What Is The Best Life Diet?
Exercise physiologist Bob Greene's The Best Life Diet is an easy-to-follow, no-gimmicks approach to a healthy diet and lifestyle. It's a dietitian's dream diet -- and one that apparently changed talk show host Oprah Winfrey's life. Winfrey describes in the foreword how, after years of struggling with diets, she found success with The Best Life Diet.
There is nothing groundbreaking about The Best Life Diet. Greene's "diet" is synonymous with the phrase "lifestyle change." There's no going on and off this diet, because it's not a "diet." It's a lifestyle of healthy eating with an emphasis on regular physical activity.
The Best Life Diet is a safe, effective way to lose weight and improve fitness. But it is not quick or temporary. You're encouraged to make gradual changes, one step at a time. The aim is to transform your old eating and exercise habits into healthier new ones that will last a lifetime.
Depending on your gender and activity level, The Best Life Diet guidelines suggest calorie levels ranging from 1,500-2,500 and a recommended number of servings from the various food groups. The basic premise is that the more active you are, the more calories you can eat.
Greene's fitness insights and easygoing style makes weight loss easy to understand. Lots of great tips, recipes, menus, and useful tools are included to help dieters get and stay motivated. The Best Life Diet is easily tailored to a wide array of personal lifestyles, activity levels, and food preferences. The program can be followed online for a fee, or by the book.
What You Can Eat on The Best Life Diet
There is no calorie-counting on The Best Life Diet, only a mindful approach to making wise food choices and monitoring portion sizes. Splurges are worked into the program during the third phase with an allotment of "anything goes" calories.
It appears very simple. You can enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods while slowly ridding your diet of unhealthier choices such as fried foods, foods containing trans fats, white bread, sugary soft drinks, regular pasta, and high-fat dairy. These foods are phased out and replaced with healthier foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and more. Weekly eating plans provide suggested meals.
Greene has placed his Best Life Diet seal of approval logo on a variety of food products he recommends as healthy. Dieters are asked to make their healthier choices from a recommended list of foods from companies involved in corporate sponsorship.
How The Best Life Diet Works
Greene's Best Life premise is to promote a non-dieting mind-set so you can focus on improving your life and gaining control over your struggles with eating and weight. While strict diet plans usually set you up for disappointment and ultimate failure, Greene sets dieters up for success, one small step at a time.
Some programs start with a very strict first phase with a long list of prohibited foods. Greene takes a different approach by starting with a more liberal first phase:
- Phase One, a maximum of four weeks, focuses on slowly increasing activity levels and changing old eating habits. Recommendations include no eating two hours before bed, eating three meals and one snack daily, eliminating alcohol (temporarily), staying hydrated, and taking a daily multivitamin/mineral, omega-3 fatty acid, and calcium (if needed). The meal and snack suggestions make healthy eating sound delicious.
- Phase Two, a minimum of four weeks, promotes a more aggressive approach to losing weight through healthier eating and increased physical activity. This phase builds upon the changes made in Phase One, with an emphasis on controlling physical and emotional hunger, removing six problem foods from your diet, weekly weigh-ins, and portion control.
- Phase Three is maintenance, or the phase for the rest of your life. It focuses on eliminating more unhealthy foods and adding more wholesome foods, and introduces "anything goes" calories. Greene's "anything goes" calories are similar to the "discretionary calories" found in the U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines, which allow you to enjoy your favorite treats in small portions. Greene gives the green light for more "anything goes" calories when you are most active.
Greene also tackles issues that lead to overeating, such as hunger and emotional eating. Using his hunger tool helps dieters stop overeating by learning how to gauge real hunger. He tackles emotional eating head-on by asking dieters to answer some tough questions before beginning the program:
- Why are you overweight?
- Why do you want to lose weight?
- Why have you been unable to lose weight in the past?
Answering these questions honestly can help dieters identify the things that need to be changed so they can start to address problem issues.
What the Experts Say About The Best Life Diet
The Best Life Diet is based on science -- it supports the U.S. government's 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines with very doable and easy suggestions. And most registered dietitians and fitness trainers agree that true weight loss success comes from making lifestyle changes.
Greene's flexible approach helps dieters stick with the plan. But obesity expert Cathy Nonas, RD, wonders if his realistic, gradual approach will appeal to overweight people who want the quick fix.
"Once a person decides to lose weight, they want it gone immediately," says Nonas, former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association). "And unfortunately, they choose fad diets [and] lose weight quickly only to regain it back instead of choosing a program like Best Life Diet that tackles changing eating behaviors."
Nonas says she likes the slow and gradual first phase followed by the more intense second and third phases.
"Anyone who gets through the first phase, regardless [of] if they lose weight, will improve their dietary picture," says Nonas. If you're not successful at losing weight during the first or second phase, "stick with the phase longer before moving on to maintenance," suggests Nonas.
Counting calories is too difficult and inaccurate. But if you cut out the sodas, fried foods, and giant white bagels, the calorie savings will add up.
"For people like me who already avoid the six perilous foods, it won't make much of a difference," says Nonas. "But for anyone who eats or drinks the high-calorie foods, it should help them lose weight."
Nonas also points out that some "forbidden" foods can be enjoyed in moderate portions.
"There is nothing wrong with high-fat dairy if you make modifications elsewhere in your diet, and likewise if you enjoy white pasta or white bread as long as you get enough fiber in your diet," she says
The bottom line, Nonas says, is that Greene's recommendations are sound for the most part. She suggests that dieters buy the book but ignore the branded merchandising.
"What is really important is not the brand of yogurt, but reading labels to choose a low-fat yogurt," she says.
The Best Life Diet: Food for Thought
If you're tired of gimmicks and strict food lists and are looking for a program that can help you change your life once and for all, this book is for you.
The plan's goals are attainable, and, more important, sustainable. Tools, tips, recipes and a wealth of helpful resources, including the online Best Life Diet message board, provide great support.
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Greene, B. The Best Life Diet, Simon & Schuster, Dec. 26, 2006.
Cathy Nonas, RD, spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association.
Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on February 01, 2012