The Life Plan Diet
By all accounts, I’m an incredibly lucky man. At 75 years old I’m in better health and in better physical shape compared to any other point of my life, and frankly, to most men my age and younger. I lead a vibrant, exciting life that includes travel and spending lots of time with my family, as well as continually challenging myself professionally and personally. While other men my age are set in their retirement, I can’t stop thinking about the future: what else is in store for me and how I can continue to effect change. There is no secret that everyone, and everything, is going to age. My important message that I want to get out to men is that we don’t have to get old as we age.
I’m also keenly aware that the last 16 years have been a gift, because if you knew me back then, you would have thought that by now I wouldn’t even be here to write this book. And that’s why my story is so important for every man to hear, because I was you. I know how to change the way you age because I have done it and am continuing to do the work today.
In early 1998, I was 59 years old, and I was honestly ready to throw in the towel. I had reached an all-time low in terms of my self-esteem, mood, level of fitness, and appearance. I had spent my entire career as a family medical practitioner in private practice in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Even though my business was thriving, I had really lost enthusiasm for my work. Worse, I looked and felt like an old man. My joints and muscles ached, I had shortness of breath whenever I climbed just one flight of stairs, my clothes were tight, and my stomach was huge. My LDL (bad cholesterol) scores were sky high, my HDL (good cholesterol) numbers were rock bottom, I was well on my way to becoming a full-blown
type 2 diabetic, and I had just learned that I had advanced heart disease. On top of all this, my interest in sex was almost nonexistent. I suffered from erectile dysfunction, and I fought a daily battle with anxiety and depression.
The irony, of course, was that I was a physician certified in family medicine who should have known about staying fit and eating right. But that’s exactly what the issue was: I didn’t know. Like most in my profession, I had no nutritional or exercise training, and I knew nothing about the importance of hormone therapies and their relationship to healthy aging. As a result, I had become just another middle-aged doctor who was trained to disconnect the image in the mirror from the fact that my overall health was in massive decline.
Then, one day, I found a copy of Muscle Media magazine lying in my exam room. I took it home that night and read it cover to cover. I couldn’t believe how physically fit these men and women were, and for the first time in my life, I was jealous enough to do something about the way I looked. I signed up that night for a lifetime subscription. Soon after, I started working with my first personal trainer, Ernie Baul. When I walked into his gym I was met by a 50-year-old former Navy SEAL who took one look at me and said, “I don’t know, old man. You look like quite a challenge.” That was exactly what I needed to hear: His challenge would become my challenge.
One month into his balls-to-the-wall program I read about the first winners of the 1997 Body-for-LIFE contest. I looked at the before-and-after pictures of the participants and thought to myself, These people can’t be for real. I was amazed at the way so many people were able to transform themselves in such a short period of time, from being fat and out of shape to being fit and lean. I showed it to Annie, my girlfriend (and now my wife), and she said, “If those contestants could transform their bodies so can you. You need to do this, Jeff . . . start now!” I didn’t realize it at the time, but what she said would become the pivotal moment that has truly saved my life.
I raced to have my “before” pictures taken, then I told Ernie what I wanted to do. I had just 19 weeks to make a significant change in every aspect of my life. I gave up all of my old habits—including drinking and eating way too much—and put myself on a low-glycemic/low-fat diet that I’ve been following ever since, and that diet is what forms the basis of the program outlined in this book. I started taking supplements and plunged into an exercise program that I was really not prepared for. Quite honestly, the first few weeks were pretty rough: I felt exhausted, sore, and beat up most of the time. Five mornings a week I would get up at 4:00 a.m. and drive to Ernie’s gym. I had to train very early in the morning so I could
get my hospital rounds in and make it to my office by 9:00 a.m. Ernie taught me how to lift weights, how to build muscle and strength, how to eat clean, and how to lose body fat. He showed me how taking small steps consistently can turn into huge strides. Most important, he helped me reach down deep inside myself and maximize every last bit of my potential. He gave me the desire to set goals as high as possible and gave me the tools to reach those goals in small, yet precise, steps. He taught me the importance of working outside my comfort zone in order to achieve the changes I needed.
Nineteen weeks is not a long time to make a complete transformation, and there were many, many days when I thought I just wasn’t going to be able to make it. Yet gradually I began to see real results. My LDL (bad cholesterol) went from 164 down to 80, and I started feeling better and stronger. But the mirror told the story: I could see significant changes in my physique every time I took out my “before” photos and compared them to the new me. I was beginning to like the way I looked for the first time since I graduated from medical school in 1975.
I also became obsessed with the connection between what I ate and how I felt. I read everything I could about improving nutrition, and I began a master’s degree program in sports nutrition and exercise science at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I was taking classes with a highly motivated group of 20-year-olds while continuing to practice family medicine full-time and preparing for the Body-for-LIFE challenge. Yet for the first time in years I had all the energy I needed to make it through those grueling months. Looking back, I loved every one of those days.
By the end of 1998 I was just about to turn 60, and I had completed the Body-for-LIFE competition. I’d submitted my “before” and “after” pictures four months earlier. A few weeks before my birthday, Bill Phillips’s mother called and told me I was one of the finalists in my age category. Then, on Monday, December 7, I got a call from Porter Freeman, the 1997 winner in my age category, who was then and continues to be my role model. Porter immediately asked, “What would you do, Dr. Life, if you were the winner?” I thought he was just jerking me around until he told me the real news: I was the winner. In just 19 weeks I went from being a dumpy old man to becoming a Grand Champion body builder who had just won a brand-new Corvette and $10,000 and transformed not only my physique but also my health.
I immediately started incorporating the program that I followed into my medical practice, trying to get every man who came into my office to experience what I had just gone
through. Before my transformation I was practicing medicine the way I had been taught: providing care that was centered on treating existing disease. But once I realized how much better I felt by taking a proactive approach, I began to change my focus to disease prevention, and I attempted to get my patients to start improving their health through better eating and exercise. It was tough going at first because many of my patients were just like most American men: They thought that their chance of looking and feeling better as they got older was just about zero. But as they heard my story and saw my results, many of them started to come on board. I always started with cleaning up their diet, and then once they were beginning to see results I would get them on an exercise program based on their current health status. I stand by this approach, which is why it is perfectly fine for you to start my program by changing your diet.
I continued to train consistently and ate pretty clean, but four years later, I began to notice that I was losing ground—gaining abdominal fat and losing muscle mass as well as strength, plus my energy and sexual function were beginning to decline again. It was frustrating, to say the least, because my regimen hadn’t changed: I was training as hard as ever but not seeing the same results. Everything was becoming more difficult, whether it was getting up and practicing medicine, going to the gym, or making love with my wife.
Then, in 2003, I met several Cenegenics Medical Institute doctors, as well as Dr. Alan Mintz and John Adams, the founders of this nationally known medical practice. I learned then that they promoted an exercise and nutrition program in combination with correcting hormonal deficiencies, which at the time was completely unconventional, cutting-edge medicine. I was intrigued, and I joined the Cenegenics physician training program in age-management medicine. At the same time I decided to get my own levels checked, and I learned I had major deficiencies in testosterone, DHEA, and growth hormone. That explained why I was losing muscle mass, strength, and endurance—and why I also was accumulating belly fat and battling low energy levels, sluggish thinking, and even depression. The diminished hormones also explained the other major wall I had hit: a decrease in sexual function.
I became a patient of Cenegenics in June 2003. Within two months I had already noticed profound changes in my physique and energy levels. My physician had corrected my hormone deficiencies while I continued my low-glycemic/low-fat nutrition program, combined with the right exercise and key supplements. I went from exhausted to exhilarated once again, and I also started losing belly fat and gaining clarity in my thinking, not
to mention that my sexual function had improved. In January of 2004 I became a senior institute physician for Cenegenics and moved out to Las Vegas, and I’ve been here ever since. In 2006, Cenegenics began using my image for their marketing campaign, which they continue to do to this day (but with a more recent photo, of course).
In 2007 I ran into another roadblock. I was almost 10 years into maintaining a healthy lifestyle and excellent physical shape, yet my cardiologist was still concerned about my heart. Even though I was doing everything right, the advanced heart disease caused by my poor habits from the first 60 years of my life required that I get two stents. I was devastated, but then I realized that if I had never started taking care of myself I would not be alive at all. What’s more, it’s made me even more determined to prevent heart disease from happening to anyone else: This has become my mission in life.
And the rest, as they say, is history. It has now been 16 years since I began my complete physical transformation. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to share my story with thousands of men all over the world so that they can achieve what I have: an enhanced level of fitness and great health. Best of all, not only do I feel great, but I’ve been able to improve my physique and my good health over all these years. In fact, in many ways, I’m stronger, healthier, and more fit than I was when I first got into shape. I’ve been able to stay strong and lean, reduce my cholesterol levels, reduce chronic or “silent” inflammation, reduce blood sugar levels, eliminate biomarkers for heart attack and stroke, and avoid diabetes. My exercise stress tests have continued to improve year after year.
Every day I’m grateful that I’ve been able to sustain this good health. And I’m absolutely amazed that at 75 years old, I have six-pack abs. Even though I exercise every single day, I’m still shocked when I look at myself in the mirror. I never would have believed that a 75-year-old man could have this body. I sure didn’t believe it before I started. Now I believe it, because I achieved it. I look at all the guys I know in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s who have huge bellies. I’m sure these men think that there is no way in the world they could ever, ever, have a six-pack. But I’m here to tell you that you can, and that’s what this book is all about.
Other people I meet are just as astounded by the fact that I have a six-pack as I am. Once, when I was lecturing in Brazil, I was interviewed for a radio show and the host asked me if I had abdominal implants. I never even heard of that! But it just goes to show you how many people find it unfathomable that a guy my age can be in such good shape.
Having six-pack abs is not only my badge of fitness; it is also how I outwardly show the full extent of my internal health. In order to achieve a six-pack, you have to get rid of
visceral fat, which is considered by most experts to be the single best predictor of heart disease. If you can have six-pack abs, then you have really reduced your risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that young men with weak abdominal muscles are at the greatest risk for dying early, before age 55. And if you’re older, the impact your gut has on the rest of your health is profound, to say the least.
Now It’s Your Turn
Whether you are 26 or 80 or anywhere in between, it’s not too late to get with my program, which can literally change your life. And just as I did, we’re going to start off by cleaning up your diet. The reason is simple: You can exercise 24 hours a day, but you won’t get as much out of any of that time unless you are eating properly. My strategies for weight loss will help you evolve from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, but you need to start by eating right in order to fully support your exercise program.
Your first goal is to commit to the progressive Life Plan Diet for at least eight weeks, and then switch over to my first book, The Life Plan, and start adding vigorous exercise to your daily routine. Once you start noticing the changes that accompany weight loss—to your body, your thinking, and your energy levels—you’ll be even more motivated to get to the gym. Besides building strength and muscle, a cardio workout will further speed up your body fat loss, and weight lifting will help you burn more calories all day long.
Having a six-pack means that I have a strong abdomen. However, you should know that even though I eat clean and exercise every day, I spend under 30 minutes a week working my abs. Sit-ups and crunches are not what gets you a six-pack: It simply comes from reducing body fat. That’s why I’m convinced that you don’t need rigorous exercise to get you on track to significant fat loss, especially if you are very out of shape. I want you to start dropping body fat immediately, because that will ultimately put you in a better position to successfully exercise—both physically and psychologically. You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals when you aren’t overwhelmed and can focus on just one part of the program at a time. Then, when you start to drop body fat and start to get in better shape, you can ease into a formalized exercise program and experience ever better results.
You should also know that this diet isn’t exactly exercise-free. You will be doing moderate walking right from the beginning. You’ll begin to build up your cardiovascular
endurance slowly. This is especially important for men with a lot of belly fat. The little bit of walking will also keep your mind off your old, bad eating and drinking habits, and reinforce making better food choices as you follow the diet.
The truth is that foods we choose to eat profoundly affect our physical and mental health, our athletic performance, and how we age. Researchers are continuing to uncover the direct links between poor food choices and the frightening increase in chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. Yet even though I know exactly which foods will make me sick, and certainly make me look and feel older, it is often not enough to stop me from eating things I know are bad for me. It is a constant, daily battle for me and my patients; a battle that I have learned how to win, and one that you can win as well.
I’m not going to lie to you: The challenging exercise program that I put myself on 16 years ago has been easy to keep up with when compared to my continuing war with what I want to put into my mouth. My relationship with food and drink has always been the toughest aspect of my own personal health journey. Before my transformation, I ate too many of the wrong foods, and way too much of them—breads, white rice, ice cream, any and all chocolates, all kinds of sweets, breakfast cereals, fried foods; the list goes on and on. Like most men, I’m still battling with a borderline consumption disorder, and it doesn’t end with food. I’m the first to admit that I can easily drink way too much. Even today, if I start eating the wrong foods or drinking alcohol it isn’t long before I’m completely off track.
I also know that my experience with eating is similar to that of most of my patients. It’s hard work to really eat clean and exercise properly, especially in the United States. There are so many easily accessible food and drink temptations, it’s no wonder so many dieters fail. Most of us live in areas where we drive around all the time instead of walk, which is another reason why so many men almost unknowingly let their health go. Then, when they’re totally out of shape, it’s very difficult to start a program and make a significant difference. Yet I know firsthand that it can be done. If you can win the eating battle, you can win the war against excess body fat and poor health. By avoiding the foods and beverages that can make you sick as well as fat and can ultimately kill you, you’ll see a complete reversal in the signs and symptoms of aging, and you will drop those unnecessary, unhealthy pounds and increase your metabolism and energy levels.
The first step is to understand why you need to lose weight in the first place. Part One of this book will show you exactly how your weight—and specifically your belly fat—is
affecting your physical, mental, and sexual health: three areas that men surely cannot let go. You’ll learn how to determine how much fat you really need to lose and how much muscle you need to gain, and create a strategy based on your current health for moving forward so that you can assess all of the real, positive changes you’ll achieve.
Part Two then shows exactly how to shed those pounds. You’ll learn how to choose the best foods that can improve your health and help you achieve your fat-loss goals efficiently. There are four distinct diets that work together: You’ll move effortlessly through them, or choose the one that works best for you in terms of your current health, your existing exercise program, and your goals. The first is a JumpStart program, which is an excellent way to drop weight quickly, especially if you haven’t dieted or exercised before. This new plan has gotten rave reviews from my patients, who have lost an average of 15 pounds in just two weeks. Most important, it’s a total mind-reset diet that will transition you from bad habits to good ones in just a few days.
The remaining three diets have each been featured in my two previous books, The Life Plan and Mastering the Life Plan. In this edition, I’ve included more of Annie’s meal plans, recipes, and food options for you to work with while you follow the Basic Health, the Fat-Burning, or the Heart Health Diet. You’ll choose one of these diets to follow once you’ve completed the JumpStart Diet, and you can stay with any of these diets forever, or move up the ladder to a more restrictive diet when you reach a plateau or are ready for a new challenge. You’ll move along at your own pace while enjoying foods I know that you’re going to love. Once you’re on the right track, you can add the rigorous exercise programs I’ve outlined in my other books for the best results.
Part Three adds the missing piece that almost all other diet books fail to include: how to achieve and maintain weight loss success as you get older. Women already know that it gets harder each year to lose weight and get into shape, but the truth is, it’s just as difficult for men. The reason is an insidious drop in hormone levels. For men, correcting hormone deficiencies through either food, exercise, or medical therapies may be the final piece needed for you to lose weight faster than ever, and keep it off. Addressing declining hormone levels is safe and effective, and not doing so just may be what’s holding you back from achieving success.
I’m thrilled that you’ve chosen to begin this journey with me. I know that if you stick with this program you simply can’t fail. The only thing you’ll lose is the burden of the weight you’ve been carrying.