Why the 4-Hour Body diet is only a 4-Hour Lifestyle Change
Last year when I started looking at making some changes to how I eat, several of my colleagues were doing the 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. Now while I haven’t read the book in full, I’ve learned a lot about the diet portion of the book, and I’m not really a fan. The principles are great for a short-term change, but not for anything sustainable, and seem like they are aimed mainly at single men (like the author).
Let’s take a look at his rules for the 4HB diet:
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.
Let’s take a further look at each rule.
Rule #1: Avoid white starchy carbohydrates. This is something I would say I’ve adopted at 60%, mainly because I’m trying to eat foods which have been processed the least, leading to whole grains and flours. I’ve given up many white carbohydrates I don’t enjoy and I eat others, like the occasional oven potatoes (one of my favorite foods of all time), some sushi, quinoa/farro, and of course my weekly pizza.
Probably the most off-putting (and unimaginative in my opinion) is Rule #2. Eat the same few meals over and over again? Sure, it’s a great way to jump into something with little planning, but it sounds like the definition of hell to me. Coming from someone who is a food blogger and loves food, this sounds like the worst idea ever. It sounds like to me: “make short-term, repetitive, and unrealistic changes, so then when you get fed up with them, you’ll want out and break the plan completely.”
As Penelope Trunk says regarding the 4HB diet: “But how do you do this with a family? What do you tell your kids when you’re eating like a crazy person?” I absolutely agree. If you have a “diet” that doesn’t allow for flexibility and interacting and eating with others, it’s not a long-term solution. To me, nothing says “single guy diet” more than this rule.
This is why I think plans which give you all your meals, like Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig, fail in the long-term. As long as you follow exact instructions (and don’t deviate from the plan), you’re ok. But deviate from them, be left on your own to make choices in restaurants, get invited to someone’s house for a meal, have to shop and cook healthy meals yourself…then what? Cart your packaged meals with you everywhere you go for the rest of your life? I don’t think so. How do you teach your children to make healthy choices when you’re eating out of a microwave box everyday? I’ve been a fan of the WeightWatchers diet mentality for some time, mainly because they really push their members to learn how to cook healthy, make choices, and balance everything out in the long-term (note: I briefly did WW online & stopped, and I’ve never joined WW, but have very close friends and family who have succeeded with WW).
How long is the 4HB diet sustainable? A few weeks? A few months? Hard to say, and each person has their own tolerance level, but I would suggest having a good transition plan/diet in mind after month 1 so you can live with your lifestyle changes long-term.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Completely agree – this is something I believed in when I gave up Coke in college, and then Diet Coke a few years later. Why waste calories in a drink? I’d rather eat them :) I drink almost exclusively water, and alcohol once or twice a week (on a normal week). The post-workout shakes I drink are considered more meals than drinks and figure into my daily calories.
Rule #4: No way. Fruit is important to me, and I’ll continue to eat it. Sugar is something I’m constantly learning more about, but fresh fruit has a lot of nutrients and vitamins which make it one of the best sugars to eat.
Rule #5, often called the Cheat Day, was the easiest idea to adopt (who wouldn’t want to be able to eat everything they want while on a diet?), but also one of the first concepts I discarded. One, because I don’t want to see food as a reward for eating healthy; two, because I don’t really believe there is value in gorging yourself on “bad” things; and three, I don’t think that you should be able to eat things you “like” only once a week.
What do you think of the 4-Hour Body diet?
PS: I’m loving the commentary and I appreciate everyone sharing their experiences with the 4-Hour Body diet. I’m not saying it won’t work for someone, but it definitely won’t work for me.