4HB Stalling out, changing course

As I have mentioned before, Ii have been following the diet and exercise regime as laid out in Tim Ferris’s The Four Hour Body.  The slow carb diet  implies that you can lose 20 pounds in 30 days.  Over the month of February I lost 5 pounds, going from 200 pounds to 195.  It wasn’t as fast as claimed, but the weight loss was consistently going down, so I figured I would stick with it.  The other factor I was supposed to track was my gut’s measurements (this is actually more important than the bathroom scale weight), which has stayed consistently at 39″. 

In March, the weight loss just stalled out.  On the weigh-in day/binge day morning, I would be at 195.  At the end of the day, I would be back up at 197 or 198.  It would then take the rest of the week to  get back down to 195.  My overall weight had stopped decreasing for 4 weeks now.  If my gut was decreasing, I would be ok with this, as that would mean that I’m adding muscle mass as I’m supposed to doing the Occam’s Protocol workouts.

As always in times of crisis, I turned to the Internet.  I found a forum called fourhourpeople.com where they discuss their workouts, menus, and progress.  I soon learned that the Slow Carb Diet and the Occam’s Protocol/Feeding were actually two separate programs.  They have overlap on the diet, but are two separate approaches.

One big change is that with  Occam’s feeding, you are to consume large quantities of calories and protein.  Then, instead of a binge day, you have a reverse binge day with reduced calories.  The exercises rely on an increased amount of calories and protein to work, followed by a day of reduced calories.  Slow carb relies on an influx of simple carbohydrates once a week to “kick-start” your metabolism.  By doing the exercises and the binge day together, I could very well be slowing down the results of both programs.

The Occam’s Protocol/Feeding section of the book is rather poorly written.  Throughout the book, Tim focuses on “simple to follow” plans, stating the complicated will fail.  The Occam-related chapters, however, spread important facts out everywhere in paragraph form.  By reading other people’s reviews and summaries of the chapter, I was able to go back and pick out the important details, but it took some searching.  Here is the best guide to Occam’s Protocol/Feeding I have been able to find: http://wiki.dandascalescu.com/summaries/tim_ferriss_-_the_4-hour_body/from_geek_to_freak_-_gaining_muscle#Preparation

The slow-carb diet is much easier to explain and follow, with clearly spelled out rules:

So I have been trying to decide how I want to proceed.  Do  I switch over to Occam to build muscle mass?  In theory, doing so will also accelerate fat loss as muscles burn more fat and calories than no muscles.  So switching to Occam, if it works, should “re-shape” my body.  Also, gaining muscle is my ultimate goal, as I want to get back into shape.  Ideally i would build my body back up, lose weight, and then start into a running program. However, despite success stories on Four Hour Body, the back of my mind is also worried that it will just make me fatter (Occam’s feeding adds starches back into meals), which I would then have to work even harder to lose.

If I go completely and only into the Slow-Carb diet for a month, I should see some dramatic weight loss.  This would be the easier, safer approach with easily confirmed results.  If I lose the weight, I would feel better about gaining weight under Occam’s, knowing that I can lose it again.

For this week and possibly next, I’m going to “fall back” to only the slow-carb diet as I do some more research and try and figure out what I want to do. 

4HB: 28 days later

I started the 4HB diet/exercise plan on January 30th, and we are no 27 days in.  For those that don’t like to read a lot, I lost 5 pounds, putting me just barely ahead of the soup diet.  However, I do find this diet MUCH easier to stick with for the long term.  I don’t feel the need to “cheat” on it that much at all.  As such, I’m going to continue following it into March.  I have yet to see a reduction in the waist line or hips, but I figure when I get
down 10 pounds or more, I should start seeing that — it’s got to go

Interestingly enough, when I started entering all my weights into fatsecret.com, I found I am pretty much back to where I was in October at 196.  I have been recording my weight somewhat religiously this month, so the chart looks more and more jagged.

weight history - October to March
You’ll notice that on my binge days (Saturdays) my weight spikes back up several pounds.  However, each time it does, it goes up less than it did the previous week.  My Saturday morning weights are: 2/5: 197, 2/12: 197, 2/19: 195.4, 2/26: 196.

Because of these jumps, I have to wonder if the “binge days” are really helping or not.  I know that they help with the mental aspect – it’s much easier to not cheat if you can look forward to having that food you want in a few days. But does it really help to “kick start my metabolism” as Tim claims?

So my plan for March is to experiment with getting rid of the binge day, and change it to one binge “meal” each week (pizza OR ice cream OR waffles, instead of all three).  We shall see if the weight loss becomes more pronounced doing that.  I can’t see myself being disciplined enough to sustain that type of diet for an extended period of time, but once I reach my target weight, I can switch back to the binge day method.


I have been following the Occam Protocol exercises as best I can with my schedule, but I haven’t been able to follow it exactly.  I have put Workout A and B closer together than recommended (2 days instead of 4), and I didn’t really “get” that the important part of the workout is the rep you fail on.  So early on, if I got to 10 reps and the last one was hard to do, I stopped there.  The part of your workout that counts is that millimetre by agonising millimetre maximum effort push to move the weight and failing.  Additionally, I have talked to some other “gym people” and they recommend that going a week between workouts would be better than going two days between them.  You want to give your muscles enough time to recover.

I also was completely ignorant about the Incline Bench Press.  I know what that is with the free weight option, it’s a bench that is slightly inclined and you do a bench press.  I figured the machine would look the same.  I don’t have a spotter, so I was scared to really do the free weight option — you’re supposed to go until you fail, and that doesn’t work with free weights by yourself.  They do have a squat machine with hooks that can put a bench under.  I was able to use that for one of my sessions, but it’s still not optimal.  It turns out that the incline bench press machine looks almost exactly like the shoulder press machine, the handles are just positioned differently. So last week was my first time using the correct machine (and therefore, exercising the right muscle group).

I also ran into a pleasant, yet hindering surprise with the leg press.  I have had to keep trying different machines in order to actually fail.  The first machine, one I’ve used several times in the past, tops out at 340 pounds.  I had started at a lower weight, did 10, and I kept incrementing the weight, doing 10 reps each time, until I maxed out the machine and did 12 reps at 340 pounds.  I’ve tried some different machines over different sessions and it seems that I need 420 pounds to really give my legs a proper workout.

Essentially, a lack of experience has prevented me from doing an optimal workout (at least as Tim defines it), but hopefully I’m on the right track now.

4HB Workouts and Diet

First off, the top rated review for this book on Amazon sums the book up better than I plan on doing.  Read that and this, and you might not really need the book.  Before writing this out, I was wondering if Tim would come after me for revealing items in his book.  However, after seeing the key elements discussed in the Amazon reviews and all the youtube video demonstrations, I figure revealing the “what” doesn’t matter.  Tim uses his book to explain the why, along with providing a lot of background information and examples.  As I am just in my first week, I don’t know if it works or not.  I will follow it as closely as possible, and if it doesn’t work, I’m not going to ask for my money back.  People who buy books that promise to make you into a superman while eating 4,000 calories and working out less than 4 hours a month deserve to have their money taken.

Basically, I have first-hand experience in loosing weight for 30 days — it’s not the soup thing but the 1500-1700 calories per day thing that will let me loose weight.  So this is just an experiment to see if Tim’s method is actually faster.


The 4HB Diet plan is fairly simple and not too original.  It’s a low-carb diet with a binge day that you can use to satisfy all your cravings.

1. No “white” carbohydrates

2. Eat the same few meals over and over again

3. Don’t drink calories 
(no sodas)
4. Don’t eat fruit (or dairy)
5. Take one day off per week

When I did the 30 days of soup, I added some non-soup days as a sort of concession “on these days, I’ll let myself eat a little bit more and it shouldn’t hurt too much”.  However, the binge day concept is more along the lines of eat whatever you want, as much as you want.  It’s supposed to kick-start your metabolism and help with the more mental aspects of dieting.  Instead of denying myself pizza or waffles, I’m giving myself a food to look forward to on Saturday.


There are 4 exercises that make up the 4 hours in the 4 Hour Body.  Each exerciese only takes a few minutes to complete and if you do just those exercises, you’ll spend probably 15 minutes each session, times twice a week for 4 weeks.  There are two optional exercises for abs and arms that take a bit more time, but 30 minutes is pushing it.  So it’s actually less than 4 hours for the new you, assuming it works.

You do two sessions each week with 3-4 days between each session.  You start with 3 days between them and go to 4 days as you add more weight.  The idea is that each exercise damages your muscle just enough to start the rebuild process and any additional exercise is wasted effort (according to Tim).  However, if you work extra muscle groups like the abs and arms, then those won’t affect the impact of the “required” exercises.

All exercises use a 5-second cadence of 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down.  You are supposed to do 1 set of 7 or more reps.  You go until you fail.  If you put on 100lbs and fail at 5 reps, you stop there.  If you put on 80lbs and end up going to 9 reps, that is where you stop.  At each session, you adjust the weight based on how well you did on your last session, trying to fail on the 7th rep.

Session A:
 Shoulder press

Session B:
 Inclined Bench Press
 Leg Press
  After the leg press, do 3 minutes at 85+rpm on a stationary bike to loosen up the leg muscles.

The optional ab exercises (do with session A) are the Myotatic Cruch* (a swiss ball exercise), and the “cat vomit”. This frenchfrye guy has a series of videos where goes through the workouts, including the free weight options I didn’t describe.

* Myotatic Cruch – the guy in the video forgot to keep his arms aligned with ears.  The point is not to move your arms, but move your torso, including the head.

The 4 Hour Body.

I came up with the 30 Days of Soup myself. I work nights Sun-Wed/Thur
down in Virginia (leave Sunday, come home either Wednesday or Thursday
off the rest of the week). It became conveinent to just eat soup while
down in VA, but at home my eating was all across the board. My exercise is also kind of hit or miss.

I decided to try eating
soup only for a full 30 days to see how it went (without increasing my exercise). Turns out I couldn’t stick with it, but I was loosing
between 1 and 2 pounds each week. Basically staying between 1500-1700
calories for me allows me loose the weight, 1700-2000 seems to be the
“stay the same” range, and somewhere above that is where I would start

So knowing something that works (hitting a certain calorie range), this month I decided to experiment.  If the experiment produces no results, I can fall back on what I know works for me.

For this month, I’ve decided to try stuff from “The 4-Hour Body” and see
how much impact it has. It will either have no impact, a little
impact, or high impact. Essentially, it’s a low-carb diet with 1
“binge day” each week, with two 30-minute workout sessions each week.

this first week, I went from 200.4 to 197.4 lbs and from 155.75 total
inches to 155 total inches (measured across waist, hips, each leg, and
each bicep). The next two weeks will show if that’s a fluke or a steady

A failure in discipline, a lesson in status quo

So here we are 26 full days in – I technically started on the evening of January 2nd, so January 3rd is my first full day.  I’d say that after the 15th, I have barely touched a can of soup.  While at work, it’s rather easy to stick with the soup option.  I basically get hungry, go to my drawer, and get a can of soup.  At home, I have more choices.  In fact, the last half of the month, I have taken a number of days off, making every week a short week.

When I’m home and it comes to making a choice about what to eat, the fact that I’m on a diet barely registers on my mind.  My brain pays no attention to that fact.  It’s not like I have an argument with myself over eating either soup or a hamburger and then give in — rather, I just grab something.  Sometimes it’s soup, other times it’s a bag of M&Ms.

The one thing I have managed to do is to track my food intake.  I’ve primarily been interested in calories, with a secondary eye on sodium intake.  I was originally shooting for approximately 1500 calories per day, over 26 days though, I am at an average of 1712.  I kept being amazed by how many calories everything has.  “LIte” syrup has 100 calories in a serving.  I did however, find some Splenda-based syrup that is only 30 calories per serving.  Since I love waffles and pancakes, I will be purchasing this type of syrup more often.

>>> # starting from Jan 2nd
… print (1450 + 825 + 2473 + 1220 + 1190 + 1980 + 1910 + 1630 + 1338 + 1734 + 1653 + 1190 + 2497 + 1630 + 1370 + 2680 + 1078 + 1694 + 1264 + 2662 + 1366 + 1820 + 1877 + 2511 + 1862 + 1616)/26

Weight-loss: I went from 204 lbs to 200 lbs at a steady decline.  My weight loss moved decently in the beginning, and then levelled off as I strayed further and further from the original diet plan.

Excercise:  During this experiment, I did almost no exercise — I wanted to see how well a strict diet did.  Unfortunately, since I didn’t keep a strict diet, it’s pretty inconclusive.   It did however, test my ability to stick to a diet, even a temporary one.  Going into this, I figured that I would do much better at sticking to a diet than I would at motivating myself to do exercise.  To a point of watching calories, I was mostly able to.  To sticking with a certain food regime (even with allowances on certain days a week), I failed.

Looking forward: For February, I’m going to continue tracking my calories, but I’m also going to attempt to increase my exercise.  My two primary exercises I’m hoping to get into will be sprinting and the 100 push-ups plan. I did the 100 push-ups before, but did not complete the program.  Hopefully between February and March, I can push myself to do so.  As for sprinting, up until this point, I have been focusing on distance and endurance — walking or jogging for several hours at time.  My goal now is to go fast and sweat quicker.  I’m not sure if I can really do this on the treadmill or elliptical — I’ll have to look around.  Otherwise, it will be an outdoor activity (as it was meant to be).  Hopefully snow and ice won’t interfere too much.  Even if it does force me indoors, I can still set those treadmills up faster than I can run.  It is just somewhat tricky press the speed buttons as you’re running.

Some changes

I made a few decisions last week.  The first is that my transition day where I switch from work to home, I would go ahead and eat “regular food”.  I went a little overboard in this.. on the drive up I had hot dogs, and at home I had some corn dogs, as well as my regular soup meals.   I ended up with 2,473.  However, the previous day I only had 825 calories, so the two day average is 1649, which is still a bit higher than my 1500 calories or less goal.

I also decided that I’ll let myself have one other day each week to have regular food, but in moderation.  This week, I chose Saturday, during which I had a a footlong Subway Steak and Cheese sandwhich.  Despite that (and a FiberOne bar) being the only food for the day, I had 4 cups of Creme Soda at my parents and 2 cups worth of Dr. Pepper.  Altogether, I had 1,980 calories for the day.  Those were the two “high calorie” days.  If  I had moderated my soda usage during Saturday, it would have worked out much better, calorie wise.

I also have weighed myself in at 202lbs, a 2lb swing since last week.  While 2 pounds is small enough to be just coincidence, seeing the lower weight gives some positive reinforcement. 

Progresso also makes a soup with similar nutrition values called “Chicken and Wild Rice”, which I am trying out this week.  It’s somewhat cheaper than the Select Harvest varieties, and seems more readily in stock.  The Chicken and Rice that I get from Campbells is frequently out of stock.

One Hundred Pushups, Initial test

I’ve decided to go ahead and take the One Hundred Pushups AND the Two Hundred Situps challenge.  The idea behind each is that in 6 weeks, you will build up to 100 pushups and 200 situps, respectively.  What I like about these two exercises is that they can be done just about anywhere, at any time, without equipment.  Running requires either a nice outdoor area or a treadmill.  However, I do hope to get myself back into running/cardio with a hope of getting below 21-minutes for the 3-mile run.  I think if I did that run today, it would be 27 minutes or more.
Now, for me, I have a few advantages.  I’m out of shape now, but I’ve been close to these levels before, thanks to my time in the Marines.  One tricky thing is getting used to “civilian counting”.  In the Marines, one pushup is counted as “down up, down up”.  In civilian counting, this is two pushups.  So in reality, I am taking the Fifty Pushup challenge.  Situps are counted the same way.  One advantage of the situp section is that I don’t have to time it, I just go till I stop.
Today I did my initial test.  I did 22 “military count” pushups or 44 “civilian count” pushups.    On both excercises, this puts me slightly ahead, meaning I can start on week 3, 3rd column for each excercise.