Plan now to avoid overeating

Oprah's trainer, Bob Greene, gives tips on navigating food perils of the holidays and beyond

November 18, 2005|By LINELL SMITH | LINELL SMITH,SUN REPORTER

Fitness consultant and author Bob Greene, best known as Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer, has spent the past decade converting folks to healthy lifestyles through best-selling books, television appearances and the Internet, which offers his "Get With the Program" 12-week training course.

Tomorrow, Greene will talk about how to overcome patterns that cause overeating at a health and fitness expo in Timonium sponsored by The Sun.

We figured that the man who helped Winfrey lose 90 pounds and run a marathon would have some good advice for navigating the food perils of the holidays - and beyond.

We are approaching the holidays. Does this time of year, so heavy with traditions as well as fatty foods, trigger emotional eating?

Definitely. Expectations that aren't fulfilled can trigger a mini-depression that makes you vulnerable to overdoing it with food. We all remember how special Christmas once was when we were children. Now that we're adults, it's more about the responsibility of getting the shopping done and throwing the parties.

Try to eliminate as much stress as possible by shopping early. Make the parties and dinners you hold more about the actual events than about the food.

Plan your events well. Many times we do things strictly out of habit. Cut out going to the party you've hated for years.

Exercise is more important now than at any other time of year. Keeping your exercise consistent will help cut stress and overeating.

You write that people should exercise before they choose their diet. Why does that matter?

The majority of people who want to lose weight look at the food side first, look for the right diet that's going to get them to the weight they want. It's not that I'm so anti-diet, but you can't go on a particular diet without establishing how active you are.

I try to establish what level of activity can be consistent throughout your life. If I know that you're a true couch potato, that you're never going to do any exercise, I'll establish your calorie intake based on the fact that you're not active. And I might recommend more of a high protein, lower carb diet, while I'd put an endurance athlete on a high-carb diet.

You're either the person who hates exercise and resists it, or you're a person that understands that it benefits your life.

Last year, you cycled across the U.S. in 36 days as part of a public awareness campaign for fitness. What is your regimen now?

I do 45 minutes of some kind of cardiovascular exercise every day. I might do the stair climber for 20 or 25 minutes and then move to the treadmill or the elliptical. I like to get a mix. Then once a week I'll run for between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour and a half, or I'll go on a two-hour bike ride. I do strength training every other day.

I need to devote more time now to fitness than I did when I was younger. I'm 48 years old. There's no doubt that there are certain things that I'm stronger at than when I was in my 20s. One other difference, though, is that when I try a new activity, I'm as sore as can be! But when I train for something, I can honestly say I'm in better shape than I was at different points in my life.

What about Oprah? Is there anything you suggest she do differently now that she's 50?

I met Oprah in 1992 at a spa in Telluride, Colo., where I was fitness director. We worked together for three weeks, and then she asked me to come to Chicago in March of '93 to kick-start her program. I wound up being there for five years.

When I first met her, she was 237 pounds, but still had a lot of energy for someone carrying that weight. There's no doubt that she has even more energy now because of her fitness.

Her program depends on her schedule and time. Like a lot of people, Oprah tends to train harder in the summer than the winter. I progressively modify her diet and exercise for her schedule and age. I keep an eye on her knees - age doesn't help that situation - so we try to take a lot of the pounding off them.

Is there a difference between your male and female clients?

I hate generalizing when it comes to weight loss, but men have a physiological advantage because of testosterone. Merely by getting active three or four times a week, many men can reach their goals without my touching their eating habits.

On the other hand, women, especially women who struggle with their weight, need to exercise five to six times a week and be diligent about their eating habits.

Women tend to really "get" the emotional side of eating while many men say, `I don't want to hear about it.' Many men who have serious eating issues don't recognize or want to work on them. Women are more into really working on themselves. In that regard, women are much stronger than men.

What are some rules to help against overeating? Do you have a strategy for restaurant dining?

One of the best rules is to have a cut-off time for eating. Shut it off two to three hours before bedtime. This is a powerful, effective rule and easy to follow.

The most complicated rule is, Make all of your eating conscious. We're so used to having the TV on and having the food in front of us and just automatically reaching for it. It's a habit, like eating in the car. Breaking those habits are probably the toughest rules.

As for eating out, keep a drawer filled with all the menus of the restaurants you like. Knowing what you'll get ahead of time is a big advantage. Skew things more to the healthier restaurants you enjoy.

Bob Greene will speak at 1 p.m. tomorrow from the main stage at the Health and Fitness Expo in the Exhibition Hall of the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. For details: baltimoresun.com/healthexpo.

linell.smith@baltsun.com

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