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Customer Review

355 of 397 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Promises Far More Than It Delivers, 30 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman (Paperback)
The first thing the author of this book tells us is that we're not meant to just pick it up and read it all the way through. Instead, we're encouraged to read the introduction to establish a certain base level of knowledge, and from there decide for ourselves which of the remaining sections are relevant to us.

The book has specific sections on losing fat, gaining muscle, improving sex, perfecting sleep, reversing injuries, running, getting stronger, living longer, plus a section called "from swimming to swinging", which covers a grab-bag of topics. Personally I focused on fat loss, so that's what I'm going to focus on in this review.

The section on fat loss begins with a chapter entitled "The Slow-Carb Diet I: How to Lose 20 pounds in 30 Days Without Exercising". Pretty spectacular stuff, huh? In fact, most authorities agree that weight loss that rapid is not healthy. So before I began I decided that if the program truly lived up to its hype, I'd only stick to it for a couple of weeks before going back to a slower weight loss program. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending how you look at it - overly rapid weight loss never became a problem.

The diet is broken down into five rules:

1. Avoid "white" carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, white rice, white bread, potatoes).
2. Eat the same few meals over and over again.
3. Don't drink calories.
4. Don't eat fruit.
5. Take one day off per week and go nuts.

The author also advises dieters to emphasize high protein foods, legumes, and vegetables.

I took two serious shots at this diet. In the first I made one small change of my own, but in the second I followed the stated program TO THE LETTER. In neither attempt did the results even remotely live up to the claims made by the author.

In my first attempt, on my non-binge days I ate:

Breakfast: 2 cans of Old El Passo "Mexe-Beans" plus raw baby spinach.

Lunch: Kangaroo keema with optional green salad; OR steak with grilled tomato and optional steamed broccoli.

Dinner: 20 gm of 85% cocoa dark chocolate plus 20 gm of sunflower seeds plus optional green vegetables (raw baby cucumbers or celery, or steamed broccoli). The chocolate, which I ate for its established heart-health benefits, was my only break with the diet's normal rules. It represented less than one single teaspoon of sugar per day, and as a low glycemic index (GI) food, at least seemed in the spirit of "slow carb".

I drank only water, diet sodas, and black, unsweetened coffee. Following a further suggestion of the author's, I also drank two litres (4.2 pints) of chilled water per day. I occasionally skipped a meal, but as stressed in the book, always ate my high protein breakfast within an hour of waking up.

In the week before going on the diet I have to admit I overindulged. As a result my weight "spiked" by 3.4 kg (7.5 pounds). After five days on the diet literally all of this had come off. Unfortunately, that's where the good news ends. In the three weeks after that I lost just 1.3 kilograms (2.9 pounds). So on a diet billed as causing weight loss of 20 pounds in 30 days, I actually lost less than 3 pounds in 3 weeks. At this point I decided it wasn't worth continuing.

My body fat percentage did end up marginally higher than it was when I started, but the difference was well within my normal daily fluctuations. I did not go quite so far as to use the more rigorous body fat measuring protocols suggested in the book, but I did use my scale (with electronic body fat monitor) at the same time each day: immediately upon awakening, after using the bathroom but before eating or drinking anything.

On the plus side, if you not unreasonably take the view that Mr. Ferriss is not responsible for what I did to myself in the week before going on his diet, you could say that I lost 10.4 pounds. On the other hand, if you factor in the reality that - as any experienced dieter knows - weight gained during these "final" binges usually comes off very quickly anyway, what we're left with is a loss of less than one pound per week. As a personal aside, when I ran the weight loss program by a nurse friend of mine she predicted that it wouldn't work: that each week I'd just regain what I'd lost in my weekly binge. This is one of those friends with an unfortunate tendency to be right. As it turns out, each week I regained almost, but not quite all that I had lost. Hence the very slow net weight loss I did in fact achieve.

And that's where my discussion of the slow carb diet originally ended. However, after posting this review I began seeing claims that my daily dose of dark chocolate was why the diet didn't work for me. I decided to do some reading, and found an article in the Journal of Nutrition reporting that coco-flavoured foods really do cause an insulin response greater than you'd expect from their GI alone. Dark chocolate is still very good for you in the long run, but it _might_ cause an insulin spike at the time you actually eat it. And it is true that the book tells us to avoid this. I figured it was just possible that the fault here really was my own, so I decided to give the slow carb diet another try.

The second time around, on the days I didn't "go nuts" I ate nothing outside the following four meals:

Old El Paso Mexe-Beans served on leafy greens with a splash of red wine vinegar and jalapeños.

Kangaroo and cauliflower curry served on leafy greens with a splash of red wine vinegar.

Lean rump steak with steamed Brussels sprouts.

Stir fried vegetables (from local Chinese takeaways; on most occasions ordered in curry sauce).

The second time around I omitted the 2 litres of chilled water per day.

On almost every day of the diet I ate three meals: one beans, one meat, one stir-fried vegetables. I once missed the third meal, and I once had a second meal of Mexe-Beans in place of the vegetables, but that's it. As before, I was always careful to eat a high protein breakfast within an hour of getting up, and drank only water, diet sodas, and black, unsweetened coffee. This time around I also made the supreme sacrifice and omitted the pre-diet binge so beloved of slimmers everywhere. I wanted to be sure that whatever weight I lost was going to be real weight loss. No excuses!

My results were mediocre to say the least. After six days of regimented eating I'd lost 1.1 kg (2.4 pounds). In the "go nuts" day that followed I not only regained all of this weight, but more besides. As a result, by the end of the next six days of regimented eating I was still actually 0.1 kg (3.5 ounces) HEAVIER than I'd been at the end of the first six days - although still 1 kg (2.2 pounds) lighter than when I first began. On a positive note, in this second shot at the diet my body fat percentage did drop slightly, so all of that appears to be real fat loss. Even so, it seemed pretty clear that I was simply yo-yoing, just as my nurse friend had said I would. Plus I'd only lost about a quarter of what I should have by day 14 had I truly been on course to "lose 20 pounds in 30 days". I decided it was time to call it quits and resume a healthier pattern of eating.

So much for my personal experiments in fat loss. There are two other sections of the book I would now like to comment on.

First, "Adding Muscle". Ferriss is an advocate of Arthur Jones style High Intensity Training, or "HIT". As with his weight loss program, Ferriss has no problem advertising truly spectacular results, titling one chapter "From Geek to Freak: How to Gain 34 pounds in 28 days". I agree HIT deserves more attention than it gets, but there are more realistic manuals out there. Just do a book search here on Amazon on "High Intensity Training" or "Mike Mentzer" and you'll get some good suggestions.

Similarly, while Mr. Ferriss has a chapter entitled "Living Forever: Vaccines, Bleeding, and Other Fun", a lot of the science behind this chapter on "Living Forever" is highly debatable. Here too I would advise that there are simply better, and certainly more scientifically grounded books available. I personally suggest starting with Dr. Roy Walford's Beyond the 120 Year Diet and the CR society website. On a more conservative front, Jack LaLane's Live Young Forever is also well worth a look.

Finally, I would like to comment on the number of five star reviews this book has garnered, particularly over on Amazon's US website. Having seen other reviewers claim that this book gained a suspiciously high number of positive reviews rather too quickly, I decided to do a little detective work. By sorting the reviews from oldest first, I easily verified that 110 reviews of this book were posted on the 14th of December 2010. Of these 110 reviews, all but 5 gave the book five stars. Obviously it's equally easy for you to verify all this too - provided you don't mind doing some counting! A disturbingly large number of five star reviews also happened to appear on the US website on April 26 2011. I've no idea why April 26 2011 was the magic day, but if you do happen to know, then please leave a comment on this review letting me in on the secret. I'm quite curious myself!

Incidentally, having read many of the other reviews, I can't help but notice that even among the 5 star raves, when an actual rate of weight loss is reported, it is generally about half of what is claimed in the book - and often considerably less. Why these people are willing to give a book five stars under such circumstances is a question you'd have to ask them.

In the end I can only say that I went into this with an open mind. I did actually buy the book. If you track down this review as it appears on Amazon's US website (which is where I bought it from), you'll see that it does have the Amazon Verified Purchase label. I didn't throw away that money just so I could write a nasty review. I also took not just one but two very serious shots at the weight loss program contained in the book. And yes, like anyone else on a weight loss program, of course I wanted it to work. However, I find that I cannot reconcile my own experiences with the countless rave reviews this book seems to attract.

Draw what conclusions you will.

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Showing 1-10 of 45 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Jan 2012, 19:39:51 GMT
Alan says:
you obviously missed the section on slow carb meaning a reduction in eating anything that causes a high insulinemic response. supplementing coco powder obviously had a high insulinmeic response from your pancreas thus kicking off the various metabolic pathways that lead to storage of energy in your WAT.

you also didn't mention the suggested supplementation of the PAGG and AGG stack - these supplements are key.

underlying your review is a implied fundamental belief that calories in must be equal to or less than calories out - if you hold onto this then it will be very difficult for you to embrace the approaches in the book and therefore get any benefit - it doesn't take much to kick the pancreas into action and make it very easy for the body to store consumed energy in WAT.

i followed the mental approach tim sets out, he encourages the use of supplements and avoidance of foods that create high insulin production. he also promotes a framework to question what you read and hear and to sift through dis information to make conclusions in your own right.

his directions promote rapid weight loss and while most dietitians advise against this - it is often overlooked how being 20lbs overweight for years stacks up against the potential negative health implications of losing weight too quickly - in other words if losing weight too quickly is your new problem then it is a much better problem than being 20lbs overweight for years! in fact its a lovely problem to have!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jan 2012, 20:40:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Jan 2012, 23:13:48 GMT
Theo says:
Hi Alan,

Thank you for your comment. There are a few points I would like to respond to:

>"supplementing coco powder obviously had a high insulinmeic response from your pancreas thus kicking off the various metabolic pathways that lead to storage of energy in your WAT."

I didn't supplement with coco powder. I ate a very small amount of dark chocolate each day - just as I said in my review. As for my "insulinmeic" response, all I can really say to that is that dark chocolate is actually an extremely low GI food. See:


Thus, although I technically violated the no-sugar rule, I was certainly continuing to eat "slow carb".

>" you also didn't mention the suggested supplementation of the PAGG and AGG stack - these supplements are key."

They are not represented as "key" in the book itself. I believe that I gave the core of the weight loss program in my review. In fact, in the chapter "The Slow Carb Diet I: How To Lose 20 lbs in 30 days Without Exercise", where the author gives this diet, he ends with a section entitled "That's All, Folks!". In that section he explicitly states:

"If the founding fathers could sum up our government in a six-page constitution, the above is all we need to summarize rapid fat-loss for 99.99% of the population. Followed to the letter I've never seen it fail. Never.

"When you feel mired in details or confused by the latest-and-greatest contradictory advice, return to this short chapter. All you need to remember is:

"Rule #1: Avoid white carbohydrates (or anything that can be white).
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again.
Rule #3: Don't drink calories.
Rule #4: Don't eat fruit.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts."

>" underlying your review is a implied fundamental belief that calories in must be equal to or less than calories out"

I've no idea where you get that from. At no point do I say anything like this in my review.

>" his directions promote rapid weight loss and while most dietitians advise against this - it is often overlooked how being 20lbs overweight for years stacks up against the potential negative health implications of losing weight too quickly - in other words if losing weight too quickly is your new problem then it is a much better problem than being 20lbs overweight for years! in fact its a lovely problem to have!"

It may be a more serious problem than you seem to think. It's a hard thing to test in humans, if only because of the fundamental methodological problem that truly long term results can take decades to arrive. But we do know that overly rapid caloric restriction in rodents shortens lives rather than lengthens them.

If you wish to ignore the current consensus among mainstream physicians and scientists, that's up to you. It is, as they say, your life. I shall merely observe that remaining 20 lbs overweight for the rest of that life and losing the 20 lbs in 30 days may not be your only options here. At the very least, you might like to consider taking a month or two off in the middle and losing that 20 lbs in two lots of 15 days - assuming, that is, that the approach suggested in this book really does work for you. As for me, I find myself returning to the words of another critical reviewer, over on Amazon's US website:

It may indeed pay to "be more careful with your body than Mr. Ferriss is."


[Edited to correct a few lapses in expression - not changed in substance]

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jan 2012, 15:15:28 GMT
[Deleted by Amazon on 24 Apr 2012, 21:31:54 BST]

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jan 2012, 16:30:19 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Jan 2012, 16:12:37 GMT
Theo says:
I know there's been a lot of speculation as to where all these 5-star reviews are coming from. I haven't personally seen any hard evidence that there's anything more sinister at work here than a well orchestrated fan base. I think this kind of "soft" marketing is actually Ferriss's real area of expertise. However, I do remain open to any evidence to the contrary. And like I said in my review, I am still very curious as to why April 26 2011 was the magic day!

As for contacting Amazon regarding any matter pertaining to reviewing or their various community forums, forget about it. Whenever I've contacted Amazon about a matter pertaining to an actual purchase, on every occasion bar one I've been entirely satisfied with the service I received. Whenever I've contacted Amazon about a matter pertaining to reviewing or communities, on every occasion bar one it's been like a trip to idiot-island. In fact, on the only occasion I did get an intelligent response, I didn't bother with the usual channels at all, but spoke directly to their legal department.

I don't really think the employees who deal with community and reviewing issues are the imbeciles they appear to be. It's far more likely that this is simply an area of the company that isn't seen as especially profitable, and so is just not given the resources needed to do the job assigned to it. My best guess is, we're dealing with people who barely have the time to even read our complaints, much less actually think about them.

Posted on 8 May 2012, 22:20:10 BST
ML says:
It is just like other ordinary diet book. Nothing new. I tried all kinds of diet and nothing works. I gained weight because of stress and anxiety. Like something wrong in my head. It goes back to my tough childhood. My metabolism is OK having no diabetes. You have to eat the same kind of things all the time if you it works for you! Why bother? It is just a yo yo diet.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 May 2012, 22:39:01 BST
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2013, 14:25:03 GMT
Theo says:
Hi ML,

Thanks for commenting.

There are a couple of points I think we all have to remember here:

First, losing weight and KEEPING IT OFF (that's the really tough part) is an incredibly big ask. I think the academic research says that in the long term there's a 95% failure rate. From what I understand, the research says that the people who succeed in keeping the weight off are incredibly committed to carefully measuring out their portions every single day of their lives. To be successful, truly permanent change needs to be approached almost as if it was a second career you were undertaking. That's the level of commitment involved here.

But second, entirely independent of weight, there are a lot of things you can do for your health with diet and exercise. Being physically fit is a bigger predictor of lifespan than weight: a mildly obese but fit person has a longer life expectancy than a thin couch-potato. There are also a lot of foods that, again independently of weight, will improve your life expectancy when eaten. Blueberries, almonds, dairy-free dark chocolate, and green tea are all excellent choices. Just 20 gm of dairy free dark chocolate per day will halve your risk of heart attack - AND improve your insulin sensitivity! I've also seen evidence that 3 gm of spirulina per day will improve your insulin sensitivity, which (from the point of view of avoiding diabetes not just now but in the future) is also something worth considering.

EDIT TO ADD: I think this NY Times article is extremely illuminating on the subject of _permanent_ weight loss:


In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2012, 09:20:51 BST
G. Stewart says:
I think that these studies from Harvard should put paid to all the speculation about insulin etc etc. ?

As a trainer who has tried all the blood sugar slow carbs blah blah pseudo science, the painful truth is this. It is, whether you like it or not mainly a calories issue. There is an urge in all of us to victimise one thing- carbs, fat, - whatever. But the truth is more difficult. See the Harvard research below.

I have consistently got the bets results explaining to clients that they can continue to eat what they usually eat, but in a calorie contreolled way. Here are my 5 Top Tips.


February 7, 2012

Choosing the diet that will work for you
Scores of weight-loss diets have been in the limelight over the years. But relatively few have been carefully studied. They include very low-fat diets (see below), such as the Ornish and Pritikin diets; low-carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins and South Beach; and the Mediterranean diet, which has the added bonus of conferring a number of potential health benefits.
What do the data say about the effectiveness of diets and how can you use that information to choose a weight loss approach that will work for you?
The diet studies
The reality is that when it comes to shedding pounds, the key is cutting calories - and it doesn't really matter whether those calories come mainly from steak, bread, or vegetables. A study led by Harvard researchers published in 2009 in The New England Journal of Medicine compared four different low-calorie diets (high fat, high protein; high fat, average protein; low fat, high protein; and low fat, average protein) in 811 overweight adults. Although all the participants lost an average of about 13 pounds in the first six months (about 7% of their initial weight), they started to regain at the one-year mark. After two years, average weight loss was the same in all groups.
An earlier study in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that it's whether you stick with whatever diet you choose that makes the difference. In this study, overweight and obese adults were assigned to follow the Atkins diet, the Ornish diet, Weight Watchers, or the "Zone" diet. After one year, nearly half of the participants had dropped out of the study. But those who didn't lost similar amounts of weight (about 5 to 7 pounds each, on average). People assigned to the Atkins and Ornish diets were more likely to drop out of the study, suggesting that many people found these plans too extreme. But for certain people, the structure of a restricted plan may be helpful.
Experts advise people to keep the percentage of their calories from major nutrients within the recommended federal guidelines:
* Protein: 10% to 35%
* Carbohydrate: 45% to 65%
* Fat: 20% to 35%
Note that diets that are less than 45% carbohydrate or more than 35% protein are hard to follow, and they're no more effective than other diets. In addition to possibly increasing the risk of heart disease, diets with very low carbohydrate levels may have a negative effect on mood, according to several studies.
The take-home lesson is that it is okay to experiment on yourself. If you give a diet your best shot and it doesn't work, maybe it wasn't the right one for you, your metabolism, or your situation. Don't get too discouraged or beat yourself up because a diet that "worked for everybody" didn't pay off for you. Try another.
Low-fat: Doesn't taste great ... and is less filling
Once the main strategy for losing weight, low-fat diets were shoved aside by the low-carb frenzy. But healthy fats can actually promote weight loss, and some fats are good for the heart; eliminating them from the diet can cause problems.
Since fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbohydrates contain 4, you can theoretically double your food intake without taking in more calories by cutting back on fatty foods and eating more that are full of carbohydrates, especially water-rich fruits and vegetables. Still, such a diet tends to be less filling and flavorful than other diets, which lessens its long-term appeal.
Low-carbohydrate: Quick weight loss but long-term safety questions
The low-carb eating strategy is based on the biological fact that eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels, which triggers an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. The theory goes a step further, claiming that high insulin levels produce hunger, so people who eat carbohydrates take in more calories and gain weight.
Low-carbohydrate diets tend to cause dehydration. To make up for the lack of carbohydrates in the diet, the body mobilizes its own carbohydrate stores from liver and muscle tissue. In the process, the body also mobilizes water, meaning that the pounds shed are water weight. The result is rapid weight loss, but after a few months, weight loss tends to slow and reverse, just as happens with other diets.
The American Heart Association cautions people against the Atkins diet, because it is too high in saturated fat and protein, which can be hard on the heart, kidneys, and bones. The lack of fruits and vegetables is also worrisome, because eating these foods tends to lower the risk of stroke, dementia, and certain cancers. Most experts believe South Beach and other, less restrictive low-carbohydrate diets offer a more reasonable approach.
Mediterranean-style: Healthy fats and carbs with a big side of fruits and vegetables
Mediterranean-style diets emphasize good fats and "good" carbs.
Saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are the bad guys. Good fats are monounsaturated (found in olive oil, for example) and polyunsaturated (found in such foods as fish, canola oil, and walnuts). Mediterranean diets tend to have a moderate amount of fat, but much of it comes from healthful monounsaturated fats and unsaturated omega-3 fats. It is high in carbohydrates, but most of the carbs come from unrefined, fiber-rich foods. It is also high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish, with only modest amounts of meat and cheese.
People living in Mediterranean countries have a lower-than-expected rate of heart disease. But the traditional lifestyle in the region also includes lots of physical activity, regular meal patterns, wine, and good social support. It's hard to know what relative role these different factors play - but there is growing evidence that in and of itself, the diet can reduce cardiovascular risk and the development of diabetes.


The Nutrition Source
The Best Diet is the One You'll Follow
The only sure-fire way to lose weight is taking in fewer calories than you burn.
Psst. Want to know the secret to losing weight that diet books have been hiding from you? Take in fewer calories-it doesn't really matter how, according to a new study-and get some support for your efforts.
For years, we've been told that fiddling with the form of calories is the way to lose weight. First came low-fat diets, like the American Heart Association Step I diet or the Ornish diet. They were pushed aside by low-carb diets like the Atkins and South Beach diets. Higher-protein approaches, like the Zone diet, had their day on stage, along with everything in between, from Sugar Busters! (eat no sugar) to the Paleo Diet (eat like a cave man).
The conclusion from the latest head-to-head trial comparing different weight loss strategies, however, is that what you eat takes a backseat to how much you eat. What reallymatters for weight loss is that you take in fewer calories than you burn. How you get there is immaterial, according to the study, which was published in the February 26, 2009 New England Journal of Medicine. (1)
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center compared the effect of four different diets on weight loss. They recruited more than 800 motivated volunteers. Each one was randomly assigned to one of four prespecified diets that were loosely based on popular diets like Atkins, Ornish, and the Mediterranean diet: low fat, average protein; low fat, high protein; high fat, average protein; high fat, high protein (see table, Overview of Weight Loss Diets and Results). Each of the diets met the American Heart Association's recommendations for cardiovascular health. Each plan cut about 750 calories from a participant's normal daily diet; no one ate fewer than 1,200 calories a day.
The participants were given daily meal plans, were asked to attend weekly support sessions, and were encouraged to exercise at least 90 minutes a week. Body weight, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, and other measures were gathered at 6 months, 12 months, and 2 years.
Over the first 6 months, the participants lost an average of about 12 pounds and had a 2-inch drop in waist size, regardless of the diets they were following. At 12 months, most began to regain some weight. At 2 years, the amount of weight lost was similar across the four plans, on the order of 7 to 9 pounds (see table, Overview of Weight Loss Diets and Results). Feelings of hunger, of being satisfied (satiety), and of satisfaction with the diet were the same across the board. So were cholesterol levels and other markers of cardiovascular risk.
The averages, though, hide the huge variation in weight loss seen in this and other diet trials, pointed out lead researcherFrank Sacks, M.D., professor of cardiovascular disease prevention in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Some of the participants lost 30 pounds or more on their diets, while others actually gained weight during the trial. The study also found that the more group counseling sessions participants attended, the more weight they lost, and the less weight they regained. This supports the idea that behavioral, psychological, and social factors are probably far more important for weight loss than the mix of nutrients in a diet.
This study joins a handful of trials that have shown that low-carb and low-fat diets both work in the long run, as does the Mediterranean diet. (2-6) Some of the earlier trials suggested that the low carb approach yielded somewhat faster weight loss, but this latest trial did not find any speed advantage for one diet over another.
How to Put These Diets into Practice
The take-home message from this trial and other recent weight loss trials is simple: If you are serious about losing weight, find a diet that appeals to your taste buds. If it's one your family can follow, so much the better-that way you aren't making different meals for you and your family.
The form of the calories you take in matters for only one reason: helping you stick with the diet. If you prefer protein, then a higher-protein diet might help you lose weight better than a diet that emphasizes carbohydrates. If you like variety and vegetables, try a Mediterranean approach. If you believe that eating fat makes you fat (it doesn't, anymore than eating protein or carbohydrate makes you fat), then try a low-fat approach like one of the Ornish plans.
Better yet, build your own plan. It should provide plenty of choices, have few restrictions, and be as good for your heart, bones, and brain as it is for your waistline. It should be a diet you are excited about trying, or at least not dreading. Most important, it should deliver fewer calories than you usually take in.
What's the best way to determine that? If you can see a nutritionist, she or he can help you figure out how many calories you usually consume. The process usually involves keeping a diary or record of everything you eat, drink, and nibble on over the course of three days. This can be converted to calorie counts and your daily caloric intake. You can also do this yourself online, suggests study co-author Kathy McManus, R.D., director of the nutrition department at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Many web sites offer online food diaries that automatically calculate your calorie intake. Some you have to pay for, others offer up ads for diet products. A free, and ad-free, site worth trying is MyPyramid Tracker, set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support its new food pyramid. The site also has an exercise tracker.
Once you know how many calories you take in on an average day, you can set a target for the future. A 500 calorie deficit is a good place to start. Do that for a week, and you'll lose a pound of fat (which is the equivalent of 3,500 calories). You can adjust your diet to take in 500 fewer calories a day. Or you can cut back by 250 calories (the amount of calories in a 20-oz bottle of sugary soda pop, a 16-ounce vanilla latte, or a jelly donut) and exercise long enough to burn an extra 250 calories (walk an extra 2 miles, take 5,000 more steps, swim for an extra 20 minutes, or do whatever exercise you prefer).
This kind of plan doesn't have a catchy name. But it has something better-a proven record of success.
Overview of Weight Loss Diets and Results
Diet composition Percent
fat Percent
protein Percent
carbohydrate Weight loss at
2 years
Low fat, average protein 20 15 65 6.6 pounds
Low fat, high protein 20 25 55 8.8 pounds
High fat, average protein 40 15 45 7.0 pounds
High fat, high protein 40 25 35 7.5 pounds
Source: (1)
1. Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360:859-873.
2. Gardner CD, Kiazand A, Alhassan S, et al. Comparison of the Atkins, Zone, Ornish, and LEARN diets for change in weight and related risk factors among overweight premenopausal women: the A TO Z Weight Loss Study: a randomized trial. JAMA. 2007; 297:969-77.
3. Brehm BJ, Seeley RJ, Daniels SR, D'Alessio DA. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2003; 88:1617-23.
4. Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003; 348:2082-90.
5. Dansinger ML, Gleason JA, Griffith JL, Selker HP, Schaefer EJ. Comparison of the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets for weight loss and heart disease risk reduction: a randomized trial. JAMA.2005; 293:43-53.
6. Shai I, Schwarzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al. Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. N Engl J Med. 2008; 359:229-241.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2012, 11:37:53 BST
Last edited by the author on 17 Jun 2012, 11:38:56 BST
Theo says:
Thanks for the links! I suppose it's fitting that the longest review I've ever written gets the longest comment! ;-)

I was prepared to consider the theory that it might be possible to "hack" you metabolism, as Alan clearly believes you can. However, it would certainly be safe to say that my own results weren't anything to write home about.

Interestingly, if you look at the "Overview of Weight Loss Diets and Results" table in your second link, the higher protein diets were marginally more effective. Nevertheless, my own guess here would be that that's more because protein seems to promote saitiation rather than being due to any direct metabolic effect.

Posted on 21 Jun 2012, 18:37:47 BST
Aine Miller says:
Theo I haven't read all of the comments on your review so someone may have already pointed this out to you... you mention a couple of times that you drink diet soda. This contains aspartame which is highly toxic and addictive and strongly linked to obesity and many illnesses. I can think of several mechanisms which would mean it causes weight gain... there are a few mentioned in this article:
Here is a documentary which is truly shocking. Watch it if you are ever in danger of putting a diet drink to your lips again!
Also drinking diet soda and coffee all the time, this is keeping your body in an acidic state, in which you'll never lose much weight. You probably need to get more alkaline things into your diet. Ditch the coffee and diet drinks and replace them with freshly made green juices or green smoothies, and ionised water is also good if you can get a water ioniser.
good luck!

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2012, 23:54:49 BST
Theo says:
Hi Aine,

Thanks for your comment and concern.

I'm not entirely sure how dangerous the diet drinks are, but I have decided to give them up. For the purposes of this review, however, bear in mind that diet soda _is_ within the rules of the slow carb diet.
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