Originally created 10/10/96

Trainer tells how he keeps show host fit



We watched Oprah Winfrey contract and expand: She's 218 pounds. She's 142 pounds. She's 237 pounds.

Then, we watched the weight - more than 80 pounds - slip away. Again. Only this time, it stayed away.

Helping the talk show host stay so slinky for three years now is personal trainer Bob Greene.

Mr. Greene is smiling on the cover of the nation's No. 1 best-selling book, which he co-authored with Ms. Winfrey: Make the Connection: Ten Steps to a Better Body - and a Better Life (Hyperion, $18.95).

He doesn't have any big secret. Just a simple but exacting recipe: Eat in moderation. Stay away from fatty foods. Exercise - a lot.

Mr. Greene and Ms. Winfrey met in 1992. They've been jogging, Rollerblading and kayaking together ever since.

Mr. Greene, 38, answers some questions that sizzle in our minds:

Q: Just to make sure you practice what you preach, what did you eat for breakfast this morning?

A: A bowl of shredded wheat with low-fat milk, though I usually have skim. A bowl of strawberries and sliced bananas. A medium glass of grapefruit juice.

Q: What did Oprah do in her workout this morning?

A: She spent 20 minutes on a machine called the transport, a combination of treadmill and stairs; another 20 minutes on the Stairmaster; and her crunches.

Q: Do you make Oprah do that extra sit-up even when she doesn't feel like it? Or do you walk on eggshells because she's famous?

A: We've definitely had our bouts. Our first one happened during our second week together. We were supposed to do our workout in the morning and take a walk in the early evening. Mostly, she was on time. But she started showing up late for the walks.

I'd be in my car at 5:30 p.m. - and then sit around and wait for 45 minutes. When that happened a few times, I looked her in the eyes and told her, "This is disrespectful of my time. I'll give you a 20-minute grace period, and then I'm outta here."

Her jaw fell open.

Then she said, "I'm so sorry."

Since then, she's been late only once. But she called me before the grace period.

Q: What kinds of foods does she have trouble walking away from?

A: Potatoes. Anything potato-related. And bread. There are times when we'll be out to eat, and I'll take the bread basket and, like, pull it over to my side, out of her reach.

Q: Have you had any sleepless nights worrying about her weight?

A: One time, I had concern. When I met Oprah, she was 237 pounds. At first, she was dropping the weight like clockwork. The first week, she took off a pound or two. The second week, she took off a pound or two. The third week a pound or two.

But on the fourth week, she jumps on the scale and her weight is one pound above her starting weight. I told her it was normal because the body is rehydrating itself.

She just wanted to take Optifast, the package supplement she took when she lost all that weight and gained it back.

I said, "No, don't do it." And I'm thinking, "God, I hope she makes it through this."

She didn't do anything drastic, though. And three days later, she'd lost her six pounds - plus three more.

Q: Will you fall into the pit of despair if Oprah gains 20 pounds?

A: No. I'd be disappointed. But I get my self-esteem from helping people, and I think I've certainly helped her.

There was a time when she gained 10 pounds. And she admitted she wasn't willing to work as hard as she needed to in order to lose it. But the thing that's so healthy is that she knows the rules, and she knows when she breaks them.

Q: What do you hate about your job?

A: I don't hate anything. I love my job. But in order to see Oprah during her show, I have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and that means I have to go to sleep by 10 p.m. When you're asleep by 10 and you're away on weekends and you're on call the rest of the time, your social life definitely suffers.

Q: How much do you charge?

A: I'm no longer taking clients. But back when I was, I charged $100 an hour.

Q: What do you do if you're about to down a pint of HaagenDazs triple fudge and you don't have a personal trainer?

A: You tell yourself that you care enough about yourself to treat yourself well.

Q: How do you keep Oprah motivated?

A: The whole trick of my field is to instill in them (clients) to care about themselves each day. And that they deserve to treat themselves well.

You start a cycle of feeling better, even if you drop one or two pounds. And that cycle helps you to keep the discipline of feeling better, which leads to more weight loss.

Q: Why are you so concerned with how much other people weigh?

A: My entire family struggles with their weight. My great-grandmother was bedridden due to her weight. I remember having to climb up on her bed. My mother definitely overate. She's a solid 50 to 60 pounds overweight. My father is a solid 50 or 60 pounds more than he should be.

I became very health-conscious. I would walk around the house when I was very young, saying to my parents things like: "Do you have to eat that fourth piece of bacon?"

Q: Would you work out with a trainer?

A: I wouldn't even consider a trainer. I wouldn't want someone telling me: "You need to do this, you need to do that. OK, now three more reps ..." My workouts are my form of escape. I want to relax.

Q: Now, you're in the spotlight. What's the one thing people want to know when they ask you for you your autograph?

A: They want to know what's really going on with Oprah and Steadman.