We all want to look and feel younger, but what’s the secret? Veteran health and wellness expert Bob Greene has held an interest in the betterment of himself and those around him since he was a child. He's parlayed this interest into a series of books on feeling, looking and becoming more youthful, healthy and vibrant from the inside out. 20 Years Younger, Greene’s seventh book, details a program designed to maximize the benefits and capitalize on the choices made when applied to four key lifestyle components: regular exercise, a healthful diet, revitalizing skin care and restorative sleep. Here, Oprah’s longtime fitness guru spoke with Kirkus about scientific advances to aid the aging process, shared his thoughts on plastic surgery and the benefits of getting older.
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What do you feel are the ultimate keys to human longevity?
In my book, I outline four factors: Though aging is defined by the loss and breakdown of the body’s tissues, we can maintain muscle and tissue vitality with social interaction and exercise. Regarding nutrition, there are certain foods we need to utilize that have shown great antioxidant and anti-aging properties. Because skin is the largest organ in the body, we need to be mindful of how we wash our face at night—it can make a huge difference. And finally, rest. A lack of quality sleep can be a trigger for aging and though refreshing sleep diminishes as we age, we do need just as much sleep as we get older. It’s vitally important.
What are a lot of people who want to feel younger doing wrong these days?
They need more exercise and to pay more attention to nutrition. Too many people procrastinate and say, “I’ll eventually get around to exercising”, but it really starts there and the nutrition needs will follow. Exercise is discomfort and humans are wired to avoid discomfort, so the goal is to expand your tolerance for discomfort.
Is science making strides to help us live longer or do you feel the solution is a purely physical one?
Though breakthroughs and advancements in science have definitely increased our life spans, it, unfortunately, hasn’t addressed the lifestyle diseases that we’ve become susceptible to—now that we’re living longer. It’s a double-edged sword.
How does your program for healthier living compare to the regimens and advice of say, a Suzanne Somers or a Dr. Oz?
My program is a little more in line with Dr. Oz, but my book is very comprehensive—it’s an all-in-one, interconnected guidebook that addresses all areas and components of a healthy lifestyle. These areas exponentially change the rules, and they all interact with each other for the common goal.
You actively coach Oprah Winfrey. What’s it like working with her?
It’s amazing, she’s like a family member. She was the “best-person” at my wedding, so it’s much more than a client relationship. But since we’re very different people from unusually different back grounds, the relationship transcends a variety of levels.
How do you feel about plastic surgery?
I’m not against it. There are procedures that can functionally help us out. As we age, things like drooping eyelids can impede your sight and there are certain procedures that are of value and have a good rate of success in improving your life. But those particularly invasive procedures that are tied to ego aren’t so helpful, in my opinion.
In your estimation, what are the advantages to getting older?
My book seeks to greatly reduce the physical decline of age, to help older people “hang on physically,” but the emotional component is really my focus. Most of our youth is spent on our identity and finding our place in the world. As we age, we surpass that, and we tend to be generally happier and secure with who we are. We’re happier with our interactions with other people, knowing who we are, what we want and what’s important to us.
Since you initially developed it, has any component of your earlier work, like The Best Life Diet for instance, changed over the years?
Since I wrote my core philosophy 16 years ago, it really hasn’t changed much. Variety is good; I’ve changed my own workout, incorporating more balance, more hand-eye coordination, and I see the value of lifetime sports—the social aspects to them. These days, I do focus on the emotional and psychological side of things. We know we need to be active and to eat better. We know the fats that are good and bad for us. Why don’t we wake up every day with a passion to live a more fulfilled life? You have a choice every day to do things that benefit your life. Why don’t we do that? How we view our life and ourselves is the key. That’s where my interest lies.