The Diet Channel Interviews VH1's Celebrity Fit Club Diet Expert Dr. Ian K. Smith, Author of "The Fat Smash Diet"
If you are even a semi-regular viewer of VH1, chances are good that in the past year you have tuned in to see super babe Kelly LeBrock, The Cosby Show’s Tempestt Bledsoe, '80s rapper Young MC, and rocker Gunnar Nelson competing with other celebs in the made-for-TV weight loss challenge Celebrity Fit Club. Collectively the eight contestants on the show lost a total of 180 pounds—a whopping 10% of their starting weight—in only a few months time. What the average viewer may not know is that the diet plan used by the Celebrity Fit Club participant was designed by the show’s diet expert, Dr. Ian Smith. The Fat Smash Diet is Ian Smith’s answer to all of the diet, weight loss, and nutrition related questions he has fielded in his years as a physician. Ian was gracious enough to answer our questions about The Fat Smash Diet, his views on weight loss and the American obesity epidemic, as well as his experience on the Celebrity Fit Club.
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First off, tell us about your experience on Celebrity Fit Club.
What a blast! Believe it or not, I first said no when the show asked me to join the cast as the diet/medical expert. I had never done a reality show before and I had been in hard news for so long. I eventually accepted their offer, and boy am I glad I did. Not only have I had just lots of fun working with these entertainers whose work I’ve admired for years, but I learned a lot about the individual struggles that even celebrities must endure when trying to lose weight. Doing this show was the inspiration for me writing The Fat Smash Diet and not only was it extremely gratifying to see the book do so well with the celebrities, but the tens of thousands of non-celebrities who have started the program and e-mail me all the time about their progress. (www.fatsmashdiet.com)
Of the eight contestants, who best embraced the Fat Smash Diet concept?
Kelly LeBrock and Young MC were model students of The Fat Smash Diet. Kelly lost 31 pounds and Young MC lost 38 pounds. They lost all of this weight in just 100 days. They believed in themselves and the program and they stayed focus for the entire show. I saw Kelly a short time ago and she still looks great and is keeping the weight off!
Have any of the contestants continued to lose weight on the plan since the show ended?
Yes, Bruce Vilanch and Gunnar Nelson from Season 3 have lost more weight. Jackee and Gary Busey from Season 2 have also kept the weight off. They really got the message that this was not just about losing weight for the show, but making lifestyle changes that would last forever.
You based the Fat Smash Diet on the numerous questions posed to you in your career as a physician. What were the common themes people inquired about regarding weight loss?
I’ve gotten tens of thousands of e-mails about weight loss over my career. The most common questions were: How can I lose weight without exercising? (This is the question that makes me roll my eyes.) What pills are the best to use to lose weight? (Another eye-roller!) I travel a lot. How do I stick to a diet while traveling? Is the surgery right for me? (Most of the time the answer is NO!) Can you help me get motivated to lose weight? (Motivation should come from within. But once you get motivated, The Fat Smash Diet can help you cross the finish line.)
Fat Smash seems to acknowledge that the path to weight loss contains pitfalls and that people are imperfect. How does the plan address a person’s tendencies to “fall off the wagon”?
No one is perfect! No dieter is perfect! No eating plan is perfect for everyone. Now that we have that as a basis, we can lose weight successfully. The Fat Smash Diet realizes all of our imperfections. But instead of penalizing you for them, it embraces you. The diet is a four stage program that starts with a natural nine-day detox then progresses to a more open diet including lots of normal, inexpensive, and tasty foods. If you “fall off the wagon” temporarily, all you have to do is dial back to the previous phase for a week or so. Once you’ve gotten your rhythm back, then go back to the place where you left off in the program.
Your plan is broken down into four stages, the first being what you call “Detox.” What does “Detox” have to do with dieting?
This phase is the beginning of the journey. The name pretty much says it all. For the next nine days, you will eat mostly fruits and veggies and clean your body and mind of impurities in a natural way without fasting or putting any “bad” toxins into your system. This is about purifying your body and blood and feeding them the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that they so badly need. It’s also about opening your mind and freeing it from the imprisonment of an unhealthy lifestyle that might be holding you back from reaching your peak. This is the first step towards a NEW YOU, so it’s critical that you follow the principles of this phase and don’t stray from the course. Surround yourself with positive energy and people who are supportive and respectful of your task. Reduce stressful occurrences in your life as stress only distracts you from your important missions and induces poor decisions. Try not to constantly think about food and weight! There’s a lot more to life than food and worrying about the numbers on some inanimate scale. Take up a hobby and keep busy with the fun things in life. This will help the time fly and keep you energized.
The second stage is called “Foundation,” what does a dieter experience here?
The purpose of this phase is to reintroduce many of those foods you missed during detox, those very foods your body was craving to eat. At this point it’s important to remember that this is about smashing those bad habits of the past and building good habits for the future. That means it’s important to stick to the guidelines of the program with an understanding that you and your eating program are a work in progress. Now is not the time to undo all of the accomplishments you achieved by successfully completing the first phase, so some of the basic rules still apply: (1) Do not overeat at any given sitting, but maintain the schedule of four to five smaller meals per day; (2) Continue to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible, even though you are adding other foods to your diet; (3) Remember not to skip meals and stick as close to possible to the eating schedule that you’ve set up in Phase 1 as this is what your body is now accustomed to following; (4) You MUST continue the physical activity portion of the program as this will be the best way that you continue to burn off those calories and SMASH the fat; (5) Continue to stay away from heavily fried foods and fat-laden dressings that only add unnecessary calories and distribute bad fats in your blood. Remember, we are building that pyramid and in order for the peak to remain towering beautifully in the sky, the blocks upon which it rests must remain strong and dependable. The blocks you put down in this phase are the most important as they comprise your FOUNDATION.
Phase 3 is “Construction,” tell us about this stage:
Over the last two weeks, you have laid down a solid foundation for a healthier lifestyle that we will now continue to build. This phase will add more variety to your diet, thus constructing an eating plan that will allow you to enjoy many of the foods you’ve enjoyed in the past. The difference, however, is that with your greater understanding of portion control and the importance of more fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can now enjoy some of those sweets you’ve missed in the past, but instead of eating five cookies, you’ll be content with two. The first two phases should have instilled some important concepts and messages that should guide your eating behaviors forever. Don’t turn your back on all that you have learned and take up the old bad habits. This is sure to reverse the progress you’ve made to this point and discourage you from all the great accomplishments you’ve made.
The final phase is the “ Temple” stage which is basically the rest of your life. How does Fat Smash continue to help people at this stage?
The fact that the dieter has made it to this phase means that they have achieved tremendous success. They have detoxed their body, laid a solid foundation for a healthier way of living, and constructed a routine of good habits that will guide them throughout the rest of their life. All of this is like building a sacred temple, something to admire, respect, and honor. But like any beautiful structure, there’s also maintenance involved to keep it clean and shiny. Every once in a while there will be the need for minor repairs, and that’s expected. The key, however, is to avoid the need for major fixes. This is where the dieter now is positioned. Now that they’ve built the temple of good eating behaviors and a physical activity program, they can admire and appreciate it, but also be prepared for minor repairs when the need arises.
This phase is fluid in nature as you never know where the repairs need to be done. Maybe you’ve started eating too many sweets or increased the portions. Some people will start slacking off on the physical activity portion and notice the weight starting to climb once they’re on the scale. These are not major problems and can be addressed very easily. The important part here is to identify the exact location of the leak in the roof and quickly use the necessary material to fix it. If you notice that you’ve gained back 10-15 percent of the weight that you’ve lost, then simply leave the temple, go back to Phase 1 until you’ve lost that weight again, then return to enjoy what you’ve worked so hard to build.
In this last phase, there are some food and beverage additions that will complete the eating program. Since they’ve been absent from the diet for the last eight weeks, you can better appreciate them, but it’s important to follow the guidelines and not overindulge. Remember, at this stage of the diet, you have smashed the bad habits and developed good, healthy habits through hard work and determination. This healthier way of living can sustain you forever. You are no longer on a diet. Now you’ve made the lifestyle changes to eat and exercise this way forever.
You include a lot of recipes in the book. Which are your personal favorites?
There are lots of tasty and easy to prepare recipes (over 50). But of course, my mother’s Yummy Teriyaki Beans are my favorite. The green bean salad is not only colorful, but tasty. I also like the chicken Marsala with brown rice risotto and sautéed haricot verts with marinated tomatoes.
How does exercise fit into Fat Smash?
Exercise is a MUST, but not just for Fat Smash, but ANY diet. All of the important studies show that those who exercise along with eating right not only lose more weight, but keep it off longer. But even beyond the issue of losing weight, exercise is important for our overall health. It’s great for our blood vessels, hearts, lungs, and mind. Our bodies are like cars in a way—they need to be run properly and tuned up. Exercising does this for the body.
Eating out is a big part of the American diet. What is your advice to people who want, or need, to eat out frequently but still want to stay fit and healthy?
They must remember that eating out is not an excuse to eat poorly. It’s still possible to eat out and eat tasty, but healthy food. One of the ideas behind The Fat Smash Diet is that you can eat out at nice restaurants, but you don’t have to order all high-fat foods loaded with calories. Mix it up. If you choose one item that may be calorie-rich, then choose one that’s low in calories and healthy. Compromising is important when eating out.
What differentiates The Fat Smash Diet from the gaggle of other diet plans in the market?
- The book and the foods are inexpensive.
- The foods are regular and can be purchased in any grocery store and don’t have to ordered through a special service, nor do they require anything extraordinary in order to obtain.
- The natural detox is not about fasting, but eating healthy foods while at the same time cleaning your body of toxins.
- The diet forgives you for falling off the wagon and doesn’t punish you.
In addition to losing weight, what other benefits can people expect to derive from The Fat Smash Diet?
The diet is more than just a plan for losing weight. It’s about a philosophy and a way for leading your life for greater health, happiness, and longevity. FAT SMASH is specifically designed to be a 90-day program with four phases that will ultimately rewire your body and its relationship to food and physical activity for the rest of your life. At the end of the 90 days, you will have made small, but important adjustments not only in your food consumption, but your understanding and attitude towards food and the way you view the importance of physical activity in maintaining a healthy life. FATSMASH is about smashing the bad habits and demons of the past and constructing a new and improved you now ready to take on new challenges and passions while fully enjoying the gift of life. I’m extremely proud of this program because it teaches the correct principles of eating healthy, but not to be afraid of having a slice of cake or chocolate chip cookies every now and again. Almost everything in life is about finding a balance and doing things in moderation. These are the underlying principles of The Fat Smash Diet.
As a physician you are acutely aware of the relationship between nutrition and health. What is your opinion on the childhood obesity “epidemic” that’s come to light in recent years?
I think the childhood obesity epidemic is one of the most critical and embarrassing health crisis facing America. There is no reason why we should allow our children to eat their way and sit their way to obesity. What most people don’t understand is that with obesity comes lots of dangerous medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, conditions that we typically associate with adults. Now that children are so overweight, they are at risk for a host of illnesses. The good news is that we can do something about this. We can get the weight off of these children and get them eating right and exercising and prevent a lot of unnecessary morbidity and mortality. I hope that parents, community leaders, and health advocates are taking this seriously, otherwise we’ll have a secondary health crisis on our hands in the next 15 years when these children grow older.
As a health expert, which foods, if any, do you simply refuse to eat due to their negative health impact?
Soda is a complete waste in my opinion. There is absolutely no nutritious value whatsoever and if I’m going to get sweets and calories from something, I’d rather do it with something that at least provides nutrients that matter.
You get to be king for a day and as part of being king you get to mandate three changes to the American diet, what would they be?
- I would institute a limit on serving sizes that people could eat at one meal. There would no longer be oversized portions.
- Every meal would have to have either one fruit or vegetable.
- Dinner would be the smallest meal of the day and it would have to be eaten no later than an hour and a half before going to bed.
Finally, the best part of being the author of the latest best selling diet book is:
Receiving the thousands of emails from those who have gone on the plan—SMASHERS—and hearing their stories of personal triumph. It’s something to sit down and write a diet and instructions for others to follow, but it’s a completely different experience when others take your advice and guidelines and implement them in their life and see incredible results. I print out all of those emails in which the SMASHERS claim that the diet has touched their lives not only physically with the weight loss, but spiritually and psychologically. What many of them don’t know is that their success and words have touched me even more.