A Better “Best Life” Weight Loss Plan

Health Habits

In yesterday’s post, I rambled on and on about Oprah’s “Best Life” weight loss plan.


And what I found most unique about her new weight loss plan was her focus on how our emotions and thoughts impact our relationship with food.

While I and others have written about this before, somehow I think that Oprah’s opinion carries just a little bit more weight with America’s obese.

dietbooks2008In fact, because of Oprah’s influence, I predict that the next big wave of popular diet books/programs will all include some form of psychological/emotional/spiritual philosophy.

And this could be a good thing…or it could be just another gimmick to sell books and supplements and pills and gym memberships and…..well, you get my point.

We all know, that for most of us, losing weight is not as simple as reducing our intake by 500 calories and increasing our output by 500 calories. If it was, all of us would be lean and fit and earning extra money posing as swimsuit models.

While weight loss is easier for some of us and incredibly hard for others, we all know that it isn’t simple. There are many factors at play.

And, as a personal trainer who relies on word of mouth to earn an income, I need to figure out which of those factors are keeping my new clients from being as fit and healthy as they want to be.

If they don’t see results, my bills don’t get paid.

But, seeing as none of you are my clients and, in the spirit of everything being free on the internet, I hereby present to you, my multi-faceted, mind, body and spirit, guaranteed to work, new and improved for 2009 Health Habits Weight Loss Plan.


And if you are reading this prior to January 16, could you please click here and throw me a vote for Wellsphere’s Health Blogger Award. As of today, I am sitting at #16 and I could use a little charity.

The Plan


When it comes to losing weight, it always comes down to lifestyle.

I can give you the most effective diet and exercise plan known to man (just send $19.99 to…), but unless you are willing to address your negative lifestyle influences, you and I are wasting our time.

You might as well join a fat acceptance group and learn to embrace your inner fatty.

Your Formerly Fat Lifestyle


To begin, I am going to break your Formerly Fat Lifestyle into 3 parts:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental / Emotional / Spiritual
  3. External

Let’s start with the physical:




This may sound strange, but thanks to our Western Diet, most overweight people are actually undernourished. Overfed, but undernourished.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that the food that most of us eat doesn’t even deserve to be called food. Sure, it provides calories, but it doesn’t actually provide the nutrients that our bodies need to perform at their best.

As a result, even though our bellies may be full, our cells are screaming for more. And in their quest for more nutrients, they call on a whole bunch of hormones and brain chemicals and food-related memories to MAKE YOU EAT MORE AND MORE AND MORE.

So, one of the first things I do is to change the types of food my clients are eating. We don’t even discuss calories. For most people, improving the quality of their diet drastically reduces appetite.

Note – I will go into much more detail in future posts, but if you can’t wait, check out these archives:




This may sound strange coming from a personal trainer, but up until fairly recently, human beings had no need for “exercise”. Our ancestors stayed fit through their daily activities.

But, unless you are planning to quit your desk job and take up a life of hunting and gathering, you NEED to exercise. You will never get enough exercise in your day to day life.


And when it comes to weight loss, not all exercise is created equal. Oprah was on the right track when she decided to cut back a little on the cardio training and replacing it with more resistance training. While cardio is vital for the health of your heart and lungs, it is a poor choice for weight loss.

Now if only we could get her to quit the bodybuilding-type program Bob has put her on. Considering her goals and her schedule, she needs to find a program that maximizes fat loss and strength and minimizes bulk and wasted time. And her current program…is at least 5 years out of date.

For most of my clients, we are trying to:

  • Build strength without bulk
  • Focus on functional strength that improves “real life” activities
  • Improve balance and coordination
  • Increase short term and long term metabolism
  • Improve joint mobility and muscular flexibility
  • Increase speed, quickness and agility, and oh yeah…
  • Burn a lot of calories

And like I said before, I will be going into more detail. Here are some links for the impatient:


Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation


At first, this topic may not seem to have much to do with a weight loss program.

But when your knee is killing you because a tight IT band has caused your patella to track laterally and grind away causing pain, inflammation and swelling, you may see the benefit of including some pre-hab / re-hab training in your weight loss program.

We are all getting older. As kids, we could abuse our bodies and count on them bouncing right back. As adults, we need to use some of that wisdom we are supposed to have been accumulating to avoid the problems before they happen.

More info to come. Here are your links:


The Mental/Emotional/Spiritual aspects of weight loss:


This is the part of Oprah’s new program that I found the most interesting.

Whether or not it proves to be effective, Oprah’s search for the mental/emotional/spiritual reasons behind her eating disorder is a big step forward.

click pic for Oprah's weight gain confession

And while the psychological community debates whether or not disordered eating patterns (like Oprah’s) constitute an actual psychological condition, it is obvious to those of us who struggle with obesity, that obesity and emotion go hand in hand.

So, as part of Oprah’s new weight loss program, she asked herself 5 not so simple questions:

  1. Why are you overweight?
  2. What are you really hungry for?
  3. Why have you been unable to maintain weight loss in the past?
  4. What in your life is not working?
  5. Why do you want to lose weight?

And assuming, that she/you/me answer those questions on a deep & meaningful level, we may be able to understand or even release some of the emotional “stuff” that has been contributing to our weight gain.

Or maybe not.

While I think these 5 questions may be psychologically enlightening and a source of motivation at the start of your program, I question whether they will have any staying power. What happens in 3 months when the initial “aha” moment has worn off?  How is knowing the “truth” about your weight gain going to keep you from falling off the wagon?

You need some tools to take you from enlightenment to realization.

beck-diet-for-lifeAnd one of those tools could be the Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Weight Loss Program by Dr. Judith Beck.

In fact, it’s likely that some of you may already have seen this book. It’s been one of the big sellers at my local bookstore. And with good reason.

If people are excited about Oprah’s new psychological/emotional approach to weight loss, they should be overjoyed to find Dr. Beck’s program.

Next week, I will post a review of the book.

But for now, I will let Dr. Beck provide a brief description of her plan:

Most people struggle with losing weight and keeping it off because no one ever taught them how. It’s not just a matter of willpower and a healthy eating plan. To be successful, you have to learn a set of cognitive (thinking) and behavioral skills. Other weight-loss programs assume that dieters know how to keep themselves from cheating. Dr. Beck respects that dieters are human; she expects mistakes and her unique program teach dieters exactly what to do immediately following mistakes, and how to solve and prevent them in the future.

By following the Cognitive Therapy techniques dieters learn to:

  • think differently and overcome common dieting pitfalls and sabotaging thoughts
  • eat favorite foods while steadily losing weight
  • feel in control in the most challenging situations
  • feel confident in their ability to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan
  • remain motivated to maintain weight loss for life

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

But, to be fair, I am a little biased. While I don’t agree with every part of Dr. Beck’s program, I have,  in the past few years, weaved aspects of Dr. Beck’s program into my own pseudo-psychological mind control program. And it has been very successful.

In fact, one of my clients is following Dr. Beck’s program. In the coming weeks and months, I will be reporting on his progress.


The External Stuff


mcheart-attackTime Management


So, you have the perfect nutrition plan and the perfect workout plan and your thoughts and emotions are all pointed in the perfect  “let’s get ready to burn off some body-fat” direction, but…… you are swamped at work and the kids need to go to soccer practice and you just don’t have time to make it to the gym and you “had” to stop at the Golden Arches and pick up one of those new McCoronary meals.

And the next thing you know, you have gained another 10 pounds.

Let’s face it.

Your regular day to day schedule does not have any available space to add in daily exercise and meal prep and meditation and sports massage and all of those other things that you should be doing to get your body in tip top shape.

Something is going to have to go.

foot_massageYou need to prioritize.

You need to exercise. Cancel something else.

You need to eat real food, not grab take-out on the way home from work. Cancel something else.

You need to calm your mind…be it meditation, prayer or even a good foot massage. Cancel something else.

If Oprah can do it, so can you.

It won’t be easy.

But you need to make this commitment to your health.

And it doesn’t stop there.

There will be other roadblocks in your road to physical fitness.


The Cost


Each January, like lemmings, hordes of people trudge down to their neighborhood health club and fulfill their new Year’s Resolution by purchasing a brand new 1 year membership.

And 60 days later, 80% of those people are never heard from again.

Weird, huh?

But wait, it gets weirder.

We may be the worst trainers in the world, but damn, aren't we sexy?
We may be the worst trainers in the world, but damn, aren't we sexy?

In the past 10-15 years, the biggest money maker in the fitness industry hasn’t been those wonderful people who overestimate their desire for fitness.

It has been the personal trainer.

And boy, have they made a lot of money for the health clubs.

And boy, can they cost you a lot of money.

But, if you find a good trainer, who has a good reputation and is willing to stand behind his work, the benefit can outweigh the cost hundreds of times over.

Remember, if you are going to pay for fitness, make sure that you are paying for results…not promises.


Social Support


  • Will you be able to stick to your diet as your husband shovels another slice of greasy pizza into his pie-hole?
  • Will you stick to your workout schedule when your kids demand a ride over to their friends’ house?
  • Will you go to bed at a decent hour when your posse has just fired up the dvd player for a Quentin Tarantino movie marathon?
  • Or will your family support your decisions to re-gain your health?, and
  • Will your friends join you at the gym in a show of support?

Unless you have some sort of unshakable iron will, your friends and family will impact your weight loss success or failure.

So, you need to sit down and discuss your plans with those people in your life who might just throw a monkey wrench into your weight loss plans. Let them know that you need their help. Let them know that your health  is at stake. Let them know that you love them and appreciate them and…..

Get them on board. You know them better than I do. Figure out what buttons need to be pushed and get pushing.


Okay, that’s all for now.

In the next few weeks, I will be fleshing out the bones of this “better than Oprah’s” Your Best Life weight loss plan.

In the mean time, if you have any questions, please comment at the end of this post


If you like what you see here, click here for updates or Share this Post with the rest of the world.


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  1. “Cancel something else”? I’d say that’s much easier said than done for most people.

    For me, I believe that I do have the time–I just don’t manage it well enough. So instead of working out, I’ll end up messing around on the computer or something. I know that’s the problem, but I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t feel like I have enough willpower.

    I also find that there’s so much that you can change that I don’t know what to work on first, and kind of get stuck in that, “What should I do first?” stage.

    On the NY Times Well Blog, people have recommended these sites:


    What is your opinion on them? I was thinking that the calorie counters could be helpful, if nothing else.

  2. “Considering her goals and her schedule, she needs to find a program that maximizes fat loss and strength and minimizes bulk and wasted time”

    Perhaps she could begin hitting a tire with a sledgehammer?

  3. BTW, I large part of my diet and fitness program is prayer and Bible Study. I used to emphasize that much more on my blog- however it has become such a given I barely mention it now.

  4. Holy smokes did you hit the nail on the head with this post! From nutrition to exercise to social support…or lack thereof.

    You exposed every possible reason and/or excuse for not getting back into shape, although some of the helpful hints (i.e. getting family and friends on board) are far easier said than done. At least you’ve provided a starting point.

    Well done!

  5. As a full time chef I am always looking for ways to lose the gut, and help others do the same. I really like your insight about exercise,
    “This may sound strange coming from a personal trainer, but up until fairly recently, human beings had no need for “exercise”. Our ancestors stayed fit through their daily activities.”

    I sweat everyday running around the kitchen but I’m not working all of my muscles, just my jaw and legs

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