Becoming Ageless. CEO’s Tips on Looking & Feeling Younger
Meet Strauss Zelnick. He is 61 years old and says he's in the best shape of his life.
Once a top Hollywood exec that put out hit movies like Home Alone and Dirty Dancing, today Strauss Zelnick is the CEO of video game company Take-Two Interactive and he is living proof that age is nothing but a number. At age 38 Zelnick underwent a massive overhaul on his life, and through his own personal journey he figured out a way of defying age, which he says is through health, fitness, nutrition and spirituality.
He is also the author of a new book called Becoming Ageless. Blessed with handsome features and a body that looks like a 30-something year old athlete, Zelnick has been touted 'America’s fittest CEO'. “I feel 25. I don’t think age needs to define any of us,” Zelnick told NBC News during a recent interview. Here's more of what he had to say.
You started out slowly. Firstly you got rid of fried foods (mostly), you got rid of alcohol (totally). How hard was that to start cutting out those indulgences?
Certain of them I still have. So some are really hard, like sweets. And I try not to eat them in the same absurd quantities that I used to, but it wouldn’t be true to say that I’ve totally given them up. And I think when people recommend programs that are, you know “Start here, get there. It’ll take three weeks and then you’re going to have washboard abs”. That’s actually a waste of time - it’s not going to happen. It actually is demotivating. It’s debilitating. I think you have to start very slowly. You have to be gentle with yourself and baby steps are the best way to start. If you make your body take baby steps, eventually your mind will follow.
You do indulge a little though. So, what do you do?
I tried to be rigid and it didn’t work. So I don’t know about you all, but when I tried to be perfect then I just threw in the towel and I just sorta went all the way back. I didn’t have the ability to stop halfway. But when I said, maybe for three days in a row I’ll eat healthy foods, and then I know on the fourth day then I can indulge. Actually, that doesn’t work for me; for some people it really does. For me, what tends to work is - Look, I’m not going to eat stuff that I know is bad for me all day long, but I’m going to have dessert at dinner.
And by the way, I’m not advocating it because you’re better off not eating sugar. But we have to know ourselves - most people fall into the category of Do you like sweet things or salty, savoury things - I like sweet things. I don’t really care about salty, savoury things. So giving up french fries - not a problem. But giving up layer cake - problem!
What about exercise? You look like you’re in the gym three hours a day. Are you?
My wife may or may not be watching. I take the fifth on that one. I train alot, but I didn’t start by training alot. It was a very gentle progression. And now I am at a stage in my life - look, my kids are out of the house, I have a little bit more time. I think it’s a uniquely American fantasy that we can have it all. You have little kids at home. You’re working hard, you have alot of pressures - you may not have the ability to train all the time. The question is, What are you doing with your time? and Do you have half an hour to take a walk? With your partner, with your kids, with a friend. Taking a walk twice a week for half an hour - if you’re not doing that now, if you’re not moving now, will vastly improve your fitness. It’s a great start. And don’t bring your device with you. Leave your device at home. Don’t bring it to a meal. If you do go to the gym, don’t bring it to the gym.
You say that everyone has the fountain of youth inside of them, right now. So what does that mean? Just better life choices?
I think it is better choices. It’s better choices about your health - going to the doctor, about beginning to move - getting some exercise, about eating a reasonable diet and finally, and maybe even most importantly, having some spiritual life.
What does it mean to you to be spiritual?
A part of it is understanding, where you start and end, you know your goals, your desires, your feelings, your fears - is pretty limited, and the world takes over right outside that wingspan. For me, I have trouble distinguishing between the two. I wanted to take action and affect beyond, and I think now I’m a bit more comfortable saying there’s no substitute for taking action, but you’ve got to let go of the outcomes.
I pray in the mornings. I don’t say that by the way of prosthysing because everyone has their own practice. For me, I pray in the mornings. For others it’s mediation, perhaps taking a walk, yoga, sitting quietly and listening to music. Some form of self care everyday is a really important part of a sweet and peaceful life.