Reader Stacey wrote me on Twitter:
Any tips for a 4HB newbie? I’m starting Monday! Really enjoy your blog by the way! Thanks!
Well thank you for that kind comment, Stacey! You inspired me to write this post, especially since I’m going to need more than 140 characters.
Because the whole thing can seem daunting (the book is HUGE!), sometimes it’s helpful to break things down.
Here are my top 7 Four Hour Body secret hacks you really need to know if you’re just starting out:
1. Start now
Ask yourself this question: if you can start on Monday, why can’t you just start today?
The most likely
excuse reason is that you want to have one giant cheat day before you tighten up the diet and eat properly. Fair enough, but no one’s stopping you from having your cheat day today or tomorrow.
Maybe the reason is you don’t think have everything you need to get started. The reality is probably that you do have everything you need, but you also have stuff you don’t need. For example, if you’re going to have burgers tonight, there’s no reason you can’t skip the bun on yours. Instead of fries or potato salad, why not make up a nice cabbage slaw instead?
If you really think about it, there’s probably not a real good reason to wait until Monday. By waiting, you run the risk of not actually starting on Monday.
I’ve noticed an interesting trend when I look at the site analytics. By far, I have the most visits on Mondays. These are probably people who decided the week before to start that Monday.
If you start today, you’ll be ahead of the game!
2. Automate, automate, automate!
I’m a big proponent of automating as much as you can. When you do that, you are more likely to follow through.
If you schedule your recurring bill payments at the beginning of the year, you don’t usually go back in and cancel them, do you? You know the money’s going to come out, so you make sure it’s there. You actually work your life around the stuff that’s automatically going to happen so you don’t have to suffer any consequences.
The same principle can apply to your health and fitness. Let me explain:
One of the things that trip most people up at first is having to figure out a meal on the fly. The choices that are the most readily available to us are also the worst choices. I know that I have to drive at least 15 minutes from work in order to find something that’s slow-carb friendly; everything else is junk.
In order to avoid the “I don’t know what to eat, and I don’t have much time, so I’ll just cheat this once” situation (it’s hardly ever just once, eh?), you should really have your food lined up pretty well. Here are some tips to help with meal planning:
- Get a calendar (here’s one you can download) and write down what you want to eat.
- Go shopping today if you can.
- If you want to get really fancy, prepare your meals ahead of time and package them up (slow-carb frozen dinners!).
It can also be daunting to someone not used to it to set up an exercise program. Remember, though, that the exercises you do don’t have to be complicated. You don’t even need any equipment (although the kettlebell is one handy piece of equipment to have).
If you’ve never done anything before, just start with what Tim Ferriss outlines in the book. Or if you want to try something else, there are websites you can get some decent ideas from like Max Capacity Training or Mark’s Daily Apple.
A couple more tips:
- Write down what you plan to do and put it in a place you can see.
- If you don’t want to think about it, use a website like MaxCapTraining.
I’ve written a few posts with meal ideas, so if you’re looking for food give them a look:
- 4 Hour Body Recipes for the Slow Carb Diet
- Slow-Carb Diet Food List: What You Should Be Eating on 4 Hour Body
- 28 Days of Slow-Carb Meal Plans Just For You
- Sure Fire Fat Loss: 21 Slow Carb Meal Ideas
Incidentally, I’m a big proponent of Robb Wolf’s ebook, 30 Day Total Transformation. It’s short but full of the “whys” of proper nutrition and exercise, and it’s also got a 30 day meal plan complete with recipes and shopping list as well as several exercises with video supplements to help you work out a plan. (If you end up buying it from my link, I do get a small cut, but I’ve used it myself and highly recommend it.)
3. Remember to KISS daily
If you’re fortunate enough to have an SO, I’m sure a daily kiss wouldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, that’s not the kind I’m talking about here. 😉
One of the worst things you can do, especially starting out, is to over-complicate things. Just keep it simple, and you’ll be fine. That theme is strewn throughout the book.
- Understand MED (minimum effective dose) – You can do too much too soon, and you can do too much that it does more harm than good.
- Take it slow with exercise and just trust that it’s working. If you’re brand new to exercise, just take the time to build the habit.
- Don’t try to get too fancy with the food either. The simpler your meals are, the easier they’ll be to prepare, and the more likely you’ll make them (and consequently eat them).
By complicating things, you may be tempted to give up early. By keeping things simple, it’ll almost be too easy to stick to your plan that it’ll be difficult to stray from it.
4. Plan your cheat days
The cheat day is this big abstract concept to many people. More folks have asked questions about the one day on which you can ignore everything than I’d ever expect. Here are a few tips to help demystify it.
- When you have a craving, write it down. Remind yourself you can have it later.
- Don’t buy your cheat foods before your cheat day. You’ll have to fight harder not to eat them.
- Eat everything you buy for your cheat day. This helps to not have leftovers tempting you, and it’ll also help get you off of crazy cheat days.
- Cheat day hack: For maximum effect on cheat days, keep them gluten free.
- The exercises help but are not required. Same thing for the grapefruit juice and yerba mate.
I’ve written a “cheat day cheat sheet” that would be worth checking out if you want to dig a little deeper into this grail of diet days.
5. Follow the rules, consider the suggestions
They say that rules are meant to be broken, but the people who say that don’t often get very far. This is one of those times that you really should stick to the rules.
When you spend any significant amount of time at an open forum discussing 4 Hour Body (like 4HBTalk), you’ll read messages from people who aren’t seeing results. When you pry a bit and get them to describe how their days look, you see pretty quickly (and sometimes they even admit themselves) that they “mostly” follow the plan.
I know how that goes because I did it myself – and people called me out on it.
You can’t not follow the 4 hour body rules (there are only 5 of them) and be upset if you don’t get results. Some people can “mostly” follow them, but only for a time. So really pay attention to the rules and follow them.
As for the extra suggestions, they’re there for a reason: they work. Sure, you can get by without implementing these suggestions, but they come in handy to get that extra boost.
For example, your cheat day will be much more successful if you do the exercises (you only need about 3 minutes each time).
Some other suggestions that are worthwhile are:
- Lemon/lime juice with water
- Grapefruit juice
- Eat the same thing as often as you can
- Take a PAGG stack
When you harness the power of the suggestions along with the rules, you’ll have a much higher chance at success.
6. Don’t give up
Let me fill you in on a little secret: even though Tim Ferriss says you can lose 20 lbs of fat in 30 days with this style of eating, you probably won’t lose that much.
A lot of people start and get frustrated quickly because they’re not going to hit the mark. Then they call Ferriss a liar. I give him the benefit of the doubt because I know that in marketing sometimes you have to take the high number and use that in your headline. He – the super-strict ADD ridiculous guy – was able to do it. Most of us won’t have the strictness to lose that much (although some have).
The other thing that happens is that you’ll lose a lot at first. I think I lost almost 10 pounds the very first week I did slow-carb. Then I didn’t lose that much anymore. Only later I found out that most of what I lost was water weight.
It’s easy to get frustrated if you expect big numbers like these all the time. The only people that get them are being trained by Bob or Jillian (or my new friend, Chris), have every morsel they eat monitored, and work out like it’s a full time job.
As you’re moving through your journey with slow carb, just remember that the science backs up this plan. It’s not designed to be a fad (although the cheat day makes that questionable to some); it’s designed to be a sustainable lifestyle. Just keep going, and you’ll see the results.
Finally, remember that one of the whole points about this diet is that you should experiment. The bottom line is that everyone’s body is different. The guidelines are important, but within them, precisely what works for me might not work for you.
The way Ferriss came up with all his ideas, at least the ones he felt worthy to put in the book, was through experimenting. That same principle can apply to your specific version of slow-carb.
Maybe you do better with a huge cheat day. Maybe you prefer a couple cheat meals. Maybe you do better getting your workout done in a fasted state in the morning, but maybe you need to eat as soon as you get up. Maybe you can handle the small amount of cottage cheese that’s “allowed”, or maybe you need to stay completely away from dairy.
There is wiggle room within the guidelines. If you’re curious about something, try it for a week. If it works then go with it. If you don’t get the results you wanted, reset and find something else.
But when you *do* find what works, take it and run. You’ll see great results in no time.
Do you have a favorite 4HB hack that gets you results? Share it or any other 4HB question you may have in the comments.
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