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Book Review: Body for LIFE

Posted by bmagnus On April - 5 - 2010

" target="_blank">Body for LIFE by Bill Phillips is a companion piece to the annual Body for LIFE Challenge. By itself, it’s a New York Times best seller, claiming to help you on your way to a new body — indeed, a new LIFE! — in a mere 12 weeks. But does it meet the hype?

Bill Phillips has been preaching more or less the same story for years, but this book came out of an incident where he met up with many people who claimed to have been following what he’d been preaching and fell way short of where he thought they could and should be. The answer: a challenge! There would be a fabulous prize for a lucky contestant who completed the program and wrote a winning essay about the experience and how it changed his/her life!

Phillips breaks the book down into parts. First, he introduces you to a handful of spectacular success stories. Then he gets into basic motivation and goal setting. This alone is probably of huge value to someone trying to get fit and adopt healthy lifestyles for the first time.

There’s a “Fact vs. Myth” section that addresses a baker’s dozen popular misconceptions regarding diet and exercise. Basic diet and exercise philosophy are expounded upon and he includes a chapter on overcoming obstacles. Let’s face it: in the course of the next 3 months something will happen that disrupts your plans, for good or bad. The point is that it doesn’t have to completely derail you.

When it comes to diet, we aren’t exactly on the same page. Phillips doesn’t provide a lot of guidance, but he does lay out a bare bones low fat and reduced carbohydrate diet. He allows whole wheat bread, but that’s about it for grains. All he really provides is a list of endorsed foods and an admonition to make sure that each of the 6 small daily meals includes  protein, a “high quality” carbohydrate (usually fruit), and a vegetable. One “portion”, by the way, is about the size of your palm.  Phillips unapologetically endorses as his favorite between meal snack a choice from the EAS line of meal replacement shakes. It’s strictly commercial but at the time he wrote the book, he owned EAS.

As for exercise, Mr. Phillips recommends 6 weekly workouts, evenly split between 3 twenty minute cardio workouts with a very specific sequence of intensity and 3 strength workouts forth-five minutes long that alternate upper and lower body. Each major muscle group is addressed. People with more weightlifting experience will recognize the use of “pyramiding.” One interesting twist is the use of a specific affirmation to time your lifting and lowering of the weight; this not only helps keep your timing, but serves as a motivation and self-programming tool. There is an appendix with the recommended exercises for strength workouts, and to be honest, we find it a bit gym-centric. This is interesting inasmuch as page 123 is almost exclusively devoted to the virtues of dumbbells!

The book provides a basic framework for diet and exercise but is light on details and variety. Phillips has had massive success with the program and countless supporting books that you’ll find next to it at the bookstore. Trust us, you’ll need something in terms of support since the diet info is so scant. The exercises can be followed religiously with the tight recommended timing if you’re at your 24 Hour Fitness at 3 AM when you don’t have to compete for the Smith machine but it’ll be tough in a busy gym and almost impossible at home. Formulating alternate exercises wouldn’t be that hard to make the plan home friendly, but Phillips makes no effort to do so.

Is Body For LIFE for you? Maybe but consider the limitations before you get too serious about the plan.

His Take: Bill Phillips is an amazing promoter and entrepreneur but to my way of thinking Body for Life is a $29 entry into a treadmill of buying more books before you can even really start working out. Time, money and effort are much better spent on more self contained and complete programs from other vendors.

Her Take: It’s hard to argue with the results the program gets, as there is no shortage of before-and-after pictures. If you need a jumpstart to get going, you could certainly do worse. However, I was disappointed not to see more exercises using dumbbells and body weight. I would also have liked to see more than 6 days of menu suggestions, but I will give him points for including super-simple, 2-3 sentence long recipes that even the most kitchen challenged can handle. Unfortunately, when all is said and done this book is not a stand alone solution for its core audience.

One Response to “Book Review: Body for LIFE”

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