According to fitness expert Bob Greene, losing weight successfully isn't only about what you eat or how much you exercise, it's also dependent on your emotional foundation. In his new book, "Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover: An Accelerated Program of Exercise and Nutrition for Maximum Results in Minimum Time," the man who helped Oprah lose 50 pounds and get fit sets out a 12-step plan that focuses first on finding the right frame of mind to get the body you want. Read an excerpt below.
Most people poised to embark upon a 12-week body makeover program will begin by thinking about, and maybe even worrying about, how they're going to change their eating and exercise habits. But this program is different. It begins not with food or fitness, but with something that I think is equally, if not more, important: building a solid emotional foundation.
If you've tried lots of other weight loss programs before (and even if you haven't), putting diet and fitness concerns aside for a short while probably seems like a pretty crazy idea. In fact, it's the sanest thing you can do. If you want to transform your body, the first thing you need to do is transform your mind-set, your attitudes, your outlook, your way of seeing the world, and most critical of all, your way of seeing yourself.
The root of most people's weight problems, or any problems that relate to lack of motivation, is buried deep within. I have heard enough tales of stalled body makeover attempts to confidently say that virtually no one — no one — who hopes to lose weight and keep it off for good can succeed without first addressing her attitudes and the way it affects her behavior, then shoring up her level of motivation. You can cut calories and exercise all you want, but if you don't develop a strong emotional foundation first, everything you've built is likely to fall down like a house of cards. For long-term success, spend the time to make yourself emotionally healthy before you even think about adjusting your diet or joining a gym.
Building a new, healthier life for yourself is a lot like building a house: both require that you start by laying a foundation. Without a foundation to prop it up, a house cannot stand (at least for long). Likewise, without a strong emotional foundation, everything you achieve toward making your body over will not withstand the stress, strains, and temptations of daily life. The house, your body — each needs a solid base.
So how do you build that base? It starts with four cornerstones. You might call them the mental equivalent of bricks and mortar: honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength. They're the seeds of success for accomplishment in weight loss and, in fact, all areas of life. The reason is very simple: These four cornerstones provide you with what you need to stay resolute in the face of everyday challenges to your resolve. They also help you weather the storms that typically derail months and even years of effort. If you think about it, when someone fails to reach a goal, it's usually because there's been a breakdown in one of these four areas. But if you've got them all in check and are standing on steady emotional ground, nothing — not relationship troubles, family crises, job stress, blows to your self-esteem, illness — is going to keep you from achieving long-term success.
I want you to know, though, that honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength are more than just concepts. Each represents a goal in itself, one that can be reached only by doing some serious soul-searching and self-evaluation. Much is often made about how difficult it is to eat right and exercise, but taking an honest look at yourself and working to change or fortify some fundamental aspects of your personality is an even greater challenge. So by asking you to lay the four cornerstones of a strong emotional foundation, I am asking you to gear up for what might be a tough, challenging, and perhaps even uncomfortable endeavor. Getting there may or may not be fun — some people find that having those moments of self-revelation where everything comes together is quite wonderful, others don't.
But making the effort is entirely worth it.
Successful people who have made honesty, responsibility, commitment, and inner strength central to their very being have found that it changed them in ways they would never have imagined. That's because while, certainly, these are the keys to making your body over once and for all, they are also the keys to accomplishing anything.
As you go through the steps of conquering each cornerstone, you'll find you have the power to let go of the past and anything else that is stopping you from becoming the person you really want to be. I'm not going to kid you: the process can be rough. But make it through the emotional discomfort, and you'll find that you have emotional freedom and that the pleasure you can take in this empowering, life-changing experience will far outweigh the pain. If you're tired of feeling guilty about your actions and are disgusted with yourself for procrastinating, tired of feeling bad about the way you look, and fearful about the state of your health, this is the road you want to be on.
I want to qualify this a little bit before I go on. Just as there are exceptions to every rule, there are exceptions to the idea that most people need to do some soul-searching before they try to lose weight. Maybe you already have a good mind-set about eating and exercise, know yourself well, and take responsibility for your actions. Maybe you've just never had to be disciplined about eating and exercise before and simply need some help getting on to the right track. Perhaps committing to something isn't a problem for you as long as you have the right tools to work with. If you feel you don't need to spend the time working on your emotional foundation, then by all means move on to the next chapter. But it's not a bad idea to spend some time reading through the next sections just to reinforce the attitudes and actions that determine success (and failure).
So here's the deal: Take however long you need to be honest with yourself, assume responsibility for your actions, make a commitment to change your life, and use your inner strength to help you stick to your resolve. Then move on to the 12-week Total Body Makeover program and the task of achieving your goals. Believe me, years down the road, when you have transformed your body — and kept it that way — you won't regret taking this extra step in the least.
The First Cornerstone: Honesty
The process of change requires that you stop wearing blinders; you must be honest with yourself about who you are and why you do the things you do. It's funny how we can so often give an incisive psychological portrait of other people yet are frequently at pains to truly know ourselves. I'm asking you to be as insightful into your own psyche as you are into others'.
Lying to yourself is like having one big crack in your emotional foundation — you're in trouble before you even get started. I've met people who've made a career out of deluding themselves and as a consequence never really accomplished what they wanted to. By making excuses, blaming others, putting things off — and all the while telling themselves that they're not really doing the things that they are indeed doing — they have doomed themselves to failure.
I can't stress enough how essential being honest about your strengths, your weaknesses, and even your past failures will be to your success. Recently I met with a client who was reluctant to answer any of my questions about his life. I wasn't trying to be nosy or to be a trainer/therapist. I was just trying to get a read on some of the issues that might be affecting his weight. I respected his privacy and certainly understood that it's not easy to share the details of your life with someone you barely know. But I also told him that when it comes to what he tells himself, reticence is a different matter. He didn't have to tell me what was going on, but not being truthful with himself would be self-defeating.
An unwillingness to open up and to experience the discomfort that kind of honesty inevitably brings is a huge barrier to success. This process is about self-discovery, and those who go through it change not only the behaviors that previously kept them from dramatically altering their bodies but the behaviors that hampered their lives in other ways, too. Sometimes what you find out about yourself is embarrassing; sometimes it's painful; sometimes it's just depressing. But when you have that "Aha!" moment — "Oh, that's why I've been doing that!" — it can be very freeing. Imagine trying to fix a lamp that suddenly goes off without checking to see if the lightbulb is burned out. Your chances of getting the light back on aren't very high. Same thing here: if you've tried to lose weight again and again without determining what is fundamentally causing the problem, you're working in the dark. It's just not going to happen. Oh, you might lose the weight for a while, but before you know it, you're going to put it back on.
The point of doing some honest self-exploration is not to beat yourself up about your shortcomings. Rather, it's to learn something that you didn't know about yourself or, if you did know it on some level, to officially admit it to yourself. When you make these discoveries, it's important not to just gloss over them. Don't just tell yourself, "Yeah, I guess I stopped walking after work not because it was so late when I got home but because I really preferred to watch 'Jeopardy!' " Pause and think more about it. Do you really like "Jeopardy!" that much, or are you using it as an excuse? Are you lazy? Are you embarrassed to be seen "fitness walking" around your neighborhood because you think it calls attention to your weight? Are you afraid that your significant other will be angry at you for taking the time for yourself? Do you simply have no energy (a problem that might be remedied by switching your workouts to the morning)? What is really going on? Your assignment is to find out. Replay decisions you've made, both good and bad, and analyze them. It's the only way you're going to break ingrained unhealthy behavior patterns.
Excerpted from "Bob Greene's Total Body Makeover: An Accelerated Program of Exercise and Nutrition for Maximum Results in Minimum Time," by Bob Greene. Copyright © 2005. Used by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without the expressed written permission of the publisher.