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Bob Greene’s diet

Definition

Bob Greene’s diet is two separate but similar programs with two different websites Get with the Program! (GWTP!) and The Best Life Diet. GWTP! is divided into four phases: Truth, commitment, and self-control; Revving up your metabolism; Getting real about emotional eating; and Securing a life of health and emotional well-being. The Best Life Diet is comprised of three phases: establishing a regular pattern of exercise and eating; exploring the physical and emotional reasons for hunger; and learning weight management for life. Both programs are moderate and nutritionally balanced weight loss regimens combined with an exercise program and psychological introspection.

Origins

Greene is a personal trainer with educational and professional credentials in physical education and exercise physiology. He maintains that his interest in health and fitness began as early as seven, when he was told that the reason his great-grandmother was bedridden was her excess weight. He noticed that many of his other relatives were overweight and began to read articles about food and nutrition in the daily newspaper.

After high school, Greene majored in physical education at the University of Delaware and completed a master’s degree in exercise physiology at the University of Arizona. He worked as the director of exercise physiology for a medical management company and as the manager and trainer of the fitness staff at a health spa in Telluride, Colorado.

Both GWTP! and the Best Life program were preceded by Greene’s first book, Make the Connection: 10 Steps to a Better Body—And a Better Life, which he co-authored with talk show host Oprah Winfrey and published in 1996. He met Winfrey while working at the spa in Telluride, later moving to Chicago to set up a training practice and make regular appearances on her television show.

Get with the Program!

GWTP! is a four-phase program that focuses on the user’s slow and gradual development of new eating and exercise habits. Dieters proceed through the phases of the program at their own pace. GWTP! emphasizes the importance of organization in personal weight loss.

PHASE 1: TRUTH, COMMITMENT, AND SELF-CONTROL. The theory behind this phase is that an individual will make healthier lifestyle choices if they care about their well-being. The program offers participants a contract they can use to make a commitment to themselves for a healthier lifestyle. The participant is encouraged to post it where it can be seen every day as a reminder of commitment. Physical exercise in this phase consists of flexibility, stretching, and range-of-motion exercises. Phase one should be completed in one to three weeks. Completion of the Phase 1 checklist signifies preparation for the next phase.

PHASE 2: REVVING UP YOUR METABOLISM. Many participants make the mistake of trying to cut back on calories too quickly rather than increasing their level of physical activity. Phase 2 introduces the participant to a physical fitness program that increases their body’s rate of food metabolism. Exercise has an effect known as after-burn— the body burns calories at a higher rate for several hours after an exercise session, not only during the workout. It also reinforces the participant’s commitment to more healthful eating because physical changes usually present fairly rapidly. Cardiovascular workouts average 50 to 75

KEY TERMS

After-burn—The increased rate of body metabolism that lasts for several hours after a session of vigorous exercise.

Emotional eating—Term for eating to alter mood or relieve stress, boredom, or loneliness.

Ovolactovegetarian—A vegetarian who consumes eggs and dairy products as well as plant-based foods.

Personal trainer—An individual specializing in diet and exercise who works with clients on an individual basis.

Pesce/pollo vegetarian—A vegetarian who avoids the use of red meat but will include fish (pesce in Italian) or chicken (pollo in Italian) in the diet.

minutes per week in this phase. After one to three months, participants should be ready for Phase 3.

PHASE 3: GETTING REAL ABOUT EMOTIONAL EATING. The primary component of Phase 3 is recognizing emotional eating habits. The focus on this behavior is a distinctive feature of Greene’s overall approach to health and fitness. A participant needs to understand the distinction between physical hunger and eating for such emotional reasons as boredom, loneliness, job-related stress, or general anxiety. In order to learn how to tell the difference, the participant is asked to choose a specific day and delay their normal meal times for several hours so that they can experience real physical hunger. (Diabetics are advised to consult their physician before undertaking this step). After reestablishing an awareness of physical hunger, the participant is advised to keep a journal in which events or other stimuli (television advertising, eating out, the smell of food from a nearby restaurant, assignment deadlines at work or school, etc.) that trigger episodes of emotional eating are recorded. In time, the person is encouraged to identify counterproductive patterns and behaviors of which they were previously unaware and take steps to modify the behavior. One such behavior modification involves substituting other activities for eating. Suggested activities include reading, taking a class, working on a hobby or craft, or going for a walk. Exercise during phase three is increased to 100 to 125 minutes per week. Phase 3 typically lasts one to three months.

PHASE 4: SECURING A LIFE OF HEALTH AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING. Phase four is focuses on enhancing the changes in activity level and conscious food choices made in the first three phases. By phase four the participant’s exercise program has been scaled up to include weight training and advice is provided for continuing healthy eating habits. A checklist verifies that the participant met the major program goals. No specific timeline is provided for this phase since it leads to a lifetime of weight management using the tools acquired throughout the program.

GWTP! stresses many of the same themes in all four phases. Participants are continuously encouraged to increase their activity level, drink more water, become aware of what triggers their hunger, and eat sensibly. Guidelines for exercise are provided at each phase. Information about nutrition and making healthy food selections is also provided. Greene believes that many people overeat because they eat haphazardly, without any meal planning, and that this lack of structure is conducive to poor nutrition and exercise habits. He recommends a schedule of three meals and two snacks a day, with a cutoff point for stopping food consumption, namely two hours before bedtime

The Best Life diet

PHASE 1: THE REV-UP. The chief objective in the Best Life diet is to establish a regular pattern of exercise and eating. Phase 1 begins with an initial weigh-in followed by an increase in physical activity. The participant is allowed three meals plus one or two snacks daily, but no alcohol, and no eating for a minimum of two hours before bedtime. If the overall weight loss has been a pound or more per week and the daily objectives outlined in the plan are met consistently, the participant may move on to Phase 2 at the end of four weeks or continue in this phase until the objectives are met.

PHASE 2: THE SWITCH. Phase 2 emphasizes significant and consistent weight loss through controlling hunger and implementing changes in eating patterns. The participant is expected to explore the physical and emotional reasons for hunger, and to use a 10-point scale to rate feelings of hunger (1=Your stomach acid is churning, 6=You feel satisfied, and 10=You are so full you feel nauseous). Participants are also expected to eat smaller food portions and remove six foods from their diet that lack nutritional value or are problem foods. Physical activity may be increased. Weight is checked every week for four weeks. When the participant is within 20 lb of their goal weight and the weight loss has stopped it is time to begin phase 3.

SAMPLE MENUS. Week 1, Day 1

  • Breakfast: Skim milk, pear muffin, 1 fresh apple
  • Snack: Low-fat yogurt
  • Lunch: Walnut cannelini wrap + chopped green salad
  • High-calcium snack: Whole-grain crackers with reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • Dinner: Pasta with chicken or shrimp + mixed green salad
  • “Anytime treat”: 1 oz piece of dark chocolate Week 1, Day 2
  • Breakfast: Best Life Kashi Go Lean Mix with pecans and skim milk, plus one half grapefruit
  • Snack: Iced vanilla soy latte with graham cracker
  • Lunch: Nut butter and pear whole-wheat sandwich + carrot sticks
  • High-calcium snack: Maple-nut yogurt
  • Dinner: Lemon and herb grilled trout + corn + sauteed sugar peas with ginger
  • “Anytime treat”:Low-fat ice cream

Both the GWTP!and The Best Life Dietprograms are available either in book format or by joining the specific online program through Greene’s Web sites. Both online programs are affiliated with eDiets.com and charge a weekly fee for membership, approximately US$5 per week. GWTP!is available in audio CD or audiotape formats as well.

The print editions of both books contain the core of Greene’s diet plan. They are roughly 300 pages long and contain recipes, meal plans, and suggestions for reexamining and making changes in one’s food choices. Many participants find the information in the books adequate for their needs. A daily journal is available for purchase with either program. Two additional books can be used with GWTP!: Get with the Program! Guide to Good Eatingcontaining supplementary recipes and menu plans, and Get with the Program! Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurantscovering over 75 restaurants and how eat healthy off their menus.

Dieters who choose to pay a weekly fee for online membership in either GWTP!or the Best Life diet receive customized advice tailored to their age, weight, height, sex, and level of physical activity. The home page of each website invites the user to fill out an online form with this personal information as well as their goal weight. The online fee for GWTP!“Basic Training” includes the following:

  • A workout plan based on the customer’s general fitness needs and current activity level.
  • 3-D animated exercises.
  • 24/7 advice and support from experts.
  • Access to a support group moderated by eDiets.com nutrition and fitness experts.
  • Menus, recipes, and shopping lists.
  • Online tracking of the customer’s progress.
  • Current news articles on topics related to health, fitness, diet, nutrition, and emotional well-being.

A personalized diet plan in addition to the fitness plan is available for an additional fee.

Function

The function of Greene’s diet plan is a restructuring of the participant’s present eating and exercise habits, phased in gradually at the participant’s own pace. This restructuring requires a committed intention to lose weight based on a willingness to look honestly at one’s patterns of food consumption, including emotional as well as physical reasons for eating.

Benefits

The benefits of Bob Greene’s diet program are its commonsense approach to the necessity of personal commitment to change as well as lifestyle modifications if people wish to lose weight and keep it off. Many users find the plan’s emphasis on introspection and emotional honesty helpful in breaking the psychological patterns that cause them to regain the pounds after a period of successful weight loss.

The flexibility of food choices built into the program makes it easier for participants with food allergies or those who must cook for or share meals with a family to use this plan. The foods Greene recommends are moderate in cost; there are no pricey recipes or ingredients in his plan. Vegetarians also find it easy to adjust for an ovolactovegetarian or pesce/pollo vegetarian diet.

Precautions

Dieters who select the individualized programs offered on Greene’s websites should check with their primary care physician to verify the physical exercises suggested for them are appropriate. Diabetics and

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR

  • What do you like and dislike about Bob Greene’s programs?
  • What is your opinion regarding the amount of exercise recommended?
  • What aspects of these programs worked for other patients?

individuals with other medical conditions should also note Greene’s warning regarding the importance of consulting their physician before undertaking the physical hunger experiment.

Risks

Greene’s diet plan does not pose any risks to health for users who have had a recent medical checkup and have consulted their health care provider about specific forms of exercise.

Research and general acceptance

His educational background in exercise physiology adds credibility to his insistence on physical activity as an integral part of a long-term weight loss or weight maintenance regimen.

Most references to Bob Greene’s diet are in popular print media—daily newspapers and monthly women’s magazines with wide circulations—rather than medical or nutritional journals. Although Greene does not publicize his associations with celebrities, his websites as well as newspaper and magazine articles always emphasize that he is Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer. Crediting Winfrey as the co-author of his first book is generally regarded as the key to Greene’s rapid success in the late 1990s.

There are no published reports on clinical trials of Bob Greene’s diet plan as of 2007. Reviews of the diet plan by professional nutritionists are generally favorable; they typically describe it as a simple program that establishes the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy living. The programs are easy to follow and include dietary guidelines aligned with those recommended by the USDA. Greene is realistic about the difficulty of long-term weight loss and up-front about the commitment required to make long-term changes.

On the other hand, some nutritionists point out that Greene’s diets require a greater time commitment for journaling and exercise than most people can manage on a regular basis.

BOOKS

Greene, Bob W. The Best Life Diet New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

Greene, Bob W. Bob Greene’s Total Body Makeover New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Greene, Bob W. Get with the Program!: Getting Real about Your Health, Weight, and Emotional Well-Being New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Greene, Bob W. The Get with the Program! Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurants New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Greene, Bob W. The Get with the Program! Guide to Good Eating New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Greene, Bob W. Keep the Connection: Choices for a Better Body and a Healthier Life New York: Hyperion, 1999.

Greene, Bob W., and Oprah Winfrey. Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—and a Better Life New York: Hyperion, 1996

PERIODICALS

Baldacci, Leslie. “Oprah’s Trainer Asks What Candy Means.” Chicago Sun-Times (November 21, 2006): 44.

Eller, Daryn. “Food to Go: Have It Your Way; When It Comes to Restaurant Eating, Bob Greene Says the Choice Is Yours.” Muscle & Fitness/Hers (December 2003): 54

OTHER

The Best Life Diet. Website:<http://www.thebestlife.com>.

Get with the Program!. Website:<http://www.getwiththeprogram.org>.

ORGANIZATIONS

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). P.O. Box 1440, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1440. Telephone: (317) 637-9200. Website:<http://www.acsm.org>.

American Council on Exercise (ACE). 4851 Paramount Drive, San Diego, CA 92123. Telephone: (858) 279-8227. Website:<http://www.acefitness.org>.

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD


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