Life Lessons From the Slow Carb Diet

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with"
-Jim Rohn

In this post, I interview a good friend of mine who lost over 20lbs while on the Slow Carb Diet.
This friend wishes to remain quasi anonymous, so I will only refer to him as "Tom" from this point on.

Tom is someone who has brought up my "average" over the last ten years. He is someone who has made me smarter, forced me to challenge what I know, and brought me some clever insights that I would never have developed on my own.

I am sharing his story with you so you can learn not only how to improve your weight issues, but any other thing you wish to improve in your life as well.

For those of you who are struggling to lose excessive body fat, this post will absolutely help you.

For those of you who already have a six-pack   ...

  1. I hate you
  2. I strongly encourage you to take note of the methods and mindset Tom uses to address problems.

Tom went from 207lbs to 185lbs and dropped 2 pant sizes during this journey.

He doesn't measure his body fat, but I could tell he shed a bunch of fat during our handshake when we met for lunch last week. It looked something like this ...

Okay ... it looked nothing like that.

It looked more like the obligatory man hug / handshake that 2 almost 40 year old guys give to each other to not feel completely awkward.

Regardless, his back felt pretty solid when I did the back pat thing indicating to me that his weight loss wasn't the result of losing 20lbs of muscle.

His transformation inspired me to interview him.

Enclosed are the details of the Q&A.

What diet did you follow to make the improvements in your body?

Over the past year, I’ve been following the Slow Carb Diet as explained in Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body.

GM Note: This is the same diet I follow and recommend to most people who struggle with weight management.

The Slow Carb Diet has 5 simple rules.

  1. Avoid White Carbohydrates
  2. Eat the Same Few Meals Over and Over Again
  3. Don't Drink Your Calories
  4. Don't Eat Fruit
  5. Cheat One Day Per Week

What diet did you follow BEFORE you made the improvements?

My weight management story is a long one.

I was a fat kid.

I was probably at my fattest as a Junior in high school. I started keeping a diet log in a little notepad and lost about 20-25 pounds.

I also did the Atkins diet pretty strict for a short time and probably lost another 10 pounds.

Then, I basically was doing calorie restriction.

I’ve found too many problems with calorie restriction on its own. First, there are too many choices. Limiting my choices just made it easier. Second, I found I was eating too many foods that weren’t keeping me full for long periods of time so I felt hungry almost all the time, which zaps my willpower.

After that I started the Slow Carb Diet, which led to a step change.

What training regiment did you follow before the improvements? Did that change during or after the improvements?

My level of exercise has been pretty consistent.

When I stopped playing organized sports, I took up running and have been doing that for the last 15 years or so at varying levels.

I probably run less now than I did a few years ago due to other responsibilities (mainly kids). I still get at least 2-3 runs in a week and use the elliptical a lot on off days

GM Note: For those of you who regularly read this blog, you are well aware that I am not a big advocate of long distance running. Having said that, one size does not fit all.

Having said that, I am still not an advocate of long distance running.

I’ve tried a lot of different strength training routines. I find them pretty boring overall (I know, it’s hard to believe I find running LESS boring)

GM Note: In the words of the great Stephen A. Smith ...

I really like basic body weight exercises (push-ups, sit ups, pull-ups). Mentally, it makes me feel stronger to lift my body on a pullup bar than to lift my body weight in bars/plates.

GM Note: You've won me back Tom ...

I’ve also been experimenting with kettlebells.

The basics are covered in the 4 Hour Body, but I recommend Pavel Tsatsouline’s Simple and Sinister if anyone is interested in checking them out.

Pavel’s philosophy is all about minimalism, which is great if you’re a busy person.

Also, similar to body-weight exercises, movements like the (Turkish) Get Up make me feel more accomplished than pushing plates or dumbbells.

I also think having equipment around the house makes it easier. Even though my gym is 3 miles away, it can be a 20 minute process between deciding I want to go, getting ready, driving, parking, putting my stuff in a locker, etc.

How are you sustaining your diet and training? Has it become a lifestyle habit or does it still take a great deal of effort and focus?

I’d say exercise is much easier to maintain because I enjoy it very much.
If I miss a day of exercise, I never feel as good that night.

Diet requires a lot of effort for me. I like to eat and I like to eat a lot.

The 4 Hour Body recommends eating as much as you want, which I did when I started, but toned down a little so I still watch calories somewhat.

I’m a firm believer in habits and habit formation as opposed to motivation or willpower.

I recommend reading Mini-Habits by Stephen Guise to anyone who wants to explore the basics of habit formation and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit when you want some more detail.

I also recommend reading up on decision fatigue. Understanding the concept can help you understand why limiting choices is a good idea when it comes to diet as well why you may tend to overeat at night.

What was the thing that triggered you to want to change?

This is a hard question to answer.

I’ve always had trouble with my weight and I think being a fat kid made it hard to lose/maintain weight as I got older.

I think one thing that triggered the change this time was I’ve made a conscious effort to become more open to experimentation.

Before this, I naively thought I should just follow the “experts.”

It seems, especially in the areas of health and weight loss, the experts know a lot less than we give them credit for and may not have your best interests in mind when they do their studies.

GM Note: In the 1960's, the sugar industry paid scientists to play down the link between sugar and heart disease. Check out the link Tom provided for this story HERE.

I've found some things that work and don't work for me, personally.

For example, I’m not a good snacker. I like to eat big meals. You can go online and find a ton of studies about people who “graze” all day tend to be healthier.

Just because 2 things are true doesn’t mean 1 causes the other, so be wary of advice like that. I also find that the foods on the Slow Carb Diet keep me full longer, which helps.

It's 2020 and you completely fell off the wagon, what sequence of events would have made that happen?

I don’t think one day I’ll decide I don’t care anymore and go straight downhill.

It would be a series of very small steps that led down the wrong path.

Good habits are hard to make and easy to break, bad habits are easy to make and hard to break.

What was the hardest part of the transformation?

The hardest part is the middle. 

If you don't get why I put this picture here I feel for you ...

When I start something new, I’m always excited and anxious to see results. After some time, I get bored and it makes it hard to stay with it. That’s why I’ve had to create habits around eating so it takes less effort.

Eating is one of the hardest things to manage because you HAVE to do it. Moderation is much harder to manage than complete restriction.

I wouldn’t suggest any specific habits to anyone else but I would suggest really paying attention to when/how/why you eat. Try to identify good and bad habits and manage them appropriately.

Did your weight fluctuate during the transformation?

Yes. Part of the Slow Carb Diet is a “cheat day” which leads to regular weight gains the following 1-3 days in my experience.

Mentally, the cheat day is extremely important for me. Whenever I’ve started a diet plan or refocused on diet, I usually would think “that’s it for pizza” or “no dessert…ever.” This can seem overwhelming and sad quite frankly.

I don’t want to be the guy that can never go out to dinner, never have a slice of pizza, cake, or a bowl of ice cream. I love all that stuff. With the cheat day, you get a release from restrictions, which is liberating. It’s easier to resist a slice of pizza on Tuesday, when you can allow yourself a whole pie on Saturday.

How often did you weigh yourself and did you do anything to ensure the data collection was consistent and / or accurate?

I weigh myself almost every day. I usually skip a day or 2 after cheat day to avoid the letdown of seeing the additional pounds. 

GM Note: On the flip side, I love to weigh myself the morning after cheat day. For no good reason I take a great deal of pride in seeing an extra 5 to 7 lbs on the scale.

I always weigh myself first thing in the morning on the same scale, after using the bathroom and wearing only underwear

If you had one piece of advice to give someone about to make a transformation, what would it be?


Don’t believe that there’s an answer that will work for you without testing it.  But ... do make sure you test it for long enough to get some real data.

In life, what is your definition of success and how does that definition relate to this transformation?

Success to me is continuous learning.

I once heard someone say, you should always look back at yourself 3 years ago and think you were totally clueless, meaning you should always be getting smarter and better.

As it applies to weight management and training, I try to educate by reading about health but always with a skeptical eye. When you’re managing your own body, it also offers up a new data set through experimentation.

If you could one thing on a billboard, what would it be? 

"It’s not all about you."

What was something you used to believe was true about diet and training but now realize is false?

The one that I as well as many others believed was around high sugar / low fat diets to manage weight and cholesterol. Turns out this was a myth created by the companies that make sugar.

GM Notes: See the story link HERE

There’s also a documentary on it that was pretty good, called “Sugar Coated.”

Sugar Coated Trailer from The Cutting Factory on Vimeo.


I hope you can see that this post was about much more than losing weight. To me, it was about using problem solving skills and managing behaviors to make major transformations.

In case you missed it, here are some common themes Tom mentions that I believe are applicable to any transformation.

  • Simplicity
  • Balance
  • Consistency
  • Research
  • Experimentation

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