The Slow Carb Diet Experiment

The 4-hour Body Slow-Carb Diet (kind-of) worked for me. 9 lbs in 30 days.

In the Times Bestseller The Four Hour Body, Tim Ferriss outlined the slow-carb diet: a 6-days on and 1-day off diet for easy fat loss without exercising and starving oneself. I tried it for 30 days only concerning myself with the before and after, noting any major changes along the way. Here’s what went down:

Movement

The plan doesn’t stipulate any exercise, nor does it require it. In fact, my activity level was perhaps the worst in was in recent memory since reading period my senior year of college where I handcuffed myself to a couch in the campus coffee shop until I was done writing. My schedule looked something like this:

Monday through Friday

  • 9am wakeup.
  • 10ish to 7ish—desk time (with 15 minute takeout walk around 2ish, and 5 minute soup pickup around 6, or when hungry.)
  • 7ish to 8ish—commute home and errands
  • 8ish to 2ish—couch time (still working) and dinner

Saturday through Sunday

  • Intermittent spurts of productivity
  • Short run or low-intensity bike ride (20-40 minutes)
  • Movies, Coding, and Sparticus. From the Couch.
  • Seamlessweb.
  • 7pm – ?am: Reckless Spending on Various Activities


Diet

Sunday through Monday
(No dietary supplements other than water were used in this.)

  • Breakfast (9:15am)
    3 Pete and Gerrys AA organic whole eggs, pan-scrambled coated in non-stick spray. 1/2 can of Whole Foods Organic Black Beans (microwave). Organic Green Salsa (Medium Spicy).
  • Lunch (2ish)
    Option 1: Chipotle Burrito Bowl with no rice, Barbacoa Beef or Chicken, black beans, with the following optional mixes: all salsas, sour cream, corn, lettuce, guacamole. Never cheese. Never rice. Never Tortilla.
    Option 2: Sashimi lunch special with soup or salad. No rice.
  • Snack (when/if hungry): Lentil Soup or Butternut Squash Soup from Zaro’s Bakery.
  • Dinner (9ish)
    Option 1: Salmon with steamed spinach (Whole Foods Frozen). Olive oil and salt.
    Option 2: Gristedes Tunafish salad with steamed spinach and/or mixed vegetables (Whole Foods Frozen).
    Mix-in: Sometimes 1/2 can of black beans or lentils.

Weekday Cheat Meals

  1. On weeks 2 and 3: Hill Country BBQ — no bread, but tons of BBQ sauce on lean brisket.
  2. On week 4: Skipped dinner, ate 6 or 7 chocolate chip cookies instead with 2 glasses of wine at Book Club

Saturday
Anything and everything.

Results

(measurements taken after morning ritual, including breakfast and morning poo)

  • Start: 188.0 lbs
  • End: 179.0 lbs
  • Today: 180.0, after a week and change on my normal diet

I noticed a reduction in fat around my body, particularly in my neck and waist, and I was back to my normal, healthy body composition. So, yay.

Narrative

The first week is certainly the hardest. In removing carbohydrates, the cravings for bread and rice intensified throughout the week. On my first saturday, I ate four bagels (2 whole wheat, 2 pumpernickel) by myself. Before lunch. The first bagel contained tuna salad. (Did I mention I love tunafish?)

I noticed, however, that I my sweet tooth had lost its edge. During my cheat day, I didn’t have much desire to shovel candy into my welcoming stomach. Other Slow Carbers have noted a change in palette and apparently there’s a scientific explanation for this.

Getting back on the horse on Sunday was easier than I thought it would be, with the second week being much easier than the first. I was still looking forward to my cheat day, but less so than the first week.

That Saturday, I ate two-thirds of a chicken tikka masala pizza from Slice… by myself. Later that night, I had 4 Crumbs Cupcakes in a row followed by a chocolate bar. And then dinner.

The next two weeks were a breeze; a joy, actually: I looked forward to my six days of decisionless dieting and less-so to my cheat day.

On day 31, I weighed myself: 179lbs.

All-in-all, the diet was easy and helped undo the month of Prednisone that added a quick 20lbs to my frame in December. (I would have started earlier, but I was out of the country until mid February and wanted to test this when I had a bit more control on my schedule.)

I don’t think, however, it’s sustainable. One of the reasons I stopped was that, in week five (days 28-31) the carb craving was twice what is was compared to the first week and I couldn’t keep myself from having bread. So, I slowly transitioned back to my old ways which have done well with keeping my physique at a constant.

What’s next?

New York City’s newest transient resident, Andrew Hyde (featured in The Four Hour Body), turned me on to Intermittent Fasting and the Paleolithic Diet. I’ll probably start one of these May 1. In the meantime, I’ve procured enough for a PAGG stack for a month.

Stay tuned.

The Gruen Diet

Filed under: experiments,thoughts Topics: , , , ,

Sick of hearing about fad diets, I read a smattering of books and blogs about health and nutrition and rolled my own.

What I came up with is not strict nor restrictive, but rather a health guideline. I started adhering to these guidelines—because they’re certainly not rules or a plan—at the beginning of the summer and have since lost 4.5 lbs. A simple workout schedule and simple-to-adhere-to life choices accompany a simple diet.

Important to note is that these guidelines are sub-optimal: you’re not going to lose weight or gain strength or be physically healthier than you would following a strict regimen. But, it’s optimal in that it makes eating choices easy and I don’t really have to think about it. I can just do it and see the effects over time.

So, without further ado:

On Timing

  • Eat 3-4 times a day. Every day, spaced out from 2-5 hours at a clip. Always eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up, even if it’s small.
  • No eating 5 hours before bedtime. Don’t give yourself an energy spike before you try to go to sleep.
  • Drink plenty of water before you eat and after you eat. Unless you have a long drive ahead of you, drinks lots of water. You’ll feel fuller for longer.

On Consumption

  • No High-Fructose Corn Syrup [HFCS]. None. It’s in almost every processed food, so read the ingredients.
  • No high incident of artificial crap. If you don’t know what half the ingredients are (and can’t readily pronounce them) don’t eat it. I can almost guarantee HFCS will be in there anyway.
  • Eat meat no more than twice a day. Red meat only once, if not less. Make sure it’s from animals that were fed on natural diets and get to roam around on a field and would have been, in anthropomorphic terms, happy. If you don’t know, don’t eat it.
  • Follow the same guidelines with animal products. Like milk and cheese and eggs. No more than twice a day. Look for 100% organic stuff from happy animals.
  • Go vegetarian for two meals a day. Eat as many vegetables as you want. Don’t hold back. If you’re a man, go easy on the soy. Stay organic whenever possible, even if it costs a touch more.
  • Whole-wheat whenever possible. This includes pastas.
  • Limit alcohol intake. I shoot for two drinks or fewer when I do.
  • Limit soft drinks. Make sure they’re made from Sugar Cane. Stay off anything labeled diet. The sugar calories won’t kill you, the artificial sweeteners might.
  • Limit caffeine. I don’t drink any, save for the occasional green tea or PowerGel.
  • Never deprive oneself of chocolate or candy. Unless it violates a previous guideline. (Read the ingredients! If you don’t know, don’t eat it!)

On Activity

  • Be active 3-4 times a week, for 30-45 minutes at a time. Actually sweat something.
  • Kick your ass once a week. Do some intervals or wind sprints. It doesn’t take much.
  • Don’t stare at sun-mimicking lights late at night. This includes the TV and your computer. Need to use your computer late at night? Use f.lux.

On Sleep

  • Get up at the same time every day. Weekends and weekdays. Nap later if you have to compensate for a late night out. Your body will go to sleep at night when it knows it has to get up at a precise time.
  • Shoot for holes in your REM sleep schedule. For me, that’s at 4.5 hours, 6 hours, 7.5 hours, and 9 hours. I aim for 7.5 hours every night.

That’s about it.

For me, these guidelines are really easy to follow and don’t require any calorie counting or spreadsheets or any planning whatsoever. I don’t worry that I’m eating too much or too little or what I’m eating—by setting a healthy bar, my body will tell me when I’m being disobedient and point me in the right direction.

Lastly, feel free to break the guidelines at Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and Funerals. If you’re good to yourself most of the time, your body will be able to handle junk every once in a while.

I should also note I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or anyone with any state- or federally-sanctioned right to offer this sort of guidance. Your milage may vary.

The 5 Minute Edit

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Write it quickly, then rewrite it quickly. Edit for clarity. Publish.

French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once noted: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” If you want to write clearly, limit your writing time. Leaving any extra will sabotage your efforts. Leave less to take away.

While writing hastily might make you wordy, wordiness is easily corrected. Tangents, on the other hand, fed with your time and attention weave themselves into your prose and are much harder to remove. With a strict deadline, you simply don’t waste your time breathing life into these distractions: they’re dead on arrival. Remove them as you would any other word or phase that doesn’t directly contribute to your point.

Be generous with your time and you’ll over-think style choices when you should be focusing on clarity. Instead, force yourself to get to the point: your inner wordsmith will surprise you with its dexterity.

Lastly, remove any jargon or needless words. (Unless you can’t help yourself. Make sure to point out your hypocrisy.)

This post is an edited version of the previous post. I budgeted 5 minutes—it took 12. Forgive me, but I had to get a glass of water to debate whether or not to include this final remark. It ultimately made the cut because I’m tired and would rather go to sleep than ponder this any longer.