"Body by God", New York Times Bestseller
physician, U.S. Olympic Wrestling team, 1996, 2000
Academic All-American wrestler in college
HEALTH & NUTRITION
Body by God: A Conversation
with Bestselling Author Dr. Ben Lerner
By Chris Carpenter
CHARLOTTE, NC -- In March, the federal government issued a warning
that Americans are literally eating themselves to death. In fact, the numbers
are quite disturbing. There are more obese people today than ever before and
the numbers are expected to increase.
In a study conducted by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it
was found that poor diet and physical inactivity accounted for 400,000 deaths
in the United States in 2000. This figure places obesity as the number two
cause of preventable death in the U.S., trailing only tobacco at 435,000.
In an effort to combat this problem, the $70 billion dollar a year diet industry
is seemingly falling short.
In his new book "Body by God: The Owners Manual for Maximized Living"
(Thomas Nelson Publishers), a New York Times bestseller, nutritionist and
former Olympic coach Dr. Ben Lerner urges people to get in touch with and
control their whole lives not just losing weight.
"Body by God" steps outside the narrow parameters of dieting fads
and instead offers people a comprehensive, holistic approach to maximize their
life in four key areas: nutrition, exercise, time and stress management.
CBN.com Producer Chris Carpenter had the opportunity to sit down with Dr.
Lerner recently to discuss his four step program for Olympic success, the
overwhelming obesity problem here in the United States, and practical ways
to attain the body shape you desire.
Chris Carpenter: As we begin our interview today I just wanted to
mention that to prepare for it I have not eaten. As I was researching this
book the other day I couldn't help but notice the bullet points on the front
cover that say, "Eat like an elephant but look like a gazelle",
"10 minute workouts", and "Four Rules for Olympic Level Success".
What is this all about? Obviously, these statements look very attractive to
someone who is looking to get in shape and be healthy. Can they become a reality?
Dr. Ben Lerner: I think everyone now can do a nutrition class. There
is so much nutrition information out there that everyone kind of knows that
apple is good, McDonalds is bad, but the reality is that people aren't applying
it. So, we start off with the "Four rules for Olympic Success" because
I was an Olympic team doctor in 1996 and 2000. I got to witness first hand
what it took to succeed on the highest levels. So, I took those rules and
helped people to apply them toward their regular daily lives so that they
could succeed in changing their lifestyle.
Carpenter: How can a person do this? In simple terms, how can I do
Dr. Lerner: Probably the most important part of my book is time management
because in today's world with kids, cell phones, pagers, email, and our busy
schedules it is really challenging to apply this knowledge that we know about
nutrition. Of course everyone knows that they should be exercising. So, we
lay it out in a time frame where you can literally quadruple the amount of
time you have in a day by doing what we call painting solid yellow lines around
your life. So, if you have a dotted yellow line in the middle of the road
you can cross over it but there is a solid line where you can't. So, we have
you schedule in segments of time. For example, you schedule your worship time,
your family time, you schedule your exercising and good nutrition.
Carpenter: So, is this program designed to make you a better time
manager? What if you are not that good at time management to begin with and
you struggle at that? You are suggesting that people should use time management
to their benefit. Are you saying that this program is not for everyone or
Dr. Lerner: No, we teach you. A large part of the book teaches you
how to do time management so you can schedule a good life. You don't find
health and happiness, you schedule it.
Carpenter: This book differs from many others on the market in that
it is faith based. There are scores of health and nutrition books in the marketplace
today. Very few are centered around faith. In your book, you mention a God-centered
life. Could you expand on this theme a bit?
Dr. Lerner: I have worked with thousands of patients in my clinic
over the last 12 years. I have worked with over 10,000 patients around the
world because we consult for a lot of chiropractors around the country. I
have worked with hundreds of Olympians and dozens of Olympic gold medalists
and hundreds of Olympic coaches. The one thing I have found for sure is that
unless you have a real spiritual sense in your life
unless God is in
your life, it is literally impossible to be healthy and successful long term.
You can do it short term but typically not very long. So, we use God as the
motivator. It is a body by God. He created this body for you. If you can recognize
that it is a temple you become more than motivated over the short term but
inspired over the long term to really take care of it.
Carpenter: How has that message been resonating with the people you
have talked to who have read your book?
Dr. Lerner: It has been going great. Motivation is something we typically
deal with when we talk about nutrition books or health books. Situations where
you feel overweight, you don't like the way you look in your clothes, or you
don't like what the scale says. So you are motivated to start eating better.
But that motivation wears out as you kind of lose interest. But inspiration
is different. Inspiration is when you truly understand that your body is a
living laboratory, literally created for God's spirit to inhabit. Keeping
it clean and healthy really allows you to be the most resident living vessel
for God that you can possibly be. I take it to another level too due to my
family history. My father died at 52 and I don't want to do that myself. I
don't want to leave my wife, leave my kids, like he did.
Carpenter: Let's talk about that a little bit. Let's talk about your
life journey that brought you to the point which inspired you to write this
Dr. Lerner: Sure. My family is from New York. In New York, eating
is entertainment. Pizza, cheesecake, and a bad attitude are all named after
New York. That is how I grew up. Typically, by the time someone hits 50 that
is it. They leave the planet. So, as a result, I wanted to make sure I didn't
head down the same road. Originally, since I was young, I wanted to start
learning about health so I didn't end up like everyone else. Then, once my
father had a heart attack at the age of 52, I really brought my own discipline
for taking care of myself up to another level. And I really got more passionate
about telling others.
Carpenter: Have you ever struggled with weight, your health, or anything
else related? Have you always been a fairly fit guy?
Dr. Lerner: I have always been into exercise but I always knew there
was a best way to eat and I didn't necessarily follow that. I tended to be
stressed because I didn't grow up in a spiritual family. I grew up in a non-practicing
Jewish family. So, I didn't have Jesus Christ in my life, I didn't have God
as an ever present factor in my life. So, stress was a really big thing for
me. I had to exchange things like Fruity Pebbles, pizza, donuts and everything
else I liked to eat for things I should be eating. Also, I started reading
the Bible and learning about God. All of that was inspired by my Dad passing
away. I said I don't want to lead that same life. I don't want to leave the
planet early like that.
Carpenter: How old were you when your father died?
Dr. Lerner: I was in my mid-twenties. I have two younger brothers
and about a year later my mother had a stroke and has been permanently impaired
so my brothers and I are very, very health conscious now as well. None of
us want to do that.
Carpenter: So your father's death was a turning point of sorts for
you. Up to that point you were an ordinary guy, weren't really into health
and nutrition, but when your father died the light bulb came on in relation
to living a healthier lifestyle.
Dr. Lerner: That took it to a whole different level. I was always
into working out but didn't really consider my longevity and didn't think
about things like stress and the impact that it would have on my health.
Carpenter: I was mentioning earlier in the interview that there is
just a wealth of books in the marketplace on health and nutrition. What sets
your book apart from the others?
Dr. Lerner: First of all, most of the ones that are out there now
are nutritionally based. They are typically diet books and are focused mostly
on just eating better without exercising, without managing your stress, without
managing your time. Typically, you will maybe lose weight but you will just
die lighter because you are not really healthier. That is one big thing.
Carpenter: Right. That is the feeling I get with a lot of these and
I hate to quote other sources but I will. That is a problem I have with the
Atkins Diet. You go on their diet and it is all about losing the pounds but
it doesn't really care about the individual. What I enjoyed about this book
is that it delves into both of those areas.
Dr. Lerner: It crosses many areas including your spiritual life. If
your spiritual life isn't healthy than you ultimately won't be healthy either.
Carpenter: In your book, you state that the book can transform people's
lives in 40 days. Why the number 40?
Dr. Lerner: First of all, most books are like "look good in your
bikini in 90 days" but are leaving out the other components of your life.
This book is about a full transformation. There is a stress management portion
that there is literally a spiritual journey you go on. There is the time management,
so you are organizing your life. And you are also learning to eat better and
exercise more. The concept is that you will get one percent better a day for
40 days. So, it is all about getting better so that in 40 days every area
of your life will be improved. Of course in the Bible, it often uses 40 days
for a period of transformation and what is interesting is that in science
they know that in a period of six weeks
that is how long it takes to
create a good habit. So, it is interesting in how those two concepts connect.
Carpenter: That is why I asked you that question. I suspected it had
something to do with the Bible. In reviewing some materials that your publisher
sent me, you point out that "Body by God" is intended to be a supplement
to the Bible. How can this be done?
Dr. Lerner: The Bible of course from a moral perspective, in terms
of worshipping God and leading your life, the Bible is the manual So, when
I say it is the owner's manual I did not want people to be confused with the
Bible which is The Manual. This book is about eating right and exercising
and how to put it all together with time management. How to make what we learn
from God about our life and our health and make it functional on a worldly
Carpenter: I really like what I read about your "Four Levels
of Olympic Success". Take our readers through that process if you could.
Could you talk about what the four levels are and how they can be applied.
Dr. Lerner: Sure. God chooses people for a specific task. The first
rule is to seek out and discover your gifts. What are the things you are blessed
with that He called you to do. That of course, making sure you are in the
right place and doing the right things is the first rule. So, an Olympic wrestler
is probably not a good Olympic basketball player. They have found the right
niche. The second rule is to find a superior plan. Because one of the things
because I tried to make the Olympics as a wrestler and
did not do that. One of the things I never sought out was the best coaches.
These guys who have the best coaches have the best plan. So, the second rule
of finding a superior plan, that is obviously what is going to take you to
the highest level. A lot of people are just on a bad plan and that is why
they are not getting where they want to go. The third rule is that you stay
on the plan. So, obviously one the interesting things about being involved
with the Olympic team was that the coaches would lay out this great plan,
the best possible plan for winning a medal, but only a portion of the team
really had the discipline and put in the effort and time to stick with the
plan. Those were the people who were most likely to win medals. The final
rule applies to rule number three which is to be inspired to win. That gets
back to the whole "Body by God" concept which is that we are living
for God, we are chosen by Him to perform certain tasks and that He has really
given us certain tasks to fulfill. If we don't take care of ourselves we won't
have the energy or the time to make things happen.
Carpenter: You are speaking of a plan that world class athletes ascribe
to. My question is, do you believe the average American is capable of the
kind of discipline that you suggesting in the "Four Levels of Olympic
Success"? I am referring to people like "Louie," the guy who
sits on the couch all day flicking channels and eating cheese curls while
his wife yells at him to take the garbage out.
Dr. Lerner: My practice is not full of Olympic athletes. I have a
family practice. When I do the Olympics or work with a professional team I
leave my practice to go work with those guys. So, I work with Louie and his
family. We really try to utilize the inspiration that you have a family that
needs you, loves you, and wants you around. You have a Father in heaven who
needs you, loves you, and wants you around. That is the inspiration for those
guys to win the gold medals that are in their lives.
Carpenter: What is the one thing that you would like to see people
take with them, or knowledge you would like them to acquire, when they finish
reading your book?
Dr. Lerner: I had a great question asked of me at a recent book signing
recently by the owner of the bookstore. He asked the exact same thing. He
said, 'What is the purpose of the book.' At first I said that the body is
a temple and you should take care of it. He answered, 'No, that is not what
I mean.' Then I said that I would like people to begin to organize their time
and spend more time with their family. He said, 'That is really not I mean
either.' Then it occurred to me that as a father I love my kids no matter
how good they take care of themselves. However, it really pleases me if they
would take care of themselves and lead the best lives possible. Ultimately,
I am just trying to help people really please God. Even though He will love
them and they get to go to heaven if they are Christians, even though they
are not in very good shape. But I would like people just to do things to please
God because ultimately that is what I am here for.
Carpenter: Obesity is a rather large problem here in America, no pun
intended. This is something I am sure you deal with on a regular basis. What
are your thoughts on the problem and how do you think it can be remedied?
Dr. Lerner: I think it gets back to what we were talking about earlier
that people are going on a plan with the motivation of only losing
weight. What we try to do as nutritionists, I always try to take people through
a process of getting better. So, we are looking years down the road at improving
habits and changing a person's lifestyle. Let's start looking toward better
foods, foods that are part of what I call the "Food By God Group."
Then start adding more "Food by God" into your diet over time. You
will find your habits improving over time. Most of my patients who have been
with us for years look back on their diet and say, 'I can't believe how badly
I used to eat two or three years ago versus how I eat today.'
Carpenter: What are some of the foods in the "Food By God"
Dr. Lerner: Most people would think celery and carrot sticks. It is
all your nuts and seeds. It is your good quality proteins like fish, chicken,
and turkey. It is all your vegetables, all your fruits, all your good whole
grains. Brown rice. They are foods that are in their most natural state as
possible versus what we call food by man. Food by man consists of processed
or refined things, or foods that God never intended for us to put in our body.
Carpenter: What advice do you have for someone who is very busy in
their career, school, or families and just can't seem to find the time and
are not around the foods that you are suggesting? For example, many people
who travel as part of their jobs never seem to be around the foods you are
talking about; whereas there is an abundance of junk food and high calorie
restaurant food to be had.
Dr. Lerner: It is not necessarily making time. The time is already
there. It is two things. One, is preparation. From a nutritional standpoint,
if I don't shop, if I don't pack the foods for when I am road
I am on the go I've got to have a bag full of food that I pack. I know some
people would opt for the pizza across the street but I have a bag of nuts
in my briefcase. It is all about being prepared. That is the number one thing.
With exercise, it is scheduling it so there are
everybody can find
three 30-minute segments in the week at least where they can break away and
say I have scheduled my exercise time. It is not about hours a day. Again,
I teach a 10 minute workout you can do. If you can squeeze in half an hour
a week and you can keep yourself in decent shape.
Carpenter: For some people, they work out for several months and they
don't see any results. These types of people get very discouraged and typically
will walk away, chalking up their health and nutrition experience as a lost
cause. What type of advice do you have for those people who struggle with
Dr. Lerner: I put many lists in my book about the benefits of exercise.
One of which would be looking better or having more energy. One of the things
regarding just getting going was being inspired to do it. There is no question,
eating and exercising keeps you living longer. Doing it for your family, doing
it for God, doing it to not leave the people you love behind. The good thing
about working out that is interesting is that if you are not a healthy person
to begin with, in other words, you have organs or systems that are not well
or functioning properly, during the time you are working out research has
shown that those organ systems are healthy during that time. So, if you work
out for half an hour or four times a week, it may be the only four times in
a week that you are actually a healthy person. Of course, the health benefits
go on for hours after you have worked out. From a health benefit, your family's
perspective, it is important to stay with it even if it doesn't appear like
you are seeing the results you want.
Carpenter: So, exercising on a consistent basis creates permanence
in your lifestyle. Eventually you will see results.
Dr. Lerner: Exactly.
Carpenter: Thank you so much for taking the time today. I believe
people will benefit from your book.
Dr. Lerner: Great. Thanks.
CBN News Congressional Correspondent David Brody and Thomas Nelson Publishers
contributed to this story.
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