Self-Help Issue with Tim Ferriss

Self-help guru Tim Ferriss may sound too good to be true, but that’s what makes him a great carny.
  • Self-help guru Tim Ferriss may sound too good to be true, but that’s what makes him a great carny.

When it comes to diets, you’re on your own. Step right up, sucker, the nutrition bazaar is open for business. Why not test-ride the hCG Diet? Daily female pregnancy hormone injections coupled with a generous, 500-calories-per-day pig-out allowance. Not quite right? Okay, how about the Maple Syrup Diet? Beyoncé Knowles is a fan. Just drink two tablespoons a day of your favorite Vermont maple syrup and plenty of water. That’s it. No kitchen mess. No? Looking for something more West Coast? No problem. Pick one: Lemonade Diet, Açaí Berry Diet, Shangri-La Diet, or Morning Banana Diet.

Before me is The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. Written by Timothy Ferriss, 571 pages. Crown Archetype. $27. It’s a diet book, sort of.

Ferriss is an interesting guy. He can write. The man can turn a sentence. Reading his diet book is not, in itself, a painful experience. That’s exceedingly rare, maybe unique.

Ferriss, 33, grew up in rich-kid world — East Hampton, New York. Attended rich-kid boarding prep school in New Hampshire (St. Paul’s). Then earned a BA from Princeton in East Asian Studies.

Follows is taken from the modestly named The Blog of Tim Ferriss: “...Forbes Magazine’s ‘Names You Need to Know in 2011’ is an angel investor (StumbleUpon, Facebook, Digg, Twitter, etc.) and author of the new #1 New York Times bestseller, The 4-Hour Body. He is also author of the #1 New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BusinessWeek bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been sold into 35 languages.”

But wait, there’s more.

Wired Magazine’s ‘Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008.’ Speaker of five languages... National Chinese kickboxing champion. Horseback archer (yabusame) in Nikko, Japan. Political asylum researcher. MTV breakdancer in Taiwan. Hurling competitor in Ireland. Actor on hit TV series in mainland China and Hong Kong (Human Cargo).”

Sound a little too good? Hard to see where, exactly, the too-good part is? That, dear reader, is why he’s a great carny.

Ferriss wants you to eat slow carbs (carbohydrates that release energy into the body very slowly) and avoid white carbs: all bread, rice, potatoes, and tortillas. Also, avoid sugar, flour, potatoes, rice, pasta, and the like. Eat the same few meals over and over again. No dairy, soy milk, soft drinks, or fruit juice. Coffee is fine, so are two glasses of dry red wine: Pinot Noir, Merlot, or Cabernet Sauvignon. No fruit. Tomatoes are okay. Take one binge day per week. This is not an option. On binge day eat your version of Twinkies and drink your version of beer. Do this and lose 20 pounds in 30 days.

Sounds easy. I like easy, so I started Ferriss’s diet on February 7. This morning’s (April 15) weigh-in tells me I’ve lost 21 pounds. Nine weeks and change. I’ll take it.

The Ferriss diet suppresses appetite, at least mine. The hardest part for me is breakfast. He wants you to eat within a half hour of waking up. Every meal should contain 30 grams of protein. Thirty grams of protein with no sugar or dairy means no cereal, no steel-cut oatmeal, no milk, no rice milk, no soy milk.

The last thing I want to do when I get up is have breakfast. I want to make coffee, get the newspaper, sit, read, drink coffee, stare at the wall, drink coffee, stare out the window, then shower, dress, pick up around the estate, turn on the computer, check email, go to the kitchen, pour cold cereal into a bowl, add milk, go back to the computer, read morning newspapers online, and eat breakfast.

Thirty grams within 30 minutes means get up, go directly to the kitchen, fry five slices of turkey bacon (6 grams of protein per slice), dump can of spinach into pan, heat, make coffee. From get-up to sit-down-and-eat is 25 minutes. Warp speed.

The first binge day I ate pancakes, pepper bacon, vanilla ice cream, three beers, spaghetti, steak sandwich, french fries, carrot cake, and gained seven pounds. Went back to the book and read the chapter titled: “Damage Control: Preventing Fat Gain When You Binge.”

Ferriss says on Binge Day eat a normal, non–Binge Day breakfast, which is so wrong, taking down 1/3 of the sacred binge before it starts. There are other cheats, most prominently, the diuretic. Ferriss uses 100–200 milligrams of caffeine as his diuretic. I used MiraLAX. Either way, it’s the basic Roman Empire holiday diet — eat anything you want, then pass it through your intestines in double-quick time.

Ferriss has not said anything about a vomitorium. So far. But, I’m only halfway through the book.

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