Small steps to a better body
Timothy Ferriss published his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek, in 2007, and in a self-promotion tour de force, went from a little-known investor and business advisor to a best-selling author whose blog garners a million-plus visitors a month.
When it came time to find volunteers for his new book, The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, hundreds of his fans joined experiments in diet, exercise, sex and more. But the title of head guinea pig goes to Ferriss himself. He underwent thousands of blood tests, traveled as many miles and compiled hundreds of case studies on everything from weight loss to sexual behavior to learning to swim in 10 days. Ferriss took some downtime to answer questions about the new book, his obsessions and why his methods are most likely to succeed.
Your first book struck a chord with readers. What made you write your second book about body rather than work? Did you view the change in topics as a risk or a natural progression?The wider world thinks I’m obsessed with time management, but they haven’t seen the other—much more legitimate, much more ridiculous—obsession. I’ve recorded almost every workout I’ve done since age 18. Since 2004, I’ve tracked everything from complete lipid panels to free testosterone. I’ve had stem cell growth factors imported from Israel to reverse “permanent” injuries. . . . I’ve spent more than $250,000 on testing and tweaking over the last decade. And that was just to satisfy my own curiosity and improve my own physical machine. Then I had a conversation with a WIRED magazine writer, in which we joked that the main fears of modern men and women could be boiled down to two things: e-mail overload [addressed in The 4-Hour Workweek]and getting fat. Shortly thereafter, I realized I had to write The 4-Hour Body. It is, without a doubt, a natural progression, a risk and the most important thing I’ve ever written.
Any book that addresses eating and exercise is met with skepticism, most likely because people find it difficult to remain motivated. How will your approach be more effective for readers?
Big changes seldom work. The 4-Hour Body is intended to answer one question: What are the smallest changes that produce the biggest physical changes? To illustrate the point: Even if someone has 100 pounds to lose, I wouldn’t have them start diet and exercise at the same time. Why? The exercise often triggers “reward” meals, more overeating and abandonment of the new program after a few weeks of plateauing. Instead, I have them focus on one small change that can produce three to five pounds of fat loss in a single week, such as changing breakfast to include at least 20 grams of protein. Using this small-step approach, compliance is incredible: 58 percent of test subjects I tracked indicated my diet was the first diet they’d ever been able to follow. Many lost 20 pounds the first month, and some lost 100-plus pounds total.
You recommend a Slow-Carb Diet, and characterize it as “better fat-loss through simplicity.” Tenets include avoiding “white” carbs, eating the same few meals and cheating one day a week. Why are these practices so effective?Because the diet removes any paradox of choice. The more decisions someone has to make, the more they’ll make mistakes or give up and revert to old behaviors. The Slow-Carb Diet removes the need to think, and offers one day a week to do whatever you want. That one day—a stress release valve that also accelerates fat loss—means you’re not giving up your favorite foods forever, just six days at a time. After testing all the diets and fads, this is the best, most enjoyable approach I’ve found for sustained fat loss. I’ve been doing it for more than five years.
Sex is a fundamental part of life, but there’s very little mainstream discussion of how to improve sex with real specifics. Also, most sexual advice is based on a footnote from a book, based on yet another book—there’s no testing. I tested it all, and had others replicate my success with things like the 15-minute orgasm. For many readers, this will easily be the most important part of the book. But did my publisher let me include my explicit photos? Nope. We had to make them detailed illustrations.
You’ve included explicit sexual advice in the book. Why? Did anyone try to discourage you from being so detailed?
Anything I haven’t asked that BookPage readers should know?
At least 50 percent of the case studies are women. This isn’t a book only for 30-something guys. It’s for anyone who’d like to become the best version of themselves possible.