Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1- Diet Another Day
The last time I weighed what I was supposed to weigh was in
1969. I remember it well. It was New Year’s Eve, and that was the night I gave up smoking.
Three days later, I was in Israel, on the border with Syria,
covering a continuing border war. We were in foxholes, and someone had launched mortars toward the Israeli positions. As the explosions came way too close for comfort, the other journalists with me were convinced we were going to die.
Suddenly, behind me, two Israeli soldiers appeared, and were handing out disgusting French cigarettes.Two of the other journalists,
guys who had never smoked, accepted them and lit up.
When the soldiers got to me, I attempted to decline politely,
saying I was “trying to quit.” The war seemed to stop for about fifteen seconds while everyone looked at me incredulously, as if to say, “You’re trying to quit? We’re all about to die anyway.Take the cigarette!”
I didn’t.We lived. And I haven’t had a cigarette since. OK, so much for the good news.
But from the morning of January 6, 1970, when I returned home, I was on Oreo patrol. Snack food. Junk food. You name it, I went for it. And it showed. If it’s true that you are what you . . . overeat, then I was the pie piper.
I became obsessed with certain “foods.” I had an obscene relationship with Diet Pepsi, drinking up to twenty cans a day. I
found a candy connection online, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania,
and ordered those red Swedish fish candies in bulk. I didn’t just stop there: Around my office you’d always find peanut M&M’s,
Snickers, and Root Beer Barrels.
In 1987, I went on a serious diet supervised by a doctor, and
I lost 51 pounds. Then I started traveling for Good Morning
America for seven years, and the weight came right back—and then some.
Despite all good intentions, no matter what shape you’re in,
or whatever your exercise program, travel is the great enemy.
The minute you leave home, your routine takes an immediate vacation.And as more and more people travel, it’s becoming obvious that obesity is no longer an American disease. It has become a global pandemic. And as obesity rates soar, so has diabetes. In 1985, diabetes afflicted 30 million people worldwide.
A little more than a decade later, that figure had escalated to 135 million. The good news—one could argue—is that as you are reading this, about 100 million Americans are on a diet. The bad news: Our lifestyles, coupled with our increased travel schedule, work against us winning the weight war.
And it shows. I was never overweight as a kid. I didn’t eat a lot of junk food in high school, but that’s when I discovered
Linden’s chocolate chip cookies in the cafeteria. By the time I
became an executive at Paramount, they were delivering chocolate chip cookies to the office.
I love snacking. And snacks were everywhere. There were potato chips and popcorn in the office, pretzels and peanuts on the plane, chocolates waiting in my hotel room when I arrived.
Let’s not talk about the minibar. And we haven’t even gotten to the social breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that go along with the job.
I hate scales. Always have. My mother, the queen of the lessthan-
subtle hint, gifted me each Christmas with a beautifully wrapped . . . scale. After the first year (this went on for more than ten years), I stopped opening the “present.”
Dostoyevsky once wrote that every man lies to himself. At the very least, we’re in serious denial when it comes to diet and exercise. I fooled myself into thinking that, given my lack of serious food vices—and all things being relative, my excess weight was an acceptable trade-off.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone. More than 30 percent of adults in
America are obese, and the number who are overweight has tripled in the last twenty years. We are addicted to junk food,
and, worse, our national food supply is the number one source of chronic disease.
I fit perfectly into some pretty scary statistics, many related directly to my travel schedule. A friend once told me that you should never eat anything served to you out of a window unless you’re a seagull. And yet, the odds that an American will eat at a fast-food restaurant on any given day are one in four.Well, I did better than that. Three out of four days, you could find me at an airport, or in a rental car on assignment on the road, pulling off the highway long enough to get supersized. And on that fourth,
fifth, sixth, and seventh day? I was eating out, at a hotel or a restaurant. Again, I was in trouble: That hotel or restaurant meal was 170 percent larger than a meal prepared at home. Odds that a person will closely follow a diet are, again, one in four. That was me as well (I was one of the other three). Then there were statistics that were not even close to describing me: The amount the average American spends annually on candy is $84. (I was spending at least ten times that amount.)
As the son of a doctor, and with my travel schedule, I get a checkup once every three months. The results, despite my weight, have never been cause for alarm. Blood pressure was always a little high, and triglycerides and cholesterol were always high but not out of control. I hadn’t smoked in more than thirty years; I hardly drink alcohol. Don’t drink coffee.
When I went to see Raymond Keller, a brilliant and talented physician, in March 2005, for another checkup, I thought that once again I could just breeze right through. He had always told me to lose weight and limit my intake of sweets and junk food,
and, of course, I never listened.
But on this visit, the numbers started to catch up with me.
My blood pressure was 145/95, and the cholesterol and triglyceride numbers were frightening. Then it was time to stand on the scale. I was more than a little embarrassed. I knew I weighed too much, but nothing prepared me for the number that confronted me. I weighed in at a whopping 284 pounds.
I thought: I can’t control the weather. I can’t control the political situation, and I can’t control who’s driving on the freeways.
But I can control what I eat and how much I put in my mouth.
I knew I had to do something about this, but where to start?
Each week there are at least three new diet books published.
I was confronted with a little bit of everything: Actually, I was confronted with more than I could digest (every pun intended).
• 3-Hour Diet
• 6-Day Body Makeover
• Abs Diet
• Atkins Diet
• Blood Type Diet
• Cabbage Soup Diet
• Jenny Craig
• Fat Flush Plan
• Fit for Life
• French Women’s Diet
• Glycemic Index
• Grapefruit Diet
• Bob Greene
• Hamptons Diet
• LA Weight Loss
• Dr. Phil
• Perricone Promise
• Scarsdale Diet
• South Beach Diet
• Step Diet
• Sugar Busters
• The Zone Diet
There was even an eat-all-the-bread-you-want-for-life diet!
To challenge me more, I felt I had two strikes against me: no discipline and no guidance. And that was quickly counterbalanced by . . . shame.
That night, I had dinner with my editor at Men’s Health,
Stephen Perrine. I told him of my disappointing checkup and that I was now motivated to lose weight. “But you travel more than anyone else I know,” he said. “How can you possibly stick to a diet and exercise program?” The problem, of course, is that so many of us travel, that on any given day even the most wellintentioned diets are jettisoned, timetables and discipline evaporate
. . . And therein was the genesis of this book. Could we develop a diet and exercise plan that worked not only at home,
but on the road, given all the obstacles? It was worth a try.
Like any good traveler, I needed a road map. First, Perrine made me keep a food diary for a week. And when I was finished with it, it didn’t make for pretty reading.
Without realizing it, I had become the poster child for the
Nabisco telethon—Chips Ahoy!, Fig Newtons, and the real killers,Wheat Thins. Entire boxes would be consumed at a single sitting . . .
A typical seven days in my life from early 2005:
6 A.M. Awake
No formal breakfast
Three chocolate chip cookies
8 A.M. Two Red Delicious Apples
8:30 A.M. Diet Pepsi
10 A.M. Six pieces of cherry Swedish fish
11 A.M. Another Diet Pepsi (keep in mind, I never finish one—just about three hits per can)
12:30 P.M. Lunch: sushi
4 P.M. Red Delicious Apple
6 P.M. Popcorn
8:30 P.M. Dinner: Thai food—beef, pork, chicken satay, mee krob (crispy sweet noodles)
11 P.M. Red Delicious Apple
And yes, a few more Swedish fish
Same waking time
Same morning habit
Lunch: skirt steak and sautéed string beans
Same afternoon habit
But no dinner. Instead, the red-eye to Chicago
(On the plane, no meal—but generous helpings of mixed nuts and, of course, Diet Pepsi)
5:30 A.M. Arrive
Bagel and cream cheese
Lunch: cheeseburger (no fries)
4 P.M. Arrive at hotel
Here’s where problems start. The hotel has sent up chocolate-covered strawberries, cheese, crackers, et al.,
and they are devoured by yours truly.
8 P.M. Dinner at hotel restaurant: rack of lamb, no dessert
Late night: chocolate-covered peanuts (ugh) and, of course, some Diet Pepsi
No breakfast (there’s a pattern here)
Early morning ride to the airport
At the airport, a Snickers bar
On the plane, cereal and milk for breakfast, and the ritual Diet Pepsi lunch in L.A.: sushi
3 P.M. Snacking on Swedish fish
6 P.M. Popcorn
9:30 P.M. Late Thai dinner
And back at the house: I devour a full bag of pistachio nuts.
I’m an idiot!
Early flight to San Francisco
Bagel and cream cheese at the airport
Working lunch at meeting: roast beef sandwich, potato chips, Diet Coke, and cookies
Back to L.A. (peanuts on plane)
Dinner at deli: pastrami and swiss on rye with Russian dressing
Late night: chocolate-covered almonds
Early morning Diet Pepsi ritual
Red Delicious Apple
Tape television show: cookies, honey-roasted nuts, and licorice on the set
4 P.M. Flight to New York: steak on plane (disgusting) and
Midnight Arrive in New York
I probably left out a lot of guerilla-raid snacking, and that week included only one hotel. It could have been worse. It was a thoroughly embarassing diet, coupled with little or no exercise.
Once I handed in the food diary, I was already negotiating.
For the new diet protocols, I asked to be able to keep four Red
Delicious Apples a day (something I had been doing since I was a child) and at least a few Diet Pepsis.
Next stop was a nutritionist. Heidi Skolnik, a contributor to
Men’s Health and a friend, volunteered to help. Then Perrine arranged a meeting with an amazing trainer,Annette Lang.The only non negotiable: I had to listen to them, and I couldn’t cheat.
Team Greenberg was formed. And before long, others were added, including dieticians, food researchers, scientists, sleep experts,
chefs, and other trainers from around the world. What we’ve done in this book is look at every single possible component part of the travel experience as it relates to diet, exercise,
sleep, time zones, and all the other absurdities, anxieties, and imponderables of the travel world. From that, we developed and then embraced a lifestyle, and a discipline, that allowed me—
and now you—to either stay in shape or lose weight, or both, at home and on the road.
Was it easy? Of course not. I travel 400,000 miles a year.Was it worth it? Absolutely. And believe me, if I can do it with that travel schedule, anyone can do it.