Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP
Reviewed by Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, LD; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson
The book claims to offer women a roadmap for being and staying physically and mentally fit at every stage of their lives. Each of the four milestones represents a change in hormonal makeup and has significant implications for mental and physical health. Dr. Peeke uses the “Mind-mouth-muscle” model for the Body for Life Program.
The “Mind” component of the model offers methods to assess readiness to make changes and target motivation anchors to stay on track. The author provides 10 Power Mind Principles to deal with challenges on the way to better health. She states: “There will be adversity in your path when you decide to make changes. When this happens, embrace this as an opportunity to learn and make you a stronger woman.”
The “Mouth” component has been developed with consideration of a “woman’s unique body composition, nutritional needs and the demands of her high stress, overcommitted lifestyle.” The author recommends to eat the right food, in the correct amount, at the right times. Choose foods from the smart food tables 80 percent of the time, and be human, 20 percent of the time. Monitor portions by recording in a food journal. By consuming Smart Foods every two to four hours (five to six meals per day), women will be able to maintain energy levels and provide fuel for working muscles.
Choose one food from Groups A and B, a half serving of C and add at least one nonstarchy vegetable from Group B to at least two of your meals. Add unlimited quantities of nonstarchy vegetables.
Group A: Smart Proteins. Two ounces of light or fat-free cheese or low-fat yogurt, whole egg, egg whites or egg substitutes, low-fat or fat-free milk, salmon, tuna, catfish, haddock or shellfish, skinless chicken, lean beef or pork, lean deli meat, soy products.
Group B: Smart Carbohydrates. All vegetables, including starchy ones like peas, sweet potatoes and corn. Fruits: apples, berries, citrus fruits, dried fruits, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Group C: Smart Fats. Avocado, nuts, olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil.
Group D: Smart Snacks. A one-half portion of protein and half portion of carb, one tablespoon nut butter on celery or one small apple.
Group E: Junk foods (eliminate or eat sparingly). Processed foods: white sugar, pasta, cookies, chips, pastries, candy bars, soda, processed meats, full-fat red meat, dairy and cheese, any food with trans fat.
The “Muscle” component uses specific physical activity to attain and sustain a woman’s body composition and performance. The three components stressed are quality, quantity and the frequency of movement. The author discusses the importance of working at the proper intensity to cause the muscle to become stronger. The author recommends three days of at least 30 minutes of cardio, and two to three days per week of at least 30 minutes of resistance training.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
A diet that offers balance and a variety of foods is the cornerstone of good nutrition. Dr. Peeke leaves a number of healthy fruits out of the smart foods plan, including but not limited to bananas, honeydew, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums and raspberries. These fruits provide dietary fiber and vitamins and minerals. The author also suggests women begin the resistance training with 10-pound weights, which may be too much for someone who has never done strength training before. If the weights are too heavy, this may lead to an increased risk of injury.
The food plan is a bit confusing to follow, especially for someone who is eating away from home often. She offers tools to address the psychological component that is required to make a change of this magnitude.
The book contains a number of true stories of women who have overcome major adversity in their lives and have made remarkable changes and contains dramatic before and after photos of women who have taken the Body for Life for Women Challenge. These women have been successful through the 12-week program, and their photos portray their success for as much as five years after completion of the program. Maintaining weight loss is the most challenging component of any lifestyle change.
Overall, the book provides good information for women who are ready to make lifestyle changes. The recommendation to follow the plan 80 percent of the time should improve adherence to the program. Her realistic approach and suggestions are directed at the busy lives of women, and how to empower them to take time for themselves to make these changes.