As the diet expert on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club reality show, Dr. Ian Smith uses tough love to help overweight celebrities lose weight. Now, he's a on a mission to help more Americans get fit with his 50 Million Pound Challenge. Gayle talks to Dr. Smith about the campaign and why it's especially important for African-Americans to lead healthier lifestyles.
Dr. Smith says the goal of The 50 Million Pound Challenge is to unite Americans—especially African-Americans—against a growing health crisis and collectively lose 50 million pounds. When you do the math, Dr. Smith says that if 5 million people over the span of two years lose 10 pounds, the target goal of 50 million pounds could be reached. To make that happen, Dr. Smith says he's doing a 14-city tour and has launched a website where participants can get free advice on nutrition, diet, exercise and health.
While all of America is facing an obesity epidemic, Dr. Smith says that says that African-Americans especially are in a health crisis. According to Dr. Smith, 80 percent of African-American women and almost 70 percent of African-American men are overweight, and they suffer from high rates of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. "If you look at our numbers—if you look at our rates of death from these illnesses—we're dying earlier and we're dying a much more terrible death," he says.
Dr. Smith attributes many of these problems to certain cultural differences, especially cooking habits and traditional cuisines that are high in fat and sugar. "It's the way I grew up eating. … We love butter, we love sugar, we love to cook our vegetables—great, powerful superfoods—we cook them in grease, and we cook them for hours," he says.
The key to good health isn't necessarily giving up the foods you love, Dr. Smith says. Rather, it's about finding a happy middle ground. He hopes The 50 Million Pound Challenge will help people of all races get the information they need to get in shape. "I'm trying to get people to make small changes, not big, draconian changes because people are overwhelmed when you say you have to go from A all the way to Z," he says.