When it comes to four-letter words, there is clearly one that Robert Ferguson believes is taboo -- DIET.
"Diets don't work. Healthful living and lifestyle changes work," said the author of Conquering the Munchie Monster. "What so many look for is a quick fix; but at the end of the day, they are less than successful because they don't believe they can be successful."
Ferguson, who owns the company Diet Free Life, has been helping people achieve weight loss through healthful living since 1998. A former U.S. Marine, he works with both the general population and celebrities. He also is a physical conditioning and nutrition specialist for professional boxers on Showtime®, HBO®, ESPN® and "The Contender."
One of Ferguson's goals is to bridge the gap within the African American community between knowing what is healthful and practicing what it knows. He conducts free live cooking demonstrations and fitness programs, and delivers motivational speeches in urban areas across the country.
Ferguson teaches people how to make their favorite recipes more healthful, and he shows his clients how to incorporate good health into their existing lifestyles with diet and fitness plans customized to meet each person's needs.
"There is a misconception that healthful living is boring, bland and difficult to maintain. But it really can be enjoyable, fun and easy," he said.
"Many people who want to be healthy feel like they have to walk away from their cultural identities," he added. "They have an all-or-nothing mindset: either eat bland and boring -- steamed broccoli and salmon -- or go back to eating fried chicken every day."
Friends and family often are the biggest stumbling blocks to living a healthful lifestyle. "There's an internal battle between being healthy and being accepted," Ferguson said. "People are always thinking about what they'll lose by upgrading their lifestyle with nutrition and fitness. When people start to eat healthfully, and all their friends and family continue to eat unhealthfully, they feel like they stand out."
But Ferguson believes that when healthful efforts are viewed as a lifestyle change rather than as a diet, individuals will become self-reliant and empowered -- and therefore experience long-term success. They also will set positive examples for those closest to them.
"I want to open eyes and minds to show that life can be lived and experienced differently without the word DIET," Ferguson said.