Learning Proper Portion Sizes On The 4-Hour Body Diet

I’ve been on Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb (4-Hour Body) Diet for four weeks now. When I blogged about it two weeks ago, I had lost about seven pounds. I was pretty happy with my momentum and thought things would get even better over the next two weeks. I was wrong. I plateaued during the third week in every fitness category I was tracking. I even gained a few pounds. Last weekend, I reread parts of the the book to try to pinpoint what I was doing wrong. When I couldn’t find any answers, I turned to the internet. I didn’t find much there either, so I started experimenting on my own.

The biggest problem with the 4-hour body (4HB) diet is that Tim never goes into detail about proper portion sizes. He vaguely mentions you should eat until you’re full to avoid snacking between four-hour intervals and you should eat beans and lentils so you don’t get low on energy. When I looked back at what I had been eating, I realized that my portion sizes were too big and full of fatty foods. I simply wasn’t cutting enough calories. Even worse, carbohydrates were stealthily lurking in my diet.

For instance, when I was in a hurry, I’d just warm up a can of Goya’s “Heat & Serve” Black Bean Soup for lunch. It’s pretty good, but you might as well join the cows at the salt lick. There are 2100 grams of sodium per can. To put that in perspective, you’re allowed to have 2400 grams of sodium per day. Like I told my friend Clare; “if this diet works, we’ll be the thinnest people ever to die of high blood pressure complications.” There are also 74 grams of carbohydrates and 1 gram of saturated fat. That means my metabolism is burning beans for energy instead of excess body fat.

Now I’m steering away from cans of beans as meals in themselves. I think of them the same way people think of energy drinks. I’m sticking with eggs and meat for protein early in the morning and then eating vegetables throughout the day. The key is to keep my metabolism burning all day long. I don’t need to keep adding calories and fat to do that.

I never learned about correct portion sizing as a kid. In fact, my generation learned the exact opposite. Our grandparents came of age during the depression. They never took large meals for granted and subsequently force-fed our parents whenever they could afford it. Our parents thought that kind of “finish your plate or else / starving children in China” discipline was traditional and passed it on to us. In retrospect, it only served to cultivate poor eating habits.

“You should eat like a king at breakfast, like a prince at lunch, and like a pauper at dinner.”

My wife picked that saying up somewhere. The logic behind it dovetails nicely with 4HB in the sense that the most important thing to do on this diet is to eat a lot of protein as soon as you wake up. I’ve been rotating frittatas, huevos rancheros, and sausage scrambles each morning at around 6:00 am. As a variable, I started eating smaller, nonfat meals for my two “lunches” at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. These snacks mostly consist of either sauteed mushrooms, sauteed spinach, or an 8 oz can of green or wax beans. I’ve been having a typical meat-and-two for dinner, but I’ve been putting less on my plate.

The wife informed me that a common rule of thumb for meat portions is to eat nothing bigger than the palm of your hand. I’ve been following that rule and watched as my capacity for food decreased over the course of a week. It’s amazing how fast your body accommodates and adjusts to change.

In my fourth week on the diet, I dropped down to 182 pounds. That puts me at 8 pounds down in total, meaning I lost around seven pounds in the first half of the month and only one pound the second half. That might seem discouraging, but I feel like I’m finally learning how to monitor my weight, diet, and nutrition. Now that I’ve defined the problems, I can easily isolate and eliminate them. I expect to lose much more weight over the next two weeks. I already have people telling me that I look thinner, mainly because my face and neck are slimming down a bit.

I really like this diet. Sure, I miss pizza, mac and cheese, and cheeseburgers, but that’s what Sunday/Cheat Day is for.

I’ve become a morning a person over the last five years and I love taking some time to relax and read the news while I eat breakfast. As a side benefit, I’ve finally mastered most methods of cooking eggs. That’s a picture of a typical breakfast to the right. I’m still working on poaching eggs in the microwave (example), since poaching them the traditional way is a little too time-intensive for weekday mornings. The only thing I miss is the social aspect of eating lunch, but I’ve almost always brought my lunch to work anyway, so that’s no big deal.

Once the weight is off, I think I’ll maintain my morning routine. If I’m exercising, I should be able to eat anything I want for dinner as long as the portion sizes are reasonable. I’m finally beginning to understand the meaning of the old adage, “everything in moderation.”

Update 7/5/2011: 100 Days On The 4-Hour Body Diet

Previous Post: My Experience With The ’4-Hour Body’ Diet

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Learning Proper Portion Sizes On The 4-Hour Body Diet
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9 thoughts on “Learning Proper Portion Sizes On The 4-Hour Body Diet

  • May 12, 2011 at 12:36 am
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    Hey Chad,
    I’ve been on the slow carb diet for about 6 weeks now and I’ve lost about 15 pounds. I experienced the same plateau you did at week three where I didn’t lose any weight and week four only lost 2 pounds. One of the big things Tim stresses is water consumption. I started drinking more water during the day and found not only did I bounce back from cheat day better (I really go off the hook on cheat day, like you I crave pizza badly) but I was dropping more weight all around. I never really looked at the sodium content of my beans though. I’ll definitely have to check that.
    I too have noticed a marked difference in my sleeping habits and my heartburn as well. Zantac and Tums are a standard in my house, but I only need to take them now if I’ve really spiced things up good.
    For breakfast I usually just have a protein shake. I’ve found a variety that has 30 grams of protein per 130 calorie serving. Just mix with cold water and I’m good to go.
    There is another blog called the 4 hour body couple that has a lot of good information on it as well. You should check it out. Keep up the good work man and stay strong!

    Hugh

    Reply
    • April 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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      It takes a LOT of food to get 30 grams of protein in at breakfast. What is the name of the 30 gram/130 kcal protein shake that you’re using ?
      Thanks

      Reply
    • April 18, 2012 at 12:45 pm
      Permalink

      It takes a LOT of food to get 30 grams of protein in at breakfast. What is the name of the 30 gram/130 kcal protein shake that you’re using ?
      Thanks

      Reply
  • June 29, 2011 at 3:40 pm
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    I came to your website when researching plateau experiences with this diet and how people overcame them. My wife and I are in our second week, with little success; but I think it is because we tried to be sophisticated too quickly.
    Since it has been two months since your last post on this subject, would you consider updating us as to your progress and advice?

    Reply
    • July 1, 2011 at 10:48 am
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      I’ll post an update over the weekend.

      Reply
  • October 15, 2011 at 12:45 pm
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    getting soooo demoralized.

    started the “slow carb” and went from 196 to 186 in a month or so.

    have plateaued now for 3 weeks at 186. still have a lot of chubby on the gut and by no means and hint of a 6 pack. recently decided to add working out into the mix and have been swimming, cardo, or weights 3x a week 50min (not all at once on same day).

    now i have actually started to GAIN weight and am up to 189, though my skinny clothes are still fitting looser. started skipping legumes for 1 meal a day and it hasn’t helped break the plateau.

    thinking of reducing the “cheat day” down to a “cheat MEAL” in hopes of breaking the plateau.

    will get bodpod testing (as tim suggested to begin with) to help sort this mess out, but i feel like i should have gotten to 175-ish before the plateau wld start.

    also i’ve notice with dismay: my weight does not return to normal 48-72 hrs after the cheat day as the book suggests. it usually goes up 5lbs by the next morning and stays that way until the next cheat day (ie. 186 morning of cheat day. 190-191 day after, 190 mon, tues, wed, 189 thurs, 188 fri, 186 morning of cheat day 1 week later).

    grrrrr. wtf? any suggestions peeps. staying away from refried beans this week and sticking to whole kidney beans (red n white in a can).

    Reply
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