James has a very unique way of speaking to his followers and members of the James Smith Academy that some may misconstrue as 'mean' – hence the Gordon Ramsay comparison – but in reality, the 31-year-old is simply trying to do his best to break through the noise of the fitness influencer space, and in doing so, you may hear a few harsh truths.
Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle, the Sunday Times bestseller said he was "flattered" by the Gordon comparisons, "He's obviously done incredibly well in his line of work. Being compared with someone who's very successful is always quite flattering."
He continued, "I suppose it's a bit of that passion without compromise and for that reason – if there's anyone I was going to be compared to – I'm glad it's him."
Hailing from the UK but living in Sydney's Bondi, James revealed the reason he decided to become a no BS PT, saying, "I think when it comes to coaching, I've been surrounded by coaching before in my life, where I've had rugby coaches over the years and if I think about it, the ones that I liked the most were the ones who never bulls****ed me.
"If I was to have a bad game or to be dropped and not see myself on the team sheet I don't want to be told, 'Oh, it's just a playing rotation.'"
"One of my favourite coaches said to me, 'You played like s**t at the weekend' and he was like, 'I can't believe you played so bad with your parents watching.'
"And it hurt and it stung, but I never turned up to training so early and I never trained so well after that. And I kind of thought I'm just going to be the coach that I would need if I was a bit younger. And it's kind of a persona I put on, I'm not actually always like that in real life."
And fans of James, especially those who listen to his podcast would know this – in reality, he's actually a very polite guy.
He explained that those who don't like his style but continue to follow him and comment on his posts are "still benefiting the cause".
"I like to remind people that when they comment a negative comment, it's actually bolstering my algorithm anyway. So I'm like 'Cheers for the comment!'"
"And even if someone doesn't enjoy the content then that's fine, it's not there to please everyone, that's not what I was set out to do and I don't take it personally to heart."
James’ least favourite fitness and diet fads
Something that he doesn't like so much? Fitness and diet fads that claim to be something they're not, as well as influencers selling supplements that realistically don't do anything.
"It's a tough one because some of the fads, they do work and they are effective, it's just the amount of weight you put behind them.
"So, the first one [that I hate] would be useless supplements like amino acids, exogenous ketones, which are very popular in mainstream social media and it's just washed up celebrities trying to make a few quid.
"Unfortunately, there's very gullible people who will believe anything that they're told on social media.
"So, useless supplementation is very frustrating, because that money could have been spend on education, an academy membership or whatever it is within that respect.
"And another thing is just people put too much weight behind certain protocols that work for them. Like the ketogenic diet, if I put anyone in a state of ketosis they'd definitely lose weight, because I've removed probably about 95 per cent of the foods that they f***ing enjoy eating!
"Or Michael Mosley's 800 calorie diet, 'Oh, wow, you're so f***ing smart, lets give you a Nobel Prize, because you told everyone to eat poverty calories,' and you're getting airtime for that? He's got a book, and I haven't read it but I don't know what the f*** is in the other 100 or 200 pages after he's like, 'Right, 800 calories for everyone.'
"Most people's dogs would lose weight on that amount of calories."
What are most people getting wrong at the gym?
Moving on to the gym, James revealed the thing he believes most people are getting wrong when training.
"They think that because they give an hour to the gym that that's their part done, but even if they go to the gym for an hour every day, there's still 23 hours outside of that. And people need to understand that the gym is the icing on the cake and they can't overlook the cake. Your problems aren't going away because you've exercised for an hour," he said.
"Because when you exercised for an hour, you're probably more inclined to go home and eat a bigger dinner, more inclined to skip taking the stairs at work, more inclined to get the bus when it's raining, all of these things.
"People need to understand that you need to walk before you run and so many people just go to the gym for an hour and they just expect every other discrepancy in their training and nutrition to just be creased out."
The only way to lose fat
Unsurprisingly, the question James gets asked most on social media is, "How do I lose fat?" To which he will usually respond, "Calorie f***ing deficit," – i.e. consuming less calories than you're burning.
The PT described it as being similar to "saving money", "So, you know, people can all save money at different speeds, everyone's got their own individual requirements and expenses or whatever.
"But when it comes to saving money, often people are sensible and they put away a small amount and they don't notice, but when it comes to dieting and calories, for some reason we can't have that same approach.
"Where we seem to think we need to be shovelling every single thing away that we can. And unfortunately that trades off your quality of life and people often have the exact same struggles with saving money that they do with calories, they just can't be sensible.
"And the biggest mistake is people either do too much, not enough, get too impatient – in a world where you can get something on Amazon on the same day – people don't want to wait three weeks to watch weight drop off them."
One thing James likes to tell his followers and Academy members is to multiply your calories by seven so you know your calories for the week and then allow yourself more calories during the weekend than you would during the rest of the week to allow yourself some flexibility and the ability to still enjoy yourself.
"I even enjoy people starting their calories on a Friday, so they can see and live through the damage that they have created and see what they're left with for the next week. And then if they're incredibly hungry during the week that they count calories or even if they don't hit it, that'll be what they need to make better choices on the weekend," he explained.
Mindset is everything
What James has set out to do in his books is help people change their mindset, because he believes that if you fix what's going on in someone's head, their body will follow after that.
"I think that's a very, very important thing, a lot of conversations I had on the gym floor surrounded people's lives outside the gym. Whether that's a toxic relationship, a job that doesn't motivate them, or even a job they don't like.
"I've come across for years – the reason I've written [Not A Life Coach] – is so many people have a job they hate and a relationship they're not getting anything from and I'm not surprised they come home and eat, because if I hated my job and hated my relationship I'd probably be a lot fatter than I am now.
"So, it's one of those things where telling people to eat less isn't enough, because getting in someone's head or getting someone to quit their job or pursuing a career they enjoy, or get rid of a toxic relationship or even moving back in with their parents can do so much for their mind and then the body will follow after that."
The three most important things to remember
When asked what three things James wanted to get through to his clients he responded:
1. "Make sure that they're setting an obtainable and achievable goal that's actually going to make them happy, not the people around them.
"You know, some people say, 'Oh, I want to run a marathon,' but they f***ing hate running. Or they say, 'I want a six-pack,' but they hate dieting. So, they need to have a good goal.
"Even when people say, 'I need to lose ten stone,' I say, 'Let's start off with one pound.'
2. "Enjoy your weekend, I feel like weekends give people a well-deserved break from the hustle during the week from a professional standpoint. So, it shouldn't be too much different from a calorie control or dieting standpoint.
3. "When it comes to training, always do a little bit too little than too much. Because the repercussions of doing too much in every area of our lives are always much worse than doing a little bit too little."
Not A Life Coach
Following on from Not A Diet Book, James' second book Not A Life Coach, includes advice on "overcoming fear of success, fear of failure, limiting believe, confidence, even dating advice".
He added, "It's something I couldn't put in a book that had 'Diet' on the cover."
James continued, "Book one, is very much my way of helping people from the head down – physique, myth busting – helping people lose fat. And all of the changes that you would get from that first book would be noticeable and be physical."
"But there were still a lot of conversations that I wanted to have with people, which lead me into book two, which was more about general life: professional life, relationships, anxiety, success, what real wealth is.
"Because ultimately, I want people to know that in life it's not about seeing who can die with the most money. Arguably earning half their salary but enjoying their life more is something that's perfectly viable and I'd like to think that I'm living proof of that as well.
"If you've got your life balance right, you don't have to be slogging it all the time, be in the best shape or anything like that. It's really about having these frank conversations with people about improving their life rather than their body."
Not A Life Coach is out on November 26 and Not A Diet Book is available now from all major book retailers. James is also going on a speaking tour around Australia in February 2021, find out more here.