Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Toss 90% of Your Diet and Fitness Books into the Trash Can

What??  Am I exaggerating here?  Toss 90% of your diet and fitness books into the trash can?  

Let's be honest, a hefty percentage contain outdated, partial or skewed information anyway, so there's no great loss.  For the rest, you may find they add more confusion than clarity to your life and have led to "paralysis by analysis" for you.

Enter, The 4 Hour Body.  Goodbye, paralysis!

It Started With a Very Long Road Trip

Last week I spent 18 hours on the highways of southern Ontario in a 55 hour period and 12 hours of that were solo, so I really needed something to listen to.  My cousin, a true renaissance man with a fanatical interest in human resilience (and most other things!) had suggested the audio book version of Timothy Ferriss' recent bestseller, The 4 Hour Body.  

Well, the audio book was great, but abridged, so the first thing I did when I got home was to grab the book itself - double the revenue going from my pocket to Mr. Ferriss ;-)

If you've read his previous magnum opus, The 4 Hour Work Week, you know Tim is a divergent thinker and a very entertaining and thought-provoking writer.  Better that that, he always tests his theories and gives you advice you can easily put into practice in your own life.  And this is where The 4 Hour Body delivers in spades.

At first I thought the title was contrived; just a take-off of the previous book's.  Not the case, however; it turns out that a total of 4 hours of exercise is all the exercise you need in a whole month to do a total body makeover.  And Tim's right on - most people vastly overestimate the "gym time" needed to build sculpted and functional muscles, reduce body fat and get you looking and feeling your best. 

Diving Into the Book 

Tim effectively breaks down the artificial mental silos we use to separate weight loss, diet, nutrition, fitness, body image and performance, and then pulls it all together for you in a series of usable programs you can apply to yourself.  And you don't have to read all of this 550+ page monster.  Just select what's most important to you.  Want to lose weight?  Read pages 44-156.  Want to gain weight?  Try pages 157-224.  Want to get stronger?  Then pages 404-432 are for you.

And there's plenty of science in the book to back it all up.  Fortunately, Tim keeps all but a minimum of that out of your way while he explains the programs to follow, and then lets you peruse the scientific research at your leisure.  

Important scientific note here: Tim is a meticulous data cruncher, as he says, and measures everything!  This alone should shift your thinking about how you approach life in general.  My own resilience work is built on the same premise: if you can't measure it, you can't prove it.  (This, by the way, was the same scientific logic ancient spiritual traditions built their practices on.  Then we invented "religion".  God help us all!)

At first sight, the book's a bit eclectic, covering an interesting spread of topics:

  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Building muscle and strength
  • Improving sex, including the female orgasm
  • Perfecting sleep
  • Reversing injuries
  • Running faster and farther
  • Swimming and Swinging (swinging as in baseball)
  • Longevity
But then, Tim's an eclectic kind of guy, so the whole thing hangs together quite well.

Here's a fun video trailer for the book...


All this is not to suggest that I have no issues with the book.  Tim's mention of microwaving his food makes me cringe and more attention paid to the living, enzymatic quality of food as opposed to the simple categories of proteins / fats / carbs would have been helpful.  That said, if you follow his "Slow Carb" dietary suggestions, I can almost guarantee you'll send your health and fitness into the stratosphere.

His longevity chapter is, paradoxically, the shortest in the book and could have done with some more research, including investigations into the world's premier longevity tradition, i.e., Taoism.  

And I could go on.  However, the fact remains that if you read this book and put its programs into action - whichever ones apply to you personally, of course - you'll be a lot better off for it.  So grab yourself a copy and enjoy!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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