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  • The Best Life Diet

    Overview

    The Best Life Diet offers a sensible approach to healthful eating and dieting. The author, Bob Greene, an exercise physiologist with years of experience helping people lose weight, views his diet as a lifetime plan, not a temporary diet. He is focused on helping you get to the root cause of your weight struggles and then working to resolve these issues. On this plan you should lose about 1-2 pounds per week, the amount recommended by nutrition experts.

    How Is This Diet Supposed to Work?

    This diet works by changing what you eat so that you are ultimately eating fewer calories. In addition, it also addresses other areas that affect your weight, such as your activity level, being in tune with your hunger, and emotional eating. Greene focuses on emotional eating. He believes that dealing with the emotional reasons behind your weight is essential to successfully losing weight and keeping it off.

    What’s Involved?

    This diet involves three phases. But before you can start changing the way you eat, Greene aims to prepare you for the challenges ahead and to help you understand why you are overweight. He stresses that to be ready to start this diet you need to determine “what in your life is stirring up your emotions and ultimately causing you to turn to food for comfort and distraction.”

    Phase One

    The first phase of this diet lasts for at least four weeks. The main focus is getting more physical activity and changing your meal patterns—not what or how much you eat. Although, Greene does encourage healthful breakfasts and snacks.
    During this time you are asked to:
    • Increase your activity level
    • Stop eating two hours before going to bed
    • Eat three meals plus snacks every day
    • Drink a lot of fluids
    • Avoid alcohol
    • Start taking vitamin supplements
    • If you smoke, quit .
    While you may not see much weight loss during this time, Greene believes that making these changes will help you establish healthful habits that are the keys to lasting weight loss.

    Phase Two

    During the second phase you should expect consistent, gradual weight loss. In addition to maintaining the changes you made in phase one, the objectives of this phase are:
    • Understanding the reasons for your hunger
    • Using a hunger scale
    • Eating reasonable portions
    • Removing six "empty" or problem foods from your diet
    The hunger scale is a ten-point scale based on the stages of fullness that will help you learn when to eat and when to stop eating. The unhealthy foods that you will remove during this phase are: soda, foods with trans fats, fried foods, white bread, regular pasta, and high-fat dairy products. You will stay on this phase until you are either at your goal weight or within 20 pounds of it (and for at least four weeks).

    Phase Three

    This is the phase you will stay on for life. The focus of this lifetime phase is improving the quality of your diet and weight maintenance. In addition to the changes you made in phases one and two, during this phase you will:
    • Introduce “anything goes calories”—These are extra calories that you can “spend” any way you like. How many extra calories you get depends on how active you are.
    • Balance your diet using the Best Life Diet guidelines
    • Remove more unhealthy foods from your diet
    • Add more wholesome foods to your diet

    Meal Plans

    Greene’s book also includes meal plans and recipes to give you ideas on what to eat and if you prefer a more structured eating plan. The meal plans are available for calorie levels from 1,500-2,500. They all provide at least 25 grams of fiber.

    What Does the Research Say?

    While there are no research studies looking specifically at this diet, overall it is based on well-established principles of healthful eating. Greene does make a few recommendations that are based on his personal opinion.
    For instance, he believes that because of concerns about mercury and other contaminants in fish, it is difficult to safely get enough omega-3 acids from the diet alone. He, therefore, recommends that everyone take a fish oil supplement. While this is a reasonable opinion, check with your doctor before taking fish oil or any other supplements.
    Moreover, experts disagree on the risk that mercury in fish poses to our health. The American Heart Association believes that the benefits of regularly eating fish outweigh the risks for most people. However, young children, women who are pregnant, or are nursing should limit the amount and types of fish they consume.

    Are There Any Concerns With This Diet?

    There are no major concerns with this diet. It is worth mentioning, however, that Greene has put his “seal of approval” on several food products that he believes are healthy. While his support of specific brands is helpful, it is important to feel confident about selecting healthful products on your own and not limit yourself to these “approved” foods.

    Bottom Line

    This diet provides a simple, sensible plan that will get you on the track to lifelong healthful eating and help you keep the weight off. It is especially well-suited if you have struggled with your weight for years and tend to use food to deal with problems. This plan helps you get to the root of your emotional eating and then commit to changing your eating habits and increasing your activity. If you are looking for quick results, though, the Best Life Diet is not for you.

    RESOURCES

    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org

    Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight-loss ProgramWeight-control Information Network http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/choosing.htm

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canada's Food Guide http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index%5Fe.html

    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca

    References

    Fish, levels of mercury and omega-3 fatty acids. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3013797 . Accessed June 29, 2007.

    Greene B. The Best Life Diet . New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2006.

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