The Rheo Blair Interview: Part Three

Ben: Who are some other people that had a large influence on Rheo Blair or were largely influenced by him?

Charles: There were several other nutritionists over the years who, in varying degrees, influenced his thinking including Roger Williams, Richard Passwater, Henry Bieler, Linus Pauling and others. These will all be covered in the book including the story of one particularly interesting and pivotal influence he experienced. Then too, there were other non-nutritional influences on his thinking that helped shape the person we came to know. You see, Rheo had the practice of looking to brilliant minds outside the realm of nutrition as role models he could learn something from. Among these were people such as Thomas Edison whose methods of experimentation and habits of persistence Rheo would apply to various areas of his life including, of course, his own nutritional experimentation.

I might briefly mention one other interesting nutritional character in the life of Rheo Blair and that is none other than Dr. Robert Atkins. Long before Atkins wrote his first book on low-carb dieting, Rheo had been using very similar principles with many of his clients in Chicago. This was no coincidence. Many people have made the point that long before Dr. Atkins was writing about it, Rheo was doing it. Now, as Paul Harvey would have said, we are going to find out “the rest of the story…”
The connection between Rheo Blair and Robert Atkins is none other than Carlton Fredericks. Atkins refers in one of his books to Carlton Fredericks as “my mentor” – which is an indication of Fredericks’ considerable influence on Atkins. They remained close and even collaborated professionally, Fredericks working as a nutrition consultant in Atkins medical office in New York. So we know now that Carlton Fredericks played an influential role in the thinking of both Rheo Blair and Robert Atkins and that both of them relied on Fredericks to greater or lesser degrees throughout their respective careers. Of course Blair and Atkins knew each other, too. I might mention a long telephone conversation that Blair had with Atkins one day in 1978 when I was at his home. When he got off the phone, he swiveled around in his chair and said to me, “do you know who that was?” and I said, no. He then held up a copy of Atkins first book and said “that was the author of this book, Dr. Robert Atkins. He’s a brilliant man…”

Ben: How did Rheo become prominent in body building? What were some of his main successes?

Charles: Well it began with his own dramatic transformation and the subsequent similar transformations of many of his students, all of which he documented with before and after photographs. Those photos – and the transformation stories behind them, -- became famous as word about his work spread. He began his work in rented space adjacent to the Chicago YMCA gym he lived in where, for a fee, he coached work-outs while offering his recently acquired nutritional methods – which he was VERY excited about. His “business” grew and one thing led to the next eventually resulting in his opening a gym in the Chicago loop. Here he began selling protein and a small line of unique supplements.

Here too he began publishing Tomorrow’s Man Magazine. The magazine did very well and developed a respectable following in a short period of time. He published many of his before and after cases in the magazine which spread his fame in the bodybuilding world. Before Tomorrow's Man came on the scene, however, he had previously appeared in and written several prominent articles in another magazine -- Iron Man Magazine, THE bodybuilding publication; the “Bible” of Bodybuilding, if you will. It was in Iron Man that the public at large first began to take notice of Rheo’s work.

His two main areas of success were in working with professional bodybuilders at one extreme and with underdeveloped “95 pound weaklings” at the other. More specifically, he produced prize winning bodybuilding champions while at the same time taking scrawny, frail young men (much as he had once been) for whom the usual diet and exercise weren’t helping -- and giving them fine bodies they could be proud of. One of the most interesting aspects of both the champion bodybuilders and the scrawny young men he worked with was the almost unbelievably short period of time it took to produce those results. In some cases we are talking about less than a month, occasionally, longer. He worked with other types too including a middle aged lady who after years of living on what amounted to spaghetti and cake, was on death’s door – and she looked it. She was also angry and downcast of spirit. Several months later she was virtually unrecognizable as being the same person. Even her personality was transformed into that of a vibrant, happy, energetic person. The change in personality in this lady and as we saw earlier with Rheo himself, would be a familiar thread running throughout his career. His clients often saw their personalities change as dramatically as did their bodies. This was the case with me, too. After all, it’s difficult to be happy if you don’t feel good. This is because the nutrients his students received produced some real changes in brain chemistry. When one has a need for nutrients that are absent entirely or at insufficient levels in the diet, this can cause personality issues ranging from mild depression to something much worse such as bi-polar type symptoms, for example. This is an interesting field of inquiry. More can be learned about this subject by exploring orthomolecular medicine.

Next time: What did Rheo consider the ideal body? What were the ideal body’s characteristics and who are some examples of ideal bodies?

And: How would Rheo Blair determine an individual’s program? What commonalities did all programs have and what varied between individual programs?

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Information found on Rheo H. Blair: The Book is meant for educational and informational purposes only, and to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider. It should not be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.