When Lucie Arnaz gives the keynote speech at the 2013 Go Red for Women luncheon in Lafayette Thursday, she’ll be frank about her family’s experience with heart disease. Her mother, Lucille Ball, and father, Desi Arnaz, both died from heart disease-related illnesses. Now she’s working the Go Red circuit, encouraging women to take charge of their lives and improve their health.

“It’s about making time to take care of yourself and taking advantage of all the knowledge we have now that our parents just did not have. Frankly, my parents were very unaware of what smoking did to them and they both smoked,” says Arnaz in a phone interview this week. “We didn’t understand really what exercise and taking care, getting that blood pumping, even just walking or staying active or doing core exercises. My mother was skinny her whole life, she worked, she was busy, she was active — who would think that she needed to exercise? Women have the hardest part of all because we’re trained to take care of everyone around us. That’s a hard thing to break. We want to be moms, we want to be wives — I love cooking and decorating and building the nest, but I very rarely build in time for Lucie, and that’s something I have to work on.”

Arnaz says she has worked to transform her own life, but not give up on her favorite foods. A large part of maintaining her health, she says, is constant movement.

“Go out and take a walk! A lot of us are very sedentary,” she says. “There are more gyms than there ever were in the nation, and we’re a fatter nation than we’ve ever been. I can’t figure out that part, myself, at all. I think people just get so involved in their texting and their emails and their Facebook and whatever that they forget to go out and enjoy the universe.”

Screen_shot_2013-01-31_at_1.29.27_PMArnaz also says she recognizes that food is so intertwined with the social experience in many parts of the country, especially Lafayette, and it’s not necessary to give up the goodies all together. Instead, she recommends moderation — indulge two days a week, like Friday and Saturday night for her, to “cook like crazy” and embrace the culture.

“I spend a lot of time trying not to bore my life with healthy habits,” says Arnaz. “You want to be healthy and have fun. I don’t want to be in a box where I have to do this and that so I look a certain way and be a certain weight — but there are ways to eat what you want to eat sometimes. You know, you don’t have to eat it every damn day, and the rest of the week, eat collard greens and spinach and kale and salads and lots of fruits and berries and onions and mushrooms and all those things that save you from disease and keep you thin and keep your blood pumping.

“You want to just stay ahead of it, have the fun you want to have — you are a part of your culture, you’ll never not be a part of your culture, but be one of the forerunners who lead the pack on how to do that ... Don’t give up your whole life.”

Above all, Arnaz stresses leading by example, especially for your children: “Kids watch and they learn from what you do. They’ll do what you do — I smoked because my parents smoked. If my mother exercises or eats a lot of salads, I’ll probably eat a lot of salads.

“I’ve gotta walk the walk. I want to be a light for other people.”

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