(Partial) Review: The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss


My edition: Paperback, Vermillion 2011, ISBN 9780091939526. The book was first published by Crown Archetype in 2010.

How did I get it?
It was a present from a friend – and he still is 😉

Why did I read it?
Discussing the difficulties of changing my own behavior consistently, it became clear to me that I was full to the brim with preconceptions, mostly in the category of grandma’s wisdom. My friend claimed that this book had opened his eyes about the concept of the minimum effective dose. Change takes very little, but very focused effort. Intriguing.

Why a partial review?
This is one of the most provocative books I have read. It certainly cleared up with my preconceptions about things I can’t do and change being hard and painful. I must admit that I did not read the whole book. Sounds worse than it is: The author himself suggests that everyone pick from the book what is of interest to him or her. And I did. I focused on the sections on weight loss and perfecting sleep. There are further sections on improving sex, reversing injuries, running faster and farther, getting stronger, swimming better, and achieving a longer and better life. None of these interested me at the time – perhaps some other time.

The gist of it
The theme of the book is the minimum effective dose. Ferriss’s thesis is based on the Pareto principle taken to an extreme: He claims that not only do 20% of the effort usually create 80% of the results (the classic Pareto principle), but knowing a mere 2.5% of the total of an subject matter can get you as close to as 95% of the total result. For example, if you know 2.500 high frequency words in Spanish, you will be able to comprehend 95% of all conversations – corresponding to 2.5% of the estimated total of approx. 100.000 words in the Spanish language. The trick is knowing the right 2.5%. And Ferriss claims that he has found these valuable 2.5% in the subject matters he deals with in this book. You can achieve results extremely quickly and with minimal effort – provided you are not already an expert in the field.

Ferriss takes nothing for granted – neither Grandma’s wisdom nor what appears to be scientific evidence. He tests on himself. The result is a diet and exercise regime that is supposed to produce fast and impressive body reshaping results. The diet avoids all carbohydrates like the plague that are – or could be – white. These include bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, tortillas and all foods with any of the components listed above. Instead, you should eat plenty of protein rich foods, such as eggs, meat, fish, chicken. Very important: Have enough vegetables with high protein because these, as a rule, contain enough carbohydrates to feed you we well – just slow carbohydrates, consisting of longer molecular chains. You need these to prevent the feelings of fatigue and low energy which are often associated with a LOW carbohydrate diet. These are lentils and beans of all kinds. Just as important: legumes (spinach, sauerkraut, asparagus, peas, broccoli), and all other kinds of veggies. Not recommended: fruit, because of fructose. You can eat as much of the recommended foods as you want – no starving required.
Astonishing: Once a week you can go on a complete binge, forget about all the diet restrictions, and eat as much as you want of any food, even the ones indexed for the rest of the week. Pretty incredible. Ferriss considers this one-day-a-week-binge a critical component of the entire fat reduction program, not to be skipped for false ambition.
Even better: the exercise part. Ferriss claims that with a few selected exercised which are focused on building muscle, you can reshape your body and greatly increase fat loss with as little as 3-4 hours per month in total – less than an hour per week, distributed over two or three sessions per week. So much for the old saying: Calories IN minus calories OUT equals weight loss or gain.
The book has more than 300 pictures, mostly before and after pics. It has lots of anecdotes and success stories.  And it has a lot of ideas and suggestions that are definitely not for me (like taking ice-baths). But it also provides so many controversial ideas that the result in the reader is a profound self-inspection and an interest to try some of them out. Therefore, I believe the book reaches its objectives and is a very worthwhile read.

Side notes
The best part: it works. It has worked for lots of people who give testimonials on Ferriss’s website. And it has also worked for me and still does.
If anyone is irritated by the several affiliate links listed in the book, it should be said that Ferriss donates all the proceeds from those to charitable causes.
In the meantime, several programs have adopted Ferriss’s principles, the most recent one being an online program promoted by John Cena of the WWF. It will be interesting to follow its success. My German friends have told me that the same program has been running extremely well over there for two years.

Wikipedia on The 4-Hour Body
The NY Times Review

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