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Meet Dr. Ian

(Courtesy of Dr. Ian Smith)

Ian Smith has never had to diet. At 39, he's fit and trim, a life-long athlete and healthful eater.

But he understands how hard it is to lose weight. As a medical doctor and media voice on nutrition issues (he is, for instance, the diet expert for VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club"), Smith has thought a lot about how to break dieting down into manageable chunks.

That's the spirit behind his new book, The 4-Day Diet, which is built on the premise that anyone can do ANYTHING for 4 days. The diet consists of 7 "modules," some more demanding than others, that for the most part can be tackled in whatever order suits the dieter. (The first two phases, detoxification/cleansing of the body by eating lots of leafy greens, legumes and brown rice, and the reintroduction of a broader range of foods, have to come first.) You can plan one for the days you'll be on vacation, for instance, allowing you to stay on your "diet" without restricting yourself in such a way that you'll just want to quit.

Dr. Ian, as he's known, is also the founder of the national weight-loss initiative "The 50 Million Pound Challenge," which enlisted its millionth member on March 25 (it's free to take part; the program's sponsored by State Farm) and has so far accounted for about 3.9 million pounds of lost weight.

I got to talk with Dr. Ian Tuesday. Here's part of our conversation:

Is this modular approach to dieting new?

No-one's done it, as far as I know. It makes dieting as flexible as possible, which is the most effective way. Some 4-day periods you're going really hard, and some you're coasting, recooping, so the body is always off-kilter. It's not about short-term fixes, but about learning how to eat. It's a realistic program, it's inexpensive, you eat regular food, there's no calorie counting. So many other programs are layered and complicated, they don't really take the dieter into consideration but rather the writer's ideals.

What role does exercise play in the 4-Day Diet?

Each day the 4-Day Diet lays out what the meals are for the day and the amount and type of exercise you should get. I am a major proponent of exercise and physical activity. They're the best way to maximize weight loss and maintain overall good health. People have the misperception that they have to belong to a gym to exercise, but we're talking about any movement, walking, running, whatever it is that can get you to move. It's important for cardiovascular reasons, for blood pressure and blood vessels, and it adds years to your life.

Not to be rude, but the detox part of the program sounds like it's aimed at getting your bowels moving, right?

That's not rude! You're right. You eat two cups of raw or cooked green leafy vegetables, freshly squeezed lemonade, beans and legumes, yogurt, a green garden salad and brown rice. So many people want to do colonics [to cleanse their digestive systems]. You don't need that.

Why do people tend to gravitate toward things like colonics when they can cleanse their colons just by eating this kind of food?

Unfortunately, the popular media sensationalizes extreme measures. People are largely uninformed about a lot of things, particularly about nutrition. When people read that Beyonce has done the lemonade diet and lost 20 pounds for her new role, that's the Bible for them.

Tell me about The 50 Million Pound Challenge.

It's phenomenal. We started it on April 7, 2007. It started off kind of slow, getting people to sign up, but it has taken on a life of its own, with thousands of people signing up a day. People's lives are so impacted, they're telling their friends and loved ones about it. It just feels fantastic. It's completely free, thanks to State Farm.

To hear more from Dr. Ian on the 4-Day Diet, 50 Million Pound Challenge or other weight-loss issues, join him for a live discussion Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity  
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The "detox" part of the program is just plain good marketing! Very hot right now, and for the last 18 months.

The next gimmick will be evident within the next year.

-Steve Parker, M.D.

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | April 1, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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