I'm a bit of a health and fitness buff, so when I saw "Make the Connection" at a local secondhand book store, I snatched it up. The full title is "Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body and a Better Life", by Bob Greene and Oprah Winfrey, published by Hyperion. The description on the back bills it as a simple, easy to use diet and exercise guide, written by Oprah and her real life physical trainer, Bob Greene. The tagline is "It's not about dieting...it's about changing your life."
Each chapter begins with a short story written by Oprah, recounting a personal experience with one facet of her weight loss journey. These are the most enjoyable parts of the book, in my opinion. Despite being rich and famous, Oprah comes across as a normal person, one of us, who experiences all the cravings, weaknesses, and trials that we all experience when we try to better ourselves. Her writing style is easy and personal, and it really feels like she's talking to the reader as a friend.
The rest of the chapter is written by Bob Greene. Greene is a fitness professional, who works as a personal trainer and exercise physiologist. His entries are related to Oprah's intro, but are much more scientific, focusing on the physical and mental aspects of diet and exercise. Luckily, unlike some exercise books that read like PhD dissertations, his style is also down to earth and easy to understand. He describes the steps to take to lose weight, then explains the biology behind it and why it's necessary.
The first few chapters serve as an introduction to some of the basic concepts about diet, exercise, and health. Chapter 1, "Why We Eat" and chapter 2, "Becoming Self Aware", talk about the reasons we crave the foods that we do, both in a physical sense and in an emotional one, and discusses how learning about yourself and analyzing your life experiences can help sort out the mixed up feelings most of us have about food. Chapters 2 and 3, "The Purpose of Body Fat" and "The Physics of Body Weight", get more into biology, teaching about the role fat serves in our bodies and the physical mechanisms of weight gain and loss.
The target audience of this book is revealed by the inclusion of Oprah and her personal experiences. This is a "beginner level" fitness book, aimed at people inexperienced with exercise
and the details about body physiology. In other words, a general audience similar to the audience of Oprah's TV shows. The processes described by the book are basic, simple methods that anyone can do, regardless of age, gender, or current weight. This makes it easily accessible to a wide audience of people.
The rest of the book is about Greene's 10 step method for weight loss. He outlines ten basic life changes, and dedicates a chapter to each one. Each chapter takes a health principle like eating, exercise, or mental health, then goes into detail about what to do and why, and how it will help you reach your weight loss goals. The chapters are easy to read, and are written in a way that explains sometimes complex biological concepts in a way everyone can understand.
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One example of this user-friendliness is the method Greene advises to determine your exercise intensity level. Instead of mathematical formulas to calculate heart rate or oxygen consumption, he describes a ten point scale of intensity based on subjective feelings like effort, sweating, and breathing rate. While it may not be as scientific, it seems like this method would be easier for beginners to find an intensity level that fits their personal fitness abilities.
The downside is that the book is a bit simplistic for anyone who already has a working knowledge of the basics of diet and exercise. If you already eat healthily and exercise regularly, there isn't any new information or inspiration to be found here.
One of the biggest pluses of this book is that it goes into a side of weight loss that isn't commonly discussed: the mental aspect. In our stressful modern world, food and eating are often a response to psychological triggers as much as physical ones. Greene and Oprah both talk about the importance of knowing the psychology of why you eat and what foods you choose, and the struggles involved in changing these habits for the better.
Greene goes into detail about how emotional pain and need contribute to weight gain. He urges readers to spend time thinking about what makes them happy and what they want out of life. Knowing yourself and your emotional needs, he explains, helps to understand how it makes you relate to food, your body, and your relationships.
Another good thing is his insistence that calorie restriction is not a valid way to lose weight. The most common thinking among dieters is that severely restricting the calories eaten per day is the best way to lose weight. In reality, physiologists have known for some time that starvation diets cause much more harm than good, resulting in muscle loss and metabolism disruption, as well as sometimes setting the stage for eating disorders. Any weight loss will quickly be regained, and the body is even less equipped to be healthy than before.
Greene instructs readers to instead focus on choosing healthy foods and paying attention to the energy needs of your body. This is a very good thing, since starvation diets are harmful and shouldn't be encouraged.
On the negative side, one of the main tenets of Greene's diet plan involves eating only low fat foods. Like starvation diets, current science believes that low fat diets are an unfortunate fad that can have several bad effects. Fat is not the "boogeyman" that it was once thought to be. This may be a result of the book's publication date...it was written in 1996, when the low fat fad was still in full force.
However, the rest of the tips in this book are solid advice for beginners.
Overall, I thought this was a decent book. It was a little simplistic for those with experience in fitness philosophies, but it should be just right for the target audience of Oprah fans. Aside
from the heaviness of the low fat angle, the book has lots of good basic information that should be very helpful to those starting out on a weight loss goal.
I give "Make the Connection" a 3.5 out of 5 stars. It has some good information, but is a bit simplistic at times. Definitely better for beginners!
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