Since 1995, when he helped Oprah lose 90 pounds and train for a marathon, lifestyle coach Bob Greene has been in the media spotlight. But his crusade to help people lead healthier, fitter lives began years earlier, during his childhood, when Greene would lecture his father on his liberal use of the salt shaker. He went on to study health and exercise physiology in Delaware and Arizona, and was managing the fitness staff in a spa in Telluride, Colorado, when he had his life-changing encounter with the famous TV talk show host. "Oprah and I hit if off right away, although during our first meeting she wouldn't look me in the eye. Despite her fame and accomplishments, Oprah felt ashamed of her weight," Greene recalls on his website. But the two soon settled into a successful routine. After a lifetime of gaining and losing large amounts of weight, Oprah reached her goal weight with Greene's help and she's stayed at a healthy weight for the past 10 years. He's been a part of her life for those 10 years as well, making appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, contributing to O magazine and even helping Oprah find the perfect Hawaiian vacation home.
In his new book, The Best Life Diet, Greene expands on the fitness philosophy he's developed over his long career (and in his other books, including Total Body Makeover and Get With the Program!). He believes that making a commitment to gradually increase your activity level and decrease your food intake (and winnow unhealthy foods from your daily diet) is the only way to lose weight and keep it off. He discusses the reasons people overeat, including the emotional ones. For Oprah, becoming aware of and dealing with her habit of burying her emotions under plates of food was the most critical component, Greene says. The Best Life Diet suggests that if you're in the same boat, recognizing that fact will make it easier to avoid those destructive habits.
"After working one-on-one with many clients and talking to thousands of people through the years, I think I can say with some authority that the fast and furious approach to weight loss is also the fastest route to failure," writes Greene, and his slow-but-steady strategy is both simple and effective. In Phase One, which lasts four weeks, you raise your level of activity (which is as easy as doubling the number of steps you take each day if you're totally inactive, and exercising three times a week if you're somewhat active), change the way you eat (three healthy meals a day plus at least one snack) and take a multivitamin. Phases Two and Three each intensify the activity level, and increase food intake to three meals and two snacks per day. Ultimately, if you skip meals, you won't save calories, cautions Greene, since skipping meals decreases your metabolism and increases the odds that you'll overeat when you finally get a chance at food.
The Best Life Diet includes recipes for delicious meals and snacks that won't make you feel deprived, like Salmon and Spinach Frittata, Black Bean Chipotle Burgers, Vanilla Caramel Truffle Lattes and Hazelnut Biscotti. More recipes, exercise routines and advice can be found on the book's companion website, thebestlife.com. To help you make smarter decisions at the supermarket, Greene has joined forces with several major food manufacturers to place the Best Life Diet seal of approval (shown on the upper right-hand corner of his book's cover) on products he believes meet the needs of anyone trying to lose weight and eat healthfully. Though Greene is an understanding, encouraging and empathetic guide through the wilds of weight loss, he's also adamant that his followers adhere to the high standards he sets for them. " One thing you'll never hear from me is that making changes in your life is easy. . . . Each step you take toward your weight-loss goal is a gift you give yourself." That about sums it up.