East Jefferson General Hospital

How John Goodman Lost 100 Pounds
Written by Paul Kita, Men's Health   

The veteran actor explains his journey and weight-loss goals

Men's Health writer Paul Kita recently talked to John Goodman about the actor's tremendous weight loss. How'd he do it? Read on for the complete interview.

I'm glad we got you on board for this, and I appreciate you talking to us. I guess the logical place to start is that for most of your life you were overweight. What was the turning point for you? When was your wake-up call?

It's been constant. It's always been in the back of my mind. It just ate at me the whole time. That may be part of the reason I shoved food in my mouth so much. That satisfaction. But what clicked was three years ago I did a Santa Clause movie. I looked at it and I was really unhappy about the way I looked. For years, at Christmas-time I'd get fed up and make a resolution, and I'd lose 60 pounds, 65 pounds. And then I was off to the races again in the summer. I'd just eat whatever I want, and the big key was drinking. I'm an alcoholic.

So I went to a man named Mackie Shilstone in New Orleans, who is our own fitness guru. He trains Serena Williams. He's trained many boxers. He brought Ozzy Smith back--gave him a few more years in his career.

I set up a program with him, medically, first.

This was three years ago, before the Santa Clause movie?

[That] was what triggered me going to Mackie. I was living in New Orleans, and I thought, I might as well try this guy because he's the best, and we worked out a good program. I lost about 70 pounds and went to Germany to do a movie, and I was still drinking. I was working out during this time. My knees are shot. I've got arthritic knees and I need to replace both of them. So I get on an elliptical machine and a recumbent bike. I was working out, but I was still drinking and everything that goes along with that, which is the food and everything else. Right after I got back from Germany, I got sober.

And that was the final key you needed to complete this--

Yeah. I had to clear out my own house first. It was built on a bad foundation.

Can you tell me a little about this trainer? Is he a character?

Not at all. He's a pretty solid guy, probably the smallest football player who ever played for Tulane. God, he might be 5'8". Maybe 100--hell, I'm not good at guessing weight. Or I'd be in a carnival. Hell, I am in a carnival anyway. But, man, he's just a walking encyclopedia. I don't know why he doesn't have a doctorate because he's up on everything to do with medical advancements, vitamins, nutrition. He's got it all. It's like talking to a computer when you talk to him.

So he does all the work for you and he just kicks your ass?

Hah. He doesn't do it, but he's got a system there in New Orleans in association with East Jefferson Hospital, where we have doctors at our disposal, a nutritionist and trainers. So he hooked me up with a trainer and this time I did a lot of cardio at home. Forty minutes of cardio in the morning and 40 in the afternoon.

What kind of cardio?

I can only do the elliptical and the recumbent bike. I used to walk a lot. But the knees kicked in. It's just poison. I paid for it. I loved to walk, but...

So all cardio?

This time we mixed in strength training with resistance bands. They're great for me because I can contract and release slower, and that builds up better muscle for me. And a key thing was boxing twice a week. I was doing a job in New Orleans twice a week called Treme. I was only working a couple days a week. I wanted to treat this other thing (exercise) like a job--to get healthy.

I trained with a man named Axel Murillo for boxing, and what we do is like 12 [rounds]. Right now I'm built up to 2 minutes and 15 seconds of throwing punches and a minute of rest. And that's a round. But doing that twice a week I think really helped me with the twisting, the turning and the throwing, and it gets my heart up to about 140.

It's interesting that not only did you have to lose this weight, but it seems like you can repair the damage that had been done from years of being overweight.

Yeah. It's a life of rehab. But it's a labor of love. And I think the key to the cardio was finding the rate my heart should be at to burn the most fat--which for me is 106 to 116--and staying there as long as possible.

Do you like it, or is this grueling?

I do. I'm still a sucker for highs, and I get those endorphins. It's just a feeling of well-being. I'm where I'm supposed to be. I'm doing what I should be doing. I feel good. I'm hopefully extending my life. Before, I didn't care.

Can you explain a little about the relationship you had between stress and these food and alcohol binges?

Alcohol is alcohol. I'm an alcoholic. I would drink no matter what. That's just part of being an alcoholic--you find any excuse. But as for the stress, I've lived a stressful life. I've made it more stressful by drinking and using drugs, and the business I have chosen is always a nail-biter. You bitch when you're not working, and when you work you bitch about the people you're working with. It was really hairy for a long time, and there was the constant threat of unemployment. For some reason I just denied what I was doing to myself. It's a miracle anyone would hire me at all, looking at me. I looked like a walking heart attack.

Why did you break those Christmas promises you made yourself every year?

It was all alcohol-related.

The alcohol would enter the picture, and food would follow?

Yeah. It took a lot of work to maintain my physique. A lot of fudgy-wudgies and krispy-krispies.

What kind of food are you eating now?

What I enjoy doing is making smoothies for myself after a workout. With some protein powder and whey powder and fruits. And I'm lactose intolerant, so I eat soy yogurt and soy milk. But also fresh vegetables, lean protein. Fourth of July I'm going to treat myself to a kosher hot dog. I'm not a real hard-on about keeping strict calorie counts. I know what's in my wheelhouse, what I can eat and what I can't. And I'm satisfied eating it. I cannot tolerate sugar. I crossed over to the diabetic side, but I can't tolerate it anyway because it creates hunger.

Do you have a total goal for this? How much weight have you lost since you started?

I'm pushing 100--I haven't weighed myself in a couple of weeks. My goal is reducing my body-fat percentage--to what's healthy--and waistline, and to see if I can get into stores where real people shop for clothes.

At your max you were about how much, would you estimate?

I would say I was hanging around 375, and when I started this time I was at 368.

John, has this always been a problem for you?

It started when I was a kid. I'd lock myself in the house and sneak food. It gave me great pleasure to eat--it's part of an alcoholism personality. And then I grew up and found football. My brother sent me to the YMCA when I was probably in 7th grade. And that helped a lot, the organized stuff and swimming. And then I kind of grew out of it. After I stopped playing football I kept eating like I was playing football. When I was playing football I couldn't gain any weight. I tried everything.

Weight to some extent is a part of your persona. Your character in The Big Lebowski is a very domineering man. I don't know if the same ferocity could have come from a skinny man. Are you at all worried about losing this weight and having people perceive you differently in the acting realm?

Hey, that's too bad. I'll scream and cry when I'm in the unemployment line, but that's really secondary. I am what I am. I can act at different weights. It's a miracle I was hired at all for a lot of these jobs.

Did you ever look to other actors around you who had similar weight issues? John Candy with his heart attack and the like--did those deaths affect your mentality?

No. I was in a world of denial--"Too bad for him." You never really think about it, but you do. It's in the back of your mind. Subconsciously you try to block it out.

So when you look in the mirror now as opposed to three years ago, what's going through your head?

I try not to look in the mirror. And I'm not that reflective--no pun intended. I am where I am now and I don't dwell on the past or pat myself on the back too much. Because this could all go away tomorrow.