Rapper David Banner is originally from Mississippi (he's got the state tattooed across his back), and he grew up eating lots of comfort foods. After ballooning to more than 255 lbs, his eating habits and (non-existent) workout routine had put his health at serious risk. We spoke Banner for our February 2009 issue, and learned a bit about how he decided to finally drop the weight.
We saw an old interview you did, where you explained that you tried to lose weight, not to get girls or to look better, but because you had health concerns. Can you talk a little about that?
I had high blood pressure, really high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and I was really close to diabetes. And the doctor was like, "that's a deadly combination." The doctor said, "you really gotta' get it together." I just took it as a challenge. After I did an interview with allhiphop.com, I had so many young black and Latino people come to me to say, "dude, I'm in the same situation." So, I really took it as an initiative to help people get healthy. And that pushed me that much further, and motivated me to push that much farther.
That was a year and a half ago. To be honest with you, I had a motorcycle accident, and when I went into the emergency room, my blood pressure was so high that the doctor really didn't treat any of the injuries from the accident. He's like, "dude, you have a blood pressure problem that you need to handle."
That's pretty scary. Have those numbers significantly dropped?
The numbers have significantly dropped. The sleep apnea basically doesn't exist anymore. The bad thing about the high blood pressure is that it's genetic. The doctor said until I lost the weight, he wouldn't be able to tell if it was genetic or not, but that's still better, and the diabetes, we're good.
You're from Mississippi. What kinds of foods are hard for you to give up and what have you replaced them with?
Macaroni and cheese is probably the hardest thing for me, so is fried chicken, but what I tell people is this: once you submerge yourself into healthy eating, I am willing to bet any amount of money that you will find the same amount of healthy things that you like and dislike, that you would unhealthy things. I don't like every unhealthy thing in the world. I don't like fried catfish. There are certain things I don't eat. But in the healthy world, there's the same amount of things that I like and dislike, there's certain things that I consider to be sweet. There's a vegan smart cookie that they sell at Smoothie King that I love, and I really can't taste the difference. There's certain healthy salad dressings that taste as good as the unhealthy ones, but you just have to take the time out to submerge yourself in that world to find those things.
You're on the road a lot. How hard is it to eat healthy when you're away from home?
The exercise is harder than the diet thing. One thing I learned from LL Cool J: it's just as easy to stop at a grocery store. I don't know a city that doesn't have a grocery store. We make excuses for both the positive things and the negative things that we want to do in life. There are excuses for anything. Health is just something that you have to agree on, that you're serious about. You'll find a way to make it happen.
Was anyone in the industry really supportive? Was anyone clowning on you for trying to change?
Surprisingly enough, I got more support than anything. T-Pain came up to me and said he lost 30 lbs because of me. My trainer, Scott Parker, has had his roster triple since me. I see artists being more health conscious, and the thing I figured out is you can use people's envy and turn it into something positive. People hear what the general public is saying, so I was just taking it and turning it into something positive, and hopefully, motivate people to do bigger and better things, to feel better. I know I feel 100% better than I ever have.
Have you noticed a difference in day-to-day things? Going up a flight of stairs, stuff like that?
Man, I feel better than I did when I was 20. You know, I'm running 5, 6, 7 games of basketball again, I run the canyon a lot in LA, and I actually enjoy doing it. I set a goal for 215 pounds, and I really honestly didn't think I was going to get to 215 pounds, and when I got to 215, I was like, "Well, I want to dunk a basketball one more time before I die. Let me see if I can get down to 205 pounds." It's like, when you're able to set those goals for yourself, those goals are similar to life goals. We set 'em and we knock 'em down.
Because it doesn't really end, there's no finish line where you're done working out. So what are you trying to do now, put some muscle on, or just keep it steady?
I'm trying to put a little bit of muscle back on. I think I lost just a little bit too much weight. But now, I can sculpt myself up. With the programs that Scott has implemented for me, I know how not to — and this is strange, he said he's never seen this before — but I can knock off five pounds in a week. I know exactly what to do. I know how to run, how to set my own plans, just based on my body chemistry and my body makeup. I know what to eat, I know how many times a day to run, I know how much water to drink in order to really control my bodyweight. So now I'm in a position where I know my body.
How do you feel after making your transition?
I'm going to be honest with you — it's an honor, because it was hard. We, as entertainers, not just rappers, have a tendency to influence people to drink Crystal and buy high-priced cars, to do so many other things, but we're in a position to help save people's lives. I honestly believe this, and I know there's no way to quantify it and really prove it, but I really believe that I put 10 years on my life. I can look at my skin, I can look at my face, I can look at my body, I know I've put 10 years on my life.