Having read all three of the “4-Hour…” series to date, the main thing I think anyone could gain from the work of Tim Ferriss is an excellent guide to doctoring the truth. There’s much more I could say but, perverse joy of exuberant rants aside, I see precious little to be gained from pandering to the vanity of an emperor in his new clothes.
So, here’s my goodreads review of 4-Hour Chef. The basic premise of 4-Hour Workweek, meanwhile, is to con your employer/customer into paying you to do a job, then exploit some poor unfortunate by outsourcing the actual work to them at a fraction of your received fee. Classy.
Which leaves 4-Hour Body. I’ll save you wasting your cash by linking straight to the free guideline page for his diet, where my earlier point about truth is beautifully illustrated. In the book he claims you’ll lose 20lbs in a month by diet alone. You surely could… if you’re morbidly obese to start with. Of course, if you are, pretty much any diet is going to have the same initial effect.
So why am I wasting time writing about it? Having wandered towards the boundaries of the Primal reservation over the festive season, I decided little harm could be done by giving Tim’s “slow carb” method a try before returning to the welcoming hearth of the Primal camp.
January 2013. Five weeks. That was the plan. What’s the worst that could happen!
Four weeks later…
Cheat day. We were sitting in a cafe, and Angus was suggesting, in the gentlest possible way, it would be nothing short of batshit insanity for me to continue. He… had a point! I was tired, grumpy, and looking awful. A few hours later I was at the supermarket checkout with my basket of veg and nuts, eager to get back to my nutritional happy place!
Make no mistake; if you want to know what I’d recommend for optimum health (including reaching and maintaining a healthy weight), I’m Primal Blueprint all the way! So why am I writing about this at all? Well, whilst the negatives for me far outweighed the positives, credit where credit’s due, the positives were notable enough to warrant sharing.
Of course the negatives were negative enough to warrant forewarning of, too, and it’s those I might as well start with so you’re left with the unicorn chaser!
By week four I felt tired, irrational, irritable, and hugely run down. I still woke most mornings before my alarm is set, but sullen and monosyllabic where normally I’m cheerful and happy to greet the day. My energy levels remained fairly steady, but… lower, more muted.
Then PMT hit! Much as I still jokingly refer to it as being “pre-mental”, a day or two each month where I don’t fancy being especially active is about the worst I usually suffer. I’ve long been aware of the role diet has to play in pre-menstrual symptoms, but even I was shocked to find myself weepy, snappish, angry and, at points, quite suicidally depressed. My guess is the slow carbs were only partially to blame. The real villain in that story was cheat days.
As for those… the trouble with Primal is, without any conscious effort, you soon lose all taste for junk food! To me, Tim’s prescribed weekly feeding frenzy of absolute crap was the epitome of disordered eating. Still, in for a penny! If I was going to follow the diet, I was going to follow it to the letter.
I did four cheat days in total, and each one was an unpleasant ordeal. He suggested foodstuffs like pizza, ice cream, chocolate… Nothing tasted good, and each one left me longing for the moment I’d get back to my regular food, where everything tastes like a treat, and the occasional sweets are still packed with nutritional benefits.
That said, I did like the idea of just making a note of any sweet treats you crave and saving them for what I’d prefer to call “treat day” rather than indulge then and there. Why would I rather call it treat day? Well, because my cravings list basically amounted to: 90% cocoa chocolate, strawberries, and apple slices with almond butter. Oh, and sirloin steak, which frankly I’d eat every day if I had the cash!
Occasionally I fancied cake, but I quickly discovered that didn’t extend to normal flour-and-sugar concoctions. So, maybe a weekly relaxation of the boundaries if time with friends leads to limited food options, but in general? Paleo treats > cheats!
The one craving with grew and grew with each passing day was for fats. Especially butter. Just 24 hours back on Primal was enough to make that vanish altogether. Hey, if nothing else, this experiment proved beyond doubt I’ve found the right way of eating for me! But I digress…
No matter how well I slept, I had dark shadows under my eyes, and my already pale skin turned sickly and sallow. I broke out in spots all over my face, existing lines deepened and new ones appeared. The corners of my mouth and edges of my fingernails split painfully, and my hair – unruly at the best of times, but generally shining with health – turned lank and dull. In short, I looked like crap.
Speaking of crap, and apologies for TMI, but… diarrhea. All morning. Every morning. Terribly cleansing, I’m sure, but mainly just terrible!
By which delightful note you might be wondering why it took four weeks for me to abandon the madness?
Firstly, I have to say, as a weight loss device it does work. On its own, hardly news, given most diets work if you stick to them. “If” being the operative word! Something I really appreciated about this diet was, personal intolerance of beans/pulses and aversion to cheat days aside, it’s very easy to stick to. There’s none of the weighing and calorie counting I associate with most weight loss diets. Within a week or so your appetite pretty much self-regulates, leading me to refer to the pulse dishes as “magic beans”!
Over four weeks I lost 5½ lbs and 1½” off my waist. Not exactly his promised 20 lbs, and about what I’d have expected to lose back on Primal, but not too bad all the same… especially given it’s the only other diet I’ve encountered that required such minimal effort. What can I say? I’m the laziest damn fitness nut you’ll ever meet, and can think of way more interesting things to expend effort on!
Also, clearing the fridge and cupboards of everything that wasn’t meat, veg, beans or pulses showed me just how inclined I am to snack! It took about a week to break the impulse, and eventually I settled into a routine of protein shake for breakfast (I can never face food first thing), lunch, dinner, and herb teas if I got peckish in between.
On which note I’d say what makes the diet particularly effective is not so much what you eat, as the fact those “magic beans” have a similar effect to Primal for letting you forget about food/ignore false hunger signals between meals.
I’m back on Primal now, and back to food so lovely it makes me want to hug it and cry a bit in gratitude! I’ll keep the meal format, though, and substitute cheat day for treat day, with medjool dates and ground almonds already purchased in anticipation of a baking session on Saturday.
If you’re looking for a low maintenance way to lose weight, and tolerate beans and pulses better than I apparently do, you could do worse than give this a go. Equally if you have trouble with portion control, I’d say this is a pretty good option to try.
Me, I’m used to my healthy weight being accompanied by glowing good health, delicious food, a zest for life, and superhuman energy levels… and for that, my friends, you need Primal!