Q & A With Dr. Ian Smith, Author of 'SHRED'

Your book makes a pretty serious claim: "6 weeks, 4 inches, 2 sizes." What's the basic magic?
Dr. Ian: SHRED works on two major principles. One is called "meal spacing," the other is "diet confusion." On SHRED you eat every three to four hours: small to moderate-size meals, three snack options and four meals a day. Eating every three-four hours will keep your hormone levels stable. People who eat large meals have spikes in their insulin levels, and it's the spike that can cause weight gain. With SHRED, you don't have those spikes, and the meal spacing keeps those hormones nice and stable, which leads to weight loss.
Explain "diet confusion."
Dr. Ian: Diet confusion is analogous to the weight-lifting concept called "muscle confusion." When people have been lifting for a while and they've maximized their muscle growth, trainers will often change the types of exercises people do to re-stimulate growth. So you confuse the muscles. I adopted that for diets. What you do is change the types of food you eat, the volumes of calories that you're consuming from day-to-day, week-to-week. That keeps your metabolism revved, and it keeps your body off kilter. It's the business of keeping your body off kilter that keeps it burning calories more efficiently and effectively.
I'm not good at math. Are we counting calories?
Dr. Ian: I've done all the calorie counting for people. All you need to do is to be able to measure: a cup of this, a teaspoon of that... The calories are within a range that changes depending on the day and week. Shred is a 6-week-cycle program, each week standing independently. Just follow the daily meal plans: There are four meals a day, and every meal is detailed for six weeks with options. If you're a diabetic, vegetarian or vegan, or if you have an allergy to something like gluten, you can make substitutions. So while it is a very specific plan, it is also a very flexible plan.
My favorite thing you say about SHRED is that it "doesn't require perfection."
Dr. Ian: I have three rules when it comes to dieting: Dieting should not be expensive. Dieting should not be complicated. And diets should not expect or ask for perfection... No one is going to eat perfectly for the rest of their lives. With SHRED, there is no such thing as cheating, because the cheat is actually built into the program. You can have lasagna, grilled cheese, pancakes and burgers. There's enough of the regular types of fun foods in there that people don't miss it. And people are happy to eat healthier foods because they know that it's not all they have to eat.

I don't eat perfectly, I don't expect anyone else to eat perfectly. Programs that severely restrict the types of foods and drinks people have tend not to be effective in the long term because people will not be able to live that way forever. I want this to be a lifestyle plan. So rather than SHRED the revolutionary diet, it really is SHRED the lifestyle plan.
Clear up a nagging question for me: Does it matter what time of day I eat?
Dr. Ian: [There isn't] is any convincing scientific evidence that says that what time of day it is has any impact on one's ability to gain or lose weight. I do believe, however, that you should eat your first meal of the day within an hour of getting up because you've just been in a calorie-deprived state... So your body's in need of calories to get going.

I also believe that people should not consume their major, fourth meal of the evening within 90 minutes of going to sleep. That's because your metabolism slows down dramatically while you're going to sleep. You can, however, snack before going to bed within that 90 minute period.
I'll ask it out loud: Where does alcohol fit in?
Dr. Ian: Alcohol is permitted on the program. The book talks about drinking beer, wine and mixed drinks if you like. However, I do suggest that you cannot binge drink. Because binge drinking is akin to eating a huge meal. And eating huge meals is counter productive to weight loss. You have to show some restraint. You can't have five at one time. That's just not smart. There's no way to do that and lose weight, period.
Exercise is a component of SHRED. What are your thoughts on recent reports suggesting exercise is less effective than diet in losing weight?
Dr. Ian: It's very difficult to decide what's more important, dieting or exercise. We tested 5,000 people on the program over the summer. In six weeks the average weight loss was 20 pounds, four inches and/or two sizes. People who did more exercise tended to lose 30-40% more weight than those who just made the nutritional changes. So yes, you can lose weight for sure without exercising. But if you want to maximize your weight loss, you want to exercise. If you're just doing the diet part you will reach a diet plateau much sooner than if you were doing the exercise in conjunction.

By the way, we're never asking people to go to the gym for an hour. We're asking people to increase their heart rates for 30-40 minutes, 4-5 days a week. If you want to go to a gym, fine. But if you like dancing, walking, running up and down steps, jump rope... there are all different kinds of exercise options in the book to make it more fun rather than a chore.
Is it better to emphasize cardio or weight training?
Dr. Ian: Cardio is important. It's a more effective, faster way to get into the fat-burning mode. But resistance training or weight lifting can also be effective, because the idea is to increase your lean muscle mass. Your muscle mass is more metabolically active, which means it increases your metabolism. So we ask people not to lift weights because they want to increase their muscle growth, but to increase that lean muscle mass. It will directly increase their metabolism, which will burn more calories.
Does the calorie range work for both men and women, no matter the size?
Dr. Ian: People get caught up in "Shouldn't men be consuming more calories?" There are enough calories [in the diet] for men and women. There's no need to differentiate because it's not just about men and women. If a man is sedentary, then his caloric requirement is going to be a lot less than someone who ran a marathon.
I hear Week 3 is a killer.
Dr. Ian: Week 3: Transformation, is designed to be the toughest of the program for two major reasons. One: Most people in the third week of a diet tend to start seeing their weight loss diminish; they start hitting a plateau. Week 3 is tough because I want to push you through that plateau, so you don't have a major slowing down of your weight loss.

The second is psychological. Part of dieting is challenging yourself to build up psychological reserves. I put Week 3 as the toughest because you're going into two good weeks. Once you get to three, which is only seven days (and you can do almost anything for seven days), then the rest of the diet becomes a walk in the park because it gets much much easier as we add back more calories and greater diversity of food. So Week 3 is a psychological hump as well as a physiological hump.
Week 5 is "Cleanse." That's a scary word for a lot of people (like me).
Dr. Ian: It's not a fast. You're still eating four meals a day and three snack options. It's what I call a "healthy eating cleanse." And that's why it's in week five and not in week one. I actually had it in my book, 'FAT SMASH,' as week one. A lot of people unfortunately... had a really tough time getting through the first phase, which was a detox. So I put it towards the end of this diet because people at that point are more inspired to get through it, they're able to handle it a lot easier, and they're ready because they've been on the program for a while.
So what happens after Week 6?
Dr. Ian: [The book] teaches you how to do the cycling. If you hit your target in the first six weeks, then you go on to maintenance phase. That's now eating the way you've learned to eat, but with a monthly check-in of a particular week. You go back and do one week of the diet. If you haven't hit your target after six weeks, you go through another cycle. But the book teaches you how to re-cycle in a way that's different than you did in the first cycle.
So you keep tuning up?
Dr. Ian: Absolutely! It's like tuning up your car. No matter how great your car is after a tuneup, you don't say "I'm going to stop giving it a tuneup because it's looking good and riding great." No, you should always tune up your body. Our weight tends to fluctuate, and we fluctuate our behaviors. But once again, it's not severe. It's not like you're going back to the not-eating-pizza-and-beer diet. After six weeks you're making smarter choices, and you're eating in a better way.
What's it like serving on President and Mrs. Obama's Council on Fitness, Nutrition and Sports? And how are you helping achieve their goals?
Dr. Ian: It's awesome. It's great work. A lot of very well known athletes, doctors and people at the top of their field -- it's an honor to be in their company.

We work very directly with the First Lady through the "Let's Move" campaign. We visit schools, churches, organizations. We really work as ambassadors for the campaign, but also for the idea of getting families healthier. Not just moving healthy, but also eating healthier. Kids respond well to the challenges in fun competition. We ask kids and their families to complete different types of activity goals over a certain period of time and they get a presidential award for it. We've found that to be very inspiring to kids.
And finally, what do you personally do to stay so fit?
Ian: I exercise a lot. I play a lot of sports. Basketball, golf, tennis. I like to use the gym to lift weights, and I use sports for my cardio. And I also run in the gym.


To chat with Dr. Ian Smith about your own weight loss or health questions, follow him on Twitter @doctoriansmith.

To connect with others on the SHRED program, check out the Shredder Nation support group on Facebook.

Or pick up his book, 'SHRED: The Revolutionary Diet,' at a bookstore near you.