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Dr. Ian Smith: Spice Of Life

 

Dr. Ian Smith’s middle name might as well be multi-task. While millions of people know the young doctor as the intensely polite nutrition expert on VH-1’s Celebrity Fit Club, he is also a scholar (Harvard, Columbia University, Dartmouth and Chicago University’s Pritzker School of medicine), author (five books and contributing editor for Men’s Health magazine), talk show host (BET’s Meet The Faith, American Urban Radio Networks’ HealthWatch), family man and activist – and that’s just the short list. Speaking with Dr. Ian is inspiring, as he doesn’t mind taking a few moments out to give some good advice to seemingly endless diet questions. His likeability has most likely contributed to the success of his Fat Smash Diet book reaching #1 on the best sellers list, and has definitely put him in a position to lead people in their quest for good health. Recently, Dr. Ian teamed with State Farm Insurance to start the 50 Million Pounds Challenge – a movement to encourage African Americans to lose weight through proper eating habits and exercise. Being a helpful type of guy hasn’t left Dr. Ian free of controversy. However, he seems to approach the nonsense with such common sense that the gossip hounds give up quickly. Currently on a nationwide book tour promoting his new diet guide Extreme Fat Smash Diet, Dr. Ian took some time between flights to tell us more about his various efforts to help people get on the right track with food. AllHipHop.com: The new season of Celebrity Fit Club has started, and just watching the previews Screech [Dustin Diamond] appears to be the hothead. There are a lot of rumors about bad things that happened on the set. What can you say about this new season? Dr. Ian: I can say for sure that Dustin Diamond definitely wreaked havoc on the set. There was definitely a lot of contention between the cast, contention which we typically don’t have. But the interesting thing is that he was the common denominator in all of the problems. Dustin Diamond became something that the other cast mates and the show in general had to overcome. There was a lot of negativity and the show is about being positive. AllHipHop.com: There’s a rumor online that he said something sexual to [American Idol’s] Kimberly Locke that really set her off… Dr. Ian: That’s just one of the many things that he’s done. I don’t understand what it is inside of him that made him want to be so negative to people who had done or said nothing to him. He just kind of went off. AllHipHop.com: In a sense, some people that come on the show are people whose careers have kind of passed. Do you feel that maybe he did this on purpose to get attention? Dr. Ian: I feel like the statements that he made to me and the panelists/judges as well as the celebrities were so irrational and unprovoked that you have to think that he was doing it for effect. You just can’t believe that he believed what he was saying. I said to him, “This is not even real, you can’t be serious with what you’re saying, because you’re not even making any sense.” He’s actually a pretty smart guy believe it or not, he’s not dumb. I just think that there’s certain people who will go into shows and have agendas, I think maybe he had an agenda. AllHipHop.com: There are also rumors floating around that you yelled at Ant for lighting up a cigarette next to you. Dr. Ian: [laughs] Well listen, I am very much against smoking in my presence in a confined area. because the study after study shows that secondhand smoke can be almost as dangerous as firsthand smoke. Ant is a smoker, but I’m happily saying he’s not smoking anymore, I’d like to think maybe I had a little influence in that. [laughs] AllHipHop.com: You are involved in a number of new things right now. You have the BET show Meet the Faith – it looks like a very good talk show. How did you get involved with that? Dr. Ian: Well the Vice President [of BET] called me up and basically asked if I’d have lunch with him, he wanted to discuss if I’d be interested in being a host for Meet The Faith. When I learned more about what the show would be about, it was a no-brainer. It’s an intelligent, fun show that covers important topical issues, and more importantly, I think it fills a void on BET with this type of programming. It’s about real issues and having a real conversation about these issues, but also having some fun while having this conversation. I think it’s a great show that’s needed by the station and the community at large. AllHipHop.com: [This] might come off as a little cliché, but after seeing the clips, there’s actually a lot of thought-provoking conversation where you’re challenging people beyond just them stating a bunch of rhetoric. Dr. Ian: I don’t want people to sit down on my couch with preformed answers about topics, I want to challenge people to really think about their opinions on a matter, and I want them to respond to different opinions. We take an issue and we look at it from all sides, we have a healthy debate about topics that are very centered to our community. It’s not that we’re gonna come up with a resolution by the end of the show, but at least we will answer some questions, raise some new questions and then give ourselves [something] to think about when we leave. AllHipHop.com: Working in shows like that and Celebrity Fit Club, do you feel like it’s tested your abilities to be patient with people? Dr. Ian: It probably helps my patience. The thing is, I like to be very efficient. I tend to be matter of fact and I have a lot going on, so the natural tendency to me would be to be impatient. I think that working on those two different shows and working with the variety of people I work with has actually taught me to be more patient. AllHipHop.com: What do you feel that rappers do that could be worse or better than other people in the music community eating and exercise-wise? Dr. Ian: First of all, let me say that the Hip-Hop artists that have been on Celebrity Fit Club have been the most successful celebrities we’ve had. Starting from Biz Markie on Season One who set the record… who was overtaken by Bone Crusher on Season Four. Our Hip-Hop artists have been tremendous, and it’s interesting, because we go into the season thinking, “Well he’s a Hip-Hop artist, these guys are known for being loud and having this swagger.” We always have this feeling that they’re not gonna stick with the program, and every season they shock us. This season, Da Brat and Warren G are just phenomenal. Bizarre from D-12 was great. The Hip-Hop artists are always a pleasure to work with, they’re always on the program [and] work really hard. They tend to have the most difficult job, because the lifestyle of a Hip-Hop artist as far as the entourage, the hours that they keep, where they are, the food that they tend to eat; they have the most obstacles in their path to success, yet they overcome them all the time. I talked to Bizarre two days ago, he’s still on the program. Biz Markie is working out and on the program, and Bone Crusher has lost more weight since he’s been off the show. The Hip-Hop artists have obstacles that the other celebrities don’t have because of the lifestyle they choose, and yet for some reason these guys always find the ability to overcome them and succeed on the show. AllHipHop.com: Even though they may have a little more attitude, they tend to make a lot less excuses. Dr. Ian: You are absolutely right! The beauty of the Hip-Hop artist is that they’re direct. If they mess up they say “My bad” – otherwise they don’t give excuses. It’s like, “This is the mission, let’s get it done.” If you look at the history of the show, very rarely do you have a Hip-Hop artist who becomes a problem. AllHipHop.com: If you had to give advice to an average party-goer, what would you say about watching their consumption of alcohol or finger foods? Dr. Ian: People first have to understand that even though alcohol is liquid, it’s still full of calories. A calorie is a calorie whether it’s from a liquid or from a meat. They still have the same effect, they put weight on you. I know people are gonna go out and have a good time, I encourage that. What I most encourage is to space out your drinking, don’t go all crazy one night ordering all kinds of bottles and drinking so much at once. Try to space it out, drink a couple of nights a week. The worst thing people do when they go to the clubs is eat afterwards, if you’re gonna eat after the club then try to stay away from the fried heavy foods. I say that, because they eat then go right to sleep, the fat accumulates when you eat right before going to bed. So two things – space out your drinking over the week if you can, and secondly, if you’re gonna eat late at night try to stay up a little later after you eat. Don’t go right to sleep, or make sure you’re eating something that’s a lot lighter than fried chicken and french fries.

AllHipHop.com: It seems to me that within the Black community and the Hip-Hop community specifically, it’s almost a taboo to say you have an eating disorder. In your Fat Smash Diet you talk about the importance of having small meals. Dr. Ian: The sad thing is that because the Hip-Hop community tends to be a very strong, domineering type of community that certain things are looked upon as weaknesses and not talked about. Eating disorders is definitely one of them, what people don’t realize is that starving yourself is just as bad as overeating. They’re both equally bad, you’re not getting the proper nutrition and they’re behaviors that could lead to serious medical problems. With the 50 Million Pounds Challenge for Black America, Hip-Hop and young people I’m trying to get us to open up a dialogue about how we eat, ways to eat better and take control of our health. Big Pun, for example, died from being so obese for so many years. I want his death to serve as an illustration of where we have to stay away from and come back in to what we have to do to live healthier and be stronger. One of the issues is that people are afraid to talk about their eating problems, or they’re afraid to talk about their weight, because they would be looked upon as being weak. We gotta get rid of that stigma that talking about a problem is looked upon as being weak. All that’s doing is perpetuating this behavior that’s killing people. AllHipHop.com: You’re not supposed to talk about things that may be emotionally wrecking your life, because you’re supposed to be strong and get past it. Dr. Ian: One of the things that has been part of our culture for years that we need to modify is this idea of exposing or discussing weakness. The idea that if you talk about a psychological, emotional problem [or] anything that shows a sensitivity, people tend to look at that as a weakness. It’s ridiculous, and it throws people into closeted behaviors that are hiding their eating disorders, emotional problems and it just ends up ruining people. With the 50 Million Pound Challenge that we just launched I’m hoping to get people out there to talk about it, be open about it and discuss their issues. AllHipHop.com: What inspired you to do the 50 Million Pound Challenge? It looks to be a big endeavor – you have a lot of celebrities that are getting on board to lend their voice to it. Dr. Ian: It’s a huge concept, it’s not just big – it’s historic. This is the biggest health initiative for African-Americans ever, and the reason why I decided to do it now is because the numbers have never been so bad in our community. 80% of African-American women are overweight and almost 70% of men. We’ve never had this problem like we do right now, America in general is overweight and having problems. I’m not picking on African-Americans, what I’m doing is, because our numbers are almost off the charts, I wanna start with us and make this work. I want us to be accountable to each other, I want to do it in a positive serious way not in a negative way of singling people out. We’re dying much younger from diseases that are related to our obesity from diseases that are so preventable: heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes. These are things that are killing us and they don’t need to. You don’t have to die from these things, what I wanted to do was stop talking about how bad these things were and try to get some positive solutions. That’s how I came up with the 50 Million Pound Challenge Here’s the key – everyone can sign up on the website. It’s free to everybody. What I wanted to do was remove economics and finances as barriers from people taking control and losing weight. We have a website that’s free, it takes two minutes to get an account, you get your own account and your own weight loss tracker that helps you. We have health [and] exercise tips, but beyond that State Farm has more than 11,000 agents across the country who are participating in the challenge, and they have in their offices what we call challenge kits. Anyone can log onto the website, find out where the nearest State Farm agent is and go get their free challenge kit. AllHipHop.com: I know that you have a new baby and you’re doing the family thing. That’s going to make you the victim of public scrutiny with the gossip columnists trying to get at you. How much have you really had to deal with people trying to dig into your personal life? Dr. Ian: Part of being in the public view like I am is that there are people who are going to try to be negative. You have to know that, you have to be honest that it’s going to happen. The beauty of it is I’ve been in the business for 10 years, and I’ve had no negative interactions with people, everything’s been so great. When people start making up things or trying to make something of nothing you just kind of say, “I’ve been lucky, I’ve gone 10 years without someone taking shots at me and sooner or later it’s gonna happen.” I know what I do, my audience knows what I do, people who know me know my style. The beauty is the nonsense of the falsities never sticks, because people know how absurd it is. If you engage and lock into it then you kind of get caught into it, and so I just keep doing what I’ve always done. I work hard, do the right thing and try to help people. AllHipHop.com: You already discussed the late night snack thing. Another big challenge is waking up late and not eating breakfast. If you are not a breakfast eater, what is a good alternative? Dr. Ian: The key is you gotta have something in the morning because breakfast is arguably your most important meal. You slept all night, you’re starting your day and your body needs energy to operate properly. Even though you don’t feel like you’re hungry, your body is still in need of fuel. I tell people to at least have something light. Some yogurt with some sliced fruit in it, a couple of pieces of fruit in the morning. A smoothie or something like that – you gotta put some kind of energy inside of your body to get it started. The worst thing to do is skip it, people do that and they end up doing a couple of things. They snack on bad foods because they’re hungry before lunch and they go to the vending machine to get something bad, or they end up having a lunch too big. I recommend multiple meals but smaller meals. When you skip breakfast you end up just kind of stockpiling your meals for the rest of the day, and that’s not good. AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the whole carb movement? Now [experts] are coming back around saying carbs are good and you have to have them… Dr. Ian: I said it from the very beginning, carbs are your friend, good carbs are your friend. Just like anything there are good carbs and bad carbs, good fats and bad fats. The whole idea that carbohydrates became the big negative trend was so upsetting to many of us in the nutritional field. Carbs are great, carbs are our best source of energy and fuel. In my new books Extreme Fat Smash Diet and Fat Smash Diet I help people distinguish between what the good carbs are and what the bad carbs are. My diet has tons of carbs on it, but they’re good carbs for you with low glycemic index. The new book Extreme Fat Smash Diet has a very regimented [plan to] lose 12 pounds in 3 weeks. It’s Fat Smash kicked up a notch, it has four or five meals already planned out for you with snacks. So it’s a very well planned out easy to follow program that does not require you to go through detox. My philosophy is keep it very real, real foods that don’t have to be organic, I have more than 75 recipes in this book. I think you’ll like this book because it also helps you figure out what your dieting type is, explains to you why you do or don’t lose the weight that you want to and it helps give you a plan based on that. AllHipHop.com: Is there anything else you’re working on that you want people to know about right now? Dr. Ian: Nope, that’s it. The new book Extreme Fat Smash just came out, Meet The Faith is gonna be a great show and very welcomed by the audience, and the 50 Million Pound Challenge. We all gotta get together and do this, the Hip-Hop community is a big part of the charge. I’m glad we got Hip-Hoppers like Bone Crusher and Warren G, we’re gonna get more. We just want people to take care of themselves and make better choices. For more information on the 50 Million Pound Challenge, go to www.50millionpounds.com

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