Bob Greene is a personal trainer and the creator of several diet and fitness programs, including Get with the Program! (GWTP!) and The Best Life Diet. Both programs are moderate and nutritionally balanced weight loss regimens combined with an exercise program and psychological introspection.
Greene holds 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 because of 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.
PHASE 1. Phase 1 centers on 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 1 should be completed in one to three weeks. Completion of the phase 1 checklist signifies preparation for the next phase.
PHASE 2. GWTP! asserts that many dieters make the mistake of trying to cut back on calories too quickly rather than increasing their level of physical activity. Phase 2 introduces participants to a physical fitness program that increases their body's metabolism rate. Certain types of exercise produce an effect known as the “after-burn,” in which the body burns calories at a higher rate for several hours after an exercise session, in addition to calories burned during the workout. Exercise also helps reinforce the commitment to healthy eating because physical changes usually occur fairly rapidly. Cardiovascular workouts average 50–75 minutes per week in this phase. After one to three months, participants should be ready for phase 3.
PHASE 3. 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, participants are asked to choose a specific day and delay their normal meal times for several hours so that they can experience real physical hunger (people with diabetes or other medical conditions should consult their physicians before undertaking this step). After reestablishing an awareness of physical hunger, participants are advised to keep journals to record when events or other stimuli (television advertising, eating out, the smell of food from a nearby restaurant, stress, etc.) trigger episodes of emotional eating. Readers are encouraged to use behavior modification to alter these habits, such as substituting other activities—like reading, taking a class, working on a hobby or craft, or going for a walk—for eating. Exercise during phase three is increased to 100–125 minutes per week. Phase 3 typically lasts one to three months.
PHASE 4. Phase 4 focuses on enhancing the changes in activity level and conscious food choices made in the first three phases. The exercise program is scaled up to include weight training. A checklist verifies that the participant met the major program goals. No specific time line 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 two hours before bedtime.
PHASE 1. 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. Participants are 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 their goals are met.
PHASE 2. 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 rate their hunger using a ten-point scale (one being very hungry and ten being very full). 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 participants are within 20 lb. (9 kg) of their goal weight and the weight loss has stopped, it is time to begin phase 3.
PHASE 3. This is the lifetime maintenance phase. The objective is to continue improving the quality of the participant's diet for good health and longterm weight maintenance. The participant is asked to weigh themselves a minimum of once a month but no more than once a week. Additional nutritious foods should replace less wholesome foods on shopping lists and menus. Physical activity remains a focus, and levels should be increased as the participant improves their fitness.
SAMPLE MENUS. Week 1, Day 1:
Greene's diet plans aim to restructure participants' present eating and exercise habits, with changes phased in gradually at their own pace. The plans require a committed intention to lose weight based on a willingness to look honestly at personal patterns of food consumption, including emotional as well as physical reasons for eating.
One of the benefits of the diet programs is their common sense approach to the necessity of personal commitment to change as well as the lifestyle modifications necessary 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, and vegetarians can easily adjust for an Ovolactovegetarian or pesce/pollo vegetarian diet.
Dieters who select the individualized programs offered on Greene's websites should check with their primary care physicians to verify that the dietary changes and physical exercises suggested for them are appropriate. People with diabetes or other medical conditions may not be able to forgo eating at scheduled intervals.
Greene's diet plan does not pose any risks to health for users who have consulted with their healthcare providers prior to starting the plan.
There are no published reports on clinical trials of Bob Greene's diet plan. Reviews of the diet plan by registered dietitians 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture (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 registered dietitians point out that Greene's diets require a greater time commitment for journaling and exercise than most people can manage on a regular basis. The program is not designed for rapid weight loss.
See also Biggest Loser diet ; Jillian Michaels diet .
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 Best Life Diet. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.
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., and Oprah Winfrey. Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body—and a Better Life. New York: Hyperion, 1996.
Baldacci, Leslie. “Oprah's Trainer Asks What Candy Means.” Chicago Sun-Times, November 21, 2006, 44.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plz., Ste. 2000, Chicago, IL, 60606-6995, (312) 899-0040, (800) 877-1600, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.eatright.org .
Rebecca J. Frey, PhD