You know how the story goes.
The high school and college athlete stops playing competitive sports, starts working full time, has less time to exercise, then gets married and starts having kids, leaving even less time to work out and more time to make unhealthy eating choices.
The years go by and a few extra pounds here and there turn into thirty. It’s the story of the boiling frog, in a nutshell. A frog gets put into cold water and the heat is turned up. The water boils slowly so the frog doesn’t realize anything is going on until it’s cooked… literally.
That’s my story.
I played sports in high school and then went on to play football in college. Afterwards, while I was in law school, I exercised almost daily – whether it was playing basketball, softball, football, golf or just working out – exercise was a way of life.
In my third year of law and MBA school, I met my future wife – Elena – and we subsequently got married in 2004. After graduation, I started working as an attorney and initially maintained my routine of playing basketball a few days a week and working out, but the long hours at the law firm led to eating somewhat unhealthy. Not a big deal, or so I thought.
Between 2008 and 2014, Elena and I had three wonderful kids – Maksim, Lyla and Barron. We were also focused on growing our real estate company, TBG Homes.
With my schedule getting more and more constricted, I started exercising less and eating more unhealthy food.
And… there you go.
On top of being overweight and out of shape, some other things started happening. I noticed that I had less energy, was tired more often, was getting sick, and started having some health issues.
Now, while I was aware and knew that I needed to get in shape for a few years, I also knew that I didn’t have the time to add in hours of working out every week.
Just like in business, I’m always looking for ways to achieve “success with ease.” I was looking for a “hack” to get in shape quickly without working hard or putting in long hours in the gym.
Fast forward to early 2016. With my 40th birthday approaching, I asked myself a pivotal question from one of my favorite books, The ONE Thing -> “What’s the ONE Thing I can do this year such that by doing it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary?”
The answer I settled on was to get in shape. I figured that by getting in shape, everything else in my life would come together.
That answer led me to the next question, which was to discover a way to get in shape given my busy schedule, family life and other commitments. As with many things in life, sometimes things just have a way of working out. I had been a fan of Tim Ferriss since I read The 4 Hour Workweek years earlier.
In 2016 I started listening to Tim’s podcast, which I highly recommend by the way, and heard him reference his other book, The 4 Hour Body. I didn’t think much of it at the time but right after I made the decision to get in shape, I was at a book store with Elena and saw the book.
I immediately bought it and started reading. Everything Tim said made sense. From his writing about the minimum effective dose to core exercises, and the many other amazing things in the book, it just resonated with me. By the way, the book covers many other topics like sex, running faster, jumping higher, and more, but for this article I’ll just focus on the getting in shape part.
On my 40th Birthday – May 3rd, 2016, I started the Slow Carb Diet, or the Slow Carb Program as I call it (I dislike the word “diet”), prescribed in the book.
That morning, I weighed in at 215. And interestingly, that wasn’t my heaviest weight. I remember going to the doctor for a physical the year before and weighing 221.
The best thing about the Slow Carb Program is that it’s very simple to follow and once you develop the habit, it can be followed while eating out at any restaurant or while traveling, and there is no counting or logging of calories, food, or anything like that. This appealed to me because I don’t have time to do any of that nonsense.
Between the book itself and Google, there is tons of information that covers the program in-depth, so I’m not going to rehash all of that here. By the way, the book is really long but the portions about the Slow Carb Program are relatively short. If you want to skip the book altogether, you can check out this article and this article on Tim Ferriss’ blog for the basics.
You can then read this article that gives you a bit more about the program and this article that discusses the program further. If you want to see what foods you can and can’t eat, I found this website handy as you can type in your food and it will tell you whether or not you’re supposed to have it. By the way, what I discovered is that usually if you have to ask whether you can or cannot eat something, you typically can’t. And here is an article with more recipes if you get bored.
By the way, my caveat with all of these websites and online resources is that you should figure out what works and doesn’t work for you personally. Everyone’s body is different and something I eat that doesn’t affect me may cause you to not get the same results. In short, experiment and figure out what works for YOU.
The goal of this article is to tell you what I did to lose 30 pounds in 3 months without working out (and what I’ve been doing ever since then to keep it off), so here are the Slow Carb Program rules that I followed (and still follow, with a few tweaks – more on that later) 6 days per week plus breakfast on the 7th day:
- No “white” carbohydrates. That means no bread, bagels, rice (even brown rice), cereal, pasta, grains or fried foods.
- No dairy. A bit of heavy cream in your coffee is ok, which I’ll discuss later.
- No fruit. Avocados and tomatoes are ok.
- No sugar. Be careful! I found that everything has sugar so I had to start really looking at labels.
- Don’t drink calories. I cut out all soda and other caloric drinks, smoothies, etc. Tim does make some exceptions in the book for post-workout drinks, but I cut them out entirely.
- Find some meals you like and eat them over and over again. As Tim says, you’re already doing this – just find new meals that work on the program and eat those.
And on the 7th day, though shall CHEAT. And cheat big. In the book, Tim calls his cheat day Faturday. I typically make my cheat day Saturday as well but if I know I have an event on Sunday where I want to cheat, I just move my cheat day to Sunday.
After reading the last two paragraphs, you may be thinking… “what can you eat?” Here’s what a typical day looks like for me. Keep in mind this is just a sample of the many things I eat on the slow carb program. As I mentioned, just Google slow carb menu or slow carb foods and you’ll find many options.
I’ve found all kinds of eggs to be the easiest breakfast to prepare. I like scrambled or over-medium – with avocado and sardines.
Coffee with a bit of heavy cream and cinnamon instead of sugar.
When I’m in a hurry, I grab a Quest Bar because it’s the only bar that doesn’t have a bunch of sugar.
There are a bunch of other breakfast options but these are my staples.
I always carry a bag of mixed nuts (I buy the box of unsalted mixed nuts from Costco) and a Quest Bar in case I get hungry between meals. While there is no counting of calories or food on this program, there are a few “domino” foods which are very high in calories and therefore I want to control my portions – nuts, hummus and others.
Chipotle has become a staple for me because it’s really easy to order. I get a salad bowl with lettuce, beans, chicken or steak, salsa and guacamole. The veggies are great as well but I personally don’t like them. Just don’t get the cheese, sour cream, tortillas or chips.
If going out, I will either order fish or meat with vegetables or a burger with no bun, no cheese and mustard only (no ketchup).
We have gotten into the habit of grilling extra chicken, fish (I prefer Salmon) or steak on Sunday night and then eating those leftovers in a salad on Monday or Tuesday for lunch. Steak is also great in scrambled eggs the next morning!
For the salad, Elena will throw the leftover salmon or steak on lettuce or arugula and add oil and vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette (just be careful and get the no sugar version).
I stick to chicken, fish or meat with vegetables for dinner, which makes it pretty easy to be consistent.
Elena loves sushi so I eat edamame, sashimi and hand rolls with no rice.
There are a bunch of other foods you can eat if you do some research online and read the articles I referenced above. These are just the things that I found to work for me and are easy to make and bring with you.
Alright, so I’m sure you’re asking… what’s the end result of all of this?
As you may recall, I started the 4 Hour Program on my 40th birthday – May 3, 2016 – weighing in at 215 pounds. In about 3 months, I lost 30 pounds and went from 215 down to 185! And I did it without really adding in any extra workouts or exercise.
Perhaps more importantly, for the last year I’ve kept up with the program (with a few tweaks) and stayed in great shape.
Once I hit my target weight of 185, I became a bit more lenient on what I eat throughout the weekend (not just Saturday), and that has resulted in me essentially maintaining the same weight. But I am still strict on the Slow Carb Program Monday through Friday and if I ever find that I need to lose a few pounds, I go back to the 6 days on, 1 day off schedule. I have also eaten whatever I want when on vacation, but I do find that I typically have a slow carb breakfast to set up my day.
Although the health benefits of getting in shape with the Slow Carb Program have been fantastic, I must admit that everything that came with it have been even better. Getting in great shape gave me more energy to play with my kids, my golf game improved, my relationship with Elena got even better, and my business has flourished.
I suppose that this time I got it right with the answer to the question… “What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”