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Credits

"Body by God", New York Times Bestseller

physician, U.S. Olympic Wrestling team, 1996, 2000

Academic All-American wrestler in college

 
Web Site
The Body by God
 
Book
Body by God: The Owner's Manual for Maximized Living
 
Related Link
More Health
 
HEALTH & NUTRITION

Body by God: A Conversation with Bestselling Author Dr. Ben Lerner

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Producer

CBN.comCHARLOTTE, 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 this?

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 book.

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 level.

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 I discovered … 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" group?

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 … when 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 this battle?

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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