Tom Venuto Interview

We’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Tom Venuto.  Tom is a trainer, author, motivator, and entrepreneur who I’ve respected for quite a long time.  When I was in college, I was doing a lot of research in exercise science and nutrition.  When browsing the Internet, I couldn’t help but run into information about a book titled, “Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle” written by ‘some guy’ named Tom Venuto.  The book was in e-book format and the price was right.  With college life affording me a ton of free time, I decided to add it to my reading list.

I was not let down as I had been with a majority of my purchases from random websites in the past. Having a healthy dose of knowledge relating to the field (never enough mind you), I was very impressed with the amount of information Tom was able to cram into one book.  You certainly get your money’s worth.

I believe it to be one of the best books on the market for anyone interested in getting their feet wet and building a phenomenal foundation of knowledge to progress with. Tom was able to take a few complex subjects and put them together in a way that flowed perfectly.  What the book was for me at the time (and continues to be today) was a fantastic resource/tool to recommend to my clients who were motivated and eager to read and learn.  I like to say the book is a ‘snapshot’ of all things people should know when first starting out on their road to physique improvement.

There aren’t many authors and fitness professionals who earn my respect. Tom being one of them, I decided to write him a letter and send him a t-shirt from my gym.  Being the guy that he is, Tom immediately emailed me his phone number and personal email address and was willing to spend time with me on the telephone.  I always thought it was cool when I was at a dinner with some college friends and one of them asked if they had read a book called, “Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle.”  My response:  “Did I read it?!  Check this out…” as I showed them Tom’s name in my cell phone contact list.

Needless to say, Tom is a great guy with a ton of knowledge and experience.  I’m very excited to have this opportunity, so let’s get started.

 

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STEVE:  Tom, in case some of our readers aren’t familiar with you and your work, how about we hear an introduction?  Who is Tom Venuto?  What exactly do you do professionally and with your free time? Where can people find you on the Internet and where can they buy your products?

TOM: Thanks for the opportunity.

Well first and foremost I’m a natural bodybuilder and a health and fitness enthusiast. I picked up my first barbell when I was 14. I hit the big four-o not long ago, so that’s 26 years I’ve been training consistently. I’ve never taken more than one week of unplanned time off.  I did my first competition at age 20 and have competed 28 times as a drug-free-for life bodybuilder. I didn’t compete as often in my 30’s, but I’m not retired from competition by any stretch. In fact I’m very motivated to keep going because I’ve won quite a few state and regional titles, but not a natural national title or a natural pro card yet, so those are still goals of mine. Even though you have to admit it’s kind of a wacky sport in some respects, bodybuilding is one of the things I’ve been passionate about my entire life and I jumped when I had the opportunity to make fitness a career.

In my sophomore year of college, I think that was 1988, my school offered a brand new major in adult health and fitness, which later became their exercise science department. So I switched majors (from business management) and after I got my degree I went straight to work in health clubs as a personal trainer. I worked for small clubs in rural Pennsylvania for a while, and I loved it, but opportunity was limited, so I moved to New Jersey and went to work for Gold’s Gym as a trainer and Nutritionalysis technician – which later became APEX.

I ended up coming back to Pennsylvania and continued personal training, but also got my feet wet in managing gyms and I started my own 12 week fat loss coaching program. This was long before the 12 week transformation contests became popular.  With these coaching programs, I became more than a trainer, I was an accountability and motivation coach as well. I kept this up for a few years and was heavily into competing – usually twice a year at that point. But eventually I decided to move back to New Jersey, this time near New York because I wanted the city experience and a place with more opportunity. I took a job offer as a trainer and health club manager and did that gig for 10 years.

In 2004, I completely shifted gears – all because of the Internet. I got online in 1998 with my first email account and internet access. By 1999 I had my first website up, called Fitness Renaissance, which later became www.tomvenuto.com.  I immediately started offering an online version of my 12 week coaching program. I was booked constantly with a waiting list, so I figured I would take my nutrition manual that came with my coaching program and turn it into a book so I could help more people. I first published that in 2002, and in 2003, I released it online as an ebook, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle.

Within one year, Burn The Fat and the 12-week coaching program were going so well, I resigned from the health club and personal training business and went full time as an online publisher, writer and coach. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve written for the bodybuilding magazines like IRONMAN and recently started writing for Men’s Fitness magazine. I published a second book, this time in hardcover with Avery/Penguin, a New York City Publisher, called The Body Fat Solution in January 2009, and I have about a dozen fitness related websites – the major ones where you can find me are www.BurnTheFat.com which is the original site of the Burn The Fat Ebook since 2003, there’s my blog at www.BurnTheFatBlog.com and in 2006 we launched our fat loss support community at www.BurnTheFatInnerCircle.com and we’ve had almost 9,000 people join us there since it opened.

You asked what I do in my free time. Well, compared to you, I guess nothing exciting like climbing mountains. I suppose I don’t really have much free time. But what I do for business and pleasure mix together so it’s hard to tell the two apart. I’d say my #1 leisure activity is reading; I own more than 2,700 books, which took me about 20 years to collect. Even if I’m on the beach or traveling, I always have books with me – plus my new kindle! I spend a lot of time doing research and writing and also building and maintaining websites – each of my major sites is almost like a full time job in itself these days. I’ve also been revising and updating Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle for re-release as Burn The Fat 2.0, and this fall and early into next year we’re going to be expanding the Burn The Fat companies into Europe and then the Spanish speaking countries. We’re also getting ready to re-launch new Burn The Fat coaching programs for January.  I definitely have my hands full.

STEVE:  Thanks for the thorough response Tom.  What’s interesting to me is I hadn’t realized you trained in rural Pennsylvania.  That’s where Body-Improvements is located, however we’re not terribly far from Philadelphia so we’re not completely “in the sticks.”

You’ve had quite the career – it’s certainly one I respect.  What’s obvious is fitness consulting/education is a passion to you and that shines through in your work.  I’m very happy to hear you’ll be releasing a revised version of BFFM and expanding the availability of it to other languages/countries.  The messages delivered through your writing can sincerely help folks.  The marketplace is saturated with “fitness professionals” and with this saturation, unfortunately, came a dilution in the quality of professionalism in my opinion.  I’m thankful for guys like you who maintain integrity and put out great products.

Speaking of books, I share in your passion for reading.  In fact, on the Body-Improvements forum we have a sub-forum specifically for book reviews and recommendations.  I don’t have quite as large a collection as you… but as you said, you recently turned the big four-o so you’ve had a few more years to collect.

Let’s hear from you about the two books you authored, “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle,” and “The Body Fat Solution.”  I’ve read both and can’t say enough about them.  They’re both highlighted on my forum with a heavy buy recommendation.  They provide the perfect blend of information, motivation, and logic that so many people are in dire need of.  And what’s nice about them is they’re very complimentary of one another.  Would you please give us the executive summary of each, so our readers have a better idea of what they’re getting when the purchase these books?

Also, what is the Burn the Fat Inner Circle all about?

And lastly, can you provide the details regarding what we can expect from you in the future in terms of products or services?

TOM: Thanks for the compliments. I appreciate it. Well first, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM), that is my downloadable ebook that you can get from www.burnthefat.com. It was written to be a definitive guide to fat loss, based on the bodybuilding / fitness/ figure method of eating.

The majority of BFFM is devoted to nutrition, with ancillary chapters on setting goals, charting progress, weight training and cardio, with the training guidelines using the bodybuilding methodology.

The target audience for BFFM is NOT just physique athletes though. It’s for anyone who is highly motivated and serious about fat loss. BFFM is for people who want to maximize their results by working hard, paying attention to details, using advanced techniques (such as those used by bodybuilders before competition), and doing nutrition by the numbers (counting calories and macros).

BFFM is especially for people who are detail-oriented and who enjoy or need structure. I guess that’s why engineers, accountants and other analytical types like it so much.

My new book, The Body Fat Solution is a hardcover published by Penguin/Avery and that’s available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or any of the major bookstores. It is similar in principle to BFFM, but I wrote it for a different audience. The Body Fat Solution is for anyone who is overweight, or who was formerly overweight and who wants to maintain their ideal weight.

The Body Fat Solution wasn’t intended for athletes, bodybuilders or people who need to get “ripped” or reach extremes of low body fat. It’s more for people who struggle with inconsistent motivation, emotional eating, binge eating and other forms of self sabotage.

The Body Fat Solution gives help to people with everyday challenges – like frequent travel, restaurant temptations, busy schedules, high stress and social pressure – things that can still get in the way even if you have a great nutrition or training strategy.

In The Body Fat Solution, there’s one concise chapter on nutrition along with chapters on cardio training and a time-efficient weight training program for the busy person, which makes The Body fat Solution a complete lifestyle program. I give more general guidelines in this book rather than formulas and rigid structure.

The major message is that the most important question is not “What diet should you follow” but “What makes you follow your diet?” Basically, I explain that we don’t have a weight loss problem today, we have a weight maintenance problem. We have a compliance problem. So a complete solution has to get at the psychological root causes of obesity and teach how to fix all the mental and emotional factors that sabotage most people.

The Burn The Fat Inner Circle is our member’s only support community for both of my books and for anyone else on the fat loss journey. Since we’re a support and accountability site, we have very active member forums, and I’m on the forums answering questions almost every day. But the inner circle is a lot more than discussion boards; it’s also a continuing education center.

My goal for the inner circle has always been to create a knowledge resource where all the educational materials are totally science based and meticulously researched and referenced, so we’d build a reputation as the place to go for accurate and honest health and fitness advice.  I want our members to be able to come in the inner circle, ask questions and be absolutely certain that the answers are accurate. Like you were saying, so many websites today make you wonder about the quality, integrity or conflicts of interest.  We’re 100% free of advertisements, product sponsorships or commercial bias of any kind.

The resources have really grown since we opened in 2006. We have almost two dozen departments including audio MP3s, recipes and cooking, psychology and motivation, science-based supplement reviews, success story interviews, articles, Q & A columns, a download library, nutrition tools and calculators and lot of other resources.

As for what’s new; As soon as Burn The Fat 2.0 is finished, we’re going to be putting it into audio, and possibly in more than one format, like a complete unabridged audio book and also a shorter audio seminar. We plan to release that at the same time as Burn The Fat 2.0 comes out. Then the next big thing is Burn The Fat coaching. Coaching was my primary business for a long time and I’m really looking forward to getting involved again and working with clients one on one and in group coaching, so we’ve been planning that for months now as a whole new arm of the company and I’m really excited about that.

STEVE:  Thanks for the run-down, Tom.  I have two follow-up questions:

1) What can we expect in terms of updates and revisions in BFFM 2.0?

2) I’m very excited to see what you have planned for Burn The Fat coaching.  Will this be Internet based?

TOM: As for the first question, an update is long overdue, so there are some sections that I need to bring literally, up to date, based on things that have occurred since the first publication of the book. For example, labeling laws that changed, products that have been taken off the market, new research that shed new light on various topics and so on.

I’m going to be adding some additional tables and charts to the appendix for the sake of improving the book as a reference guide.  I’ve also been editing the new edition meticulously for overall clarity as well as scientific accuracy.

Also, the Burn The Fat 2.0 update is going to release the revised ebook as part of a new package which includes bonuses and ancillary materials like recipes and meal plans that really make this a total package – not even just an “ebook” anymore but a total fat loss system.

As for the second question, it’s going to be internet based and phone / teleseminar based. It will be mostly groups, but I may do some small groups or even individual coaching for select clients so there will be several coaching options to choose from.

STEVE:  We’ll be looking forward to your upcoming releases. Let’s delve into the meat of the interview, shall we?

I’ve always worked with the notion you can’t help those who aren’t interested in helping themselves.  That said, I don’t believe it to be an on/off switch.  With the right push and guidance, I believe you can “lure” someone in a direction they otherwise wouldn’t have been ready for.

The science and application behind fat loss are easy.  Getting clients to develop consistency is another matter, though.  What are some of your “secrets” when it comes to helping clients reach a point where they’re truly ready to make the necessary lifestyle changes on a consistent basis?

Let me couch this question by saying it’s obviously a dynamic issue.  Some have problems with consistency because they’re misinformed or misguided by all the mysticism that tends to plague this industry.  Others have problems with consistency because their belief system is skewed from past experiences.  Others might have poorly constructed goals — no emotionally-charged, worthy reason in mind to put forth the effort.  I’m sure we could rattle off a dozen or so causes.

I’d like to leave the question open, however, so I don’t limit your thoughts on the subject.

TOM: Most people won’t change until the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.

I’ve seen in the psychology journals the same as I’ve seen in practice: Unfortunately, it usually takes a rock bottom experience for the average person to change their unhealthy ways.  Very unfortunately, for some that rock bottom experience is death, and we both know I’m not being overly dramatic. A fatal heart attack has cut many a life short and this and other diseases may have been preventable if that person had taken action sooner.

I agree with you that you can “lure” a person in the right direction and that can happen in a variety of ways — for example, they see someone ELSE hit rock bottom, and that person is close enough to them, that it’s the wakeup call they need.

Or, they might see a positive example of what they could become in the form of someone else who has gone from fat to fit, unhealthy to healthy, and so they now have a positive role model.

Beliefs are very powerful; if someone believes they will never lose weight they won’t even attempt to change. When they see someone else just like them has done it, they now believe they can do it too. The proof is right in front of them.

I think we can also “lure” a person with any other type of inspiration that allows them to see their future potential.  That’s how you can create burning desire in yourself and others – with the conscious recognition of the gap between what you are now and what you are capable of becoming.

So if you want to inspire people and lead them or lure them into a healthier fitter lifestyle, what we need to do is awaken them to their highest potential and give them some positive role models, not just a diet or workout plan. Not only can this get someone to start, the recognition of an idealized self and of future potential can provide the consistency to keep going.

STEVE:  I certainly agree.  Most people in my experience know they want to lose weight but they haven’t actually spent the time to do any “mental accounting.”  If you’re going to start a new business, I’d be willing to wager you wouldn’t jump in by quitting your current job and investing all of your savings without putting serious thought into the endeavor.  You’d weigh the risk/reward profile, the competition, the marketplace, the responsibilities and time commitments, etc.

Fat loss is really no different.  Done correctly, what you’re doing is signing up for a lifelong commitment to adopting and practicing habits that manage your weight and health forever.  That’s assuming you’re interested in comfortably managing your weight and health for the remainder of your life.  Outside of a few instances (weight classes in sport, special occasions such as weddings, etc) I don’t see why anyone would want a temporary fix.  You wouldn’t fix a leaking pipe with duck-tape and expect it to work forever, would you?

That said, in my opinion, this isn’t an acute decision.  If you wake up and decide to lose weight one day and that’s the extent of the effort you put into mental planning… your will and drive is going to be weak and short-lived.  For my clients, finding ways to build accountability (to themselves, me, loved ones, society, etc) as well as finding ways to have them put things in a “healthy” perspective on a very consistent basis is the name of the game.

For instance, I think many personal trainers miss the boat by simply not taking advantage of emailing their clients each day.  It’s such a simplistic idea but I truly believe you get a lot of mileage out of it.

If you could list a few specific concepts you’ve used successfully with your clients to help them become more aware of their potential and the realness of their ability to manage their weight successfully, that would be great.  I’m looking for concepts people can use today to help conjure up the emotional intensity required to make this a lifetime “thing” opposed to a 3-month “thing.”

Also, looking back over your career, can you think of one client who provided you the biggest challenge? I think as trainers, we’ve all had those clients who we simply couldn’t reach to any significant degree.  Can you remember the one who you thought you’d never reach but ended up surprising you?  If so, how did you breakthrough his/her barriers?

TOM: Again, having role models is important. If you think something is impossible, you’re not even going to attempt it or you’ll try but you’ll be filled with doubts. When you see someone else has achieved it, and they’re just like you, then your excuses are gone because you know it’s possible. So you should always be on the lookout for inspirational stories and role models.

If doubts pop up, instead of mulling over them or contemplating what’s not possible or why something is not possible, I go out looking for examples of what is possible, and how it’s possible, and you almost always find what you’re looking for in life. I recently blogged about a 74-year old bodybuilder who won the Japanese masters championships and his body could pass for a 30 year olds and I said to my readers, Ok now what’s your excuse? Too old? I don’t think so.

Another important concept is building belief in your own ability. It’s one thing to see that someone else has done it, but you also need to know that you can do it yourself. I’ve given clients role models they could emulate by showing them success stories, and they still insisted, “Well they can do it, but I can’t.”   But that’s only because they didn’t have any proof to support their belief in themselves. You strengthen or build belief by putting legs of support underneath, like legs of a table. The more evidence you have holding up a belief, the stronger it will be.

One way to do that is to start collecting small victories. You set the big goal, but then you set it aside temporarily and put your focus on the small short term goals. This can start with simple little things you know you can easily achieve, like one perfect day of eating, then two, then three, or hitting all your workouts every day for a week. It could be setting a new personal record on just one exercise, or hitting your body fat and weight goal for just one week.  Then you write all these achieved goals in a victory journal. With each achieved goal, you raise the bar a little more for the next one; a new PR, a longer streak, a 1 month body fat goal achieved and so on.

Basically, it’s just taking baby steps – but it’s more than that – it’s collecting successes, so in the future you’ll have a successful personal history to draw on. Before long, you have a whole victory journal full of achieved goals, and it’s always an instant confidence and motivation boost looking back at your personal records and seeing how far you’ve come. As you start gaining confidence then you find yourself starting to set bigger goals that you’re not quite sure you can achieve yet, but at that point, with a growing track record of success, now you have the confidence to try it.

With regards to your question asking about the one client who surprised me…

Obviously, most people hit plateaus or have personal crises at times and breaking through is just a matter of positive attitude and perseverance combined with knowing how to troubleshoot and tweak programs.  I handle that with a weekly accountability, progress tracking and feedback loop system which is built right into my programs.

But I don’t think I’ve had many clients that I couldn’t reach. I guess that’s probably because I screened them out so to speak. I’ve never advertised my programs as a quick fix, in fact quite the opposite – I always emphasized hard work – so I think I attracted a certain type of person who was intrinsically more motivated than your average Joe.  I also laid down ground rules right from day one and pre-screened people before I’d take them as a coaching client.

I even had them sign a commitment contract and they started from day one knowing the rules of engagement; They’ll let the past go and look to the future, they’ll raise their standards, I’ll push them, I’ll give them feedback, they’ll give me feedback, we’ll be honest with each other, they’ll make ALL their appointments, they’ll work hard, they’ll always give me their best and they’ll take responsibility for their results. And of course, there’s no excuses, no whining, no quitting.

STEVE:  I love the ideas of a success/victory journal and a commitment contract.  I’m a huge advocate of focusing more heavily on behavior accomplishments than the standard, objective measurments such as body fat percentage, weigth, etc with my clients.  This is obvious a complex subject and there aren’t answers that apply to everyone.  Rather than dragging this out for days, let’s stop this part of the interview here.  Early next week we’ll pick up with your thoughts on food addiction, your affiliate program, and much more.

Moving on to the next topic, what are your thoughts on food addiction?  I know there’s a lot of research coming out on this subject plus many authors are writing about it nowadays.  Foods certainly elicit neurochemical responses in the brain similar to addictive substances such as drugs and alcohol.  Is food addiction real or just another copout?  How do you know if you’re addicted to food or simply lack self-control?  If someone really is addicted to food, what’s your ideas pertaining to breaking the addiction?

TOM: This subject is getting tons of press lately. I think it’s partly, as you mentioned, because of new books like David Kessler’s The End of Overeating, on top off all those earlier books about sugar or carb addiction.   The headlines asking whether junk food is as addictive as heroin also make for a sensational story and increased readership.

I don’t believe that food is addictive in the same sense that drugs are addictive, but there are some parallels. People have been claiming for years that sugar is addictive based on brain neurochemistry, but scientists are really only just starting to study it in the lab. Even if the way some people consume sugar or junk food meets some of the diagnostic criteria for addiction, I don’t think its beneficial to perpetuate this idea, because once you get people repeating “I’m addicted to food” or “I’m a food addict” that alone can influence their behavior. It also encourages people to buck responsibility, kind of like the people who play the “genetics are keeping me fat” card.

But I do believe that regularly eating certain foods might lead to addictive-like behaviors and increased consumption. The foods craved most often and the ones implicated as addictive are fatty, sugary and salty foods. Coincidentally, that’s what makes food highly palatable and energy dense. It tastes good and is easy to eat a lot of it, so there’s your proposed food addition-obesity link.   The new research is showing that there’s definitely something going on chemically and neurologically with dopamine, opiods and the reward and pleasure system of the brain when sugary or sugary and fatty foods are eaten, but there’s also research that says you can fairly easily control food cravings and control calorie consumption with behavioral and psychological restraint strategies.

I’d suggest not using the phrase food addiction and instead stick with describing the wanting of certain foods as cravings, if for no other reasons than to psychologically downplay the significance and strength of that wanting. You also need to learn and develop a set of strategies for what to do when you feel a craving and understand that you don’t have to give in to it. Part of that is having some rules about how flexible you’ll be in your approach. With only a few exceptions, allowing yourself to give in to your cravings is more effective than total abstinence. That usually means having a certain number of free meals each week or a compliance rule. If you’re susceptible to cravings, it also pays to avoid overly restrictive diets in favor of the slow, steady, moderate approach to weight loss.

Controlling your environment by removing as many triggers and eating cues as possible, controlling stress and setting up a social support system can help a lot.  I also recommend borrowing some techniques from cognitive psychology so you know what to say to yourself when you get cravings (you can literally talk yourself out of eating – and by the way, this is what separates us from rats so we should be careful not to read too much into all the rodent research that keeps getting quoted in all these scare stories). There are biological origins of food cravings so you shouldn’t feel weak or guilty about wanting certain foods – it only means you’re human. But what really matters is how you respond to them.

STEVE:  Wise words, Tom.  Perception is a powerful factor with all things in life, and weight loss is certainly no different.  If you’re going to perceive weight loss as impossible because of an addiction (or genetics as you mentioned) the chance that you’re actually going to put forth the level and consistency of effort required for lasting change is next to nil.

Shifting gears…

I’m hesitant to ask this question seeing as how I do have great respect for you as a person and as a professional.  I belong to a number of large Internet forums centered around weight loss.  I moderate a few of them as well as own/run my own.  Invariably, almost daily, I come across someone posting an affiliate link to your BFFM book.

Seeing as how most of these individuals are new to the communities and have no other posts, coupled with the fact that you can see the redirect when you click on their link, it’s obvious that these individuals are solely interested in making a buck.  This sort of behavior isn’t respected nor is it tolerated on most of these forums I belong to and I can’t help but wonder if there’s a better way of screening your affiliates.

I understand that there is power in numbers and if a small percentage of a larger population is greater than a large percentage of a smaller population in terms of affiliates, you “win” the sales race.  In my mind though, this sort of pattern works to cheapen the BFFM book which is a real shame since I think it’s in the top tier of worthy products out there.  I know I’ve promoted the product many, many times but not before having the respect and trust of a community.  Any commentary with regards to this?  Feel free to say, “Steve, shut up and let me run my business how I know best.”

TOM: Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFFM) is a downloadable ebook which means it’s strictly an internet product. That may change in the future as more than one major New York publishing house had expressed interest in getting the rights to a hard cover edition. With hard covers, the major publishing houses can get distribution in all the major bookstores. We’ll have to see what happens regarding a hard cover edition, but in the meantime, since BFFM is still an ebook, one of the best ways to get distribution is through affiliate networks. It’s a fabulous business model for the internet and the self-published ebook author.

Unfortunately, some affiliates break the rules because it casts a shadow on affiliate marketing and sometimes even on the product and author the affiliate is trying to help promote. Posting advertising, including affiliate links is against the rules of most forums. It’s considered spam. If it’s against forum rules, it’s against our affiliate rules and we don’t condone it. But it’s like a lot of other business and intellectual property issues on the internet, it is impossible to prevent abuses; all we can do is take action after we find out about it.

How we deal with it is simple. Our affiliate network has an affiliate agreement with many rules. If an affiliate breaks the rules and I find out about it, I file a complaint, the complaint is investigated and if it’s confirmed that the affiliate agreement was broken, the affiliate can be terminated. That’s all there is to it.  I have already terminated numerous affiliates.

There is a way to screen affiliates and preempt this kind of stuff to some degree and that’s to use your own affiliate program rather than a third party network. This lets you take affiliates by application only, and that’s what we are currently doing with our Burn The Fat Inner Circle. Not only do we have an affiliate agreement with rules and terms of service, we don’t even let anyone in unless they apply and get our approval.

STEVE:  Fair enough.  I’m sure abuses of affiliate marketing are widespread with all digital media and the fact that BFFM is tremendously popular magnifies and increases the incidents of abuse associated with it.

Moving on…

Knowledge is power.  Especially in the weight loss arena where there are so many “evil powers” vying to separate ignorant consumers from their money.  Resources like your blog, websites, and books certainly work to disperse sound information and promote knowledge.  On top of tools like these, what advice would you offer to the novice consumer looking to improve his or her ability to dissect information?  Without exposure to research methodology, a critical mind, and access to a research database, it can be quite tricky to separate the quality information from the nonsense.

TOM: My number one piece of advice is to develop an appreciation for science and to do some reading on the basic tenets of the scientific method, including how research is performed and how to interpret research. There are entire books on how to read a study. Read some good books about science. Try The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan.

Second, you should study and practice critical thinking. Learn about all the logical fallacies and learn how to form a coherent argument and to intelligently debate – not in an argumentative sense, but in the sense that both sides come out with more clarity on an issue and an appreciation for alternative points of view which may be valid but not in line with your personal belief systems.

Third, read some books about skepticism. Michael Shermer is a good place to start and Gilovich’s How We Know What Isn’t So is another good one. I don’t go too deep though, because I think that skepticism can be taken so far that it begins to limit creative thinking and close you off to new possibilities.

Once you’ve developed a scientific and critical thinking process, then it’s VERY easy to make sense of news, research and advertising.

STEVE:  I can’t say enough about Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World.  It’s a fantastic and fun read that I highly recommend to everyone.  On the logic front, for those who haven’t been exposed to logic in a formal setting, I’d suggest picking up Introduction to Logic by Irving Copi and Carl Cohen.

Unfortunately in this day and age it seems a critical mind is comdemned and because of this, rational thought is thrown out the window in favor of appeals to authority and the like.

Next question:  Who were the top influences in your success as a bodybuilder and as a fitness professional?

TOM: Arnold Schwarzenegger was my earliest inspiration to start bodybuilding and remained so for many years. I still have great respect for Arnold’s achievements and he was as much an inspiration to me to become personally and financially successful as he was for me to be successful in bodybuilding.

When I learned about some of the things that really go on in professional bodybuilding, I later started following the natural circuit and was influenced the natural guys like Ron Coleman (the OTHER ron coleman), Skip Lacour, Chris Faildo, Dave Goodin, Jon Harris, Jim Cordova and basically all the guys who were top contenders at the NPC Team Universe and in the WNBF natural federation. I followed their careers and paid the most attention to what these guys said or wrote and not so much what the IFBB guys were doing – for obvious reasons.

In bodybuilding, I was also turned on to Vince Gironda’s teachings very early on – way back in the 1980’s and devoured all his materials. I didn’t’ subscribe to all his methods, but he was clearly ahead of his time and he influenced my training philosophies almost from day one. I also appreciated the fact that he was one of the few top bodybuilding trainers who was – very vocally – against steroids.

In terms of influences on my fitness career, there are a lot of people doing great work today in helping fitness professionals succeed that I could mention, but the people who influenced me the most in every area of my life, fitness career included, were the giants in the personal development industry – all of them, but especially Brian Tracy, Bob Proctor, Mark Victor Hansen, Jack Canfield, Denis Waitley, Tom Hopkins, Wayne Dyer, Steven Covey, Anthony Robbins and the late Jim Rohn, who sadly, just passed away.

STEVE:  It’s a given that Arnold influenced most of us when we were younger.  He was a focal point in not only bodybuilding, but also the media.  He helped shine the spotlight on building muscle.  I wonder if many people would have skipped past bodybuilding or fitness had Arnold not popped onto the scene.

What are the last 5 books you’ve read?

TOM: 1)  A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring by John Wooden

2)  Crush It: Cash in on Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk

3)  Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

4)  The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

5)  Steroid Nation by Shaun Assael

STEVE:  Any final words?

TOM: Just thank you!

 

 

 

STEVE:  You’re welcome, Tom.  Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with Body-Improvements.   We wish you nothing but success in the coming year and look forward to your upcoming projects.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Morrie July 28, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Woot, I will certinaly put this to good use!

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