By Timothy Ferriss
Crown Archetype (2010)
Reviewed by Heather R. Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat–Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman claims to show how to make a small tweak here and a tiny change there for big results achieved with maximum efficiency. From fat loss to muscle gain, from incredible sex to deeper sleep, from longer runs to a perfect baseball swing, Ferriss sets out on an obsessive quest to find a better body for both men and women. The diet plan, referred to as the Slow-Carb diet, claims to teach the reader how to lose 20 pounds in 30 days without exercise.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan
The Slow-Carb diet describes the possibility of losing 20 pounds of body fat in 30 days by optimizing any of three factors: exercise, diet or a drug/supplement regimen. The permitted foods include lean proteins, legumes and vegetables (mostly green vegetables). He presents five simple rules for reducing body fat:
Rule 1: Avoid any carbohydrate that is (or can be) white. On the list he includes bread, rice (including brown), cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas and fried foods with breading. The exception to this is they may be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing a resistance-training workout such as the one described in another chapter of the book.
Rule 2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, limiting the variety in meals. Ferriss lists foods by categories (proteins, legumes and vegetables) and suggests dieters mix and match by constructing each meal with one pick from each of the three groups. Dieters can eat as much as they would like by picking three to four meals and repeating them.
Rule 3: Do not drink calories. Milk, soft drinks and fruit juice should be avoided. With the exception of red wine, alcohol should be avoided.
Rule 4: Avoid fruit. The only exceptions are tomatoes and avocadoes and he suggests limiting avocadoes to no more than one cup or one meal per day.
Rule 5: Take one day per week and eat whatever is desired. Ferriss refers to this as a “cheat day” and says there are no limits or boundaries during this day.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
The 4-Hour Body is presented in a very organized format allowing readers to jump to the section that interests them. The Slow-Carb diet encourages the consumption of lean proteins, legumes and green vegetables, all of which are encouraged as part of a healthy diet. It is easy to see how the simple plan may attract some readers who prefer simplicity and have a difficult time preparing meals or do not enjoy cooking. The diet plan may also appeal to red wine lovers as it allows for one to two glasses per day.
Ferriss describes the changes dieters will make as being "small changes" although for many that will not be the case. The lack of variety may leave many dieters bored. Ferriss also fails to discuss the idea that taste is the major reason why we choose the food we eat. The reality of long-term behavior change, which most often requires identifying individual strategies for success and learning to eat the foods we love within the scope of a healthy diet, is also overlooked.
While Ferriss does refer to scientific research, he is not a qualified health professional and much of what he discusses is contradictory. There is no concrete evidence to support his claims to exclude fruit, whole grains and dairy (other than cottage cheese, which he allows), and eliminating these foods from the diet can make it difficult to consume certain vital nutrients. The scientific research studies he cites are certainly credible but taken far out of context in his interpretation. Further, Ferriss used himself as his own subject for much of his claims, but the use of his own experiences does not translate to all individuals—males and females across a variety of age groups—as he suggests.
Most who attempt The 4-Hour Body will likely lose weight as they would when following any lower-calorie program that includes physical activity. However, strict deprivation diets are not the answer to lifelong health and happiness. Long-term success includes learning how to eat the foods we love as part of a healthy diet.
While this book includes chapters on everything from how to reverse permanent injuries to how to have a 15-minute orgasm, this review focuses on the diet portion of the book.