The fun thing about my decision to do six 30-day trials this year — and this is no surprise, given how obvious it is — is that I get to try six new things. Pretty profound, huh?
But here’s the point: How many times have you thought, “I’d like to make [whatever change] in my life, but [list of excuses why it won't work]“? And to be a bit less obtuse and vague, have you ever thought, “I’d like to quit drinking, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal and it’s fun” or “I’d like to try being a vegetarian, but it’d never work because I can’t resist turkey on the holidays”?
Well, try it for 30 days. If, after 30 days, you decide you miss beer after the softball game and that the payoff of not drinking isn’t big enough, then you’re free to go back to it. If you feel weak or are craving turkey after 30 days as a vegetarian, then head to Mongolian Barbecue and go nuts. You gave it a shot.
A 30-day trial gives you a chance to try just about anything. Because… (wait for it)… you’re just trying something out, not committing to a lifelong change.
That said, I’m ready to try my second trial. For the next month, I’m going to do the “Slow Carb” diet as outlined in Tim Ferriss’s new book The Four Hour Body.
Yes, I realize how trendy this notion is, but here’s some stuff that makes me want to try it… at least for 30 days.
- It’s time to be totally narcissistic.
I’m 6 feet tall and weigh around 202 pounds. This is not a lot of weight on me and I do not have a gut at all; I carry a lot of lean mass thanks to my recreational powerlifting and other crazy shit. However, I had this great set of abs in college and I’d like them back. There is no redeeming quality here. I just want to be The Shit so I can Feel Like a Big Man and Impress Slutty Chicks.
- I’m kind of at war with Clay Collins.
When Clay and I were at Blogworld Expo in October, we sat down for breakfast the first morning and Clay ordered a foo-foo egg white omelette. Which was great, because I then knew that I could order my own foo-foo egg white omelette without being mocked. So because we’re both vain young men, we decided that it would be fun/hilarious to have an Internet Marketing Abs-Off. As soon as we can decide on a way to determine who wins that doesn’t involve posting beefcake shirtless photos, maybe that’ll happen.
- Extreme measures are required.
Losing 10-20 pounds of fat when you’re overweight isn’t hard. You can pretty much just eat less and move more. Losing it when you’re highly trained and near your ideal weight is much harder.
- I’ve done it before.
The best and most effective “cutting” diet I ever came across in the past was called the T-Dawg 2.0 Diet from a site that Yael Grauer will doubtless recognize called T-Nation.com. (Yes, I know how that sounds. Remember the “feel like a big man” part of this.) It was very similar to Ferriss’s diet: low-carb with a cheat day. The problem I had with it was that it was a bit too restrictive and not sustainable for me, but since that worked, I know this one will.
- I really like Tim Ferriss.
I’ve gone as far as to call him a personal hero, actually. I have a very strong suspicion that a lot of people who know him think he’s an insufferable prick, but I don’t care. If anyone “questions the rules,” it’s Tim. He and I are on the same wavelength about a whole lot of things.
What it is
If you have no idea what I’m talking about with this diet, it has five major tenants:
- Don’t eat white foods.
Or any foods that can be white. No bread, pasta, rice (including brown), sugars, flours, etc. Cauliflower is fine, as is spinach which you’ve accidentally dropped into a bucket of white paint.
- Don’t drink calories.
No juices, pop/soda, milk, etc. Stick to no-cal beverages — mainly water.
- Eat the same meals over and over.
The idea is that if you simplify planning, the diet is easy to follow. So you map out a few meals and just repeat them over and over. Tim gives three major categories and suggests choosing something from each category to create a meal: meats, legumes (lentils, beans, etc.), and vegetables.
- Don’t eat fruit.
I know. I know. See my note after #5, below.
- Take one cheat day per week.
No holds barred. On Saturdays, Tim pretends he’s in a big, gross eating contest. This isn’t a perk; it’s a requirement. I won’t explain the science, but let’s just say that I agree with the many benefits of a cheat day from both research and personal experience. I’ve annihilated buffet lines in the past during cheats and still lost a bunch of fat. It’s amazing.
There are few restrictions beyond the above. You pretty much eat until you’re full and don’t count calories. It seems to self-regulate nicely based on some meals I’ve tried… you CAN’T easily overeat because unless you’re just eating bacon grease 24/7, you just get stuffed way before overindulging.
I’m planning to follow it essentially as laid out and will refrain from second-guessing Tim’s choices because it’s only 30 days. If I decide to continue with this one (Tim says he’s done it for seven years), I’ll almost certainly modify it a bit here and there, like add some fruit back in. But for now, I’ll do it mostly as-written because there’s little point to deciding you’re going to do something and then modifying it so much that you’re doing something different.
Here are the changes I’m going to make during my trial. They’re minor.
- I’m going to vary my meals more than suggested.
The reason for simplifying is allowing you to keep on the diet, but I’m definitely not going off the diet either way. I’m a creative guy and will experiment with the new foods. I have a few staples laid out, but they will vary. This isn’t really a modification of the diet in its essence.
- Strictly speaking, I will drink some of my calories.
I have a cottage cheese-based shake and whip up a disgusting green drink every morning. I’ve done it forever and do it for convenience. Since cottage cheese is specifically allowed (an exception to the mostly no-dairy guideline that’s between the lines), mashing it up with a blender isn’t going to make a difference. The “don’t drink calories” rule is there to keep you from ADDING stuff like pop. What I’m doing is drinking my actual meal. So, like #1, this also isn’t really a modification.
- Longer cheat period.
This one IS a modification. If I get nowhere this month, I hereby agree not to fault the diet because I’m making this change in defiance of it. Here’s why, though: We eat dinner at restaurants every Friday and Saturday night. It’s unsustainable for me to eat some ridiculous salad and beans thing every Friday. I know, I could do it just for the trial period, but I’m not going to. The T-Dawg 2.0 diet I mentioned earlier had a 36-hour carb-up refeed, and the original T-Dawg diet (i.e. before 2.0) had the full weekend. I did 36 hours when trying this before and will do it this time.
- I will consume a very small amount of fruit.
Also a definite modification, but a small one. The green drink I make each morning (yes, it’s a Dr. Oz drink, mock away) contains half of an apple per serving (the recipe on that page makes 4 giant glasses. What the hell kind of blender are these people using?) Since this drink already tastes like corpse squeezings, I’m inclined to leave in that small amount of apple. Again, if this flops, I agree not to blame the diet. And besides, look at my header… I’m known for my apple.
- Emergency sugars allowed.
I’m a type-1 diabetic, meaning that I don’t produce insulin. I’ve been this way since 13, and it makes low-carb diets a whore to follow strictly — especially when exercising as much as I do. Because I inject my own insulin, it’s easy to overshoot and send my blood sugar too low. And because I prefer living to following Tim’s diet exactly, I’m going to allow myself to drink juice or eat glucose tablets when I am approaching unconsciousness. I remember this being a bitch when I did a low-carb diet before, but I just handled it and it didn’t decrease effectiveness as far as I could tell.
So that’s it. I’ve been trying out “slow carb” meals (lots of beans, etc.) for a week or so to see how I like it, and it’s cool. I will say that a Chipotle Burrito Bol with guacamole and without rice (or tortilla – but that’s what “Bol” means) is absolutely amazing and incredibly filling. I know it’s got a bunch of salt, but so does everything. I’ll be going there today. Woot!
Wish me luck!
And what about biphasic sleeping?
I guess I need a wrap-up on this one, huh?
January’s trial, biphasic sleeping, was a knockout success. I’m absolutely planning to continue it. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments below, but let’s just say that I found the following:
- I get a lot more done. I’ve told people that if I hadn’t discovered this when I did, I’d have had to drop a bunch of the stuff I’m doing. I simply have too much going on to fit in into my old awake time.
- I’m maximizing my most productive times of day (mornings) while sleeping during my natural brain-dead downtimes (early afternoons). The latter was wasted time even if I stayed awake.
- The sleep I still get is off-the-hook better than ever. I never, ever slept through the night before. I used to say that if fell asleep at a normal time and woke up at a normal time maybe once per year if it was an amazing year. I used to wake up and toss and turn every night around 3-4am. Now I simply get up. My new sleep periods are solid and sound. It’s like I had to get efficient, so my body hopped-to and complied.
- It’s flexible. It’s impractical for me to nap on Mondays and I don’t want to nap on at least one of the weekend days. So I simply skip the nap and sleep a “normal” night’s sleep. Then I readjust the next night and go back to biphasic.
- It’s an assumption-buster. Once I decided I might not need all that sleep, I found out that I was right… but it was a mental switch that had to be made, and I had to see “less sleep” in action to make that switch.
- Zero mental or physical performance decline. I don’t need a lot of sleep to perform well mentally or physically. In addition to running a pretty demanding business (and also now, The Badass Project), I also weight train twice a week, run three times a week (a short, medium, and long run), play tennis and racquetball, cross train on a stationary bike, and do a ton of casual recreation with my kids, and none of this seems affected by getting less sleep. One note: Sometimes I need more sleep to recover after something extreme, but not before. This was a revelation. Thanks to my daughter’s shenanigans, I got about 2-3 solid hours of sleep on Friday night before getting up to run 16 miles on snowy roads. This was absolutely no problem, but I then needed a longer nap that afternoon and slept quite a bit more on Saturday night. (Only long runs do this to me, though.)
Questions? Comments? Let’s hear them below!