Health Experts

Interview with Billy Blanks

Since the 1990s, Billy Banks' Tae Bo program has helped millions of women and men rethink fitness while mixing dance with martial arts and boxing. Now, the seven-time world karate champ is motivating Americans to balance suitable exercise and sound nutrition in his Celebrity Sweat national wellness tour

“My goal is to teach people that fitness comes from the inside rather than the outside. If it’s coming from the outside, then you’re never going to find a way to help yourself get in shape,” says Banks.

Billy’s Power Meals

“We’re going around the country teaching people about fitness and showing people that if you make fitness a lifestyle instead of a trend you can get more out of it,” says Billy Blanks, who at 64 still wakes at 4:30 a.m. to train and teach his new Tae Bo-inspired multilevel fitness program, Billy’s BoomBoxing. “We’re talking to people about nutrition and exercise—and how to find a good workout, because the workout has to fit your personality. Everybody wants to be healthier and stronger, and feel good about themselves.”

The author of Billy’s Power Meals also practices what he preaches when it comes to eating. “I want to teach people how to live a healthy and strong, vibrant life—and to show people they have the power to make choices and do whatever they need to do to help themselves be the best they can be.”

What tips do you have for those looking to start a fitness program and diet?

I would start helping people find a workout they like. And don’t start out with an hour or 45-minute workout. Start with a 15-minute workout. Do that for a week or two. And then gradually add minutes to it. Within two to three weeks, you’ll probably be up to a 45-minute workout that you can handle. This helps build up your confidence, and then the workout starts to become a lifestyle. And as you start to work out, don’t change your diet. See what happens to your body within two to three weeks of working out. You start losing inches, you start losing weight. Then you might say, “I want to take this or that out of my diet and see what happens.” I try to help people figure a way that their personality can pick up a good workout and a good diet—one with real eating where they’re not walking around starving—that they can do for a lifetime. I don’t want to teach people about weight loss. If you want to lose weight, you have the power to do that. If you don’t want to lose weight, but just want to get stronger, you also have the power to do that.

Why is it vital to engage in fitness that fits your personality type?

I’ve been doing Tae Bo for a long time, but it might not be for you. Tae Bo is an exercise I think anyone can do, and it’s fun. But I think when you’re training people, you’ve got to give them a chance to see what fits their personality and what’s going to drive them—what’s going to make them want to be their best and get up 15 minutes early or do it before they go to bed. Some people like to box or do karate or run—or do all of it. My goal is to teach people that fitness comes from the inside rather than the outside. If it’s coming from the outside, then you’re never going to find a way to help yourself get in shape. If you go from the inside out then it’s going to make you mentally feel better about yourself as well as your body. If the mind’s not involved, you can’t get the best out of yourself. People ask what makes me tick. I say that I look and act just like my mind and will. Your body will do anything your mind and will allow.

Which real foods help power your days?

I eat to fuel myself. A lot of people don’t eat carbs, but I do, because if I don’t, I won’t have fuel to burn for the rest of the day. The first thing I eat when I get up is a big salad with high-octane vegetables that give me all the antioxidants that I need. I eat some fruit in the morning, too, for energy. I eat a lot of pineapple, which is great for taking down swelling and helping you heal quick. Strawberries are a good fat burner, so I mix them and cherries and green apples into my salad. Then I add two egg whites, sometimes three or four. Every now and then when I feel like I need extra energy, I have a bowl of pasta with turkey in the morning. My wife is Japanese, so I eat a lot of green vegetables and a lot of fish and chicken. She does all the cooking and doesn’t believe in processed foods. Sometimes I eat salad three times a day. Eating all of the greens, I feel lighter, my body feels vibrant. I really don’t eat (red) meat. Every once in a while, I go out and eat whatever I want, like a good steak or a pint of vanilla ice cream. I say, “I deserve this, because I train hard.”