Steve Harvey, the self-proclaimed King of Comedy, actor, and celebrated host of his own top-rated, nationally syndicated morning radio show, has long been known for these things: His extremely toothy, 1,000-watt, gleaming-white grin; his impeccably trimmed, unconventionally high afro; and his curiously long, baggy, and colorful zoot suit-inspired apparel. Indeed, this is the Steve Harvey you expect to see when you hear his voice—most times loud, most times brash—bouncing off the expansive walls of his Atlanta mansion. Which explains why your jaw drops to the marble floor when he walks into his man-den with a bald head, a stylish, form-fitting black collared shirt and belted pants.
Then comes the hint of insecurity from his throat as he prepares to take pictures—in a tank top!—for his new fitness Web site, DVD, and book. “I’m nervous. I been tossing and turning all night long,” he announces, putting a little bounce in his knees for emphasis, coaxing a huge laugh from his trainer, Lee Haney, the eight-time Mr. Olympia. “I’m ’bout to take a picture with my shirt off! Dog, they been seeing me in shirts for years. I’ve had hair my whole career. Man? And then they’re gonna put it in a magazine and on a Web site.”
It’s a transformation, revealed just recently, his fans are appreciating. Now Harvey hopes they—particularly middle-aged men who’ve traded in their gym memberships for a bowl of ice cream and a really comfy spot on the couch—will embrace it and choose to embark on their own fitness journey. The comedian’s head-to-gut alteration is part of his new “50 and Fly” campaign, in which he and Haney, now a personal trainer and fitness and nutrition expert, are encouraging men ages 40 and older to tone up, slim down, eat right, and, most importantly, stop using age as an excuse to let themselves go.
To jump-start the campaign, Harvey, 51, and Haney, 48, created a “50 and Fly” DVD, book, and Web site featuring Harvey documenting his transformation and demonstrating Haney’s exercise and nutrition weight-loss program designed specifically to boost the health, strength, endurance, and metabolism of the seasoned set. The “50 and Fly” headline: If Harvey could put down the fork, pick up a dumbbell, and wind up with the best set of guns and abs he’s ever had in his 51 years on this here Earth, then any man can.
“The middle-aged guy that’s been sitting around, getting a little fat, getting lazy, not keeping toned, not stretching, stopping at the fast-food joints, making mashed potatoes and lacing everything in butter? I was that guy,” says Harvey, who’s been training with Haney since last November. “But I can tell you that we can make some better food choices, we can get on a workout program that’s smart for a guy our age—even a guy in his 30s. All you need is a weight bench and a set of dumbbells and you can change the way you look.
“I tell jokes for a living. I’m not a body builder, I’m not a gym rat, I’m not spectacular, by any stretch of the imagination,” adds Harvey. “For a 51-year-old guy, though, I’m pretty fly.”
For sure, Harvey’s fitness crusade was born of vanity the day he turned the Big 5-0 last year. His son called him an “old man,” and a Steve Harvey Morning Show call-in listener blithely proclaimed him “over the hill.” Says Harvey: “I started thinking, 50 is half of a hundred. You take a graph and bend it, at the apex is 50. I’m not over the hill, I’m at the top.”
If only in his mind. He was wearing large suits with the shirts out to hide the fact that his stomach was “pot,” and even with the extra material, he still had to unbutton his pants to sit on the airplane and at the dinner table. “My arms,” he adds, “were just sitting there—just a piece of meat hanging there, with no curves in them, no definition. And I just got tired of looking at myself that way.”
Moreover, Harvey says, he had run through every fad weight-loss plan imaginable—the cabbage diet, the lemonade and cayenne pepper diet, the grapefruit diet, Atkins, Body for Life—with little success. And he couldn’t stick with any one particular trainer because they insisted on training him like he had the body of a 20-something.
Enter, Haney. The two met last summer at an event in Atlanta, where Haney runs his exercise and nutrition business. It’s hard to tell who was more excited to be introduced to whom—Haney is a longtime admirer of the comedian; Harvey followed the body builder’s success when he slayed the competition to become Mr. Olympia eight consecutive years from 1984 to 1991.
But suffice to say that when Haney offered to get Harvey fit, and then announced at their first meeting that he was The King of Iron to Harvey’s King of Comedy, Harvey was hooked.
“Right there, I walked in with an instant amount of respect; he’s the eight-time Mr. Olympia,” Harvey says simply. “That automatically makes him far more knowledgeable about anything when you’re talking about changing my body. He changed his, and was the best in the world eight times. That made me go, Okay, I got the best guy; all I got to do is do what he says.”
And he has, following Haney’s two biggest directives: “Eat for what you’re about to do, not what you’ve done.” (Translation: if you’re about to work out, eat carbs; if you’re about to go to sit on your butt, eat a small meat-and-vegetables-only meal.) And, “Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate.” (Translation: You don’t have to tear up your muscles to see results.) But don’t get it twisted: It hasn’t been easy for Harvey.
His biggest problem has been changing the way he eats—a challenge, Harvey says, because of his busy schedule hosting his radio show, touring, acting, running a mentoring foundation, managing a staff of 26, being a husband and father of seven, and because, well, he loves “key lime pie, fried chicken. I care deeply about hot oven bread. I don’t know what it is about cream sauce—I like salmon, but when it has a dipping sauce on it, it’s my weakness.” He admits that he still eats those things from time to time, but now, he knows that screwing up the eating plan doesn’t mean his program is over. “I just put in some extra time on the treadmill, and if I miss a workout, I do it the next time and go back to eating clean.”
Haney’s method of stimulating and not annihilating “was brand new,” says Harvey. “I wanted to get in there and really just tear something—feel like I was going to die the next morning and then go back in there the next time and do the same thing.”
Haney says Harvey’s tendency to over train is a product of his getting advice and direction of less experienced trainers who insisted on putting him through the paces of men half his age. “If you’ve never been 40, you don’t understand how it feels. We had to unlearn the feelings he had. I’m constantly saying, “Steve, we don’t have to kill you to get results,” says Haney noting that in some exercises, Harvey was using as much weight as he does. “That wasn’t necessary. It was great that he saw the results of a good regimented training program that’s not overbearing, that made him feel good, wake up recovered the next morning, and functional.”
If his workout was any indication, Harvey is beyond functional. During the course of an hour, Haney put Harvey through a serious circuit training pace, constantly moving him between aerobic and core stimulation (on the treadmill and doing crunches and lunges) and some hardcore lifting (military dumbbell presses, bent over rolls and lateral and frontal raise combos, and lat pull-downs). No breaks. Always on his feet, in stances that simulate real-life movement (for instance, Harvey did the military dumbbell press with one foot firmly planted behind him, as if he were pushing a heavy box).
Harvey displays lots of huffing and heavy breathing, but gets it done; in the beginning with seemingly little effort, toward the end with the soft-spoken Haney by his side, encouraging him with “Come on baby, give me one more.”
The training, Harvey says, has upped his strength, endurance, and metabolism, trimmed him down, and made him so sexy and virile that now Mrs. Harvey “taps me on the shoulder at night.”
“It’s a virtual fountain of youth,” adds Haney, a wide smile crossing his face. “Age management at its best.” “He’s not only healthier, he’s truly functional, he looks good physically, and he can handle his business,” Haney adds as his charge takes his last turn on the treadmill.
“That,” Harvey says, “means I can whip somebody’s ass. That’s what that means.”