The 4-Hour Body: What I’ve Learned, Part 2
This is part 2 of my series on what I’ve learned from reading through the 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a diet and workout regime to cut fat and/or build muscle. There are also sections on extending your life, running faster and farther, healing injuries and more. See part 1 here.
Today, I’m going to expand on the basics that I went over in part 1. In the first part, I discussed what body recomposition is, why body fat percentage is important and how the minimum effective dose means that you can reach your goals by doing less.
Very few people can stick to the most strict diets. Adherence, or the level at which people will stick to a diet, can vary dramatically. If you are a type 2 diabetic and your only path to survival is to follow a strict diet, then you will most likely succeed. If, on the other hand, you don’t like how you look in a pair of jeans and want to drop down 2 sizes, you may not adhere to your new diet quite so well.
This is something everyone should take seriously. You may have read about the most perfect dieting plan in the world, but will you actually stick to it? It’s more important that you find a plan that you know you can adhere to, even if it’s slightly less effective overall.
Yo-yo dieting is natural and normal as well. Everybody tries something out, but eventually gets tempted by something that isn’t allowed. Tim’s ‘Slow Carb Diet’ (which I will outline next time) is great for this because he allows you to schedule a time for overeating. One day a week, you are allowed to eat whatever you want, and it is actually encouraged that you spike your caloric intake.
Don’t try to find the perfect balance. Instead, embrace the cycling that you will naturally do anyway and schedule a time to indulge.
There are a number of possible values you can track over time. Calories aren’t the best, but anything is better than nothing. If you do not track, you will give up somewhere down the line.
Why aren’t calories the only thing you should track?
Not all calories are created equally. The hormonal responses to carbohydrates, protein and fat are all completely different. Beef calories do not equal bourbon calories. People lose vastly different amounts of fat in controlled groups where different foods are tested with the same number of calories. Countless studies have proved this.
You should also know that it’s only what makes it into your bloodstream that actually counts. A person who has just finished a course of antibiotics may have poor stomach bacteria, and therefore will not digest food properly.
That said, you can use some approximations. For instance, you can say that 4,000 calories = 1lb of fat. These numbers are not perfectly accurate at all, but that doesn’t matter. Worrying about the tiny details is what’s going to derail your efforts. Nothing will give you that kind of accuracy, but as long as you are in the right ball park, it can help you make informed decisions.
Another number to remember is that roughly 10lb of weight loss is 1 clothing size down. You can go from XL down to L with 10lb lost, or from L down to M for instance. These kinds of things are rough estimations but they can prove to be huge motivators.
What can you track?
Body fat % is the best thing, but it can be difficult for the average person to track. Anybody can easily measure their circumferences, however. Get a cheap tape measure, and measure 4 locations:
-both upper arms (mid-bicep)
-waist (at navel)
-hips (widest point below the waist)
-both legs (mid-thigh)
Add these numbers up to make your Total Inches (TI). This number is a meaningful one to track along with your weights.
Considering that building muscle adds weight, sometimes you won’t see any weight loss, even though you may have lost fat. Checking your inches lost will help keep your motivation up.
Finally for today, I want to talk about avoiding failure. Many people reading this will have tried diets in the past. For some reason or another, they haven’t worked out, or have been left behind.
Here’s something you should know: logic fails. We are emotional, instinctive creatures and we let ourselves down quite regularly. This is why we need to protect ourselves from our own human nature.
1) First of all, be conscious of what you’re doing. Always take before pictures, and post them where you will see them regularly. Another idea is to take pictures of what you’re about to eat. Just the conscious knowledge of seeing the food may put you off binge eating.
2) Take measurements. You’ll never get anywhere without the numbers. History tells us that once you have taken at least 5 measurements, then you are hooked. You will continue to take measurements and continue to progress from that point. Remember that magic number and stick at it until then, and see how you feel.
3) Be competitive. Fear of failure is actually a useful tool. Be public in your efforts and let people know how you’re doing. You could even start a blog post online and invite people to view it by email. Being held accountable to your friends is an incredible motivator.
4) Take it one step at a time. Have you ever heard of ‘eating the elephant’? This is one of my favorite sayings. If you have a giant elephant in front of you and you were told that you had to eat it, you’d be a bit overwhelmed. Which is the same for any fat loss/muscle gaining goals that we tend to have. However, if you just start to eat it, one bite at a time, then eventually you will reach your goal.
Sometimes you’re faced with something you feel you’d rather not do, like going for a run. If you just put on your trainers, then you still don’t have to go out, but you’ve taken that one small step. Then if you just head out and lock the door behind you, you still haven’t committed to anything. Then soon you find yourself out in the daylight, and you’re jogging away. Then you never look back and 20 minutes later you’ve accomplished something when otherwise you could have just given up and sat on the couch. Take it one step at a time.
That about wraps it up for part 2. Next time, I’ll describe in detail Tim’s ‘Slow Carb Diet’ and how it can rapidly change your body.
Part 3 is now available to view here.