IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Oprah's trainer puts mind over body matters

By Dorene Internicola
/ Source: Reuters

By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK, Jan 31 (Reuters Life!) - Fitness and weight loss were emotional issues for trainer Bob Greene even before he joined forces with the high priestess of positive thinking, Oprah Winfrey.

It might date back to childhood visits with a great-grandmother bedridden by obesity.

"I often think about my great-grandmother when I work with clients," Greene said in his new book. "I think deep down I sensed that her days could have been better."

Better days is precisely the point, both of Greene's book "The Life You Want: Get Motivated, Lose Weight, and Be Happy," and his website,

Written with a psychologist and a nutritionist, "The Life You Want" delivers a heavy dollop of self-help-style psychology and lifestyle advice alongside diet menus and exercise regimens.

"It's not just about fitness, it's about making changes in your life," Greene explained in an interview from California. "This book encourages people to every day find ways to be happy, even if you have 80 pounds (36 kgs) to lose."

Psychology has always fascinated Greene, who as a teenager carried a copy of Abraham Maslow's "Toward a Psychology of Being," a handbook of humanistic psychology, in his back pocket.

He said while all his books with Oprah, starting with "Making the Connection" (1996) address the psychological side, he has never gone so deep.

"People say the hard work is getting on a treadmill. That's the easy part," he said. "People run up against emotional barriers."

His most famous client is a case in point.

"Oprah was one of the great success stories for 15 years," he said, until an emotional one-two punch -- the failure of her 1998 movie "Beloved" and a lawsuit brought by the beef industry -- "knocked her off the wagon."

He said despite her great wealth, she's waylaid by more than her share of what his book identifies as the Eight Barriers to Weight Loss Success, from Barrier One: Aversion to Discomfort and Pain, to Barrier Eight: Abuse.

"She's got tremendous head winds," he said. "Right now she's caught in Barrier Two: Caught Up in the Business of Life. But she's the first to admit she's using that not to make the tough, healthy decisions."

Greene is all about facing the strain.

"Hard bouts of cardio will actually dull the appetite," he said, adding that many exercisers start too slow and migrate to their comfort zone.

"You can't change your physiology without discomfort," he said. "The athlete who can tolerate a little more discomfort is the one who will win the race. It's the same thing weight loss."

And the pain isn't limited to the physical.

Greene said in his 30 years in the business, he's never seen someone succeed who did not also make a tough life decision, like changing jobs or ending a toxic relationship.

"People who are successful forget about weight loss. They concentrate every day on moving closer to the life they want," he said. "Eating and exercise are simply little spokes in that wheel."

And how fares the queen at the hub?

"I still work with her, though not daily. We're in touch weekly. She was the best person at my wedding. I chuckle when someone says, 'Your client Oprah,'" he said. "It's way beyond that."