Surrender to Tim Ferriss: The Dynamo Behind the ‘4-hour’ Books Should Run Your Life (And Maybe Our City)

4-Hour Chef - Tim Ferriss - coffee shot - photo credit Susan BurdickCertain aspects of the proposed soda ban were so goofy. For example, 7-Eleven was entitled to sell Big Gulps, because it’s regulated by the state, but right next to it, a fast food restaurant was not entitled to, because it’s regulated by the city. Now Mayor Bloomberg has proposed banning the public display of cigarettes in bodegas and other stores. Is this a good idea?

There are always loopholes. The question is whether or not there’s a net positive effect, and what the magnitude of that effect is. The standard Body Mass Index (BMI), used by physicians worldwide, is fundamentally flawed. That said, it’s simple and useful for most obese people on the Standard American Diet (SAD), even those poor bastards who get it as an import. Ultrasound bodyfat percentage is infinitely more accurate, so I use it, but it’s more expensive and inconvenient. It doesn’t scale for a hobbled health care system.

As for the cigarettes, I don’t have enough data to have an opinion.

So what would you do? Let’s say you were made not just mayor, but Czar of New York, and you could enact a bunch of rules by fiat. What would be a more effective rule than a ban on cigarette displays or ultra-sugar soft drinks?

In my model of behavioral change (borrowed heavily from researchers, Nike+ data, and more), results are always better with scheduled misbehavior: in other words, follow the rules 90 percent of the time, and then enjoy yourself in excess the other 10 percent of the time. Everyone is going to binge on a diet, for instance, so plan for it, schedule it, and contain the damage. In the Slow-Carb Diet—which is this diet that I tested and vetted through all the experimentations in The 4-Hour Body, and have tracked with 2,000-plus people—allows for one cheat day a week. On that cheat day (often called “Faturday” or “Dieters Gone Wild (DGW) Day”), people can consume five whole pizzas, they can have ice cream until it comes out their ears, whatever. It doesn’t matter—the body can’t metabolize the excess calories into body fat effectively over that short a period of time. But—this psychological release valve is critically helpful to adherence. No one is giving up their favorite foods forever, just for six days at a time. Thousands of people now keep a “to-eat” list for their cheat day, which I recommend as Saturday for social reasons; every time they get an urge during the week, they put the item (I like bear claws) on their “to-eat” list. This format creates unbelievable results—84 percent of people who comply lose an average of eight-plus pounds in the first four weeks. There are people who have lost 120 to 140 pounds in six to 12 months and now kept it all off for two to three years. The stats are unreal.

In your book, The 4-Hour Body, you give an example in which Michael Phelps claims to be eating 12,000 calories a day. And you say, either he’s a liar or something else is at work burning those calories. And you determine that the effort it takes his body to keep his temperature up while swimming in cold water is sort of an ultra metabolism machine. So as Czar, would you also prescribe smarter exercise than what people are currently doing?

Oh, for sure. I’d prescribe smarter exercise. But first, I would prescribe that people over a certain body weight—or rather, body fat percentage—focus exclusively on diet for the first eight to 12 weeks, and not exercise at all. Exercise is overrated. Many of my readers are like Travis Heryford; he’s lost 130 pounds with ZERO exercise. Just Slow-Carb Diet and a few supplements. The problem with New Year’s resolutions—and resolutions to “get in better shape” in general, which are very amorphous—is that people try to adopt too many behavioral changes at once. It doesn’t work. I don’t care if you’re a world-class CEO—you’ll quit. So start with one—the key here is really diet—that’s 99 percent of fat loss. Forget about fancy workouts, expensive gyms, impossible schedules, and all the crap that everyone ditches after two weeks.