“I didn't think it was you, Dad, your arm was too skinny.” These were the words that broke my heart. My eldest daughter, looking at me sitting in a car from a distance, mistook my arm for that of an adolescent boy.
Sadly, she wasn't wrong. Like many men in their late 40s, my exercise routine consists of windshield time, with plenty of keyboarding thrown in for good measure. This has left me with the body shape of a plantain.
So it is with great hope that I picked up Tim Ferriss' book The 4-Hour Body.
Let me start off by saying that this is a very dense read.
This book is a distillation of thousands of hours of self experimentation. There are sections that teach you how to sleep like Thomas Edison, run like a Kenyan, make love like Don Juan and increase your fertility with proper cell phone hygiene.
The book is roughly split into four sections: thinner, bigger, stronger and better. The author's recommendation is to skip around, but because of the complex nature of the material, you will find yourself going back and forth, especially when he alludes to something you haven't read yet, or read it 100 pages ago. The book is a solid 500 pages so getting around it will take some time.
He also crunches a lot of data, but the scientific “heavy lifting” is set aside in little boxes for you to read later or not at all. In Ferriss' defense, he tells you not to do exactly what I have done, which is read the whole thing. He envisions the book more like a buffet, but it is hard to know where to start. The book is filled with radical ideas that are the total opposite of everything you have ever heard. Stuff like "Don't eat fruit if you want to get skinny" or "If you hit the gym more than once a week, you are probably working out too much and killing your results."
But the most important section might be the first 68 pages, which have to do with your personal motivation, record keeping, and how and what to measure, so you can track your progress. Ferris regards this as essential, although I admit I have made my first trip to the gym without laying the proper ground work. Guess I'd better get on it. At least I weighed myself.
Tim Ferriss' goal, as always, is minimal effort with maximum results, the 2.5 percent of the effort that gives you 95 percent of the results. His goal is something that is easy enough to become a permanent part of your life.
For me, I'd like to lose 40 pounds, and see my stomach muscles one last time before I die. To aid me in my quest, I read the section on losing fat.
Ferris sums up all diet in 4 short phrases.
- Eat more greens.
- Eat less saturated fat.
- Exercise more and burn calories.
- Eat more omega-3 fatty acids.
Which I have to admit, pretty much covers the bases from what I have read.
He then goes on to describe what he calls the "slow carb" diet, which looks a lot like the "paleo" diet minus the fruit.
Ferriss' version is governed by four simple rules.
- Avoid all “white” carbohydrates–bread, potatoes, etc.
- Eat the same few meals over and over again, protein, legumes and non-starchy vegetables, as much as you like 3 to 4 times a day.
- Don't drink calories. This includes milk, sweetened soda and fruit juice.
- Don't eat fruit, other than tomatoes and avocados, and these sparingly, no more than once a day.
You also get one “cheat” day a week where you can go absolutely bonkers and stuff your face with candy bars, pastries, and whatever else you can manage to force feed yourself in your 24 hours of gluttony. His argument is that this actually keeps your body from going into starvation mode and storing fat.
The section on weightlifting is another eye opening experience. He personally claims to have added 34 pounds of muscle in 30 days, with less than 4 hours of gym time. This routine, called "Geek to Freak" has spiraled out in the interwebs to take on a life of it's own, with people posting their results and before and after pictures online.
For me, one of the most fascinating introductions was an exercise called the kettle bell swing, which according to Tim, works every major muscle group in your body. I'm also interested in mastering another kettle bell movement called the Turkish Getup, which again, provides for all over toning and conditioning, and greatly aids in the reduction of injury by integrating and balancing the both sides of your body. (We all favor one side, which leads to uneven strength and increases the chance for injury).
In short, I would consider this a must read for those with an interest in diet, health or exercise. This book presents loads of new information and makes short work of poorly researched conventional wisdom. After returning the library copy, I actually went out and bought one. Now the real work begins, for wisdom lies not in knowing what to do, but actually doing it…..