The Best Life Diet Revised and Updated

The Best Life Diet Revised and Updated

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by Bob Greene

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From the bestselling author of Get With the Program! and Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover comes The Best Life Diet, a lifetime plan for losing weight and keeping it off. Bob Greene helped Oprah achieve her dramatic weight loss, and he can help you too. You'll eat the same delicious food that Oprah enjoys, and, just like Oprah, you'll have Bob toSee more details below


From the bestselling author of Get With the Program! and Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover comes The Best Life Diet, a lifetime plan for losing weight and keeping it off. Bob Greene helped Oprah achieve her dramatic weight loss, and he can help you too. You'll eat the same delicious food that Oprah enjoys, and, just like Oprah, you'll have Bob to encourage you at every step. Unlike a celebrity, however, you don't need to hire a staff of experts to aid and advise you, because Bob's plan, easily tailored to an array of tastes, lifestyles, and activity levels, acts as your personal trainer and private nutritionist. Just open the book and let Bob help you get started down the path toward your best possible life.

What sets Bob apart from all the other experts who claim to have plans that work is that he admits that weight loss is difficult: seventeen years of watching people struggle to lose weight on a seemingly endless string of trendy crash diets, only to backslide and regain the pounds they've shed, have taught him that dropping pounds is not simply a numbers game. By acknowledging that it is not simple laziness but a complicated web of social rituals, cultural expectations, and habits that drives people to gain weight, Greene is able to attack the problem of weight loss realistically and offer not a short-lived, quick-fix formula, but a long-term program that accounts for the challenges and constraints of the real world.

Divided into three phases, The Best Life Diet gives you the tools you need to change your life. In each phase, you'll be asked to reexamine the decisions you make on a daily basis and gradually alter your habits to achieve lasting results. The book also includes easy-to-follow meal plans that make it simple to meet your daily energy and nutrient requirements, whether you are on the run and breakfast means a quick smoothie or you have time to shop for fresh produce and make something special.

You'll watch the weight disappear as you learn to prepare festive and flavorful dishes like Fire-Roasted Tomato-Shrimp Veracruz, Chicken Sausage Jambalaya, or Flank Steak with Chimichurri Topping and indulge in desserts like Roasted Peaches with Ricotta and Almonds or Apple Rhubarb Walnut Crisp. And for each delicious recipe, there is a detailed nutritional analysis, so you know exactly what you are eating and how it fits into your personal eating plan.

Most important, Bob's plan doesn't end once you've lost the weight. Instead, it gives you the tools you need to make living your best life second nature, because for Greene, a diet is not something you go "on" or "off" but a set of guidelines that will help you claim the life you deserve.

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Losing weight is not that complicated. Eat fewer calories than you burn and the pounds will drop off, your clothes will loosen up, and you'll see a lower number on the scale. It's that simple. Only it never really is that simple. While the formula for weight loss may be uncomplicated, people are not. To varying degrees, we're all at the mercy of our physical yearnings, years of deeply ingrained habits, roller-coaster emotions, social pressures, and an inborn penchant for pleasure — in short, we all have our own human nature to contend with, and that has turned the relatively straightforward process of losing weight into a surprisingly complex problem.

When you're faced with complex problems in other areas of your life, you probably think nothing of devoting much of your time to resolving them. After all, common wisdom has it that if you approach a challenge by taking it step by step, success will come. However, weight loss is rarely approached that way. Most people want immediate gratification, and so most weight-loss programs try to deliver. They ask you to jump in and ruthlessly cut your calories so that you drop pounds right away. A few weeks later, they let you ease up and eat more, then a few weeks after that you can ease up again, until it's easier and easier to relax the rules and you find yourself eating and living the same way you did before you went on the diet. As a result, you gain back all the weight you lost.

The quick-fix approach has always seemed backward to me. If there's any doubt that making drastic changes to behavior in the short term is no way to approach a multifaceted problem, you only have to look at thediet failure rates in this country. Despite spending billions of dollars on weightloss plans and paraphernalia, not all that many people are getting to a healthy weight permanently. But some people are, and most of them are doing it not by asking the impossible of themselves — and, for most people, rapid transformation that lasts is impossible — but by taking change one small step at a time. These people increase the amount of physical activity they're doing and stop skipping meals. They look at their lives and work on changing the reasons why they turn to food for comfort. They learn how to get in better touch with their hunger, and, finally, they embrace a new, more moderate and nutritious way of eating. Doing all of these things, and doing them in a gradual way, is what enables these people to reach and maintain a healthy body weight. It's the reverse of the quick-fix approach — and it really works!

I'm an exercise physiologist, so I've had a lot of training in how the human body operates. But my real education has come from being a student of diet successes and failures. Ever since I finished graduate school in 1983, I've been fascinated by how some people are able to lose weight and keep it off and how some people can't seem to make weight loss stick. This fascination has led me to make finding the answer to that question my life's work. How you lose weight is no great mystery — that's just a matter of eating fewer calories than you burn. The more puzzling question is why, after managing to shed at least some — or perhaps even a lot of — weight, so many people change course and return to their old ways. Even more puzzling is that when I ask people who've been on the weight-loss roller coaster how they felt when they were thinner, virtually all of them say, "Great. I never felt better in my life." So what makes them regress?

After working one-on-one with many clients and talking to thousands of people through the years, I think I can say with some authority that the fast-and-furious approach to weight loss is also the fastest route to failure.

Here's why: human beings don't respond well to sudden changes. However, your body — and your mind — both have a powerful ability to adapt to change when it comes at you in measured amounts. Think about how athletes train. They don't immediately go from lifting 20 pounds to lifting 100 pounds, and they don't go from running 2 miles to running 26 miles overnight. Instead, they work up to the pinnacle of their capabilities, giving their bodies a chance to become accustomed to the new demands being placed on them. This step-by-step strategy makes sense when it comes to weight loss, too.

Change — or, I should say, lasting change — simply takes time. And that's not only true of how our bodies work, it's also true of how our minds work. If you've always relied on food for emotional sustenance, you will have to get used to the idea of turning to other things to help you through tough times. Perhaps most important, you've got to figure out why you need food to make yourself feel better. What in your life is making you unhappy, or leaving a void that you're using ice cream or doughnuts to fill? If you're eating because you're stressed, angry, bored, or lonely, you've got to find out what's at the root of those feelings and change it. That may take some time, but it's one of the most critical components of weight loss. For Oprah, becoming aware of and dealing with her habit of burying her emotions under plates of food was the most critical component. For many people, it will be as well.


The Best Life Diet is not a diet in the usual sense of the word. You don't go on it, then off it, as the term diet typically implies. It is, instead, a diet in the traditional sense of the word: a way of eating — for life. It's based on a well-balanced regimen of interesting, satisfying, nutrient-rich, and easy-tofind-and-prepare foods. It's not extremely restrictive in calories or limited in variety, but rather it is rooted in the idea that eating is and always should be one of life's greatest pleasures. You can love food and live happily on this plan. More than anything, it's a lifestyle — one that will lead you to your weight-loss goals.

The bounty of wonderful food available to us is a blessing, and a curse. When you think about the sheer number of vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, oils, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and seeds available to us, it's mind-boggling. Run all those selections through the kitchens of food manufacturers and restaurants, and the choices expand thousands of times over. When you're trying to eat as healthfully as possible, that can make your head spin.

I want to make eating well as uncomplicated for you as possible while helping you to enjoy the great variety of foods out there. It's essential that you set certain boundaries for what you do and don't eat. This doesn't mean you have to deprive yourself; it just means that you have to opt for quality and wholesomeness. Choose whole grain cereal that is low in sugar instead of cereal that contains barely a hint of fiber and is sweetened to the hilt. Go for a lean turkey burger instead of a burger made from fatmarbled ground beef, and sparkling water spiked with real fruit juice instead of a fruit drink loaded with sugar.

This may be a new way of thinking for you, and I am keenly aware that when you're used to the intense flavor of one food, substitutes seem to pale in comparison. But I am just as aware of the fact that when you choose high-quality substitutes, your taste will change within a matter of weeks. This is key because what I'm asking you to do here is not to switch over to foods that are flavorless or bland, but foods that are really wonderful — they just happen to be good for you, too. There's nothing boring about a turkey burger spread with spicy mustard, smothered in onions that have been caramelized in a touch of olive oil, and served on a chewy whole grain bun. There's nothing dull about bubbly water splashed with tangy-sweet grapefruit juice and mango nectar or about many of the crunchy, nutty high fiber O's and squares now being produced by cereal makers. These are the foods that are going to help you change your eating habits forever — and they're out there. You can buy them, and you can make them. Either way they're going to make a big difference in your life.

I'm going to be honest — there are things you are going to have to give up. This program is going to help you eliminate foods that have empty calories as well as many that are filled with unhealthy fats, sugar, and artificial ingredients. But one glance at the recipes starting on page 221 should tell you that the enticing foods I'm going to ask you to replace them with will make it considerably easier to let the junky foods go.

Ideally, all of us would have access to beautiful, fresh vegetables and fruits all year round, and the time to prepare cooked-from-scratch meals every day. But most of us don't live where ripe peaches are available (or affordable) in January, and our busy lives mean that sometimes we're eating on the go. That's why being able to easily find foods that are convenient and healthy is crucial.

One way I hope to make it easier for you is by placing the Best Life seal of approval logo that you see on the cover of this book on products that I believe meet the needs of anyone trying to lose weight and eat healthfully. The companies that offer these products have shown a commitment to removing or substantially reducing ingredients that aren't in your best interest, including saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, and sugar. Their products all contain one or more of the following nutritious ingredients: whole grains, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other essential nutrients. They're proof that it's not necessary to sacrifice great taste and nutrition for convenience, and they're readily available at supermarkets across the country.

Best Life approved products include Barilla PLUS and Barilla Whole Grain pastas; Benefiber; Crystal Farm AllWhites and Better'n Eggs; Flatout Flatbread wraps; Hellmann's (Best Foods) Light, Canola Cholesterol Free, and Olive Oil mayonnaise; Hershey's Natural Unsweetened Cocoa and Special Dark Cocoa (unsweetened); Lean Cuisine; Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin; Lipton tea; Nestlé Pure Life Purified Water; Silk Soymilk; Slim-Fast bars and shakes; Smart Balance Buttery Spread and Peanut Butter; Wasa crispbreads; and Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers and Bountifuls. Products from the California Table Grape Commission, the Mushroom Council, and Florida Grapefruit are also Best Life approved.

The Best Life seal of approval helps you spot mainstays for meals and snacks. But what would life be like without a little ice cream, a piece of chocolate, or other treats? I firmly believe that you should eat these foods to make your diet fun and prevent feelings of deprivation. I've learned through the years that people who don't treat themselves aren't all that successful at losing and maintaining weight long-term. The key, of course, is moderation. That's why I've put the Best Life Treat seal of approval on products that have no more than 150 calories and are typically individually portioned or offer a Best Life portion on the label. The Best Life approved treats, which tend to have a health edge over others in their class, include Edy's and Dreyer's fruit bars; Hershey's Extra Dark chocolates; Nonni's Biscotti; and Skinny Cow bars, sandwiches, and cones.

I'm grateful to these companies and organizations for showing product innovation and concern for good health, and for supporting the Best Life Diet program.


A primary goal of the Best Life Diet is to help you lose weight. But the program also has a more far-reaching purpose: to make sure that the pounds you lose don't return and your diet remains full of healthful, wholesome foods and virtually free of empty calories long past the time you reach your weight-loss goals. In other words, you're going to transform your diet not only long enough to slim down, but also for the rest of your life.

I believe, however, that dietary changes last only if you support those changes by first making some important investments in yourself. The Best Life Diet involves working on other things besides the foods that you eat, and each of those things — which include increasing your activity, understanding and gauging your hunger, and eliminating emotional eating — is going to shore up your efforts to cut calories and improve the quality of your diet. In my experience, all the modifications required by this plan play an indispensable role in long-term weight loss. They allow you to lay a solid foundation for dietary change, making it easier for you to alter your eating habits and increasing the likelihood of your success.

To follow this program, it's not necessary to count calories, follow menu plans, or measure your food. You can if you like — all the information you need to do so is provided on pages 118 to 122 and in the back of the book — and I know that some of you who prefer a structured plan or who have conditions that make weight loss particularly difficult can benefit from looking at and following the numbers. But you are also going to be adopting some practices that will help you gauge how much you should eat without consulting a chart. Learning to monitor your hunger, in particular, is going to provide you with cues that will let you know when you need to stop eating. Ultimately, I want eating the right amount of food for both weight loss and weight maintenance to come naturally to you so that you don't have to live your life tied to measuring cups and calorie counting.

The Best Life Diet is divided into three phases; the first two phases last at least four weeks, while the final one is open-ended. One reason that I'm not throwing everything at you at once is so that you don't become overwhelmed — as I said earlier, taking things step-by-step generally yields better results in any kind of endeavor, and particularly when it comes to weight loss. But there's also another reason that I'm going to ask you to make changes in stages. There's a logical order to the way your body adapts to new habits, and the three tiers of this program are designed to capitalize on that. The sequence in which you adopt changes during this program is not random; rather, it's intended to help you turn your body into a better weight-loss machine.

During Phase One, you're going to focus primarily on moving your body more, changing your eating patterns, and eliminating six problem foods from your diet. Hold off on completely overhauling the foods you eat and significantly reducing calories: increasing your activity and restructuring your meals and snacks will rev up your metabolism, which will counter some of the problems you may otherwise bump up against when you begin cutting calories in earnest (cutting calories happens more significantly in Phase Two). The changes you make in Phase One will also help you regulate your appetite more effectively, and that will enhance your ability to handle the challenges to come.

During Phase Two, you will more aggressively go after losing those extra pounds. You'll begin by making a few more simple modifications to your diet. You will also learn about both the physical and emotional reasons why you get hungry, and you will begin employing tactics, including the use of a valuable tool called the hunger scale, to better manage your appetite.

Phase Three is devoted to further transitioning you into the healthy, high-quality diet that's going to allow you to maintain the weight loss you've achieved. You will continue to change what you eat, eliminating more foods that contain empty calories and replacing them with nutritious alternatives. This is your diet for life, and the diet that will give you your best life.

Throughout this book, you will find a lot of information about why you will be doing what you're doing. I don't want you to just take the rules I give you at face value; you have a much better chance of sticking to them if you understand both the physiology and the psychology underlying weight loss. With that in mind, I've dedicated the first section of this book to helping you prepare for some of the physical and emotional ups and downs that are an inevitable part of shedding pounds. One of the most difficult aspects of weight loss is facing the prospect that something in your life may be causing you to misuse food and that to stop overeating, you've got to make some changes and, possibly, tough decisions. Being prepared to handle these and other challenges will keep you on track in this program, and if you stay on track, you're going to succeed.

One thing that makes this program different from so many others is that we don't just expect you to make the lifestyle changes required to lose weight on your own. Instead, we give you all the tools you'll need before we ask you to adopt these new healthy habits. Another is that the Best Life Diet uses physical activity to bolster dietary changes and rewards you for burning more calories. When you're active, you get to eat more, and you'll see that reflected in the eating guidelines I have provided for you.

To reap the benefits of this program, you don't necessarily have to engage in structured workouts, such as taking aerobics classes or even going for brisk walks, but you do need to move your body more in some way. The effect of activity on how many calories you burn goes way beyond the fact that you burn calories while you engage in activity. As I'll explain further in the first and second chapters of this book, there are many different ways that being active makes losing weight a hundred times easier. During Phase One, you'll have the opportunity to look at a chart of five different activity levels, find out where you fall on the spectrum now, and then determine which level you feel is within your capacity to achieve. Even doing just a little bit more activity will contribute greatly to helping you lose the pounds and keep them off.


The Best Life Diet has the ability to evolve to suit your changing needs. I fully expect your eating habits to change as new nutrition information is released and new and improved products come onto the market. But in this fast-paced world, printed material can get dated quickly, so I've developed the website as a companion to this book and program. I'll be using the website to keep you abreast of everything from interesting new foods (including those bearing the Best Life seal and the Best Life Treat seal) to research news from the field of nutrition science. The Best Life team, which consists of an outstanding team of chefs, dietitians, doctors, exercise physiologists, and certified personal trainers, will be keeping an ear to the ground to give you frequent updates. And we'll also be out there scrutinizing store shelves, checking ingredients, and testing recipes. There will be articles about eating trends, an exercise library filled with great workouts, techniques for keeping you motivated, tools for self-discovery, and countless delicious recipes. This is a diet for life, so the last thing I want is for you to get tired of the foods you're eating or to miss out on news that can benefit your well-being. The world around us changes; the way you eat should change, too.

The website also has the ability to offer you individualized versions of the Best Life Diet with meal plans customized to the specifics you provide, whether you need ideas for vegetarian meals, an egg-free plan, or any one of a number of other dietary adjustments. By the time you get to Phase Three, you'll follow a plan that keeps you within healthy sodium limits no matter what meals you choose (and there's quite a choice!). The detailed feedback you get on your diet and exercise habits is almost like checking in with a dietitian or trainer. (In fact, you can write to our experts whenever you want and get a personalized answer.)

Another feature of is that it can put you in touch with other people who are dealing with the same weight-loss challenges you are. Everyone needs support to succeed at weight loss, and much of that support will come from your friends and family. But acquaintances you meet online can be of great help, too. Hooking you up with others in the program is another way the website can help you well beyond the pages of this book.


One thing you'll never hear from me is that making changes in your life is easy. Even making gradual changes, as you will do during this program, can be tough, so I want you to be prepared for the challenge, but also think about the bigger picture and what other rewards you can get from this program besides a slimmer body.

It's not an accident that this program has the word life in its name. Losing weight can change your life for the better in ways that far exceed being happier with your appearance. It can even change your life in ways that you would not expect. So many people I've worked with have found that losing weight made them more open to trying new things and going to new places. They became more confident in social situations, too. And all of it — the new people, the new experiences, the new places — resulted in them eventually leading a very different life than before they shed the extra pounds.

The process you go through to lose weight can give you valuable insight into yourself and what it is that's preventing you from having the full life you want. What's more, each step you take toward reaching your weight-loss goal is really a gift that you give yourself. When you eat right and exercise, you are taking care of yourself, treating yourself with respect, and acknowledging that you deserve to be healthy and happy.

A crucial difference between this program and your typical "miracle" diet is that miracle diets tend to give you a big bang — maybe a quick or surprisingly substantial weight loss — that peters out fairly quickly. The beauty of this program is that it provides you with a series of ongoing victories. Each day you take a few small steps, then build on them the day after that. Sure, there may be setbacks — everyone has them — but those victories will add up, and pretty soon you'll be amazed at how different your life has become. And what could be more alluring than the prospect of waking up to your best life? So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Copyright © 2006, 2009 by the Bestlife Corporation


I feel like I've always known Bob Greene, though the truth is, it's only been fourteen years since we first met. My life has not been the same since that meeting; Bob changed my life.

At the time, I was 237 pounds, miserable and so ashamed to have joined the ranks of the perpetually obese that I had trouble maintaining eye contact. I couldn't understand why I was able to triumph over so many other challenges and adversities in life, and yet when it came to losing weight I was a big fat failure.

Before I met Bob, I had spent years bouncing from one diet to another, beginning from the time I was twenty-two. That was the year that I landed a big job as a news coanchor in Baltimore and discovered that food — and especially corn dogs and six-inch chocolate-chip cookies with macadamia nuts from the mall food stalls — could provide a great deal of solace. I was naïve, felt very alone, and was having trouble adjusting to my new job.

I had no friends and no furniture, not even curtains on the windows of my new apartment. My coanchor seemed to resent me, and I worried that I was in way over my head. I'd had almost no experience as a writer, but every day I was given news copy to rewrite for my segment of the broadcast. In my previous job I had been more of a newsreader: the copy had been written for me and all I had to do was read it on air. It's an awful feeling when you know you can't make the mark. No matter how hard I tried, I could not bang out the copy fast enough for my superiors. Inevitably, every day as we neared the six o'clock news hour I'd hear John, the copy editor, yell across the room: "WINFREY, WHERE'S THE GODDAMNED COPY!!!!"

I was humiliated but put on a smile and got through the days, reading the news and chitchatting with my fellow anchors on air. But I didn't like my job. I felt blessed to have it, but I truly hated some of the things I was required to do. I always felt like I was chasing bodies, waiting for the worst to happen. The bigger the fire, the more bodies in the collision, the more devastating the natural disaster, the more excited my bosses became.

Working in that environment was an affront to my spirit; the reporter's objectivity I needed to maintain went against everything in my nature. Many times I was an eyewitness to the most devastating moments in people's lives, but I was not allowed to express any emotion. So I ate those emotions, and along with them, just about everything I could buy at the food court. I thought I was just fine; I just had a little weight problem. Now I realize I didn't have a weight problem. I had problems that I was burying by eating, but it wasn't until years later, after many conversations with Bob, that I finally made the connection.

When all those corn dogs and chocolate-chip cookies finally pushed me up to 140 pounds — a weight I would do the hula in the streets for now — I went to my first diet doctor. I paid $27 for a consultation and an eating plan that called for 1,200 calories a day. It was my first time counting and cutting calories, so of course my young body responded well. I lost 7 pounds the first week, and in a month I was down to 125. Slim again, I started my old habit of grazing through the food stalls at the mall. My regular dinner plan: a baked potato with all the toppings — melted cheese, bacon, and chives — followed by one of those six-inch cookies from the Great American Cookies stand. In my freezer were stacks of Stouffer's macaroni and cheese, my comfort food of choice.

And so it went. I'd gain some, then I'd lose some. It was a cycle I'd end up repeating again and again.

When I first met Bob and he asked me why I was overweight, I thought he was being a smart-ass. I was overweight for the same reason everybody else is, I answered smugly. I loved food.

It took me a while to get to the truth. I didn't love food. I used food to numb my negative feelings. It didn't matter what the feeling was. A phone call from someone I didn't want to talk to; a confrontation of any kind; being late; feeling tired, anxious, or bored. No matter how insignificant the discomfort, my first reaction was to reach for something to eat: a grape, Cheerios, a handful of nuts, chips, popcorn. I'd eat, unaware of how much I was consuming, until I was chewing on the last kernels of corn. That's what it means to live unconsciously.

What I know for sure is that living an unconscious life is like being the walking dead. All my fat years — my unconscious years — are a blur to me now. It's only because I have photographs and diaries that I remember them at all. And sometimes even then I don't remember being present, because I wasn't really there.

I grew up believing that people with money didn't have problems. Or certainly none that money couldn't solve. Then, in 1986, my show went national It changed the trajectory of my life. When I'd started my working life in Nashville and Baltimore, paying the rent and the electric bill and making payments on my car left me with just enough to buy groceries and get my hair done. Now I had more money than I'd ever imagined, and everybody wanted some. The first thing I did was to retire my mother and a cousin who helped take care of me when I was growing up. My father let me buy him a new house and a Mercedes, but he refused to quit working in his barbershop. He's still there.

Then everybody came out of the woodwork. Distant family members, who I barely knew, wanted me to completely take care of them or wanted to work for me. Relatives I hadn't seen since I was ten years old showed up demanding thousands of dollars "because we're family." Helping my family was something I wanted to do, but I didn't know how to handle the total strangers who came to Chicago claiming to have spent their last dime leaving a battering spouse, or the teenagers who'd run away from home.

The first year I helped almost everyone who asked me, family and strangers alike. It was stressful trying to figure out how much to give to whom, and before I knew it, they'd return for more. I was overwhelmed, but I never felt it. Once again, I just ate until I couldn't feel. By the end of the year I was 200 pounds.

In 1988, totally frustrated and up to 212 pounds, I turned to Optifast, a liquid diet supplement program. For four months, I ate not a single grape, nut, or other morsel of food. I lost fat — and muscle — and I dropped to 145 pounds.

Now I know that it's impossible to starve your body for four months, then feed it, and not expect to regain the weight. Your body doesn't want to starve, so it holds on to every ounce of fat in case you do another crazy thing like consuming only about 400 calories a day!

It would take seven more years of gaining, gaining, and countless attempts to follow diets that I wasn't really prepared to stick to before I discovered the truth. In the meantime, I was racing through two hundred shows a year. My entire life was work. I was leaving my apartment at six A.M. and getting home at ten at night. Eating. Sleeping. Repeating the cycle five days a week. My friends were my staff, and even when we weren't working, our lives still revolved around the show.

In 1992, I won another Emmy for Best Talk Show Host. I had prayed that Phil Donahue would win so that I wouldn't have to embarrass myself by rolling my fat butt out of my seat and walking down the aisle to the stage. By now I'd reached the end of believing I could be thin, though I was scheduled to leave for Colorado the next day to visit yet another spa. I was so depressed about my weight, I had little hope that I would be successful this time around. Every time the number on the scale went higher, it seemed even more hopeless. And 237 pounds was the heaviest I'd ever been. I had journals filled with prayers to God to help me conquer my weight demon.

Bob Greene was the answer to my prayers. When I first met Bob at that last-ditch-effort spa in Colorado, I thought for sure he was judging and labeling me as I had already judged and labeled myself: fat and out of control. Bob, it turned out, wasn't judging me at all. He really understood.

But he did have some tough questions for me. One of them was the hardest question that anyone has ever asked me: What is the best life possible for you? I remember one conversation in particular.

"You of all the people in the world can have your life be what you want; why don't you do it? What do you really want?" he asked.

"I want to be happy," I replied.

" 'Happy' isn't a good-enough answer. What does that mean? Break it down for me. When was the last time you were really happy?"

"When I was filming The Color Purple, seven years ago."

"What about filming The Color Purple made you happy?"

I didn't have to think to answer. "Doing that work filled me up. I was playing a character that was meaningful to me, surrounded by the brilliance of Alice Walker, Quincy Jones, and Steven Spielberg. I was so charged and stimulated every day, I just wanted to do better and be better."

"So what would it take for you to have that feeling again?"

In answering that question, I realized the show had gotten away from me. In order to stay competitive, we had become more and more salacious, covering topics like "My sister slept with my husband" and "Is my husband or my boss my baby's father?" I didn't want to put junk on the air that perpetuated dysfunction instead of resolving it. It wasn't who I wanted to be.

And so, while I worked out and changed what and how much I ate, managing the rest of my life became my real focus. I started asking myself the same questions Bob had asked me. For every circumstance, I asked myself:

"What do I want?"

"What kind of show do I want?"

"What kind of body do I want?"

"What do I want to give to all the people who are asking me for my money, my attention, my time?"

I finally made a decision about that last one. I set up trust funds with a finite amount of cash for the people to whom I wanted to give money. And to those with whom I had no connection, I said no, and meant it. And just to be sure, I changed my home number. I've never visited a psychiatrist, but working with Bob has been priceless therapy.

Another thing I know for sure now is that you've got to ask yourself: What kind of life do I want and how close am I to living it? You cannot ever live the life of your dreams without coming face-to-face with the truth. Every unwanted pound creates another layer of lies. It's only when you peel back those layers that you will be set free: free to work out, free to eat responsibly, free to live the life you want and deserve to live. Tell the truth and you'll learn to eat to satisfy your physical hunger as opposed to your emotional hunger and to stop burying your hopes and dreams beneath layers of fat.

A young woman on my show who had been struggling with her weight once said to me she'd learned to challenge the pain and not the peanut butter. I thought that was brilliant. Once you work on what's eating you, you won't want to eat so much.

The Best Life Diet plan on the following pages mirrors the way I eat and live now. (You'll find a full week of my menus and some of my favorite foods on pages 168-72.) There is no secret to losing weight. It's simple physics: what you put in versus what you put out.

I lost weight in stages. First I became active: I still work out even though I really hate it, but I know if I don't, I will end up at 200 pounds again. Then I started working on my eating. First I stopped eating past 7:30 at night. When Bob told me it would make a big difference in my weight, I resisted. I thought it was going to be too hard. It was at first, but it gradually got easier. I rearranged my life so I wasn't rushing to make the 7:30 P.M. eating cutoff time. Not eating after 7:30 P.M. turned out to be one of the most effective changes I've made.

I've now taken most of the unhealthy foods out of my diet and replaced them with better choices. I eat smaller portions and healthful foods as a way of life, not as a diet to go on and off. I've even started a garden, and one of the most delightful moments for me these days is seeing a basket of just-picked green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, and corn sitting on my kitchen counter. And I'm always working on getting better. My diet is a work in progress.

Maybe what's most different now is that I think about why I eat, not just about what and how much. The truth is, most people — like me — have to keep watch on all three: why, what, and how we eat. We have to manage it daily. If you turn on the TV and see that I've picked up a few pounds, you will know that I'm not managing and balancing my life as well as I should.

I accept that mine is a very public life, although the pain and frustration I experience when I gain weight is just as individual and difficult as your own. I still work constantly at not repressing my feelings with food.

One day I was leaving Santa Barbara, heading for Chicago. I was unable to fly due to bad weather, and I left the airport craving cake. I didn't process my feelings about being delayed; I just wanted cake. In particular, the coconut cake sold at the Montecito Café. Mind you, it was three years ago that I had my first and last bite of that cake, but the memory was so strong I could taste it. All the way home I thought about that cake.

I knew the café was closed, but I was still obsessing about it. I got would substitute for the cake and satisfy my craving. I got out some pancake mix and a can of pineapple. I can make pineapple pancakes, add syrup, and it can taste kind of like the cake, I thought. I vowed to make a giant pancake right after I took my dogs for a walk.

While the dogs and I went for a long walk, I got really calm. I wasn't anxious about missing appointments and having to rearrange schedules anymore. I returned home and didn't even think about cake or pancakes, pineapple or syrup.

I started a new book, and went to sleep in peace.

Pausing is something I do more often now.

And I pray or meditate — or do both — every day. I start my day with a prayer that Marianne Williamson shared in her book Illuminata: A Return to Prayer.

Dear God,

I give this day to You.

May my mind stay centered on the things of spirit.

May I not be tempted to stray from love.

As I begin this day, I open to receive You.

Please enter where You already abide.

May my mind and heart be pure and true, and may I not deviate from the things of goodness.

May I see the love and innocence in all mankind, behind the masks we all wear and the illusions of this worldly plane.

I surrender to You my doings this day.

I ask only that they serve You and the healing of the world.

May I bring Your love and goodness with me, to give unto others wherever I go.

Make me the person You would have me be.

Direct my footsteps, and show me what You would have me do.

Make the world a safer, more beautiful place.

Bless all Your creatures.

Heal us all, and use me, dear Lord, that I might know the joy of being used by You.


I pray to be used by a power greater than myself. It takes consistent effort to live my best life.

The mistake I've made in the past is not realizing how constant a struggle it really is not to turn to food for comfort. It comes down to another question Bob asked me years ago: "How much do you love yourself ?"

"Of course I love myself," I'd snapped. "It's the first law of selfpreservation. I firmly believe in it."

"You may believe it, but you don't practice it," he said. "Otherwise you couldn't let yourself be two hundred and thirty-seven pounds."

I wanted to cry, and later I did. He was so right. I cared more about everyone else's feelings than my own. I'd overextend myself to do anything anyone asked, to honor his or her feelings. I didn't want anyone to think I wasn't "nice" or, worse, that "the money has gone to her head."

This, too, I know for sure: Loving yourself means honoring yourself and your own feelings first. When I was 237 pounds, I didn't even know what I felt. It was like living behind a veil of fat.

My hope is that you can learn from my mistakes and liberate yourself from this struggle. I finally know it doesn't have to be so hard. Make a decision. Know that you deserve the best life possible. It's there for the asking, the answering, the taking. Go out and get it!!!!!


Copyright © 2006, 2009 by the Bestlife Corporation

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