Tuesday, November 11, 2014

my experience with the 4 hour body

This past summer when CR and I were in Seattle, Bri casually mentioned a diet she had done for a while that allowed her to lose more than 17 pounds while never really feeling hungry and not doing any exercise. After a week of being in a (awesome) carb coma from donuts, fried foods, and drinks, I was like sign me up...tomorrow, after this amazing bread-filled meal we are about to have. On the plane ride back, CR read the book cover to cover (I slept).

Basically, the 4 Hour Body diet has the following basic rules: no carbs (that includes breads, potatoes, and fruit), and no dairy. There are a lot of other things that go along with the book, including supplements and certain work out plans, but for us, the main rules have been no carbs and no dairy. I look at it like a variation of all the other whole 30/ paleo/ low carb diets out there - it's about eating less processed and carb-rich food, and getting more vegetables into your diet.

To back up a little. I felt that for most of my life I've been pretty healthy and active. In high school I did several sports (including cross country), in college my extra-curriculars kept me more active that I ever had been, and while I worked I was a member at my local gym and ran a half marathon. I also generally ate pretty well, but I have a weakness for carbs and cheese(burgers). While I had plenty of salads and lean meats, I also enjoyed probably one too many butter burgers from Culvers, and late night snacks of cheese curds (I am from Wisconsin after all!). Basically I was kind of at one weight, and I was fine with it. I like my food but I also generally evened it out with salads and occasional runs.

When school started last year, I quickly fell into a habit of "all the carbs" - they were just so easy! Pasta for dinner took all of 5 minutes, ramen was cheap, and sour dough toast with swiss cheese made the best snack. I actually lost weight the first semester of school just due to stress from school and going through a break up, but I knew it wasn't healthy. It was strange, going to school and learning all about the horrible things that happen when you don't take care of yourself, and then going home and eating just toast for dinner. It got better second semester when everything became a bit more normal - my personal life got sorted out, I got used to the school thing, I cooked more. Then summer happened, and with summer comes traveling, and with traveling comes all of the great food - garbage plates in NY, all of the donuts in NYC, all of the donuts in Seattle, all the cheeseburgers in Wisconsin. It was delicious and amazing, but by the time summer was over, it was time to actively work on eating like an adult, and not like a 20 year old college student.

So on Bri's recommendation, we started the 4 hour diet plan. Here's a rough idea of what we eat:

This one's super easy for me because I've been eating eggs for breakfast for years and years. Now it's usually 2 scrambled eggs (minus the delicious cheese I used to put on it it), 2 turkey sausages, and a side of black beans or refried beans. I was a bit skeptical about the beans in the morning, but now I feel it's not breakfast without them - they help me stay full and add a bit more flavor to the meal.

One of the tips in the book is to find 10 meals you like, and basically rotate them. So here are our top meals:

  • Chili. I loooooove  chili, so I'm so happy that this is a regular part of our weekly meals. We take turns making it so it's always a bit different - sometimes it's beef, sometimes it's chicken, sometimes it has squash or sweet potatoes in it. The best part is that you can make a huge pot of it for really cheap, and it lasts for several meals. I make chili a lot on Fridays so we have meals for the weekend so we don't have to worry about what we're going to eat the couple of days before an exam.
  • Salad made with chicken breast, spinach, and hard boiled eggs. Doesn't take much time, but it's pretty filling with all of the protein in it. 
  • Zoodles. I recently purchased this spiralizer after seeing my friend Morgan rave about zucchini noodles. Zucchine is my favorite vegetable, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I missed pasta, so this is a great compromise. I wanted to try a spiralizer but wasn't willing to pay for a kitchen gadget I didn't know if I'd actually use, so the small handheld was a great starter. So far I've only used it with zucchini - I cook the "noodles" in a bit of olive oil in a pan, and brown up a few cut up chicken sausages in another pan, and then add a bit of tomato pesto sauce to the mix, and it's just so good. Definitely currently my favorite meal. I even shred just a tiny bit of havarti on top because sometimes cheese is needed, even just a tiny bit ;) 
zoodles, four hour body recipes

  • Chicken lettuce wraps. This recipe makes 4 meals, and it's always a big hit with CR. 
  • Crock pot chicken: I've made this several times now, and it's just so dang easy and delicious.
  • Cauliflower rice: mine turns more into a couscous. I made some the other night and initially felt bad for how much I put on my plate, but then I remembered it was just cauliflower so I can eat as much as I want! I usually have it as a side to the crock pot chicken.
  • Meat + vegetables. It's a rotation of chicken breast, chicken sausage, meat balls, and hamburgers with brocolli, cauliflower, or squash, and a side of beans. Really quick and easy!
  • We have a lot of "lazy" meals too - I buy the big boxes of turkey burgers, and quickly cook those in a pan, and serve with a vegetable. I keep a couple of bags of frozen vegetables in my freezer just in case I run out of fresh vegetables - it helps to have a back up in case I haven't had a chance to go to the grocery store. 
  • Chipotle burrito bowls with beans, vegetables, meat, salsa, quac and lettuce. I could eat that every day.

  • Nuts. I buy the low sodium giant mixed bags from the grocery store and then throw some into a tiny ziplock bag for the library
  • Peanut butter packets. Expensive, but handy for when you don't have a lot of time
  • Deviled eggs
  • Beef jerky
  • Vegetables + hummus

Cheat Day
And the best part about all of this? There's a built in cheat day. One day a week, you are allowed to eat whatever you want. The first month of cheat days were amazing - we just ate whatever we wanted, and as much as we could, on those cheat days. The more we've been doing this though, the better we've gotten, so now it's more like a cheat meal and a cheat snack. Our cheat days are almost always on Mondays because we have our exams on Mondays. We use it as a built in date - we have the night off from school, so we either go out somewhere, or will order in a pizza and watch a movie or something. It's really nice to have that to look forward to all week long while being good about eating and spending hours at the library.

I approach cheat days as not as a day that I get to break all of the rules, but as a meal to enjoy something. You know how when you read "how to be healthy" articles or books or whatever, they say you should treat yourself, but only once in a while, so you shouldn't have fast food every day, maybe just a few times a month at most? This allows me to keep track of that. I don't need to have pizza twice a week every week, but once a month is great, and I enjoy it that much more. I keep a running list on my phone about things I'm craving (lemon bars, mac and cheese, hard pumpkin apple cider) and then I get to have that within the next 6 days. I love pasta, and I know I couldn't stick to an eating plan that never allowed it. Now I just have it occasionally, and I feel that's a good compromise.


So we've been eating like this for 3 months and it's been working out really great for us.  CR and I have both lost around 12 pounds without really increasing work outs (although I'm trying to go at least twice a week just to get moving). When we initially started we had an end date of Thanksgiving, but I really don't see us stopping this way of eating any time soon (Audrey and her husband have been eating like this for 3 years). It's easy, it tastes good, and it's healthy. I like knowing that I'm eating more vegetables and setting myself up for healthier habits, especially during the stressful years coming up. We approach this as a healthy way of eating but with that comes with giving yourself some allowances, so we really stick to this plan 90% of the time - so if my roommate makes some delicious cookies or if my girlfriends plan a family dinner of lasagna, I will happily have some, and then go back to my "normal" eating at the next meal. I really love ketchup and honey mustard sauce, so I don't give that up like you're "supposed" to. I think the most important thing is to make any diet plan your own, and that's what we have done and now works for us.

I hope this helps answer some of the questions some of you have asked, but please let me know if you want to know anything else that I forgot to mention!

Disclaimer: These of course are just my experiences - please consult a professional if you have any questions about starting a specific diet plan.