1. My guest today is John Barban, author the Venus Index and the Anything Goes diet. I’ve wanted to do an interview with John for a while now and I’m glad we finally managed to connect. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, John.
For those readers who are not familiar with your work, tell us a little about yourself and your experience in nutrition and fitness.
John Barban: I did a masters degree in human biology and nutrition and I worked in the supplement industry for the past 10 years developing sports supplements for muscle building and weight loss. I’ve worked for some supplement companies your readers might be aware of like muscletech (their most famous product is hydroxycut) and NXLabs (their most famous product is Slimquick…a weight loss supplement for women)…from there I’ve consulted with smaller start up companies developing their product lines.
I’ve got all the standard personal training certificates from ACE (American Council on Exercise) and the CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist) from the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association)…and I taught the prep course for the CSCS exam when I was teaching at the University of Florida. But I don’t put too much stock in any of these certificates as most of them can be obtained without any hands on experience in the gym.
I was also a varsity strength and conditioning coach for 3 years for the womens hockey team at the university of guelph.
2. I’ll begin with some questions about the Venus Index program. In the program you talk about physical ratios that the female body needs to have. What are these ratios and why are they important?
The ratios themselves are based on your individual height. So we teach women to shoot for a specific height to waist ratio, and from there we have a specific shoulder calculation to hit based on the waist. The hip ratio is a bit more of a range as each womans genetics will have a bigger impact on what her ideal hips will be.
Also the research we have done indicates that the hip measurement doesn’t have as much impact as the waist and shoulder measurement.
We recommend a waist that is 0.382 x height, and shoulders that are 1.618 times the ideal waist, and finally the middle range of the hip measurement is around 1.42 x idea waist (but again the hip measurement is a range and not a spot on number).
3. Why do women need strength training to get to those ratios, isn’t cardio enough?
John Barban: Traditional “Cardio” cannot build or shape muscle the way weight training can. Also as women try to lose weight in order to bring their waist and hips/butt/leg area down they can tend to lose too much shape and muscle on their upper bodies, and they can end up with an overly ‘skinny’ upper body while they’re trying to tighten and firm up their lower body.
The muscles of the upper back, chest and shoulders all contribute to the shoulder measurement inflection point and bring the upper body into balance with the lower body. If a woman wants to get close to her ideal Venus Index ratios she will have to work on her upper body and lower body in balance. Cardio cannot do this as it does not specifically develop muscles in a targeted way the way that weight training can do.
4. Many women are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky. Can this happen with the Venus Index workouts?
John Barban: Weight training will not ‘bulk’ up a womans body because they don’t have enough testosterone to make that happen. Even guys who try like crazy to build muscle find it difficult to really build a lot of muscle. The concept of ‘bulking’ is a misplaced fear of being big all over. If you’re lean and muscular your figure will show through. On the other hand if you’ve got some fat to get rid of, building the muscle underneath that fat will just make that area of your body bigger.
The reality is that even the most muscular women are still feminine looking as long as they are lean. The difference between looking ‘bulky’ or not has nothing to do with muscle and everything to do with having too much bodyfat. It’s kind of the same concept as being ‘skinny fat’. Dieting and endless cardio without ever doing some weight training will just leave you looking skinny and weak vs toned and shapely. There might be a few people with favorable genetics that allow them to have a great figure without lifting a weight, but most women can build a great shape with a targeted weight training program. Obviously I’m biased and I think that shape is the ideal Venus Index.
5. What are some of the workout mistakes that prevent women from getting to the VI ratios?
John Barban: The biggest mistake I see women making is doing too much “Ab” training and no weights for the rest of their body. It’s the typical “cardio and abs” workout. This is a big mistake if you’re actually concerned about your overall shape and creating your best looking figure.
Working out on your abs too much will just make that area of your body bigger, a blocky looking (like a vertical rectangle), and yes that means your waist measurement will get bigger not smaller. And cardio doesn’t build or shape muscles. Yes cardio is good for overall health, but it can’t shape your body. And let’s face it, we all workout for a better looking body as well as the health benefit. The key focal points for a great feminine figure is creating the illusion of a smaller waist compared to the shoulders and hips. Doing all ab and cardio work without doing weight training on the upper and lower body will have the reverse effect making the waist look bigger.
I tell most women to back off on the amount of abs they’re doing and start training their upper and lower body in balance and their shape immediately starts to improve. But it’s hard because so many women are really attached to the idea of doing lots of ab training and lots of cardio.
6. The nutrition part of the Venus Index is a Body-Centric eating method. What does body-centric eating mean and how is it different from other eating plans?
John Barban: Body-centric eating makes your body shape the focus and goal of your diet and not weight, or the food itself. So many other programs get caught up in measuring bodyweight, or the exact types of food and meal patterns that they lose sight of the original goal, and that goal is to build your best looking body. Having a great looking body isn’t defined by a specific weight, but rather a specific shape. You could easily set a ‘goal weight’ and get there and still not be happy with the look of your body.
So body centric eating uses your goal body shape as your guide on forming your diet.
7. Let’s talk about the Anything Goes Diet. What made you create this program?
John Barban: I created AGD (thats short for Anything Goes Diet) because the rest of the diet and fitness marketing world has been leading people on a wild goose chase when it comes to dieting.
People are being sold a ridiculous list of impossible dieting ‘rules’ that have no basis in science. It’s almost all entirely marketing BS and hype. And so many people have been taken advantage of and simply been suckered into buying fad diets that are impossible to follow. Sure some of them produce results but with way more work that is necessary and most of them are unsustainable.
AGD is my answer for weight loss in the simplest way possible while still allowing people to eat foods they like. I give people just what they need to lose weight quickly and efficiently without making them jump through hoops and flip their life upside down the way so many other fad diets do.
8. In your program you claim that there are no “bad” foods, can you really eat anything you like on the AGD plan?
John Barban: Yes you can. I can’t tell you what foods will work or won’t work in your life for your weight loss. Everyone eats so differently that it would be foolish to tell people there is one perfect way to eat to lose weight. People from different parts of the world will have different foods available to them but it doesn’t mean they can’t lose weight. People also have the foods they like to eat and are familiar with, they know how to cook certain foods and have foods that fit with their lifestyle and there’s no reason to change these foods in order to lose weight.
As long as you are in control of the total amount of calories you’re eating you can eat all kinds of different foods and still lose weight. This is how I did it and it’s how I teach all of my clients to do it and everyone is having great success and they feel very relieved that free this way.
9. If you don’t restrict any food, how do people lose weight?
John Barban: The only way people lose weight is by eating less total calories than you burn, this is a fundamental principle of energy balance that isn’t up for debate and there is good scientific proof that all diets that produce weight loss do it by creating a calorie deficit…but it doesn’t matter what foods you choose to eat to get there. There have been a few landmark studies comparing a low carb diet, with a zone style diet to a low fat diet and an intermittent fasting diet…after 6 months everyone lost the same amount of weight, and the only consisting thing across the diets was the total amount of calories everyone ate. So it really doesn’t matter what you eat, all that matters is how much you eat.
10. How does the Anything Goes Diet help people avoid yo-yo dieting?
John Barban: AGD helps people avoid yo-yo dieting because you still get to eat the foods you’re used to eating, this means you’re not straying too far from your regular pattern and you never really feel deprived. Most other diets have a big list of things you’re not allowed to eat, and this leads to feelings of deprivation and it doesn’t teach you to handle eating your regular favorite foods.
Yo-yo dieting is usually a result of too much restriction of too many foods and totally revamping your daily eating patterns into something that is way outside of your comfort zone. Sure you might be able to stick it out for a few weeks or months, but as soon as you’ve lost the weight you have no idea how to go back to eating your regular foods without overdoing it. AGD works with your life and your foods and your daily eating patterns so the diet fits into your life instead of making your overhaul your life to fit into the diet.
11. In your program you talk about meal timing and meal frequency. Do these play any part in the diet?
John Barban: No, there is no meal timing and no rule about frequency. I think forcing people into a meal pattern that doesn’t fit their life is one of the biggest mistakes and cause people to yo-yo and fail on a diet. Also it would be naive for me to assume everyone’s life is so similar that they can eat exactly how I do or someone else does. Some people like to eat breakfast so they can do that, other people just don’t like to eat breakfast and that’s fine too. My system doesn’t tell you when to eat, but it’ll show you how to lose weight eating when you already like to eat.
The more the diet can fit into your regular routine the higher chance you have to succeed, the more changes and rules and restrictions that are placed on your eating patterns the greater the chance you will give up. I’m just trying to make dieting as simple as possible for people and one of the main things is that you can eat when you like.
12. You say that calorie counting doesn’t work and that it’s better to “guess” your calories. How does this guessing work and why is it better than counting?
John Barban: Most people who do calorie counting try to be too precise, but my experience developing supplements has shown me that food labels are never as precise as you think. Even if you read all of your labels and weigh all of your food you still can never be sure if the amount of calories you calculated are really in the food you’ve eaten. I teach people a way to guess that ensures you’re never missing on your weekly calories and the amount of food you can eat to ensure you lose weight.
After a few weeks on my system people get really used to how much they can eat no matter what situation they’re in and they can be confident that they’re still going to hit their weight loss goal.
14. Can the Anything Goes Diet and the Venus Index program be used together?
John Barban: Absolutely, lots of the women using the Venus Index are also using AGD. They were designed to fit together and the body centric eating guide fits with the principles of AGD. Since I built both systems I purposely made them compatible with each other.
15. Now that VI and AGD are complete and people are already seeing results with them, what have you got planned for the future?
John Barban: Venus Index will be getting new specialization workouts for specific muscle groups including back, chest, arms, legs, shoulders and…booty (some of the girls in our online community were asking for this last one so it’s gotta go in there!)
Over the course of the year as new insights, research, and issues come up we will add them into AGD (but only if they make the weight loss process simpler, easier or faster). The system will constantly evolve and improve over time and anyone who currently has it will automatically get the new updated version.
Thanks for the interview, John.