Saturday, March 1, 2008

Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover

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, 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 andwill 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.

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 Tawni's Story

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 someth

Chapter 1: Building a Sound Emotional Foundation

Most people poised to embark upon a 12-week body makeover program will begin by thinking about, and maybe even worrying about, how they're going to change their eating and exercise habits. But this program is different. It begins not with food or fitness, but with something that I think is equally, if not more, important: building a solid emotional foundation.

If you've tried lots of other weight loss programs before (and even if you haven't), putting diet and fitness concerns aside for a short while probably seems like a pretty crazy idea. In fact, it's the sanest thing you can do. If you want to transform your body, the first thing you need to do is transform your mind-set, your attitudes, your outlook, your way of seeing the world, and most critical of all, your way of seeing yourself.

The root of most people's weight problems, or any problems that relate to lack of motivation, is buried deep within. I have heard enough tales of stalled body makeover attempts to confidently say that virtually no one -- no one -- who hopes to lose weight and keep it off for good can succeed without first addressing her attitudes and the way it affects her behavior, then shoring up her level of motivation. You can cut calories and exercise all you want, but if you don't develop a strong emotional foundation first, everything you've built is likely to fall down like a house of cards. For long-term success, spend the time to make yourself emotionally healthy before you even think about adjusting your diet or joining a gym.

Building a new, healthier life for yourself is a lot like building a house: both require that you start by laying a foundation. Without a foundation to prop it up, a house cannot stand (at least for long). Likewise, without a strong emotional foundation, everything you achieve toward making your body over will not withstand the stress, strains, and temptations of daily life. The house, your body -- each needs a solid base.

So how do you build that base? It starts with four cornerstones. You might call them the mental equivalent of bricks and mortar: honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength. They're the seeds of success for accomplishment in weight loss and, in fact, all areas of life. The reason is very simple: these four cornerstones provide you with what you need to stay resolute in the face of everyday challenges to your resolve. They also help you weather the storms that typically derail months and even years of effort. If you think about it, when someone fails to reach a goal, it's usually because there's been a breakdown in one of these four areas. But if you've got them all in check and are standing on steady emotional ground, nothing -- not relationship troubles, family crises, job stress, blows to your self-esteem, illness -- is going to keep you from achieving long-term success.

I want you to know, though, that honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength are more than just concepts. Each represents a goal in itself, one that can be reached only by doing some serious soul-searching and self-evaluation. Much is often made about how difficult it is to eat right and exercise, but taking an honest look at yourself and working to change or fortify some fundamental aspects of your personality is an even greater challenge. So by asking you to lay the four cornerstones of a strong emotional foundation, I am asking you to gear up for what might be a tough, challenging, and perhaps even uncomfortable endeavor. Getting there may or may not be fun -- some people find that having those moments of self-revelation where everything comes together is quite wonderful, others don't.

But making the effort is entirely worth it.

Successful people who have made honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength central to their very being have found that it changed them in ways they would never have imagined. That's because while, certainly, these are the keys to making your body over once and for all, they are also the keys to accomplishing anything.

As you go through the steps of conquering each cornerstone, you'll find you have the power to let go of the past and anything else that is stopping you from becoming the person you really want to be. I'm not going to kid you: the process can be rough. But make it through the emotional discomfort, and you'll find that you have emotional freedom and that the pleasure you can take in this empowering, life-changing experience will far outweigh the pain. If you're tired of feeling guilty about your actions and are disgusted with yourself for procrastinating, tired of feeling bad about the way you look, and fearful about the state of your health, this is the road you want to be on.

I want to qualify this a little bit before I go on. Just as there are exceptions to every rule, there are exceptions to the idea that most people need to do some soul-searching before they try to lose weight. Maybe you already have a good mind-set about eating and exercise, know yourself well, and take responsibility for your actions. Maybe you've just never had to be disciplined about eating and exercise before and simply need some help getting on to the right track. Perhaps committing to something isn't a problem for you as long as you have the right tools to work with. If you feel you don't need to spend the time working on your emotional foundation, then by all means move on to the next chapter. But it's not a bad idea to spend some time reading through the next sections just to reinforce the attitudes and actions that determine success (and failure).

So here's the deal: Take however long you need to be honest with yourself, assume responsibility for your actions, make a commitment to change your life, and use your inner strength to help you stick to your resolve. Then move on to the 12-week Total Body Makeover program and the task of achieving your goals. Believe me, years down the road, when you have transformed your body -- and kept it that way -- you won't regret taking this extra step in the least.

The First Cornerstone: Honesty

The process of change requires that you stop wearing blinders; you must be honest with yourself about who you are and why you do the things you do. It's funny how we can so often give an incisive psychological portrait of other people yet are frequently at pains to truly know ourselves. I'm asking you to be as insightful into your own psyche as you are into others'.

Lying to yourself is like having one big crack in your emotional foundation -- you're in trouble before you even get started. I've met people who've made a career out of deluding themselves and as a consequence never really accomplished what they wanted to. By making excuses, blaming others, putting things off -- and all the while telling themselves that they're not really doing the things that they are indeed doing -- they have doomed themselves to failure.

I can't stress enough how essential being honest about your strengths, your weaknesses, and even your past failures will be to your success. Recently I met with a client who was reluctant to answer any of my questions about his life. I wasn't trying to be nosy or to be a trainer/therapist. I was just trying to get a read on some of the issues that might be affecting his weight. I respected his privacy and certainly understood that it's not easy to share the details of your life with someone you barely know. But I also told him that when it comes to what he tells himself, reticence is a different matter. He didn't have to tell me what was going on, but not being truthful with himself would be self-defeating.

An unwillingness to open up and to experience the discomfort that kind of honesty inevitably brings is a huge barrier to success. This process is about self-discovery, and those who go through it change not only the behaviors that previously kept them from dramatically altering their bodies but the behaviors that hampered their lives in other ways, too. Sometimes what you find out about yourself is embarrassing; sometimes it's painful; sometimes it's just depressing. But when you have that "Aha!" moment -- "Oh, that's why I've been doing that!" -- it can be very freeing. Imagine trying to fix a lamp that suddenly goes off without checking to see if the lightbulb is burned out. Your chances of getting the light back on aren't very high. Same thing here: if you've tried to lose weight again and again without determining what is fundamentally causing the problem, you're working in the dark. It's just not going to happen. Oh, you might lose the weight for a while, but before you know it, you're going to put it back on.

The point of doing some honest self-exploration is not to beat yourself up about your shortcomings. Rather, it's to learn something that you didn't know about yourself or, if you did know it on some level, to officially admit it to yourself. When you make these discoveries, it's important not to just gloss over them. Don't just tell yourself, "Yeah, I guess I stopped walking after work not because it was so late when I got home but because I really preferred to watch Jeopardy!" Pause and think more about it. Do you really like Jeopardy! that much, or are you using it as an excuse? Are you lazy? Are you embarrassed to be seen "fitness walking" around your neighborhood because you think it calls attention to your weight? Are you afraid that your significant other will be angry at you for taking the time for yourself? Do you simply have no energy (a problem that might be remedied by switching your workouts to the morning)? What is really going on? Your assignment is to find out. Replay decisions you've made, both good and bad, and analyze them. It's the only way you're going to break ingrained unhealthy behavior patterns.

Here's the story of how one client of mine did it. She asked herself some hard questions, and the answers helped her get onto the right track.

Who's Your Boss?

Abby's Story

A friend introduced me to Bob, and the two of us enlisted him to help us lose weight and get fit. I got off to a good start: six weeks into my program, my regular workouts and the changes I'd made in my diet were having a noticeable impact. But then things started to go wrong. I began missing some of my exercise sessions, and I had to confess to Bob that I wasn't making healthy meals as often as before. I didn't see this as my fault, though. My kids were rebelling against the new, healthier menu, and my husband was making snide remarks about there being nothing good to eat in the house. Even my mother-in-law made comments about me being away from home so much now that I was exercising.

When Bob asked me why I'd cut back on both my healthy meals and my workouts, I blamed it on all the other people in my life: my kids, my husband, my mother-in-law. He asked me if I really thought that it was their fault and not my own. I admitted that I have had a tendency to blame other people when things don't work. Bob then asked me to take a good hard look at the present situation and be truthful about it: If I were to keep foods in the house that would satisfy my kids and husband, did that mean I would have to eat them too? Couldn't I be frank with my mother-in-law about how much meeting my weight loss goals meant to me? I realized he was right and that I alone and no one else was in control of my situation.

Over the next few weeks, I made it a point to speak honestly with my family, and to my surprise they were very understanding once I made it clear what I was trying to do. It not only improved my relationship with everybody but also got them on my side. In just outside of a year, I met my weight loss goals.

Abby had been in denial for a long time, but by finally facing up to the truth about herself, she was able to recover her fitness gains and go on to achieve even more. What I'm suggesting, though, is that you begin by assessing where you're at so that you don't find yourself grappling with obstacles in mid-makeover. Abby recovered, but many people do not. They just end up back where they started, wondering why they can never get the body they want.

I'll tell you another reason why it's so important to be honest with yourself at the outset. I have had many clients who believed that they simply lacked the proper discipline to turn down their favorite foods, when in reality their dilemma was much more complex. Many people eat because something is missing from their lives, and they don't connect it to their bad eating habits. It may have been that they never took the time or wanted to expend the energy to explore their feelings. It may have even been that exploring their feelings was simply too discomforting or painful, so they buried those feelings away beneath platefuls of food.

Sometimes it's obvious when we lie to ourselves, but other times we are simply not self-aware. Either way, you can find the truth if you make an effort to investigate who you really are. Do you feel as though you are a victim of life's circumstances or do you feel that you have control of your life? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Are your relationships with other people distressing or joyful? What is your family history like, and how has it influenced your behavior? Have you experienced something traumatic in the past, and, if so, what are the mechanisms you've developed to cope with it? Do you use food as an anesthetic to deal with emotional pain? If you do, why is food your drug of choice?

These are some of the hard questions you need to ask yourself. Many of the issues they touch on may be sore spots, but, the only way you're going to be able to move forward is to deal with the past, then find a way to put it behind you. Bury the truth, and you'll have cracks in your foundation before you even start building; grasp the reality of your own life, and you'll be on your way to changing your body and your health for the better.

Self-discovery, I should add, doesn't end when you reach a certain weight or size; it's an ongoing process. So even though the exercises that follow are aimed at helping you begin the task of learning the truth about yourself, you need to continue to honestly examine your attitudes and actions on an ongoing basis. Just as giving up on exercise or, say, returning to night eating can undo all the good that's been done, so can losing the self-awareness you develop at the outset of this program.

Finally, it's important to note that being honest with yourself also means telling the truth about your strengths, not just your weaknesses. Discovering and acknowledging your assets is part of the process because you're going to need to rely on those strengths to help you succeed. So as you go through the following exercises, be mindful of the positive features of your personality. We all have weaknesses, but we all have strengths, too.

Get to Know Yourself

People who are successful at weight loss have asked the hard questions and responded with straightforward answers. No rationalizations, no excuses. Instead of taking a cosmetic approach to the problem, they've gotten to the root of their behavior, making change possible. A weight problem or chronic unhappiness with your body isn't like a cut; you can't just put a bandage on it and hope that it will heal. While excess weight is evident on the exterior, it really stems from inside you, which means that you have to dig down deep to remedy the situation.

Recently I heard someone say that the hardest thing to do in baseball is to hit a pitch that's going 95 miles per hour. But people do it every day, he said, and the reason is that they know what's coming at them and can prepare for it. I think that's a perfect metaphor for this truth-telling process. Losing weight and keeping it off is one of the hardest things you can do, but the people who do it do so because they know what to expect. They know themselves, and they know how to prepare for their reactions in certain situations. Someone who knows herself will know that a family holiday dinner is going to make her revert back to her old ways of eating with childlike abandon, and she can prepare for it by bringing along healthful dishes that will help her control her portions. Someone who knows the truth about herself will know that she feels self-conscious in exercise classes -- so she'll find an individual workout she likes or a trainer to work with instead. The more honest you are with yourself, the better you'll do on this program.

If you're at a loss as to where to begin, the following exercises will help. I've profiled eight of the most common types of behaviors that lead to failure and indicate a need for some soul-searching. If one or more of the behaviors sound all too familiar, it's a call for you to ask yourself some probing questions. I'll guide you by giving you some things to think about, but you need to rely on yourself for the answers. Be completely honest even if it hurts. Personally, I think that writing things down really aids in this kind of soul-searching, but whether you want to record the answers to the questions you ask yourself or just mull them over is up to you.

If you've read any of my other books, some of the questions might seem familiar: Do you procrastinate? Are you an immediate gratification junkie? Do you put the blame on other people and make excuses for why you don't eat right or exercise? I ask them again not because I lack imagination but because after talking to hundreds of people about their weight problems, I know that procrastination, the need for immediate gratification, blaming, excuse making, and all the other issues that this section deals with are exceptionally common. One or more of them is almost always at the core of an overweight person's predicament. And these issues cut across all lines -- age, gender, race, profession, financial class. People from all walks of life deal with them.

This isn't to say that something other than the problems I identify here might be tripping you up. These exercises are limited in scope. Create other questions for yourself that are specific to your individual life. Think about things people have told you about yourself, both good and bad. Do they apply? Anything that allows you to discover more about yourself will help you with this endeavor. Believe me, the time you spend reflecting on what you think and feel will be time well spent.

I really want to drive that point home because many people feel that such exercises are a waste of time or that doing them is just not their style. Even a close friend told me that she had liked one of my earlier books but could never see herself doing the emotional exercises; she just wasn't the "type" -- though I believed she was exactly the type of person who actually needed to do them the most. Interestingly, she recently began working with someone who gave her very similar exercises to try; she's been doing them and making progress. So even if you don't consider yourself the soul-searching type, give them a try. What have you got to lose?

Cutting Corners: Are you always looking for the easy way out?

In matters of traveling from, say, Albuquerque to Santa Fe, taking shortcuts may be a desirable, even wise plan of attack. In matters of changing your life, however, cutting corners is simply foolish. Much as I'd like to tell you that there's an easy way to lose weight and keep it off, there is no easy way.

Now, be honest -- have you tried "miracle" schemes, diets, pills, or the like that promise to whittle your body down without any work on your part at all? Even if you haven't fallen for any of these gimmicks of the diet trade, ask yourself if you ever really work hard to achieve your goals. It doesn't even have to be weight loss-related. It could be anything, from something at work to something in your home life. Are you always looking to accomplish something by doing as little effort as possible? How many times have you taken shortcuts or done far less than your best when trying to achieve something? How did it work out? Were you satisfied with the results? Would you say you were successful? Be honest about why you took the easy route. Has it been a lifelong habit, or did something happen to change the way you approach a challenge? Ask yourself, too, why you cut corners. Out of laziness? Impatience? Fear of failing if you take a more challenging path?

To get anywhere in life, you have to be dedicated and hardworking. Cutting corners, on the other hand, is the sure road to failure. If you hope to accomplish anything worthwhile, you've got to do the work. And I don't just mean that you have to work at weight loss (though of course you do). Putting forth a valiant effort is the prime ingredient for success in everything, from maintaining a loving relationship and raising a family to advancing in a career. The hard workers succeed; the corner cutters typically do not.

So why aren't you working hard? If laziness is your problem, you need to pick yourself up and get going. Realize, too, that energy begets energy. You know the old saying "If you want something done, give it to a busy person"? The more you do, the more you can do, and I believe the same holds true when it comes to putting effort into reaching a goal. Once you get going, working hard will be easier for you. You'll get into it, and the lazy person in your past will seem like a stranger.

If impatience is your problem, consider that most accomplishments achieved overnight tend to fall apart just as rapidly. Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and while taking shortcuts may get you some rapid results, they're not results that will be likely to stick around. (See page 30 for more on the perils of immediate gratification.)

Some people cut corners for an entirely different reason: they feel that they're just not capable of doing the work. If that's true in your case, you've got to work on building your confidence. Believe in yourself! The work ahead may be hard, but you'll be taking it one step at a time, which will make it easier. Think of Tawni, whom you met in the introduction and who went from being bedridden to running marathons. She didn't jump out of bed and head for the finish line. She went step by step, building on each small success. That's what you're going to do, too.

Making Excuses:

Do you always have a "reason" for not making good on your commitments?

Excuse makers are people who always, always find a reason for not doing what they've committed to do, whether that commitment was to themselves or to others. Excuse makers are never at a loss for a creative reason for their actions, but when you examine the justification it almost always breaks down.

Excuses are big obstacles in the road to change, though you may not even be aware that you're making them. Instead, you may just view them as "reasons." When you're late for an appointment or you break a promise to do somebody a favor, do you say, "I was late for lunch because of the traffic" when the real reason is "I was late for lunch because even though I know there is always traffic at this hour, I was talking on the phone and didn't leave early enough" and the bottom line was "I was late for lunch because I put my desire to continue a conversation before someone else's desire not to sit alone waiting at a table for a half hour"?

If you're capable of making excuses like that, you are probably also capable of making excuses for not exercising and eating right. How many times have you lied to yourself about why you didn't make it to the gym or why you ended up ordering a pizza for dinner? Do you tell yourself things like "Well, my ankle was kind of hurting" and "That's what the kids wanted for dinner" instead of admitting "I just didn't feel like working out" and "That's what I wanted for dinner"?

I think you know deep down when you're kidding yourself. Now's the time to own up to it and to investigate the real reasons behind your behaviors.

Excuses are a sure sign that you're not ready to do the hard work of change that lies in front of you. On the other hand, if you're willing to call yourself on your excuses and see them for what they are -- diversionary tactics you're using to keep yourself from feeling awful about making bad choices or ways to defend your current way of life -- then there's hope. You need to realize that making excuses affects not just you but others in your life. Sometimes excuses can be legitimate, but mostly they're just dishonest. If you're always giving yourself a pass (and asking other people to do the same), you're never going to get anywhere. So acknowledge your excuses past and present and resolve to remove them from your vocabulary.

People who succeed at weight loss give up on making excuses. They don't let themselves off the hook. They're not always perfect, but when they aren't, they take responsibility for their actions and then move on. Most important, they follow up on their promises in the first place so that they don't have any reason to fabricate excuses. If you want to succeed, you have to make excuses unacceptable. Eventually, your goal should be to rarely have a need to make excuses. Once you're committed to making your body over, you'll be so self-disciplined that you'll make good on your promises -- there will be no reason to have to try to justify your bad behavior because it won't exist. First, though, you need to look at the excuses you're throwing out now, own up to the real reasons for your actions, and contemplate ways you can change.

Giving Up Easily: Do setbacks routinely knock you off course?

Life is full of setbacks, but some people don't see them for what they really are: temporary, not permanent, hindrances. What happens to you when the gains you made in an area -- be it losing weight, mastering a sport or hobby, succeeding on the job -- either stagnate or reverse? Do you usually just give up? Do you feel discouraged and angry? How much of a perfectionist are you? Do you think that anything that can't be done perfectly shouldn't be done at all?

I think it's fair to say that nobody who has succeeded in any area of life has made it without experiencing setbacks. If you're disheartened by even small disappointments, you're going to find it difficult to reach your goals. Have you already let setbacks deter you in the past? And -- think carefully here -- was the setback really such a failure? What makes you feel as though you have to be perfect or that you won't be able to recover from a defeat? Now think about instances when you didn't let setbacks stop you from reaching your goal. When have you and when haven't you persevered, and what was the difference between the two experiences?

If you haven't noticed by now that life is a roller coaster, then you haven't been paying attention. You're going to have ups and downs -- everybody does -- and your success is going to hinge on how well you weather the downs. Many people I know use setbacks to let themselves off the hook. Consciously or unconsciously, they secretly want the opportunity to get out of the hard work of change or to confirm that they weren't meant to achieve what they set out to do. Sometimes these are hard traits to recognize in yourself. It's really important to acknowledge how you have dealt with disappointments in the past and to dig deep to understand why you let them knock you off course.

Don't be someone who lets setbacks invalidate all your previous efforts and keep you from making ongoing attempts to change your life. Don't use them as an excuse to give up. Not being able to sweep minor failures under the carpet and get on with life is a major reason for ultimate failure. Don't give in to the little failures -- they'll just turn into big ones. Keep your focus on the progress you've made. Be prepared to experience setbacks, to acknowledge them, and then to move on.

Part of this is being realistic. Know, for instance, that if one night you slip up and eat a piece of cake, you're not going to weigh three pounds more the next day. More important, there's no reason not to get back on track. Setbacks can be depressing, but don't use the disappointment you're feeling as a justification for overeating and forgoing exercise. Successful people have an ability to roll with the punches, a skill you're going to need to master if you too hope to succeed. Some people come by the skill naturally, but others have to develop it, and you can do that by focusing on the truth: setbacks are bumps in the road; they are not the end of the road.

Immediate Gratification:

Are you impatient if you don't see results right away? Do you opt for what feels good now over what will feel good later?

If there is a litmus test for success at weight loss, getting fit, and changing your health profile, it's whether you constantly need immediate gratification. People who can defer gratification usually lose weight and become healthy and fit; those who live for immediate gratification usually don't. If you can't master the urge to satisfy yourself in the short term, you're going to have a long, hard road in front of you.

Impatience is rampant these days, and it's not hard to see why. We live in a "fast" society: everything from information on the Internet to food comes to us quickly -- more quickly than we might even have imagined just a few short years ago. It's no wonder, then, that most people are intolerant of anything short of immediate gratification. But are you chronically impatient? Does your desire to have everything right now extend to all aspects of your life? Are you anxious to be on the next rung of your career ladder when you've just started your new job? Do you want your financial investments to pay off overnight? Do you expect to be instantaneously accomplished at any skill, from tennis to painting, you take on yourself to learn? When it comes to your body, do you want to participate in an exercise class, go home, and see a different body in the mirror? Do you want to eat less on one day and weigh less the very next?

Getting what you want right now doesn't jibe with achieving weight loss; you must be willing to delay gratification. Many an immediate gratification junkie has given up because he or she didn't see change right away. These people are also prone to opting for what makes them happy in the short term over what will make them happy in the long term. How many times have you chosen a piece of cake for dessert because it offers instant fulfillment over the delayed satisfac tion of having a thinner, healthier body? How many times have you skipped a workout to sleep late now, the prospect of being fitter later be damned? You can probably detect this same kind of behavior in other areas. Was there a time, for instance, when you bought yourself a new outfit instead of tucking the money away towards vacation? Are there times when, to the contrary, you've waited to get the things you want? How did that feel, and can you see yourself doing it again?

Deflecting temptation and delaying satisfaction aren't easy. But succeeding at making yourself over depends on your ability to delay gratification, to pass on temptations by looking and striving toward the future. This is one of the hardest parts, if not the hardest, of making yourself over. You have to be willing to make sacrifices. You can't (literally and figuratively) have your cake and eat it, too.

Excerpted from

Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover

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