If you're looking for the OK to overindulge this holiday season and get back on track in January, you won't find it from trainer Bob Greene, who became a household name as Oprah Winfrey's trainer and his many appearances on her show over the years. The author of The Best Life Diet explains how to "rewire" yourself this holiday season (and hopefully forever), why exercise is just like brushing your teeth, and what annual tradition he absolutely hates … and you should, too!
Why do so many people have trouble with diet and exercise this time of year?
It's almost baked in that it's the holidays. It's kind of a license to say that you're busy and miss your workouts and also very much a license to center around food and overindulge. So I think we need to re-look at it. We overemphasize food. The truth is, in many ways that takes away from the holiday celebrations. Aren't they really about connecting with people?
What are your thoughts on New Year's resolutions -- they so often involve a commitment to healthier eating or a better fitness regime. Can that be a good thing?
I hate them. I don't believe in them. For some people it jumpstarts something, but it only jumpstarts until the end of January. I almost feel like it's admitting that, "Oh, this is a season I cannot take care of myself." And it just doesn't make sense. And so we wind up gearing up for motivating ourselves at the first of the year and giving this license to miss workouts. And it's really about not valuing your health and well-being as your top priority. For me, the first of the year is no different than July 15th.
What can people do to make sure they don't fall off the wagon over the holidays?
There's a connotation … that holiday meals are much less healthy. And they're really not. They're some of the healthiest meals. A traditional turkey dinner, if it's done right, is a very healthy dinner. And the irony is it's this license that so many people really want, so they can say "Oh, yeah, I'll get on the bandwagon January 1st and I'll go to the gym." So rewiring [your way of thinking] is the first thing. And I'm coming from a place of doing this over 30 years, and I see who is successful and who isn't.
So who's successful?
The people that are successful rewire themselves. They do the tough thing. It's no longer, "Oh, God, I've got to exercise. I've got to do it in the morning." No, it's "I can't wait. I wouldn't think of giving that up. It makes me feel better."
So how do the rest of us get "rewired"?
Start with your exercise, always. Don't negotiate your exercise. It's a normal health habit. It … might be something you hate to do, but don't negotiate it. It's part of every day. And it doesn't switch because you have this meeting. You just adjust your schedule. You wake up earlier. You figure out a way, but you don't negotiate it. It's part of your life. How come we don't have to talk people into brushing their teeth? Nobody actually loves it. Most people don't look forward to it. But you do it.
You focus a lot on the other benefits from exercise, other than just looking good. Talk about those.
When you exercise right, you feel a certain way. Get like 20 minutes, a half hour in, and be done with it, and feel great the rest of the day, be buffered from stress, reduce your risk of all these diseases. People want to dangle a little carrot of a 5-pound or 10-pound weight loss, and that's going to be fleeting unless you go deeper and say, "My life is better. It's irrelevant to the 5 or 10 pounds I lost. It's about nurturing, treating myself right, and respecting myself and my goals."
You've worked a lot with Oprah Winfrey, who has publicly struggled with her weight for years. Are her challenges the same as everyone else's?
Of course they are. I think she's so popular because people identify with her struggles. In fact, I wrote a book called The Life You Want -- that showcases eight barriers to your success, in particular with changing your behavior and your health. Oprah has all of them, including she … lived through abuse in her life. Not everyone has that challenge, and that's the greatest one. The statistics are not that great with people that endured that at a young age. And so she has that. The fame thing, well everyone concentrates on the wrong thing. "Oh, she has all the money. She can afford to work out."
Well, yeah, many of us think, "If I had a trainer, if I had a nutritionist, I'd be in better shape."
That's such a trite argument when you really break it down. It's actually more of a challenge [if you're rich and famous]. You're living your life in front of the camera. Everyone's scrutinizing you. There's a microscope on you. What's the money thing? You just need to walk around the block. Why do you need a trainer for that? In fact, Oprah gained the most amount of weight in life when she first employed a chef, a little-known fact. And a healthy chef at that. It's irrelevant. If your food is your coping mechanism in life, the fact that you have a trainer and a chef, it's really such an odd argument to someone in the field.
So many diets have come and gone over the last few decades -- low fat, low calorie, low carb. What are people supposed to follow?
This whole argument of the rules changing and the switch of high protein and high carbohydrate, it's kind of silly, because even the difference between a high carbohydrate diet and a low one, you have to have carbs, and … about at least 48 or 50 percent of your diet has to come from carbs, even on a low carb diet. If you limit choices to a point, that's going to result in weight loss. If you're just eating the all peanut butter diet, you're going to be deficient in many things that are going to keep you healthy, but you'll lose a lot of weight. If you put someone on an all alcohol diet, they'd lose a lot of weight, but it's not in someone's best interest. So that's where most of the dieticians, in fact all of them that are registered dieticians, get it right. Whole grains, vegetables should make up most of your plate, high, lean quality protein, and call it a day.
Learn more about Bob Greene's plan at TheBestLife.com