Getting Back on the Horse – Keys to Restarting the Diet after a Layoff

I started the 4 hour body diet/slow carb diet in December 2011. When I started I was gung-ho: snapping pics of every meal, uploading them to the site, detailing my meals, preaching about it to anyone and everyone.

And I was successful.

In about 40 days on the diet, with minimal exercise, I lost just shy of 30 pounds.

What happened next is what screwed me up.

I transitioned, not back to my old ways, but to what seemed like the logical transition for many people following this lifestyle. I went to a more paleo approach.

While paleo is great, for me it created a bit of a problem. The introduction of fruit as fully acceptable and and the discouragement of beans and peanuts, along with a lack of controlling my cheats (this is the more serious problem) – led to me putting much of my weight back on. I still felt much better than when I was leading a SAD lifestyle, but the weight coming back on was a shock.

But once I made the transition, it was difficult to get back on the Slow Carb “horse” and be disciplined. I invariably would rationalize that “the banana and peanut butter weren’t that bad, it’s actually healthy” (it probably is, but it wasn’t helping me reach my goals). Or, this great rationalization: “potatoes would have been a whole natural food, I can have one…” which quickly caused me to move from baked sweet potatoes to crispy, golden, french fried potatoes. You see the problem here, I’m sure.

The kicker is, I know I’m not the only one that has had that problem.

But, here’s the thing: I know how to get my ass back on the horse, and how to help you get your ass back on there too.

You want to know how?

Decide right now that you’re committing to the lifestyle.

Not tomorrow, not Monday. Hell, for all I know it was your New Year’s resolution and you’re already coming up with excuses.

Stop it now. Right this minute, you are committing to follow this lifestyle.

Write down an extremely basic one week meal plan.

Nothing fancy, nothing difficult. But you need to have a plan of what you are going to eat. You may have to make a quick run to get your food list, but you must put together a meal plan.

Remember the slow carb rules:

  • No “white” foods
  • Repeat meals over and over
  • Do not drink calories
  • Do not eat fruit
  • Cheat one day per week (I will briefly address this later on)

Here’s a typical day that can be tweaked and repeated over and over:

Breakfast: 3 whole eggs however you like, two pork sausage patties, 1/4 cup of black beans, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli or spinach.

Lunch: Large salad with chicken breast, bacon, and guacamole.

Dinner: Steak (I like NY Strip – it’s a good mix of fatty and flavor and a relatively decent price), remainder of broccoli from earlier, and side of refried beans or lentils.

Snack: if necessary – a good spoonful of natural peanut butter or handful of almonds. But be careful, it’s easy to go overboard.

That is the least exciting, but still a tasty, healthy, highly repeatable eating plan. As stated thousands of times by other bloggers and by Tim Ferriss himself: most people’s meals are basically the same thing over and over anyway. We are not the experimental, but we like to think of ourselves that way. Change up dinners if need be (and with the cost of steaks, you probably have to). But opt for grass-fed higher fat ground beef for burgers or chopped meat. Throw in a fish meal, and round out your meals.

But ultimately, keep them fairly simple: the more complex, the more likely you’ll be to abandon out of laziness or being tired after a long day, or whatever your traditional excuse is.

Get a commitment partner

I’m not a big fan of telling people your goals and resolutions. There is enough studies that show that publicly sharing your goals and plans, is enough to kill your goals and plans.

The caveat to that though, is if you announce your goals to someone who is able to keep you accountable. That’s where the commitment partner comes in.

Your partner doesn’t have to be participating or following the diet, but it is helpful if you are being held accountable by someone also doing the plan.

The easiest way to ensure this accountability is to schedule a time to go over your successes (and potentially, your failures). Set that time on your calendar and block out any distractions. To do it properly you need to track your meals (not calories, but the specific foods you ate), track your activity, and track your motivations.

I use a simple notepad that I write my meals in, if I exercised and what I did, and how my mood was (good, pissy, down, tired, etc…) Over time you can tease out patterns – “hmm, I noticed that when I skip breakfast and don’t workout, I tend to be grumpy and tired the rest of the day, but when I get a run in and have eggs, things tend to bet better throughout the day…”

Screw rewards, you need a punishment

To really make the partner commitment work, you really need to have a punishment in place for not following through on your plan.

Most people see rewards as the logical motivation – but, actually, we are more averse to losing something valuable than we are to potential gains.

The most traditional way the punishment systems work, and what appears to have the best results, is to setup a charitable donation to an organization you despise.

Not dislike, not something that mildly offends you, but something that it truly bothers, even sickens you to be supporting. Set a reasonable price for each failure, and your accountability partner is responsible for ensuring payment is made if you mess up.

A great system for setting this up and keeping you in check is Stickk – you pick an “anti-charity” to choose from, set up your goals, load a pre-set amount of money, and a partner. When the check-ins commence, your partner will tell the system if you met your accountability goals or not. If not, the program automatically doles out your donation to the anti-charity of your choice.

Giving money to a hated organization, in your name, to support something you cannot stand. If that’s not motivation enough to not screw up, then I don’t know what is.

Schedule workout times

This is one of the things people misconstrue about this, and other diets. That you don’t have to exercise.

Diet is the number one aspect that affects weight loss, this is true. But exercise affects more than just the burning of calories: it affects hormones that assist with fat burning, it primes you (especially if done first thing in the morning) to continue on your plans for the day, and it helps build musculature.

All those factors come together to make it all the more important to ensure you plan and schedule workouts. I’m not going to tell you how to work out in this post – just that you need to schedule time, multiple times per week (3 is ideal, but whatever you will realistically do is best) to get some exercise completed.

Bonus tip: Combine exercise schedules/accomplishments in with your anti-charity commitment to help ensure you get your workouts in.

Set a time frame to continue this for

I would recommend a minimum of 30 days, but 60+ would be ideal. The idea is that we’ve done this before, and we had some successes. But we slipped and have had trouble getting back on track. Right now, you need a time frame that you will track and stay accountable for this. Once you’ve past your scheduled time frame, then you can determine your next steps, but from the restart you need to pick a 30 to 60 day timeframe to commit to.

That’s what needs to be done to get your ass back in the saddle.


p.s. as far as the cheat day issue is concerned, I believe that those of us that have done the diet before and had success, are less in need of the cheat day. I don’t believe it provides the metabolic benefit that it does for someone new to the diet and I think it has potential to throw re-starters back into bad habits moreso than it does for newbies.

I would recommend holding out on having your first cheat day until at least two weeks into re-starting slow carb, and in the best case I would probably hold out to 30 days. But, without a doubt I would avoid the very first cheat day.

photo credit: alanenglish / flickr / CC-BY-NC

4 Hour Body Gazpacho

4 Hour Body Recipes Soups – Gazpacho

Where I live it’s getting warmer and that means no more hot soups and stews.

gazpacho recipe
Image credit: wiktory

But I still enjoy a good soup and one of my favorite summer soups is a dish called Gazpacho.  Gazpacho is basically any chilled vegetable soup.  Traditionally they are tomato based, but you can pretty much substitute any vegetables you like in the soup and enjoy it.

For me Gazpacho is something like a soupy salsa.  That is the way I typically prepare mine.  It can double as a salsa or as Gazpacho simply by adjusting the amount of liquid – more for Gazpacho, less for salsa.

Although there is no need to cook any of the ingredients, I prefer to cook up the onions and tomatillos that I use.

  • 1 medium yellow or white onion – peeled and quartered
  • 4 tomatillos – quartered
  • 4-5 ripe plum tomatoes (or 1-1.5 pounds) – chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic – minced
  • bell pepper – chopped
  • up to 1/4 C of Olive Oil
  • diced/chopped jalapeno (optional)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 C fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • tomato juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a baking dish place quartered onion and tomatillos.  Roast for approximately 10 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Put onions and tomatillos in a food processor and pulse until chopped.  Put in tomatoes, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapenos (if using).  Pulse all these ingredients until pureed, but still slightly chunky.  Add avocado and cilantro in processor and puree.  Drizzle in olive oil while processor is pureeing rest of ingredients.

Transfer to a large bowl or storage container.  At salt and pepper to taste and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime into gazpacho.  Mix and chill in refrigerator at least an hour, but longer if necessary.

If gazpacho is too thick for your liking you can add some tomato juice to thin out to your preference.  Will make about 4-6 servings

Serve in a bowl and enjoy!

To make this into a full meal you can add a couple of ingredients that will effectively make it into a “one-pot” type of meal.  Some ideas:

  • add can of drained white albacore tuna into bowl of gazpacho
  • add cooked and chilled black beans
  • use as a dressing over salad
  • use as a salsa of chicken, fish, eggs

My preference is to add tuna in and have it as a big bowl of tuna soup.  One of the beautiful things about this dish is the versatility in adding different ingredients in.

What do you think?  Is this something you would try?  Sometimes the strangest sounding recipes turn out to be the tastiest.  This is honestly one of my favorite summer-time dishes.

If you try it, let us know in the comments!