Twelve weeks to total transformation. If you're familiar with Get With the Program!, Make the Connection, and Basic Training, a program on my Web site www.getwiththeprogram.org, you know that I've always said that it takes time and patience to lose weight. Now here I am with a three-month program. Have I gone off the deep end?
Not at all, and I think you'll agree when I explain the thinking behind Total Body Makeover.
Anytime I work with someone, be it on a one-to-one basis or through my books, my goal is to help that person attain physical health and emotional well-being. The 12-week Total Body Makeover is simply an accelerated program. It's a bit like boot camp: intense and meant to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time while giving you quicker and more dramatic results. One (and the most important) of those results is obtaining a new, elevated, and healthier metabolism. Through a combination of vigorous exercise and five simple eating rules -- no strict or formal "dieting" -- you will be burning far more calories each day when you reach the end of the 12 weeks.
This program offers something for everyone. Whether you're a beginning exerciser, already have a regular workout routine going, or are at an advanced level of fitness, you can personalize the Total Body Makeover plan to suit you. And no matter whether you have a substantial amount of weight to lose, a little to lose, or are just trying to get into the best shape of your life, you will see substantial changes in your body at the end of 12 weeks. Some of you will have reached your ultimate goal by then; some of you will have made a great start and will still have a way to go. But all of you, if you stay committed, will look and feel significantly different. Some of you will even have changed your lives in ways that were totally unexpected. Most important, you will be on the road to a lifetime of healthy living.
I can't stress enough how critical it is to have the proper mind-set before you begin this program. This means you have to think like an athlete. (You don't have to be an athlete, just think like one for now.) Athletes train intensely for an event, but once the event is over, they scale back and continue to stay active at a less rigid pace. That's essentially what you're going to be doing. You're going to ramp it up for 12 weeks, then pull back a bit but continue to be active and eat healthfully so that you don't lose the fitness, weight loss, and health strides you've made. Your goal should not be to follow this program for 12 weeks, celebrate the results, then abandon all the changes you made and return to what you were doing before. Granted, the 12 weeks are tough; I want to be honest about that. But I also want you to bear in mind that if you keep your goal in your line of sight, it will help you power through the days when staying on the program seems particularly difficult.
Here's what else I think will help you succeed on this program: the success of others. The pages of this book are peppered with stories of real-life people who have made over their bodies -- indeed, their very lives -- through their dedication and commitment. As you read these motivating tales, I hope they'll both inspire you and allow you to see your own struggles -- and your own possibilities! -- in the experiences of others.
To listen to the news these days is to hear some pretty dismal reports about Americans' ability (or rather, inability) to adopt healthy habits. Obesity rates are rising, large numbers of both kids and adults aren't exercising, many people find it hard to stick to a nutritious diet. And even when people do make an effort to slim down, they often give up after a while. According to some estimates, as many as 95 percent of people who lose weight gain it back. That's particularly scary when you consider that the latest figures indicate that obesity is fast on its way to replacing smoking as the number one cause of preventable death.
But there are people who are beating the odds and losing weight -- permanently. I know because I've met them. In my travels around the country, I've talked to many, many people who have committed themselves to change, with striking results. And they're not just slimming down for a few months, then ballooning back up again. They're dropping pounds and keeping them off over the long haul. That's the real challenge, and these inspiring individuals are meeting it.
As I see it, we all have a choice. We can dwell on the sad state of affairs and moan about how it must be impossible to be fit and healthy. Or we can take a look at those people who are successful and ask, What are they doing right? How did they overcome the obstacles that have tripped up so many others? We have so much to learn from these folks.
Certainly, in the grand scheme of things, the number of people who are able to lose weight and change their lives for good isn't staggering -- it's really just a blip on the demographic chart that highlights the nation's expanding waistline. Nonetheless, each of the individuals you'll meet in this book proves that it's truly possible to effect significant change. And within each of their stories are some very important clues to how it's done. No two tales, as it turns out, are exactly alike, but every one of them shows that resolve can pay off.
Twelve Weeks to a New Body
Though the 12-week Total Body Makeover program is challenging on many levels, it doesn't include a formal diet. That may both surprise you and alarm you if that's the way you've tried to lose or control your weight in the past. But one of the things that sets my philosophy apart is that I firmly believe in getting an exercise program going and adopting a few simple eating rules: get a grip on your emotional eating, eat breakfast, have an eating cutoff time, drink plenty of water, and abstain from or limit your intake of alcohol -- before you even begin to think about "officially" dieting. If you don't meet your goals, you may feel that you need to go on a structured eating plan when the 12 weeks are up. With this in mind I have devoted a lot of space in chapter 5 to helping you make sense of the most popular diets. However, right now it's in your best interest not to drastically cut calories before you have had a chance, through exercise, to ensure that your metabolism is running on high. And this may be particularly true if your metabolism, owing to the effects of going on diet after diet through the years, is as slow as molasses. Everybody can benefit from a metabolic charge-up before they start dieting, but chronic dieters especially need exercise to increase their calorie-burning rate.
Greatly restricting your food intake does the opposite of boosting your metabolism: it slows it down. The body is very sensitive to calorie input. Cutting way back on the amount of calories you consume triggers a survival mechanism, which developed when food was a lot scarcer than it is now and which causes your metabolism to switch into lower gear so that you don't expend energy too quickly. In fact, one of the worst things you can do is to restrict your calorie intake drastically without exercising at all. Because exercise can help moderate the body's survival tactic a bit, dieting at the same time you're exercising regularly is a little better, but, it's still not optimal. Best of all -- and this is the approach built into this program -- is to avoid formal dieting altogether, concentrate on exercise, and let the five simple eating rules in chapter 4 guide your approach to eating. While the rules may help you reduce your calorie intake a bit, you won't eat so little that your fat-defending survival mechanism kicks in.
Here's another important consideration: When you're in the throes of an intensive exercise program, you need to make sure you're getting enough calories to fuel your workouts. Go on a very-low-calorie diet, and you may feel too weak to work out!
When I tell my clients that they won't be dieting, some of them balk at first, but I ask them to be patient in order to see how well they do with just exercise and the eating and drinking guidelines first. The vast majority of them end up reaching their goals without ever having to go on a formal diet. Generally what happens is that after a certain point -- it could be week two, it could be week four, it could be even after the 12 weeks are over -- they reach a point I call the "free fall," when their metabolism revs up and the weight starts consistently melting off. Some people, though, even if they do eventually go into the free fall, don't lose enough weight. A small percentage of people find that they ultimately do need a structured plan to help them reach their goal.
I'm asking the same thing of you that I ask of my clients: Follow the 12-week program, then decide whether you need to follow a formal eating plan. I do think that under the right circumstances, diets can be very helpful, which is why I go over ten of the most popular ones in chapter 5, "Making the Transition to Real Life." They can assist you in clarifying your dietary needs and learning to make better food choices. Some of them will introduce you to a whole new way of eating that you never knew would be satisfying.
But whether you end up going on a diet or not, I think it's important to keep in mind that exercise has some revitalizing benefits that dieting, and especially going on a very rigid diet, doesn't. Working out is a proactive approach to reshaping your body. It's something you do, something you add to your life, and something that you'll quite possibly find can even be pleasurable. On the flip side, cutting calories is about not doing something, and, to me at least, that seems a lot harder, not to mention a lot less fun. I also believe that exercising combined with sensible eating is a much more effective, healthier -- and ultimately more life-changing -- approach than trying to diet your way there.
I can think of no better example of this than the struggle Oprah went through many years ago. Some of you may remember that she went on a liquid diet in 1988 and, in four months, lowered her weight from 211 to 142. She even came out on her show pulling a wagonful of lard representing all the body fat that she had lost. But something didn't seem right back then, and something wasn't. If you look at pictures of Oprah at that time, she was thin, but she had a gaunt appearance, and she certainly didn't have the muscle tone and healthy glow that she has today -- seventeen years later!
Oprah's new body was short-lived. A year later, she was up to 175; a year and a half later, she hit an all-time high of 237 pounds. Needless to say, she was devastated.
Several years and life lessons later, Oprah looks healthy, vibrant, and radiant. If you saw pictures of her around the time of her fiftieth birthday in April 2004, you might have noticed that she has a new energy and vibrance. This time, she totally made over her body with exercise and sensible eating. She doesn't count calories, and she certainly hasn't been on a formal diet in a long, long time.r
Conscientious eating and dieting are not the same thing. Conscientious eating is a way of life that allows you to stay within healthy boundaries while still eating enough to give you energy to exercise and to feel satisfied. Dieting is typically something you do short term, usually yielding short-term results. Sometimes going on a formal eating plan (though not an extreme one like a liquid diet) can really help you organize your eating and develop positive eating habits. Just be mindful that diets are not the be-all and end-all.
Now let's talk about exercise, the heart and soul of this program. There are actually three different categories of exercises you'll be doing over the 12 weeks: functional exercise, strength training exercise, and aerobic exercise. It may sound like a lot, but the three types of exercises are woven together smoothly so that in the end the combination feels like a seamless workout. From my experience working with many different people, I can tell you that it's very doable.
The first type of activity, functional exercises, refers to moves that improve your core strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. They are primarily stretches and exercises that strengthen the stabilizing muscle groups, such as your abdominals. Through these moves, you'll achieve what's called functional fitness, which will not only make the strengthening and aerobic portions of the program easier for you to perform but also improve your posture, make you move more gracefully, and help you avoid injury.
To build strength, you'll be doing weight-training exercises, mostly with dumbbells or weight machines. These exercises will also help you increase your muscular power and endurance and, most important, strengthen your joints so that you can participate in more vigorous exercise. Strength training will also help you avoid injury and keep your metabolism running in high gear by building muscle. Muscle burns considerably more calories than body fat, increasing your body's calorie-burning potential.
The type of aerobic exercise you will do during this program will be your choice (although I'll have some recommendations for you). Aerobic workouts, the kind that elevate your heart rate, help you burn calories while you're doing them, of course, but they also boost your metabolism for hours after you've hung up your gym shoes. These workouts will be a critical part of your regimen, both for their weight loss and their health benefits.
Preparing for This Program
For many people, the preparation they do before embarking on an exercise program is just as important as -- maybe even more important than -- the program itself. It's essential that you realize that the meter on this program doesn't start ticking the minute you finish this introduction. It will vastly increase your chances of success if you first do some emotional work to ensure that your heart and mind, not just your body, are ready to go. The first chapter in this book, "Building a Sound Emotional Foundation," is dedicated to helping you lay the groundwork for change. In my experience, very few people have transformed their bodies without doing four things: telling themselves the truth about why they haven't been able to lose weight or get fit in the past; taking responsibility for their behavior; making a commitment to do what it takes to change; and mustering their inner strength to make it all happen. If you want to succeed in making your body over -- indeed, if you want to succeed at life -- here are the keys to the castle.
What these four cornerstones -- honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength -- do is provide a rock-solid emotional foundation that will hold you up when the going gets rough. And it will. Without these four cornerstones, trying to institute change is like building a house on an unstable foundation -- at the first rumble of trouble, it's likely to tumble.
Changing your behavior isn't easy, but it's a lot easier if you have a very good sense of yourself as well as an unwavering dedication to your goal. People who succeed look themselves in the eye and are truthful about why they are where they are in their lives. They identify their weaknesses and their discomforting or painful personal issues, and they make the connection between them and their eating habits and inactivity. If they're overweight, they dig down deep to understand why. When they figure out what it is that needs to change, they make a promise to their harshest critic -- themselves -- to change it and muster the willpower to see it through.
I'm not discounting the fact that you may already have a strong emotional foundation. Many people are already clear about what they're doing wrong and staunchly committed to doing what it will take to fix it. If you haven't started a bunch of other programs only to fail again and again and you feel that you have the resolve and the willpower to do what it takes to succeed, you can give chapter 1 a pass -- or, better yet, quickly read it to reinforce where you are.
If, on the other hand, you have experienced failure many times, you can't pass this chapter by. I wish it were the case that all you had to do to get the body you want is to get onto a treadmill or pick up some weights, but experience has shown me that it's almost impossible to lose weight (or, more precisely, to keep lost weight from returning) if you don't address why you are overweight in the first place, whether it's a deep-seated emotional matter, lack of support from those around you, simple bad habits, maybe even just laziness. Excess weight is always a symptom of something else. Identifying what that something else is and changing it is the key to long-term success. If you address only the symptom, you'll never permanently solve the problem.
The time you spend preparing your mind to tackle the big job of changing your body will be time well spent. I've quite often met people who have lost more than 150 pounds, totally transforming the way they look and, most important, the way they feel about themselves. I have talked to men and women who, though they needed to lose only a small amount of weight, used exercise to help them achieve a total health overhaul. I've also met people who, by most standards, already lived a healthy life but who wanted to become -- and did become -- superfit. What these people all had in common was that they achieved their goals when -- and only when -- they were completely ready. Many of them had tried and failed many times before, but at some point they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, turned a searching eye on their lives, and came away with the insight, willpower, and commitment they needed to succeed. It's not as though once they made the decision, they never experienced a temptation to return to their old ways -- that, to be honest, never goes away. But they became better at managing their lives and, consequently, better at fending off the pull of anything that would get in the way of their success.
It's not enough to want to transform your body; everybody wants to do that. You have to want to do the hard work that is required to lose weight. Tough decisions will be required of you, and you have to be ready, even eager, to make them. No one succeeds without giving up something, be it leisure time or favorite foods. You may find that you even have to revaluate and change some of the relationships you're in.
But let me tell you that the sacrifices you make in the process of transforming yourself will change your life drastically and, usually, in the best way possible. That, in fact, should be your biggest motivator next to wanting to improve your health. The way you feel about yourself (the way you feel, period), your relationships with others, your whole approach to the world can be different and far more positive. I haven't yet met anyone who successfully made their body over without finding that their lives changed in ways -- wonderful ways -- that they had never imagined.
The prospect of shaking up your world may not sound all that interesting when you're really just thinking about how to lose 5 or 50 or even 150 pounds. That's okay; let the weight loss be your focus, but keep the prospect of life changes in the back of your mind, because ultimately, it's probably going to happen, and if you're like any of the successful people you'll be reading about in this book, you'll be thrilled that it did.
What Else Is in Store?
As part of your preparation for the 12-week program, I'd like you to put your intentions into writing by signing a contract with yourself. If you're familiar with some of my other books or if you've seen my work with people on The Oprah Winfrey Show, you'll know that I often ask people to sign contracts with themselves. Why? For the simple reason that it can really make a difference in the way you approach change. Putting something into writing gives what's being promised greater weight, especially when the person you are making the promise to is you. Signing a contract also creates something tangible that you can drag out and put on the table as a constant reminder that you are committed to making your body over. You probably wouldn't break a contract you had with someone else; my hope is that you'll also be true to the contract you make with yourself.
In January 2003, O, The Oprah Magazine published a contract I designed (similar to the one in this book) that challenged readers to commit themselves to regular exercise, healthful food choices, and nutritional rather than emotional eating. The idea was to take people a step beyond the usual "Yeah, I'm going to do something about my health." Thousands of women (and men) sent in contracts, and while I can't claim to know how it worked for all of them, many followed up with letters telling us that signing the contract had been a turning point in their lives and that they'd gone on to keep the commitment. They proved that making a promise, in writing to yourself, can be a positive catalyst for change.
I also want to talk a bit about emotional eating. In a perfect world, everyone would eat just enough to fuel them through their day and provide them with a nice amount of sensory pleasure. As it is, many people eat for emotional reasons -- boredom, stress, anxiety, depression, a void in their lives. If you're one of them, it's important to identify and acknowledge the emotional trigger points that send you running to the refrigerator or the cupboard. This, too, is about telling yourself the truth. What are your real feelings, and why are you trying to mask them with food? In chapter 3, you'll find some tools to help you answer these questions and avoid burying emotional issues under boxes of cookies and cartons of ice cream. For many people, simply eliminating emotional eating can be the difference between weighing 250 pounds and 125 pounds, no dieting involved.
If you do end up going on a diet, it's crucial to pick the right one. I don't believe in one-size-fits-all diets. People are different. Some need a lot of structure; some need a little structure or none at all. But one thing is true for everybody: in order for a diet to work, you have to stay on it, and in order for you to stay on it, it has to realistic and within your capabilities. It has to suit your tastes, your lifestyle, and your resources. Not your sister's, a friend's, or some movie star's, but yours. And since only you can know what type of eating plan will fit you to a T, I want you to be in charge of selecting your own diet -- though I've done some legwork to help guide you toward one that will safely allow you to continue your body makeover process.
In chapter 5, "Making the Transition to Real Life," I'll take a look at popular eating plans: What do they really ask of you? What are their advantages and disadvantages? Who will they probably work best for? I also want to give you the option of developing your own plan. If you already know what type of eating plan works for you, and as long as your self-devised diet isn't drastic or unhealthy (an earlier book of mine, The Get With the Program Guide to Good Eating, can help you establish some parameters), go for it. What counts is that it be a plan you can stick with.
Keep in mind that the science of nutrition and weight loss is relatively young. We are always learning new things about the body and how it reacts to food and exercise, so the definitive ultimate diet is probably quite a few years away. That said, there are some fundamental truths about becoming healthier and slimmer. One of them is that not everybody has to follow the same exact diet plan in order to succeed at losing weight. In fact, different people respond differently to different diets, although nobody is exactly sure why. Some people, for instance, feel energetic and full of life while following a low-carbohydrate diet, while others feel as though they can barely muster the energy to get off the couch. Some people feel hungry all the time on a low-fat diet, while others feel perfectly satisfied. Some people drop a ton of weight when given an exact menu for every meal; others, oddly enough, end up gaining.
That said, bear in mind that the formula for weight loss is fairly simple: When the calories coming in (what you eat) are fewer than the calories going out (what you expend through exercise, basic body functions such as your heart beating and eyes blinking, and unstructured activity such as brushing your hair out of your eyes), you will lose weight. No matter what eating plan you end up choosing, that's the bottom line.
Tawni: The Amazing Woman on the Cover of This Book
If you need a muse to get you started on the road to total transformation, I recommend Tawni, the incredible woman I am posing with on the cover of this book. I'll let Tawni tell you her story in her own words, but let me preface it by saying that she is proof of that old saying "Where there's, a will there's a way."
A Lightbulb Goes On
Like a lot of people who struggle with their weight, I had been heavy most of my life, having had only a brief period of "normal" weight during high school. But the way I stayed thin back then was hardly normal: my mom sent me to a "fat farm," where I lost a bunch of weight, and then I kept it off by forcing myself to vomit after eating binges. During my senior year I kicked the purging habit, but the binging continued. Eventually I gained 50 pounds.
After high school and throughout my twenties, I turned to food for comfort. I was depressed and lonely, and food soothed me. But it was a vicious cycle. I'd feel depressed, eat, then feel depressed about eating. By the time I moved to San Francisco in 1994, I weighed almost 185 pounds, quite a bit for someone who is only five feet, three inches tall.
To make matters worse, while I was in the process of moving I was carjacked. Everything I owned except for the clothes on my back was taken, and I had to start over from scratch. Add to that the fact that I was in a new city where I knew no one, and the loneliness was nearly intolerable. Again I turned to food for solace. That first year in San Francisco, I gained more than 100 pounds, hitting 295.
Change eventually started to come, but it came slowly. I began to get my bearings. I bought clothes and furniture, and started to rebuild my life.
In 1996, I was on a business trip in Arizona. When I got back to my hotel room and flipped on the TV, The Oprah Winfrey Show was on. It wasn't the first time I'd watched: I'm a huge fan of Oprah's, and I had a habit of taping the show every day. On that particular afternoon, I stayed put and watched the show, which was about the launch of Make the Connection, a book that Oprah and Bob had written together.
I sat in that hotel room and couldn't believe what I was hearing. Oprah gets up at 5 a.m. to exercise? I bought the book and stayed up all night in my hotel room reading it. The book appealed to me because it wasn't a diet, it was a way of life. It was about working from the inside out, and it dawned on me that that was always the way I had known I was going to lose weight.
What happened in that hotel room is that I had an honest conversation with myself. I admitted to myself that if one of the most industrious women in America was making time to exercise, my own excuse was lame. After some soul-searching, I owned up to the idea that I didn't need a magic diet; I needed something that would help me address my emotional eating.
When I got back to San Francisco, I bought a treadmill, put it right in front of the TV in my tiny apartment, and started walking every evening after work while I watched a tape of Oprah's daily show. That was in September. By December I'd lost 20 pounds.
Then, on December 4, I got up early to do my walking routine outside for the very first time. (I'd never stopped thinking about Oprah getting up at five and wondering if I too could become a morning person.) Luck wasn't with me: I was hit by a car and spent the next six months in a wheelchair while going through rehab.
It might have been a serious setback, but this time, unlike after the carjacking incident, I decided to come out better, not bitter. I was feeling good about the 20 pounds I'd lost and didn't want another 100-pound gain. I'd been honest with myself about my past behavior and was successfully using it to predict -- and prevent -- my future behavior. (Because, for instance, I knew I tended to overeat when stressed, when heading into a stressful situation I'd bring baby carrots or celery to munch on so I wouldn't make a beeline for the vending machines.)
In addition, I had founded a support group for people struggling with their weight, and I was the leader. I needed to set a good example; I didn't want to let the group down. Something else was also different this time around. While in the beginning, losing the weight had taken a lot of willpower, now the things that had allowed me to succeed -- lots of exercise and retooling my diet -- had become habit. I was in the habit of healthy living.
My group helped me as much as I helped them. Through the power of the group and my conviction that I wouldn't be a victim this time around, I didn't gain an ounce during the six months after the accident. As soon as I got out of the wheelchair, I picked up with my walking right where I'd left off. Three months later, I did my first 5K run.
By 1998, I had lost more than 100 pounds. I weighed 175 and was proud of it. I'd done it slowly and consistently by cleaning up my diet and exercising. Ironically, although I'd gone through years of therapy to combat depression and even tried antidepressants, exercise turned out to be the best drug for me -- and all the side effects were positive ones.
This isn't the end of my story. I won my weight loss battle because I made a commitment to myself to not let anything stand in my way -- and I held to it. Last year I even renewed my commitment and signed the "Contract with Myself." [The same contract you'll find on page 58.] My goal this time was to lose enough weight to run the Chicago Marathon in October in under five hours. Today, I have 30 marathons under my belt and weigh 140 pounds.
This process took me eight years. I had my setbacks and even some tragedies in between. But it has all been worth it because I have changed not just my body, but almost every aspect of my life. While I've always been an overachiever, before this transformation, my personal life was out of control. I always initiated contact with both men and women friends, and I'd jump through hoops to please them. Underneath there was a lot of envy and resentment in these relationships. Now I have healthier, more balanced relationships. Whereas I used to never take time for myself, now I make it a priority. I'm asked to do fifty million things a day, but now before I say yes I look at how it's going to affect the things that I have to get done for me. I'm no longer last on my list.
Another big change in my life has been a newfound ability to speak my mind. It used to be that if my husband's socks were on the floor, I'd get resentful and go eat a bowl of ice cream. I never made the connection that I was eating because I was upset. Now instead of eating I just say, "Would you pick up your socks?" I stand up for myself and say what I think. If I'm uncomfortable with something, I say so. If someone hurts my feelings, I tell them. I also now use exercise as an outlet for my feelings. I used to be an emotional eater; now I'm an emotional exerciser. I even keep an emergency pair of shoes in my car so that if I get stressed out I can pull over and walk instead of pulling into the closest drive-through. I used to nervously eat, now I nervously walk.
I've learned to set new boundaries and make decisions that aren't always popular. Before I was married, my friends weren't too happy when I told them I couldn't go out to clubs because I had to be asleep by ten so I could get up early and exercise. But that's all part of it. I worked hard for every pound I lost, and I still do. Along the way I discovered tjoy in life is helping others find the same happiness I have. Through two Web sites that I run (www.nomoreexcuses.net and www.connectingconnectors.com), I have become part of a whole new community.
You might say that Tawni is a marathoner in more than one sense of the word. Just as she has run races, taking them step by step and staying the course, so has she improved her life by changing it bit by bit and hanging in there over the long haul. Like marathoning, making your body over is a test of endurance and one that you can succeed in only if you are willing to keep chugging along. The next 12 weeks will be a little bit of a sprint, but they're just part of the training for an ongoing process. When you cross the finish line, you'll be fitter than ever -- and ready to stay on the path to a new life.
Copyright © 2005 by Bob Greene Enterprises, Inc.