The Real Life Diet of Gerry Turner, the “Golden Bachelor,” Who Plays Nine Hours of Pickleball a Week

ABC’s first septuagenarian bachelor told GQ about long walks, Grape Nuts, and how he coped with the isolation of filming reality TV.

The Real Life Diet of Gerry Turner the “Golden Bachelor” Who Plays Nine Hours of Pickleball a Week

Photograph: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

If ever there’s a time to decide to go on reality TV, most people probably wouldn’t think it’d be in their 70s. Gerry Turner didn’t plan it this way, either. The 72-year-old Indiana native is the star of The Golden Bachelor, the first season of the long-running ABC tentpole focused on people interested in finding love later in life. Throughout the course of the show, which premiered last night, Turner, who is a widower, went on multiple dates with 22 different women in search of his new love interest.

Turner took us through how he looked after his mind and body through the fast-paced weeks of travel and activities, including an opening ceremony that lasted until 7:00 the next morning.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: What did you know about The Bachelor before you signed on? Were you a fan?

Gerry Turner: I’ve watched the show sporadically—I became more and more of a fan when my daughters were urging me to do this.

Did you get any funny reactions from family and friends when the announcement was made?

Actually, I did—it is funny in retrospect . My daughters were full-on in favor of it. My granddaughters were as well. My sons-in-law? Not so much. Now they are. They had a huge case of FOMO. They just can’t stand it that they’ve decided they didn’t want to be involved. I have a couple of neighbors that are the same way—they gave me this real odd look, and now they’re the first ones to want to talk about it.

I saw that you married your wife in 1972. What surprised you about dating now, particularly in front of cameras?

Back then I think I had blinders on. I met someone that I fell head-over-heels in love with, and I only saw her. Now, with cameras rolling and everyone watching, it’s an entirely different game. You have to be careful with every step and every word, and you want to make sure you don’t do the wrong thing. Because it’s out there forever if you do. Of course, I was able to keep myself in check most of the time.

In terms of being super careful, do you think you would have been able to look at it that way in your 20s or 30s?

Oh, hell no. I was so full of myself in my 20s and 30s. I probably would have been horrible at this.

I think most people would be. Was there anything that really surprised you?

Yeah, there were a lot of surprises. I guess during the actual process itself, it was having to give over and surrender to it—give up some personal freedoms and so forth. That was kind of a surprise.

But in the journey itself, I think the most surprising thing was just how painful it was when I had far fewer roses than I had women and I had to send someone home. That’s still very much top of mind how badly that felt.

How did you deal with that?

Well, I cried. You’ll see a lot of tears in the show. You know, I’m not even embarrassed by it. I couldn’t help myself, particularly the later it got in the journey and the more difficult it became because I got to know the women really well and respect them. And I worked to build a relationship with them only get to the point where you know, I had to send them home.

That’s so hard. How did you prioritize your mental health during this time? Because I can only imagine it’s taxing.

Well, I think you’re asking a very good question, and I’m not sure I know how to answer.

The thing that I tried really hard to do is compartmentalize the information I had about each of the individuals. In a given day, once I was finished with a date or a conversation, I tried to just kind of package that up and set it aside. Then, I’d take out the next day’s package, whoever that was with, and try really hard to focus only on the person that I was with on any given day. I think that gave me good clarity and good direction so that I didn’t get bogged down.

Did you do anything to clear your head or stay active during the time? Are you kind of sequestered to a house the whole time during or what does the situation look like?

There were a variety of locations. I was in several different places. And yes, at times I had the opportunity to use a pool or had the opportunity to use a gymnasium for a session of exercise. I was able to walk several times, and being an old runner, that was very helpful. I would always clear my head during a long run. Now walking is the best substitute for that.

Is that what you do normally when you’re not on the show?

Well, I’ll take walks because I have a dog and the dog loves to walk. One of the nearby lakes has a circuit around it that is three miles, so I get that. But for the most part, I spend three mornings a week—about three hours each morning—playing some pretty vigorous pickleball. I get my exercise that way.

Were you able to get some pickleball in during the filming of the show?

There was an opportunity for a little bit of pickleball. I wasn’t quite as active with it as I wanted to be, but there was some pickleball played.

What were you eating? How did you stay healthy while you were traveling and moving around so much?

It was a bit of a challenge, but I had really excellent people with me. Two guys primarily, Bradford and Steve, were always with me. They were always helpful at getting me food. It was nonstop conversation about food and water and snacks and everything. So if I got hungry, it was on me, not on anyone else.

And when you’re not filming, what does a full day of meals look like for you?

I will always eat breakfast. Usually on Sunday, I make a big breakfast but I will always have breakfast. Then at lunch. It’s like a sandwich, and a yogurt and an apple. That’s pretty much my standard. Then for dinner, it kind of depends on the time of year. If I can grill out during the summer, I’ll grill out as much as I possibly can. I love grilling out salmon, and that’s probably my favorite. I’ll do vegetables and you know, it’s just a variety of things.

What are you eating exactly for breakfast?

It’s usually one of three things—I have oatmeal, or I have Grape Nuts cereal. I love Grape Nuts and blueberries. Then I’ll also have scrambled eggs and toast.

Pretty much those three all kind of rotate—not real specifically—but I’ll rotate them. A lot of times it has to do with how much protein I had the night before. If I went maybe a little light on the protein the night before, I’ll make sure that I have eggs for breakfast and so forth.

When you think back, what did you take away from the experience of shooting this season?

I guess a number of things. First off, my generation has represented itself extremely well. In the show, the women were sterling examples of what we are when we get to our 60s in our 70s. They were intelligent and poised and well-versed, and I love them all very much. So that’s the first takeaway is the ability of my generation to show that we still have the vigor.

The next was that I learned about myself a lot. I’m probably a little bit of a too soft of a heart. The moments that bothered me really bothered me deeply. I had a hard time shrugging some of that off.

Were you able to keep in touch with your daughters and stuff over the course of the filming?

Fortunately, I was a little bit during the time I was gone. My youngest daughter and my youngest granddaughter surprise-visited me one day. On my first day, I got a phone call from my daughters. Then further into the process, a well-timed call on Zoom from all of them. It happened to be at a time when I was feeling a little bit alone and kind of needed someone to talk to. And lo and behold, there they were.

Were you telling them situations that were happening and saying, ‘This is how I feel,’ or were you able to get their opinions at all?

I very much wanted to do that because that is really how we’ve operated in the past. There really wasn’t much opportunity to actually do that through the course of the show, because it would have probably given away too much information. So I had to kind of keep that stuff to myself, but I was very thankful when I finally saw them and was able to talk to them.

Did it feel like a long time or a short time? It almost looks like you’re captive for that amount of time in a way, but then I imagine you’re so busy…

To me, it seemed like a very short time. I began it one day, and it seemed like the end of the next week it was over. I really didn’t want it to finish that fast. I tried really hard to slow down and take in every moment. In that respect, it seems very fast to me.

Would you have added more time if you could have?

I think I would have liked to have had at least another two weeks. Let’s say four of those 10 days I would have liked to have had absolutely nothing to do interspersed in the schedule so that I could catch up on my thoughts and my sleep. Then the other six days I have a variety of thoughts about it. I think it would have been really nice to have a few more days to get to know the women before I had to make critical choices.

When you reflect back on it, what are your biggest memories?

Certainly the first night is one of the biggest and most-cherished memories. I’d looked forward to that first night for months and it did not disappoint me in any way.

Getting the first impression of everyone, and hearing their voices for the first time and learning just a little bit about them that first night — it was exciting. And I do remember that at 7:30 in the morning I was still wide awake and fully-energized and did not want to call it quits for the night.

Was everyone still up at 7:30 in the morning or was it just you?

They were all up and at it. All the women were still there. We’d gone through the process of meeting everyone, having a brief conversation, going through a rose ceremony… yeah, it was really an amazing night.

That sounds like an incredibly long day.

I actually don’t remember what time we started that morning, but it seems to me that it was mid-morning. A lot of it was no-stress activity—doing some light interviews and some B-roll stuff. Then as the day wore on, it became more and more intense. I think the actual arrival of the women began at eight or nine o’clock at night.

Has it made you think differently about what you would say to young people who are dating today?

You know, not really. I’d like to think that that I could assume the role of the wise old sage and have something really brilliant to say. The reality is the game that someone plays in their teens and their 20s is so much different than what we do in our 60s in our 70s that I don’t think it would apply.

In what ways?

I think at my age we want to have as much face-to-face time as we possibly can. We want to get quickly past some of the superficial stuff. You’re never going to hear us ask what’s our favorite color. Whereas when you’re in your teens, and the whole world is laid out in front of you, you have much more time and you can take the process more slowly and ask those kinds of questions. I just think culturally it’s quite different.

There was a promo spot where you’re talking to your daughters and your granddaughters, and you said you want to find the person that you just look at and know is the right one. Did it happen like that? And did you find that person?

Well, let me put it this way: I think I’m very happy with the way things ended. And I think when you watch, you’ll get a really great answer to that question. And I’ll kind of leave it at that.

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