Going By The Book: A Case Study

I haven’t done a case study yet, but I figured it’s about time. I’m going to take it TF style and pick a person I know well: me.

At the end of the study, I want to be able to do two things:

  1. Determine how much difference it makes following the book exactly
  2. Prove that even the simplest of meals don’t have to be boring.

I’ve been reading on the 4HB Talk forums some discussions about people who say they’re doing 4HB but aren’t really doing it completely and are essentially turning it into just a name to call their semi-lifestyle-change. In the 4HB “religion”, we might call them far-left liberals. They’re being confronted by the right-wing legalists who want to take everything the book says absolutely literally, with no variation (ie., you can only eat the 16 foods mentioned). Then there is the middle ground who want to understand the spirit of the “law” and infer some things that Prophet Ferriss didn’t say.

I am probably somewhere between a liberal and a mid-level in all of this.

If you read my updates, you know I don’t follow it completely. I’m not looking for one specific dietary affiliation to get thin. I’m learning about what our bodies do with food, water, exercise, etc. I want to eat what my body needs, and I want to learn how to avoid what causes it harm. The problem is I’ve been harming myself for 32 years. It’s not just something you can turn off. Old habits die hard, as they say.

Back to the basics

This week I have a plan. I’ve written it down. My wife is in on it. I’m going to do it for a couple reasons. First, I want to see really how much difference it makes to go precisely by the book. Second, I want to show the kinds of yummy food you can actually make simply by going by the book. Third, I haven’t seen much change this month – in behavior nor weight – and I figured I needed to shake things up.

I’m going to tell you what I’m doing this week now so that I can’t change my mind later. You’ll expect to hear about it, so I’ll be more likely to follow it.


I’ll be doing the three exercises Ferriss outlines:

  • 20 glute activations
  • 15 flying dogs
  • 50 kettle bell swings

I’ll do these three exercises on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


To determine my menu, I simply looked at the 16 foods mentioned in the book and picked one from each. Just like we’re advised (If you’d like some help with that, check out Brian’s 4HB Matrix). There are some exceptions, but they’re not prohibited (like salsa, onions, garlic, etc.). I wrote down through Wednesday what I’ll eat, and now I’ll share it with you.

This was the easy part for me. My breakfast is simple, and I like it: 2 eggs, black beans, and spinach. I may hard-boil a few and eat the beans and spinach separately, but there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke.

Lunch and dinner change each day. Here’s the breakdown I have planned:

Lunch: chicken breast, lentils, and broccoli
Dinner: beef, lentils, and peas

Lunch: beef, lentils, and peas (leftovers)
Dinner: chicken, bean sprouts, baby spinach (One Pot Chicken recipe)

Lunch: chicken, bean sprouts, and baby spinach (leftovers)
Dinner: tuna, lettuce, beans (salad)

I have some ideas for Thursday and Friday, but the week is young and I need to go shopping. But rest assured that they’ll all be on the list. I just made a new batch of kimchi that should start tasting nice on Friday.

As you can see, my meals are very simple, but I promise you they won’t be boring. A few different recipes will come out of this. I’m going to adapt a chicken recipe my friend Khoa has on his Frugal World Cuisines blog, develop a daal (lentil) recipe, and work on a salsa I made once that was amazing. All of the recipes will end up here.

Seeking bipartisanship

I do believe too many people are treating Tim Ferriss like a fitness prophet and The 4-Hour Body like a holy scripture. Those people probably need to lighten up. But they have a point – some of us are too liberal with our plans. I’m going to try it their way for a bit and see what happens.

I’m curious. What are some ways you’ve deviated from The 4HB and have actually had great success? Or what are some ways you’ve added or subtracted to from the book and got lower results than you expected?


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  1. For the last two or three weeks I’ve been very disappointed with my results. I realized that a large issue was that I’d been eating popcorn. For some reason I thought this was OK. Fail. So the next two weeks I’m going very strict as well. For lunch I’m doing madras lentils from Costco. They have some cream in them, but I think overall they’re OK. For breakfast I do three eggs and three pieces of bacon. Then dinner is usually chicken with salsa and a vegetable. Hopefully we will both see great results!

  2. For the first month I definitely did my best to stay on track with the diet.

    Since then I’ve made quite a few changes – namely not being as rigid with the cheat days (I’ve actually cut back – most weeks I only do a cheat meal, but once in a while I do a real cheat day), I’ve added in some intermittent fasting of about 18-24 hours, and I’ve essentially cut out the beans and moved on to a more Paleo style diet.

    I’ve noticed only little weight loss…but I feel better. The beans were starting to get to me, and my bloating and discomfort have subsided since going more Paleo.

    Also, as with Josh – I’ve had the same problem with popcorn…that has become my weakness (!) – I crave it a lot. I think that has stalled some of my progress.

  3. I just started the diet and think I am following it pretty strictly and I’m a vegetarian. It is day 2 for me and I already lost 1.2 lb so I think it’s working. I haven’t used PAGG but plan to try when it arrives. I’m also going to look into resting my neck on an ice pack at night like Feriss mentioned in the book. Tim Feriss clearly states if you wants results you have to follow the plan without cheating, it’s not fun but it shouldn’t be too hard.

    • Jessica, welcome to FMF. πŸ™‚ And welcome to 4HB! You’ll probably find that you lose more the 1st week than other weeks, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t have much success for a couple weeks. The best piece of advice I can give is to use a measuring tape in addition to the scale (ie, don’t only use the scale). The tape will tell you more than the scale will.

      Thanks for the encouragement, and I look forward to seeing some of your progress!

  4. Jason, I laughed when I read the subheading Seeking Bipartisanship. I do believe people treat everything Tim says in 4HB as gospel which, ironically, sort of misses the spirit of the plan – experimentation. I switched from 4HB to a more Paleo diet a few weeks ago and have lost a bit of weight, but what is more important to me is how much better I feel. I just read an interview between Tim and Rob Wolf, the Paleo guy and got the impression, he’s actually converted to eating that way as well with the occasional beans/lentils thrown in. I don’t want to proselytize Primal/Paleo, but I do feel like I stuck to Slow Carb way longer than it was serving me simply because I wanted it to work and believed that it would based on how many people were succeeding with it (and maybe a bit because I bought the domain name for Slow Carb Foodie.) I’m pretty much of the mindset that I could be doing Slow Carb or Paleo and have virtually the same results, the difference for me will likely be in the exercise as I’m very close to my goal. There’s definitely no “one size fits all” eating plan. Keep experimenting and keep blogging… interesting post.

    • Laura, I’m glad that I *didn’t* buy a 4hb/slowcarb/ferrisslover domain for that reason. If I switch later, I don’t have to worry. πŸ™‚ The more people talk about paleo, the more I wonder if it’s something I might like to try out. I’ve definitely started learning how to really eat, and even have learned more about portion control. But what floors me the most about 4HB (and I bet also paleo) is the amount of food you can eat and the low amount of calories it is. The past couple days I’ve noticed some “healthy” frozen food containers and they have the same amount of calories that this pile of natural food I eat. I never in my life was full from those foods. It made me wonder…why bother? Anyway, I got off topic…what I was going to say is that I think paleo and slow carb are very related, and I don’t think you need to change your domain, because though it may technically be a misnomer, paleo is probably also pretty slow carb too. πŸ™‚


      • Sorry to resurrect an old post, but both you and Laura make excellent points I totally agree with:

        4HB as gospel – It’s infintiely wise to observe Ferriss’ (and others) nutrition plan with a critical eye. We all know that there is always a new ‘wonderplan’ that comes out every few months. Ferriss’ 4HB may turn out to be the plan we all need, but we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket.

        “If I switch later, I don’t have to worry” – Again, another prudent choice. We know that 4HB may not be the plan for us forever, so it’s great to have a non-specific domain name.

        amount of food – So true. Calories are not all created equal. Eating a serving of beans is not like slammin back a Coke. That energy from slow-carbs is nicely sustained throughout the day vs. the major spike from high GI foods.

        Thanks for the great info and opinion.

        • Don’t ever be sorry to resurrect old posts. πŸ˜‰ People are coming in all the time, and I hope most of the stuff you’ll find here will apply to you regardless of when you read it!


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