Question: I have been impressed with the change in Oprah Winfrey in the past several years. I know she lost a lot of weight earlier that she regained after a few months, but I don't know what she has done now to be so successful. Could you comment on her weight loss program?

Answer: Several weeks ago, I couldn't have told you how Oprah lost her weight, but since receiving the March issue of Runner's World, I have the story. About seven years ago, Oprah lost a significant amount of weight using a commercial weight loss liquid approach. Within months of her success, she gained almost all of the weight back (back to about 222 pounds) and couldn't seem to lose, even on a low-calorie, low-fat diet.

In 1993, she called exercise physiologist Bob Greene, who moved to Chicago to become her personal trainer. After meeting with Oprah, they adopted the goal to begin a healthy weight loss program based on exercise - specifically running.

During their first training session, Oprah and Greene walked only about 21/2 miles at a low, easy pace so that Greene could assess her condition. They progressed from walking to a mixture of walking and jogging at about 17 minutes per mile pace. By two weeks into the program, Oprah was running and walking 3 or 4 miles at that pace.

Because of Oprah's busy schedule, it was difficult to find time for workouts. She would rise at 5 a.m., five days a week for her first workout, and then would work on a StairMaster stepping machine for 45 minutes and do weight training after she taped her TV show every day.

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By early summer, Oprah was losing about 8 to 10 pounds a month, without changing her diet. As she lost weight, she began to run faster. And, the faster she ran, the more calories she burned, which increased the amount of weight she lost. A very nice cycle indeed! By July 1993, Oprah was running 5 to 6 miles a day at a 10- to 11-minute per mile pace. By mid-summer, she had lost more than 40 pounds.

At this point, her coach changed the goal somewhat and looked for a race for her to enter to help maintain motivation. So, in August, she ran America's Finest City Half-Marathon in San Diego, and completed the 13 miles in 2:16. In November, Oprah made her original weight goal of 150 pounds, and was running a 5-mile training loop at an 8-minute per mile pace.

From this point on, the focus of Oprah's training shifted dramatically. Of course she wanted to maintain the weight loss, but she also wanted to run a marathon. By mid-summer 1994, Oprah was running as much as 50 miles a week, including longer distances on weekends. Three months later, she completed the Marine Corps Marathon without walking a single step.

Some people might say that it was easy for Oprah because she had her own personal chef and her own personal trainer. However, Bob Greene points out correctly that no one can run for someone else, and that Oprah did that herself. "She worked as hard as any athlete I've seen." By her dedication, Oprah has shown all of us that anyone can improve his/her life. Maybe we will not all run a marathon, but we can run a 5K or at least be faithful exercisers.

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