"Celebrity Fit Club" introduced America to the fact that even celebrities struggle with weight loss challenges. It also introduced us to Dr. Ian Smith, the handsome, intelligent doctor who served as the show's dietician and encouraged them, and we the viewers, to be more selective about the food we put into our mouths and bodies. On that first season, Hip-Hop was well-represented by the legendary Biz Markie, who eventually lost 40 pounds and was the season’s winner.
Through "Celebrity Fit Club", Dr. Ian became a nearly household name, especially in the Black community with his "50 Million Pound Challenge" and his books, Dr. Ian Smith’s Guide to Medical Websites, The Take-Control Diet, and The Fat Smash Diet, and The EXTREME Fat Smash Diet. Smith is also the author of a novel, The Blackbird Papers.
AllHipHop.com spoke with Dr. Ian recently to have him answer some of our burning questions about weight loss, fitness, and how the Hip-Hop generation can make health more of a priority:
AllHipHop.com: In your opinion, why is America so overweight?
Dr. Ian: For a multitude of reasons. Our meal portion sizes have grown out of control. We overindulge in high-calorie, low nutritional value foods, and we have become too sedentary. We need to eat smaller meals more frequently and exercise more.
AllHipHop.com: What are the top three dieting mistakes that people make?
(1) People set too many unrealistic expectations. Too many dieters want to lose too much weight too fast.
(2) People think that because they lose significant weight early in a program that that rate of weight loss will continue indefinitely. Not so. Losing weight steady is always best.
(3) People think that it's either just the dieting that's working or just the exercising. The truth is that it's the combination of the two that makes the real difference.
AllHipHop.com: On "Celebrity Fit Club", you worked with Bizarre, and at one point he went back to Detroit (my hometown) and ate at a Coney Island restaurant with The Fat Killahz. One of the rappers in that group, Marvwon, is on a quest to lose 100 pounds this year. What advice would you give him?
Dr. Ian: Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Do it the right way by changing bad habits, but don't try to change everything at once. Work on one thing at a time and that way you will develop new habits that are healthy and sustainable. Don't skip meals and make sure you eat 4 small-moderate sized meals a day.
AllHipHop.com: The Fat Smash Diet focuses on “smashing” bad eating and exercise habits. In a summary, how can young people do this?
Dr. Ian: The book takes you through a terrific detox that cleans out your system and really jumpstarts your weight loss. People typically lose about 7 pounds in 9 days on the detox. Then for the other three phases of the program, it teaches you how to enjoy the foods you like, but how to do so in a healthier manner. I have never preached or believed in perfection when it comes to dieting and exercise. Food is wonderful and should be enjoyed--all types. But there's a way to do it so that it doesn't kill you or bring about disease. The Fat Smash Diet is a program that works with people to give them the advantage they need to be smarter eaters and exercisers and thus improve the quality and length of their life.
AllHipHop.com: In a similar question, how can a person like me, who lives a fast-paced lifestyle as a journalist and often attends events with lots of free food and alcohol, make some easy changes and lose 35 pounds this year?
Dr. Ian: That's easy. Follow the Fat Smash Diet. The key is to make sure you are planning your meals and snacks and not leaving those choices to the last minute when what you have to choose from is not that great. Packing your lunch or snacks ahead of time and bringing them with you will not only save money, but it will save you from making bad choices under duress. Also, find someone or a group to go with on this journey. All of the studies show that those who are most successful at weight loss have a support system.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of urban youth have no health coverage. What are some things they can do to avoid costly visits to a doctor’s office or emergency room?
Dr. Ian: Your parents and grandmother were right. Eating fruits and vegetables every day (at least 5 servings) can do a lot to keep your energy levels up and give you the vitamins and nutrients and anti-oxidants you need to fight disease. Half of your plate should be comprised of fruits and vegetables. Also, 30-45 minus of moderate intensity physical activity 4-5 days a week is some of the best medicine there is.
AllHipHop.com: Hip-hop is almost synonymous with marijuana smoking. What effects do marijuana really have on the body, and how does it affect health and physical appearance? Is it possible to smoke weed and still be healthy?
Dr. Ian: With all due respect, I disagree with the premise of this question. There are plenty of people, myself included, who truly enjoy hip-hop and have enjoyed it for a very long time all the way back to the days of the Sugar Hill Gang when we called it rap. Marijuana is a choice, not a style of living or an automatic musical genre affiliation. It has medicinal qualities and it has dangerous qualities. Abusing anything is not good for you, especially when dealing with something that leads to an altered state. Most people know the pluses and minuses of marijuana. Just like anything else that can be good and bad, they have to weigh the consequences and make their own decision. It's just not my style. Never has been.
AllHipHop.com: You were recently appointed to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition and you have the 50 Million Pound Challenge. Why are these large-scale initiatives important to you?
Dr. Ian: The country is at a perilous crossroads. We need to make some major changes in the way we live or we will be facing tremendous amounts of premature disease and death. This young generation might not outlive its parents and this is the first time in the history of this country that such a tragic prediction has been made. There are all kinds of things we can do to make a difference in being healthier and happier. My initiatives are typically grassroots in nature because I like to work directly with people and help them see that they have more control of their health destiny than they think they do.
AllHipHop.com: What do you ultimately hope your legacy will be?
Dr. Ian: That I lived life to the fullest. That I tried my best to be a thoughtful and caring human being. That I worked to leave the world a better place for the generations that come after me. That I loved life deeply and worked to be selfless in the enjoyment of such and sharing with others so that they could achieve their dreams on a small and big scale.
AllHipHop.com: Last year, the Hip-Hop world lost Heavy D due to a blood clot in his lung. How does this condition develop, and how can it be detected/prevented?
Dr. Ian: This question deserves a big answer. Let me just say that obesity and diabetes together can be quite a deadly combination. Add to that long periods of time being sedentary (long flight, sitting down for a long time) and that can only make matters worse. His lung clot likely developed in his legs, which is called a DVT or deep venous thrombosis. Once this happens and the clot gets dislodged from your leg blood vessels, it travels up the blood vessel tree to your heart, then into your lung(s) where it can get stuck. Once stuck in your lung, it can cause severe respiratory distress and even death.
AllHipHop.com: Black men still often die before the age of 40, and not always from violence. Can you share some insight into how and why healthy habits are still not an important part of the black community? How can we incorporate healthy living into our daily lives?
Dr. Ian: African Americans have a tremendous history of strength and resilience. We also have a sad history of neglect and self-denial. We have to pay greater attention to those things that will improve the quality of our lives and not only focus on things that improve the materialistic quantity part of our lives. We have to love and respect each other and realize that regardless of how great or rich or famous we want to be or actually become, we are still temporary custodians of this great earth, and one day we will pass and be swallowed by history.
For more good info from Dr. Ian Smith, or to purchase one of his books, visit www.50millionpounds.com.