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Eating for Life refers to a diet and nutrition plan that recommends eating six small, low-fat meals daily, popularized in the 2003 book Eating for Life, written by Bill Phillips.
A person who follows the Eating for Life program consumes about 40–50% protein, 40–50% carbohydrates, and small amounts of fat. Meals should be consumed about two to three hours apart.The program can be used as a way to lose or maintain weight or to supplement a fitness or resistance training regimen.
The Eating for Life plan was developed by Bill Phillips, a bodybuilder, former editor-in-chief of Muscle Media magazine, and former chief executive officer of EAS, a performance supplement company owned by Abbott Laboratories.
Prior to publishing Eating for Life in 2003, Phillips authored his first book, Body for Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength, a New York Times bestseller.
The Body-for-Life program began in the mid-1990s when Phillips first challenged dieters to make the best body transformation during a 12-week period, using the exercise and nutrition principles outlined in his now-defunct fitness magazine, Muscle Media. The first year of the challenge, Phillips offered his Lamborghini Diablo to the contestant who made the most radical transformation within 3 months. As of 2007, individuals and couples still compete for cash prizes and free exercise equipment in the annual Body-for-Life Challenge.
Phillips, the author of Eating for Life, calls his program the “anti-diet,” claiming that enjoying food and eating often are the keys to healthy weight loss and maintenance. Instead of focusing on the deprivation that typical accompanies weight-loss plan, Eating for Life claims to help its followers make wise eating choices that are sustainable over a long period of time. Phillips maintains that food is not the enemy, but rather, it’s an essential part of an overall lifestyle choice.
The first 10 chapters of Eating for Life that comprise Part I describe the extent of the overweight and obesity epidemic in the United States, identify common
obstacles to health and fitness, such as easy access to fast food and restriction associated with traditional dieting, deconstruct popular dieting myths, and prepare the reader to begin using the Eating for Life nutrition plan and recipes.
The second part of the 405-page book includes photos and instructions for cooking the 150 recipes included in Eating for Life. The book includes recipes for dinner entrees, desserts, breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and nutrition shakes, as well as sample meal plans and a grocery guide. Sample recipes are also available on Phillips’ Eating for Life website.
The final portion of the book includes motivational success stories of people who have lost weight with the Body for Life/Eating for Life diet and exercise plan, nutrition definitions, and tips for cooking healthy.
Six days a week, dieters are encouraged to eat six small meals consisting of one serving of protein and one serving of carbohydrate. Meals should be consumed about two to three hours apart. The benefit of this practice, according to Phillips, is that it keeps the metabolism elevated and energy levels stable.
Two of the daily meals should include vegetable servings, and 1 tablespoon of healthy fat is encouraged daily. Alternatively, three servings of fatty fish such as salmon could be consumed weekly to meet the healthy fat requirement.
On the seventh day, Eating for Life encourages a day of less restrained eating, in which dieters eat reasonable portions of unauthorized foods they’ve been craving throughout the week. Eating for Life does not prohibit particular foods, but encourages readers to save them for the “free day” and savor the pleasure they provide. This practice will help readers sustain healthy eating choices the rest of the time, Phillips maintains.
To aid in weight loss, Phillips says readers should choose from 82 “authorized foods,” divided into five food categories, including proteins, vegetarian proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, and fats. Recommended protein foods include lean red meat (including beef, buffalo, and venison), poultry (chicken and turkey), fish and shellfish, egg whites and egg substitutes, or low-fat cottage cheese; recommended carbohydrate sources include fruit, sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and whole-grain breads.
A sample daily menu might include:
- breakfast: zesty breakfast burrito
- midmorning: chocolate-mint nutrition shake
- lunch: grilled chicken soup
- midafternoon: strawberry-frost nutrition shake
- dinner: grilled salmon and potato
- late evening: cinnamon roll supreme nutrition shake
As part of the Eating for Life method, it is suggested that dieters plan their meals and grocery lists in advance and record their protein and carbohydrate servings daily. Phillips also suggests that dieters drink 10 cups of water each day.
Eating for Life does not prohibit alcohol or caffeine consumption, but suggests limiting both.
Eating for Life also advocates portion control as an essential practice for weight loss. For example, a protein serving is about the size of a person’s palm, whereas a carbohydrate serving should be about the size of the person’s clenched fist. Counting calories or points or measuring food portions with a scale do not play a role in the Eating for Life plan.
Eating for Life also recommends readers participate in weight or resistance training three days a week and cardiovascular exercise three times a week. Doing so will help dieters build and maintain muscle mass, which is crucial for the body’s ability to burn fat, Phillips says.
Eating for Life is a program adopted by people who wish to lose weight or who are seeking a nutrition program to support their bodybuilding or resistance training efforts.
Because of the six-day-a-week recommended exercise plan described in Body for Life, Eating for Life may work well for people who are serious about weight training for health and fitness. This plan may also benefit people who desire regimented eating and exercise programs as they attempt to lose weight.
The six small meals a day and regular exercise recommended in the Eating for Life plan are sound strategies for weight loss. However, the strict nature of the diet (readers are admonished to adhere to a list of authorized foods) may make it difficult for a person to maintain any weight loss long-term.
Although Eating for Life does not formally require their use, supplements including meal replacement shakes and protein bars are frequently recommended by Phillips. Dieters are encouraged to consume up to three meal replacement products or shakes daily, such as the Myoplex brand marketed by EAS, the performance supplement company started by Phillips. These supplements can be difficult to find in conventional grocery outlets as well as expensive. For example, 20 servings of the Myoplex protein powder often recommended in Eating for Life and Body for Life starts at $59.95 on the EAS website (www.eas.com). Myoplex and other supplements recommended by Phillips are also available at health food and supplement chain stores, such as GNC, or online.
In addition, the weightlifting program advocated in Body for Life and Eating for Life may be daunting for the inexperienced beginner. With little regard for a person’s cardiovascular fitness level, weightlifting experience, or propensity for injuries, Phillips advocates readers to begin exercising six days a week, even if they have been couch potatoes in the past. This “all-or-nothing” approach may be difficult for people to achieve or maintain over the suggested 12 weeks required for a Body for Life challenge, and someone who experiences an injury that prevents exercise may find it difficult to maintain their dieting motivation.
The protein intake suggested by Eating for Life, although not technically dangerous for most individuals, may be too much for the body to use on a daily basis. According to sports nutritionists, extra protein is broken down, the excess nitrogen is simply excreted in the urine, the carbon skeleton is used/stored as energy. For some people, however, the amount of daily protein recommended by a plan such as Eating for Life may be a problem. People with preexisting kidney or liver disease, such as cirrhosis or fatty liver, should not attempt a popular diet plan such as Eating for Life without checking with their health care providers first.
In addition, dieters may need to be conscious of consuming enough fruits and vegetables while Eating for Life. Phillips encourages dieters to eat only two servings of vegetables daily, however, as of 2007 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urges people eating about 2,000 calories a day to consume at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables with their daily meals. Dieters may find it difficult to eat enough fruit and vegetable servings to satisfy the USDA recommendations while on the Eating for Life nutrition plan, especially since counts fruit servings as carbohydrates on the plan, thereby limiting them to one per meal.
Although there is no scientific data to point to Eating for Life’s effectiveness, Phillips provides anecdotal stories and dramatic before-and-after photos of people who have successfully lost weight using Body for Life and the accompanying Eating for Life plan.
Some nutritionists have also suggested that although the small meals and suggestions to exercise.
are important components of weight loss, in general the diet may be overly restrictive, making it difficult for dieters to maintain any losses long-term.
Phillips, Bill. Body for Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength. HarperCollins, 1999.
Phillips, Bill. Body for Life Success Journal. HarperCollins, 2002.
Phillips, Bill. Eating for Life: Your Guide to Great Health, Fat Loss and Increased Energy! High Point Media, 2003.
American Dietetic Association. 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000, Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995. (800) 877-1600. <http://www.eatright.org>
EAS/Abbott Laboratories. 100 Abbott Park Road, Abbott Park, Illinois 60064-3500. (847) 937-6100. http://www.eas.com>
Eating for Life. http://www.eatingforlife.com>
Body for Life. http://www.bodyforlife.com>.
Amy L. Sutton.