Losing Weight


Randy: Let's take someone who is… looking at the scales.  They're hearing this bombardment of stuff. People trying to sell this pills and plans and books and they think, “I've got to do something!”  What does this person do?


Leslie: I really want people to enjoy life.  But those pounds are going to creep up on you. They definitely creep up on me during the winter. I live in Pennsylvania and some of these winters are very long and it makes us a little less active.  I think it is the lack of activity that has the pounds creeping up on us.


It is a real effort… to be on a program that is consistent.  That is why I developed this program that was in-your-home walking. I started these classes in my fitness center 20 years ago as walking aerobic classes. While everybody else was teaching aerobic classes I said, “That aerobic word is really intimidating for people.  I know they're really afraid of this.”


I still would hear the description of aerobics as being, “you have to wear those little outfits and you have to have loud music and jump around.”  People didn't realize that “aerobics” simply meant “get more oxygen into your muscles.” As oxygen has a training affect, the body gets fit. That's how we can really control our weight through aerobic activity.


So I started walk aerobics at my fitness center and the classes were wildly popular. A woman asked me, "Leslie, I'm going on vacation, can I film one of your classes?" I said, "You absolutely can film one of the classes, but I'll save you the camera stuff. I have a friend who films weddings."


So he came in one day and filmed the class. Everybody wanted the video and this is where this whole video world came to me.  It was simply by a request by one of my sweet members.  I never in my life thought I would be doing videos and fitness products and all these things.


Randy: You're still doing quite a bit of that?


Leslie: We are doing a lot of it. How it keeps going is really God's blessing on it.  Walking is the most popular of all the activities that people choose.  But they give it up a lot because they say, “I'm bored on the treadmill,” or “I won't go to the health club on a treadmill, I'm embarrassed,” or “I tried to walk outside but then the weather got bad.  I got afraid, there was a gang hanging on the corner, my friend wouldn't come with me.”


There are so many reasons why the outdoor walking isn't consistent enough to make it work. So in-home walking gives you the perfect workout. It is the program that everybody needs.  There is no excuse. When it's raining, snowing, or when it isn't safe to be outdoors, you can be comfortable indoors and do a one-mile walk, a two-mile walk, a three-mile walk.  It's your choice on how much you want to exercise.




Randy: What do you personally do on a daily or weekly basis to stay in shape?


Leslie: With three children, it is a challenge! I have fitness equipment at home. I have a treadmill and weights. I love teaching my walk classes, so what people see on video is what I do at a health club in person.  Some mornings I’ll shoot out of the door, if the kids go to school, and I'll teach a couple of classes at my center. If I have to be at home, I will be on my little treadmill or do some weights.  I have a Pilates reformer that I'm just in love with that right now. I just love the flexibility and the range of motion and the good things that help us.


Randy: Great! Is there anything else you would like to add?


Leslie: You know what? If one little thing from my work has inspired someone or motivated them to take better care of themselves, I'm just thrilled. But I'm always hoping that I can affect people in a positive way.  And again, my challenge to everyone is to start walking a little more and see if it isn't the blessing that you really needed. Again, that's free.  Fitness is free; walking is free. You don't have to join a gym. You don't have to buy videos.  All you have to do is say, “Today, I'm going to walk a little more.” I'm going tell you, you're going to get big returns for a little bit of effort.




You can learn more about her Leslie and her products at www.lesliesansone.com.


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