I was asked to do an interview through an e-mail exchange a few months back for an individual that would be submitting it to their university’s website and newspaper. There’s some good information in here and since I get a lot of these same questions in e-mail I thought I’d post it up to let you read through it. Enjoy.
Tell me a little bit about yourself, what you do, and what made you decide to start thespartanwarrior.com
My name is Daniel Brown and I am a student, powerlifter, coach, nutrition consultant, and am still in the process of seeking further education in nutrition and exercise science.
I started my website, TheSpartanWarrior.com, first as a blog to track my own personal experiences with fitness but soon found that I had a platform to enable me to reach a broader audience and assist others in their desire to better themselves. This has led me to transition from a personal blog to more of a research based database and website to give people factual information to check out.
Where do you derive most of your information from on your website?
There really is no one place where most of the information on my website comes from. It’s varied with anything from my own written articles to peer reviewed scientific research from nutrition and science journals to interviews and quotes from some of the most respected minds in nutrition and fitness. Oh, the occasional funny meme as well.
How many followers do you have?
Just under 90,000 currently.
What are some interesting things people may/may not know about you and what you do?
I have come to find that many people think that I have always been in good shape or that I was just born into the education I have now on these topics, but that is very far from the truth. I have spent 11 years (on and off) looking for answers and techniques to achieve a healthier life for myself and for others through nutrition and fitness. More than half of my life was actually spent overweight and thoroughly unhappy struggling to find the right answers. Through those years I learned a great deal from mistakes, misinformation, and practice though so I would not have it any other way.
Something else that most people would not guess, I suppose, is that I’m also a pretty big geek. I’m a huge cinephile and I play video games quite often. I even worked in the video game industry for nearly 6 years before transitioning to a full-on focus of nutrition and exercise sciences.
You offer a page with “Nutrition for Newbies” what are some important tips you can suggest to men and women who are looking to lose significant amounts of weight?
The first step is easily the hardest. You have to make the decision that you want to change and that this decision is important enough to fully dedicate yourself to day in and day out.
Secondly, it’s all about baby steps. Too many people try to dive in head first and become so overwhelmed by a massive amount of change in diet and activity that they don’t stick to a plan. My initial recommendation is to seek out something that gets you more active on a regular basis that you can find some sort of enjoyment in doing. This could literally be anything from lifting weights to playing Dance Dance Revolution. No amount of “more” activity is bad in the beginning.
Then comes what is truly most importantly in my eyes. Get a better understanding of the basics of nutrition. Ever read a nutrition label and it was like looking at a foreign language? That’s a big problem. I have a few pages in my nutrition articles that are great primers for all your basic nutrition information needs.
What are the common misconceptions you find people have about weight loss?
Nutrition in general is just full of one misconception after another. The amount of misinformation and inaccuracies that people blindly follow is astounding. One of the biggest ones I see daily is that people follow diets that completely cut out entire food groups or macronutrients. Going from a diet where you eat anything and everything to an extremely restrictive diet is simply setting yourself up for disaster and failure. Psychologically that will play havoc with discipline in being able to follow the diet and having the ability to stay satisfied with your new lifestyle.
For a person who is trying to make a drastic lifestyle change, do you feel it is more effective to take a monitored approach as opposed to a self-started regime?
Everyone is going to be different in this regard. Some will find it extremely beneficial to have someone coach them through the beginning, but the problem here is finding a coach with adequate knowledge to guide a beginner down a path that will lead them to a lifetime of success. Sadly, there aren’t many coaches out there that live up to that type of expectation.
Many people hire a coach or personal trainer to provide them with sparks of motivation. No person or one thing is going to provide someone with the motivation and discipline they need day in and day out to make a change like this. There really has to be an internal driving force of passion to make the changes necessary. Motivation comes from within and if you can’t push yourself to take the necessary steps in staying driven, persistent, and disciplined to what you’re doing then no one else will be able to help you. This applies to all avenues of your life.
Do you believe that the BMI is an accurate representation of the average weight a person should fall into based on their age, gender and height? What are some flaws that need to be adjusted and how so?
I’m in the boat here of doing away with the BMI scale overall… However, it can be useful for some of the population, but there are going to be many instances where it becomes completely flawed. For example, a person with lower body fat levels and a good amount of lean muscle mass is going to have a higher BMI reading giving the indication they are overweight. Lots of athletes and bodybuilders will fall victim to that problem. The BMI scale uses height, weight and age. You would think waist circumference would be of greater importance for a system to determine if someone is overweight.
How would you suggest one determine their weight loss goal?
Most people fixate on a random number they want to see on a scale or a number of pounds they would like to lose. Whereas this can be a great initial motivator I believe that relying on a number to determine how you feel, which most do, is absurd. You’re going to become obsessed with that scale and that can be quite destructive. All of my trainees focus on a day to day understanding of how they’re feeling and how they look from seeing themselves in a mirror and comparing their progress pictures over time.
Setting a weight loss goal is quite individual. I usually attempt to steer people more towards how clothes fit and measurements as those are going to be more reliable for fat loss. This also takes a lot of the pressure away from seeing a certain number on the scale. I truly believe that doing away with the scale is healthier in the long run.
Don’t make your worth about a number displayed under your feet. Make your worth about your ability to strive towards goals in the weight room, the track, or in something that you can make progress in linearly.
What are some key foods and ingredients you recommend for weight loss and why?
Most people that are overweight are so because their diet (nutritional intake) is wrecked. Primarily this is due to an over consumption of food and not necessarily because their diet is lacking specific foods. However, I will say that anyone wanting to be healthier overall should include more whole foods into their diet. Everyone should be getting a better balance of foods coming from a variety of places such as: lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits, and fibrous carbohydrates.
What are some foods and ingredients to avoid?
I am rather largely known as someone that champions the idea that everything is okay to consume as long as it’s done in moderation. I think there’s a lot of psychological relief that comes with that mentality for people striving for fat loss. This most definitely aides in winning the psychological battle, which I believe is the most important part of the game.
Now, I don’t want to leave someone without an easy answer here so to make things simple I would generally tell someone that asked this question to try and cut out a majority of processed foods that they eat, to stay away from empty calories coming in the form of liquids like non diet sodas and most condiments, and try to manage the way their food is prepared by going for healthier options like grilled over fried. Small amounts of these “not as good for you” options are still okay as long it’s done infrequently.
Do you feel that a lot of people lack proper nutrition education and would you say this is a problem with public health in general? What are some of the growing concerns about health and active living you find cripples North Americans?
Absolutely. The lack of education among the general population is what I consider to be the largest problem. Frankly, I believe this is a major attributing factor to the rising rates of obesity in children and adults. The majority of people simply just don’t know any better. Also, as a nation we just aren’t active like we should be. We’re damning ourselves to be overweight by over consumption of food coupled with the lack of activity. This sedentary lifestyle can be linked to how lazy we have become. Video games, smart phones, computers, TV, etc. People don’t have to leave their couch to order a pizza and get hours of entertainment. Hell, people will drive two blocks to go to a Starbucks instead of walking. These same people don’t seem to have a reason to move until their faced with things like heart disease, diabetes, and death.
There are a lot of weight loss programs out there like Weight Watchers that offers people ideas on how to eat better while constraining the amounts of food you consume and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. Would you say this is an effective way to lose weight? Are there better alternatives?
Well, eating less overall and becoming more active are the winning factors to weight loss, so they (Weight Watchers) are definitely on the right track. I think it’s a great starting point for a lot of people. Weight Watchers is actually one of the programs I like best because of their philosophy of not really restricting the types of food, but the amount of food. Unfortunately, like all dieting programs, it lacks in educating the people that use the program more. Nothing is ever going to oust proper education as the most effective way to get healthier. Another program that I would recommend is the DASH diet, which again is just a diet that wants you to restrict calories and eat more whole foods.
What should people be skeptical of when they join weight loss programs?
Everything. Be skeptical of everything in this industry. More specifically, if a program seems overly complicated, gimmicky, or restricts entire types of foods or macronutrients then those should be major red flags. Getting healthy shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg either so stay away from programs that are high in price.
What are some of the best tips to keep people motivated and on track when they are trying to lose weight?
Something important to remember is that it’s not going to happen overnight. Dedication and discipline are the two most important things to keep in mind. Something I’ve always reminded my trainees when they don’t feel like working out is that you really never regret going to the gym, but you’ll always regret it not going.
Nothing worth having is handed to you. Put in hard work, stay patient, and the results will come.
How does one determine how much physical activity they need to do?
The general population should just focus on doing more than what they are currently doing. As a beginner I would start by aiming for three to four days a week of thirty minutes to an hour of some form of extracurricular activity or exercise to increase the heart rate.
A lot of people look at numbers and sometimes don’t realize that what they are losing is water weight and not fat. How does one work at losing fat and what is some basic information one needs to know?
The people that I come across most that obsess over weight loss numbers are going to be those that are addicted to cardio. They also are typically the people that seem to find themselves watching their weight on the scale bounce up and down due to water fluctuations. This is a simple fix. I would reserve doing cardio for improving cardiovascular health and not as the primary means to weight loss. Sounds crazy, right? There is a time and a place for cardio and sadly the majority of people use it in the wrong way. I’m not saying that it’s not an effective way to lose weight, because it most certainly can be. The problem is that most use it as their only means for weight loss or to make up for a poor diet and there are better ways to go about it.
In terms of determining fat loss when water weight fluctuation can be an issue a measuring tape is going to be much more accurate than a scale.
Do you believe in using supplements? How does a person know which supplements to take? What are some you suggest?
Supplements can be beneficial for some, but are not necessary for all. Unfortunately, most supplements are practically worthless in the grand scheme of things. I see the supplement industry as a big joke full of scams and lies. The benefit of supplements is more found in their convenience, but they are not and should be used as a direct replacement for whole foods and a properly balanced diet only as a means to make sure you’re getting everything you need.
Determining what supplements to take as a beginner can be quite overwhelming. The reason being is that a lot of people want results from a bottle or a magic pill. They want a shortcut. Well, news flash everyone there is no shortcut. Putting in hard work and following a good diet are what will get you the results you seek over time.
Typically, I don’t suggest a lot for people outside of whey protein, creatine monohydrate, a good multi-vitamin, and then whatever else the person may be individually deficient in determined by their average dietary intake or locale.
What are some emotional things you feel people struggle with that prevent them from being successful and altering their health choices?
There is way too much of people comparing themselves to others. It is human nature for us to do this, but people put entirely too much focus into trying to look like someone else that is at their peak condition as opposed to just wanting to feel better and get healthier themselves. Those people that are often getting compared to like models, actors/actresses, bodybuilders, and athletes have worked for years and years on their physiques and aren’t always built using the same methods that the general population have access to. It’s okay to be inspired by other people, but keep your focus on yourself. Try not to compare your weaknesses with the strengths of others.
What’s the hardest part about losing weight?
Weight isn’t that hard to lose. You can chop off your legs and.. voila!.. weight loss. A shift in energy balance is all it takes for weight loss. However, finding the balance of fat loss and retaining lean muscle (fat free) mass can be tricky and that is what should be the goal.
In the long run the hardest part is going to be having the dedication day in and day out to be proactive in achieving your goals. No one can give this to you. You have to wake up every single day with the passion to make a difference in your own life.