Interview of Creek Stewart, Host of Weather Channel’s “Fat Guys In the Wood”
Creek Stewart and his show on the Weather Channel are both AWESOME!
Creek Stewart has become a wonderful friend of mine. He is an extraordinary, hardworking, all around good guy. He is amazing at what he does (author, survival expert, survival trainer). So it doesn’t surprise me that he is now the host of a super show that will debut on the Weather Channel, August 10th at 10:00pm Eastern.
The name of the show: Fat Guys in the Woods (more on that from Creek later in the post).
I have been given the privilege to see the show before it airs! I do know Creek pretty well and I know what he does is always excellent, but I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect from the show.
The Verdict: I Loved It!!!
In just one hour, I fell in love with all of the people on this show. It is about real people surviving in very real harsh surroundings.
Creek, as always, remains confident as he gives his expertise and knowledge to the guys, inspiring them to survive on their own. I don’t think those guys will ever be the same from this extraordinary experience.
I know I wouldn’t be if it had been me out there.
Respect for the Natural World
There were several unexpected things that I found quite refreshing about their experience. One in particular, is all of the guys’ respect for nature. I found this intriguing in that none of them were outdoorsmen.
The film crew really captures the essence of these guys’ emotions during the difficult process of survival. They face harsh weather, overwhelming hunger, and weakness.
I felt as though I were there with these guys. I was learning the same things that they were learning, feeling the same emotions, and, like them, walking away with the same life lessons and confidence. Besides the entertainment factor of the show, I am more encouraged than ever by seeing these guys changed by their connection to nature. As for their ability to survive????….. well, that is for you to find out on August 11th!
Before reading my interview with Creek below, you must watch the promo video. Please share more questions in the comments for me to ask if you have any for Creek, and I will be sure to get the answers!
Whose idea was the show, and how did you become involved?
A talented young television producer by the name of Evan Goldstein came up with the idea for the show. He’s been a fan of survival-themed television shows and, like many guys these days, longs to connect with nature and test the “mountain man” side of him that living in a city suppresses. He, like me, believes that the wilderness can change people and that we’ve grown too comfortable based on modern convenience.
He called me one day and explained the concept of taking guys who have let themselves go a bit and need a kick in the pants into the wilderness, and I loved the idea right from the start.
The premise: If these guys can survive a week in the wilderness with me then they can do anything they put their mind to when they get back home. I really appreciated the fact that it’s about carving out a positive and empowering experience for guys who’ve never been able to test themselves in this way before.
There are three things I love the most about what I do as a survival instructor:
1. Mother Nature is amazing and I love the outdoors,
2. I have a passion for teaching, and
3. Learning survival skills can be life changing. This show concept combines every reason I started teaching survival skills in the first place 16 years ago. The project was championed by RIVR Media, a production company based out of Knoxville, TN. The weather is and has always been man’s #1 survival adversary and this show couldn’t have found a better home than at The Weather Channel.
How were the guys found and selected? What were the criteria?
Rivr Media looked for guys who had lost their way a bit and needed a kick in the pants to make a change in the way their lives were going. They cast a wide net among social networking sites, casting sites, and Craigslist – looking for people who had a sense of optimism and believed an experience like this could really change their lives.
Were there medical checks to see if they’re fit enough to go? Was there a medic standing by? Any mishaps or illnesses?
Yes, there was a qualified medic on-site at all times. Taking 24 inexperienced guys (8 episodes x 3 guys per episode) who are already out of shape into the rugged and unpredictable mountains of Tennessee for six days straight, especially during one of the most brutal winters on record, presents a unique set of challenges to say the least.
Add the fact that we had to provide ourselves with shelter, water, fire and food with nothing but a knife, metal canteen and our wits, and the circumstances could become potentially downright dangerous.
Exposure to the weather was one of the top concerns. The uncharacteristically cold temperatures, wind, snow and rain created the perfect recipe for hypothermia week after week.
Regulating core body temperature was a constant struggle. The effects of dehydration and lack of food were common, but manageable. Physical exhaustion from extreme hiking, shelter building, hunting and foraging took a toll on everyone, including myself.
Lack of sleep made using knives, traversing rocky terrain, and working with fire much more dangerous than under normal conditions. Cuts, burns and falls were common, but expected.
One unexpected challenge was allergies. On two occasions, allergies prevented one of the guys from eating much-needed food. These included fish and mushrooms. This was an unfortunate reality.
Other unexpected challenges included preexisting conditions such as bad knees, backs and ankles. The terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains is rocky, steep, slippery and filled with sinkholes, fallen debris and hidden obstacles.
Hiking to proper shelter areas, potable water and fertile hunting grounds were very difficult for guys who are used to nicely paved sidewalks and elevators.
Saying that this experience was a ‘shock to the body’ is an understatement. Ultimately, there were only two trips to the hospital. One guy did not return to the wilderness. Even that was not failure – it was exactly the wake-up call he needed.
What do you see as your role with these people in the show?
I’ve been teaching survival courses for 16 years and have led many people into the wilderness. It is an honor and also an incredible amount of responsibility. My job is unique. I’m part teacher, part coach, and part cheerleader.
I must not only teach these guys the real survival skills they need to stay alive, but also be able to encourage and motivate them to overcome mental hurdles and not give up when the odds seem stacked against them. They came to the woods for a reason – to make some kind of positive personal change – and my job is to remind them that if that reason is strong enough to make them come then it’s strong enough to get them through it.
What do they get out of it?
Wow, that’s a big question. I’ll try my best to be brief. One thing they all get is a huge dose of perspective. It’s easy to take the conveniences and people back home for granted.
Back at home, life comes pretty easy for most. In the wilderness, you have to work extremely hard for simple successes. Just a drink of water can involve a quarter-mile hike and a fire for boiling. It’s not uncommon to come up empty handed after hunting and foraging for an entire day.
There are no thermostats in the woods and just keeping warm is a constant struggle. Using the bathroom is another story all together. I won’t even get into toilet paper!
One thing is for sure, these guys appreciate the things and people back home a whole lot more when they leave their survival week in the wilderness with me. These guys enter the woods wide eyed and a little freaked out.
They leave accomplished and confident, and this experience is just a jumping board for them overcoming difficult circumstances back at home.
What do you get out of it?
Watching and helping these guys overcome personal obstacles and push through difficult circumstances because they want to be a better person will stay with me forever. For a survival instructor, it doesn’t get any better than that.
What were your greatest challenges in teaching these guys how to survive?
One of the most difficult challenges to teach is adjusting to what I call a ‘survival diet’. When it comes to food, these guys are used to eating what they want, when they want and as much as they want. It doesn’t work that way in the woods.
Tasty food isn’t wrapped in pretty packaging an arm’s length away. In fact, it’s often not pretty, not tasty and not convenient at all. Grub worms aren’t pretty or tasty but they are packed with protein, fats and calories.
These guys have to put their needs before their wants and that can be a difficult pill to swallow.
Many of these guys are very disconnected to where their food comes from, especially meat. If you want to eat meat in the wilderness, something has to die. Meat in the wilderness isn’t wrapped in clean white packaging on a shelf. In survival, you have to do the dirty work yourself – the killing, gutting, cleaning, preparing and cooking. Many of these guys faced this decision for the first time in their life and will never be the same because of it.
What was the most important thing for them to learn?
Survival, and pretty much all obstacles in life, is 90% mental. I don’t just teach survival skills, I teach a survival mindset.
I love the parallels and similarities between what it takes to be successful in a survival scenario and what it takes to be successful in life. The mental skills are the same and that’s ultimately what I want them to learn.
Mental skills like perseverance, confidence, never give up, adaptation, innovation, hard work, no excuses and teamwork can not only save your life in a survival scenario, but can change your life back at home.
How does going into the wild with nature transform them? Why is it so transformative?
Mother Nature cuts through all of the BS and gets straight to the point. There is no time for excuses. She reminds us of our most basic human survival needs, and those who have been stripped of everything but the sheer will to survive will never be the same.
It’s hard to put into words. When you face Mother Nature and come out on top, something changes inside of you. These guys will never look at nature or themselves the same way.
They have gained a sense of perspective and confidence that can only come from a survival experience, and this will always be one moment in their life when they faced and conquered incredible circumstances.
Do you think it’s a permanent life change?
I do. The feeling of being stripped of life’s conveniences and having to rely on your wits and skills to provide yourself with basic human survival needs isn’t one that fades very quickly.
These skills connect us with nature, our ancestors and a better side of ourselves. It’s hard to not let that play a role in everyday decisions back at home.
Have you followed up with the people to see how they’re doing now?
Yes, the production company followed up with cast members, and some pretty amazing and inspiring stories emerged. Many of the cast members said their experience on the show was life changing.
Several guys said they’re now more active and have lost weight. Opie Cooper, for example, now hikes and kayaks. He has gone from a size 42 to 36 waist and is continuing to lose weight, as is Johnny Clark, who has lost close to 100 pounds. Johnny Frisbie has lost almost 40 lbs. and is also committed to more weight loss. Ben Parks also hikes, camps, goes tubing and plays beach volleyball now.
Dave Howard says he’s feeling great about himself – that he even hung up his knife in his office and he’s beat the mental game that he’s “just some IT guy” and not the badass soldier he once was. He has lost 25 lbs. and taken up Hapkido (martial arts) with his wife. Joe Morillo has lost 18 lbs. and now works out consistently.
Some said that it has changed the way they view food in general as well. John Parker, who has lost 35 lbs., has given up eating meat. He camps out more now and has been more active since the show.
Having to gather his own found changed Jesse Klein’s diet as well. He eats more fresh produce and less processed foods now. He’s also reignited his love for the outdoors and hikes every week, seeking out a new trail every month.
James Hill Jr. has quit smoking and hasn’t eaten fast food in months. He only eats organic now – in fact, it’s inspired him to pursue a culinary career with the goal of making people aware of what goes into the food they are eating.
Several cast members not only reported losing weight, but also making big strides in their careers.
- Zach Saxon has lost 35 lbs., is continuing on a diet, and finally got a full-time nursing job in Knoxville.
- Nick Lansing found the courage to leave his job to get trained in and pursue a career in acting, something he’d always wanted to do but was always too afraid to go for 100%. He also met “the most wonderful woman in the world” – which, previously, he wouldn’t have acted on, but now he has opened himself up to take that chance.
- John Parker said the show gave him the confidence boost to pursue his real passion of social observation through standup comedy.
- Jeff Caron secured a solid full time job with an environmental company, and is still playing music.
- Dan Acosta learned to tone down the amount of work he was doing, take more time for himself, and spend more quality time with his family.
- Bill Anderson was motivated to sell his house, live off the grid and start his own business – all of which has gone really well.
- Josh Bayne is a troop leader for his sons’ Boy Scout troop and has been spending a lot more time outdoors. Andrew Stone has found new commitment to his religious faith. He said being on the show really helped his ingenuity, and he doesn’t take things for granted anymore, like running water or electricity.
What is the takeaway for the audience? What do you want them to be inspired to do?
There are three things I hope they take away:
1) The Weather Channel’s slogan is “It’s Amazing Out There.” It truly is amazing out there and I hope the audience will be inspired to get off the couch and into the weather to see it for themselves.
2) I hope that the viewers will learn some real life survival skills. I believe the skills I teach on the show matter. I believe they can and will save someone’s life one day. They are real survival skills for real people in real survival scenarios.
3) We’ve all been at a place like these ‘Fat Guys’ where we’ve felt stuck in a rut, needing a kick in the pants. I hope the viewers will be inspired to take on personal challenges by watching these guys put themselves in an extreme situation to bring about extreme change.
Great first episode -congrats.
I like the show.
What would a person have to do to get on the show?
Awesome show sign me up!!!
I’m a disabled Vet with PTSD, I’m dealing with a lot of things that keep me down. I watch this show and I wish I could be there. I love this show. I have a problem with thinking about doing something but usually have no motivation to act. I think this show is great, and if someone could tell me how to apply for the experience, I’d greatly appreciate it. I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
I would love to see you on the show, Kenneth. You deserve to be on it and many thanks for what you do for your country. My dad was in Vietnam ad my heart really goes out to you guys. If you want to apply for the show contact FGITWcasting@rivr.com. Let me know if you get the chance to be on the show.
I love this show..actually Creek lives only about an hour away from me…I was excited to find this out when I first saw him on Tv about 6 months ago..he has a true spirit for going back to nature…
He really does, Kathy. He is a great guy and I hope for his continual success. Thanks for the commment.
I really like this show and have learned a few things
Where does Creek teach survival classes? Is he planning to have women on his show?
Hi Kristy! He teaches them in Indiana. You can go to his website, WillowHaven.com and find out more information. I am not sure if he is planning on having women. I think they had talked about it.
I love this show! I was in girl scouts all through school. I particularly enjoyed camping and especially my summer camp experiences in backpacking and primitive camping. Physically I am no longer able to do this due to mobility problems but if I could I would love to experience what the shows participants do. I am 66 and still have an adventurous spirit.
I love hearing that. You sound like an optimistic fun person. I am sure you would do great out there! Great to hear from you.
Creek should do theme shows. Teens, older people and women. Even a family. The concept is to teach everyone how to survive…and that option may one day be thrust on us all.
Wow. Thought the show had been around longer than this! I’ve been really intrigued by and thoroughly enjoyed every episode (sometimes more than once) I am an eagle scout and at 25 I feel I have lost a lot of the edge I enjoyed during my scouting days. This show really brings it back and reminds me of the lessons I learned in those days. Keep up the amazing work Creek. You and the men on this show are an inspiration.
I have become a big fan of thos show. Its not just about survival skills, its about rebooting and taking time to breathe and realize theres more to life. I would love to be on this show. I am 33 years old, married with 4 children. Self employed general contractor. I am an Eagle Scout. I grew up with my single mom and my brother. We lived on a dead end with miles of woods. All we did as kids was play and spend all day in the woods. Also played a lot of basketball. I grew up with out my father around much so we occupied ourselves with nature. I spent alot of time with my.grandfather who was my father figure. He taught me fishing and building things. His friends nicknamed him McGyver. As I grew up I was a cub scout, then a boy scout. Loved it and miss it. I earned Eagle and was proud. Years later I got married, and started a family. I had a great job. 2 years or so ago and tore my ACL. I got into deep depression and gained weight. I used to be 200lbs and now weigh 275+. Haven’t weighed my self in a while. I stopped the gym and don’t eat healty as I should. My grandfather and mother in law died a week apart. I havent been outdoors or fishing likke I used to. I went to counseling and psychologist and worked through my depression, fixed my marriage and been a better father. I now have a relationship with my father, but he moved to NC so I only see him 2 times a year. I feel I’ve lost some of my touch with the outdoors, I want to get motivated to get back in shape. Most of all I want to pass on survival skills and experience of outdoors to my 3 daughters and son. I want feel like I can back to who I was as an outdoorsman and make my kids proud. Thats the only piece I need to complete my journey back.
I am sure that your kids are truly proud of you with or without the Fat Guys in the Woods experience, but I would love to see you on the show. You were blessed to be brought up by someone with the nickname McGyver!!! I am sure you passed so much along to your kids. Sign up at Rivr.com if you want to be on the show! Let me know if they choose you. Good luck! Many blessings!!
How would I sign up for the show?
Could I get of if I’m is S.D.;if I’m eleven years old?
I’ve made the split stick made into a quad spear and the net made from gutted para cord and vine. I’d really appreciate it if I could go on.
This is the best show ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m neither fat nor a guy and I LOVE…THIS…SHOW!!! I just watched 4 episodes in a row! Looking forward to watching season 2. Crossing my fingers for yall. Inspirational. Positive. Creative. Encouraging. Vulnerable. Simple. Common sense. Everything I look for in a man. Your new female fan from warm Southern CA. 🙂
I love this show! What an awesome guy. Nothing better than a smart man who’s a leader! Is Creek single? <3 🙂
Unfortunately, I’m in a similar situation like a lot of the guys that have been on the show, work more than I’m off, had been going back to school while married and w/kids, all my free time goes to my family and I feel like sometimes even more so, now that I turned 40, that time is sleipping away. I wish I had the opportunity to feel Mother Earth’s blood coursing through my veins like the “fat Guys” that were on the show
Maybe you can make it on the show! That would be fantastic. Sounds like you would be just who they are looking for.
I’m a 58 yo former NYC disco queen now living in Fla and I love binge watching episodes of this show, I even watch the 2014 episodes again!
A friend asked me a question since I’m such a big fan of the show. “Does Creek have a family?” I had to admit I didn’t know although I just assumed he had kids. I understand keeping one’s private life just that private.
My wife and I love this show. We record every episode on DVR. I am a forester and relate every episode with my work in the field. I am always looking for camp sites, water and food sources even though I don’t need them, maybe someday I might.
I had to do a project on creek at school and this website gave me tons of info . thanks
Great show – got to admire what they go through. I love Creek and also like when it provides commentary on other shows.
Is creek Stuart married, single, divorced, gay, or bisexual? He is so very fashionable. Does he have a fashion line?My husband & I enjoy him very much & have learned quite a bit of information. Keep him on tv please. Thanks
Fantastic show. I like how Creek gets the guys working in teams from the get go. The guys are taking responsibility just by participating. The confidence really shows when the guys do the solo day. Excellent survival skills and life skills.
Are there any plans for the return of “Fat Guys in the Woods?” We learned an awful lot from it, some things are hard to forget! Whenever the Weather Channel shows “How to Survive,” we learn something new. Quality shows are difficult to find these days.
Creek is hosting Weather Channel’s “SOS.” It’s really pretty great. I’ve learned a lot from it. “Fat Guys in the Woods” was excellent though!