The first week – what to expect

With the first week behind us, and the road ahead looking paved with smooth road, I want to share our experiences for anyone who is just getting going, or who is considering it.

Background: Kat and I both did an 8 day (should have been 15 day) herbal cleanse, right before starting the Four Hour Body slow carb meals. This was on the back of a December that wasn’t the worst eating you might see, but things were slipping and we wanted to start 2011 right. Read on for what we experienced, and what’s common.

First week: I am including in first week side effects from our cleanse, though these should be read as the most extreme cases – as we were off most foods, except vegetables, brown rice (not slow carb), almonds and fish/chicken.

In the first 4 days, we both had a variety of headaches, aches, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and mood swings. I believe this was a combination of lack of food, and being off sugars, starches, and ‘normal’ foods, plus being off caffeine cold turkey. On slow carb, we didn’t experience any of these symptoms at all, in fact we have had a boost in energy, a lift in mood in general, and the fat loss that people talk about, all whilst feeling very well fed.

Potential side effects:

  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Confusion of what to eat
  • Frustration
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in bathroom habits
  • Puzzled looks from people you tell about it

Tips to make the first week easy:

  • Shop ahead and stock your cupboards
  • Empty your house of any cheat foods (as practically as possible – we have a cupboard that everything’s away in)
  • Plan your first day/2 days of meals
  • Drink a lot of water – with lemon juice if you can
  • Have a walk or some exercise each day
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Keep other things fairly routine (ie no travel, no new experimental yoga classes, don’t change coffee habits)
  • Don’t keep the company of people that like to talk down anything new, different or challenging to their lifestyle

For those considering the slow carb, Four Hour Body diet, I would recommend that you start over a weekend, and if you can, perhaps do the first week as 8 days – start on slow carb Saturday morning and finish on Saturday morning the next week for cheat day. This will give you 2 weekend days for any sugar withdrawals. The nice thing is you don’t need to go off caffeine, so you don’t get all those withdrawals at the same time.

Some of the first week benefits we found:

  • Easier to cook meals
  • Clear times to eat – no more guessing or ‘reading’ hunger
  • More energy! 2 hours a day more.
  • Fat loss – like most people – between 2 and 8 lbs
  • Mental Clarity and focus – for me this is a huge one
  • Better habits with water
  • More awareness of how food affects -everything-
  • An amazing sense of freedom on cheat day, haven’t had it for years

Cravings are there because your body likes habits, in all things. Sugar included. It also knows that if you’re feeling tired, sugar is the fastest fix, so try to get adequate sleep and you should be fine.

In review, we had a lot of fun with our first week. There was a lot of new things to try, coffee with cinnamon was one, and a lot of new flavours. After a while, the simplicity of the regular meals, and the choices for them becomes very convenient, and I appreciate not having to think to make lunch. Once you have the first week behind you, you can fine-tune and balance to your liking – you’ll be an old-hand by then.

Kat has written some great thoughts about Energy changes on the 4 Hour Body diet and also what happens after cheat day – both are really worth checking out.

We also posted our recent slow carb food shopping list, to help people get a feel for what to buy at the grocery store.

All the best with your first week – leave a comment if you have a question, a suggestion or an idea.

You might be interested in reading these too:

  1. First week in review Just one week. What a change a simple 7 days can make. Hard to believe its a week, as it has zipped by. To say that I’m excited about tomorrow’s ‘crazy food’ day...

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16 Responses to The first week – what to expect

  • Adam Rudd says:

    Thanks for the write-up guys. I’m in day 3 of my first week and I’m really really missing my milky lattes. I’ve also found that being based in Malaysia makes it very hard to avoid rice or noodles from each meal, particularly if you’re on the go each day and eat out a lot.
    I’ve debated with myself on whether I should make an exception for Milk because it’s part of my coffee habit (I can’t say I like black coffee), but I’m really not sure how much this will affect my weight loss.

    I’ll give it a week and see how the cravings go before making a decision on this. Anyone who’s been here and has made a decision for/against milk: I’d love to hear from you!


    • Luke says:

      Hi Adam, thanks for writing us.

      I can imagine it’s difficult to switch to slow carb meals, when you’re surrounded by noodles, and rice – especially if you eat out regularly. My suggestion is to just set a goal, for example 2 weeks – that you will be on it 100% for that period of time, so you can see if it suits you. Once you have that decision made, it might be a lot easier to find ways around the rice and noodles, or the extra effort might just be worth the rewards.
      Milk is a tough one, the only time its recommended is when training for muscle strength and bulk, and when extra food is increasing muscle growth. Other than that, it’s off the cards.
      Have a try using full liquid cream (in North America, called ‘coffee cream’) – it’s so rich that literally only about a teaspoon is all that’s needed to whiten up a coffee. We used that for a couple of weeks, then shifted to black coffee with vanilla or cinnamon in it, for flavor.

      All the best Adam! We wish you well with your Four Hour Body.

  • M.R. says:

    Hello. I just started the slow-carb diet a few days ago and happened across your blog while poking around online for 4HB testimonials. I was wondering if it is possible that your observations of having “more energy” during the first week of the 4HB diet are a bit skewed, as you did a very restricted “herbal cleanse” the week prior? In other words, perhaps you had a lot more energy, relatively speaking, than the amount of energy you had during the “cleanse week,” as well as the added mental boost of coming off a cleanse and no longer having to submit yourself to a “lack of food” each day. I wonder, because, so far, I have been following the 4HB diet quite closely and the fatigue I’ve experienced is akin to the tiredness I felt when I had mono in college. Would be curious to hear your comments on this. Thanks for your time.

    • Luke says:

      Hi thanks for your comment. It’s possible that our energy we felt was relative.. though this trend continued for more than the first week. In fact, still I am able to concentrate and work more than I was late last year, before I started slow carb.
      With regards to fatigue.. it’s unusual to feel – perhaps you’re not getting enough food in? We had to adjust our portion sizes by a lot, especially me, as I had been used to eating nutrient dense foods, and the switch to lots of veges and beans meant I really had to load my plate beyond what I thought was reasonable. Likewise when I was eating at first – I would stop halfway through a plate of food, because it felt like I’d eaten enough. For reference, back then I weighed around 155lbs and was eating 4 meals per day – 1 cup of beans at each, 1 lean protein and vegetables. I didn’t snack at all, after the first week when I needed some almond butter as I adjust portions at meal times. I wasn’t very physically active and was working a desk job 9-5. If you’re more active, you’d need more food.
      Hope that helps!

      All the best,

  • jesse hermiller says:

    Hi!just a couple question from a newbie your website by the way.
    1) I thought caffeine was a no go on this diet?
    2)what are your thought on artificial sweetners for your drinks?
    3)do you think that the beans could cause weight gain?
    Thanks so much!your in put would be ever so helpful!my hubby and I are on day three..yikes!

    • Luke says:

      Hey Jesse, thanks for your questions!

      Here’s some answers:
      1/ Caffeine is totally ok – just not to drink with milk/sugar/etc.. so black coffee or black tea, green tea are all fine, and try some cinnamon for flavoring. Also vanilla essence is used by some people.
      2/ Artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause a similar response to actual sugar, which means your body is then more likely to store fat (due to raised insulin levels) – so they really are best to stay away from. If you need another reason, most of them have been linked to common diseases, and it’s proven that over time they reduce your body’s ability to gauge its own hunger, and how much you’re eating.
      3/ Beans aren’t likely to cause weight gain, unless they’re being eaten as part of a carb-heavy, too-many-calories diet. This is not slow carb. Slow carb is protein heavy, and the beans provide just enough carbs to give you energy you need. Most people have between .5 and 1 cup of beans at each meal, with 4 meals per day. Due to how slow carb works, these beans won’t get stored as fat.

      All the best!! Stick at it and your results are guaranteed. The amount of time it takes is different for different people of course, but there isn’t anyone who has stuck at slow carb that hasn’t lost fat.


  • Sarah says:

    Thanks for the great advice – I’m starting slow carb today, having experimented on and off with Paleo/Primal over the past 9 months and also having gone gluten-free back in October, 2010. I really love the idea of including legumes – I am not a fan of cooking, so I was probably not getting nearly enough protein on paleo and was still hungry sometimes. My own shortcomings, yes, but this seems like it might be the middle ground I need. Also, Tim’s explanation regarding dairy made me realize that I need to just cut it out as it may be slowing/inhibiting weight loss for me. I was trying to cut out the caffeine today also (again) as I always feel better without it, but I have a bit of that carb-withdrawal headache (and possibly didn’t sleep enough last night… 7 hours is usually fine but maybe not today) so I’m thinking of going for a cup of coffee with a drop of cream and some cinnamon. I suppose I can work on cutting out the coffee once my body gets used to strictly low carb again. Anyway, it’s always helpful to read others’ experiences. That colon cleanse sounds a bit rough though!

    • Luke says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment! It sounds like taking some time to use the slow carb diet would be a great idea for you. There are plenty of options that don’t involve cooking, and getting regular energy throughout the day will make it easier to give up the caffeine, compared to going on a low carb diet. Giving up dairy is a great idea, to see how your body responds.

      All the best,

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  • julie says:

    I’m only on day two of my slow-carb diet, and i just got a blood nose! I’ve been drinking plenty of water and avoided high-carb foods. I haven’t had a bloody nose for at least 6 months. I was wondering if this has anything to do with my new diet, or whether it’s something i should worry about. I also woke up with a headache this morning, something that happens very rarely for me.
    Thanks for your help, and your blog is very inspirational!

    • Luke says:

      Hi Julie, thanks for your question.
      I haven’t heard of this from anyone else following slow carb, but of course, everyone’s different. Your headache could be related to the food – make sure you keep your water intake high.
      If you’re concerned about the blood nose, please consult your healthcare professional.

      I’m so glad you’ve got some inspiration from our site! It’s great to hear comments like this, thankyou.

      All the best,

  • Danielle says:

    Please help!!
    I have been on the diet for 5 days and am not coping well. I’m 36, 5.10 and 147lbs. I am doing the 30 day / 4HB with my partner as a way to lose the winter fat and kick start summer (I live in Sydney)
    Day 1 was great. Excellent energy and didn’t get tired at 3pm. Started getting a headache around 3pm.
    Day 2 woke up crabby and bloated. Craved my morning toast all day and my throat is tight. Still have a headache.
    Day 3 I think I ate to much food yesterday because I am still bloated. Will try more water today. 10am feeling great. Ate 1st lunch one hour late but wasn’t hungry. 3pm Still tight throat and headache. Craving nuts and dried fruit. Can’t focus at work
    Day 4 Light headed at work and getting the spins when I stand up. 1pm So crabby and snappy with everyone. Still tight throat and headache. I’m still eating on time but never feel satisfied. Keep thinking about Saturday cheat day and how I will respond to anyone who comments about my food choices. I’m going to have a loaf of bread. 5.30 really crabby and snappy at my partner. Still dizzy so had a teaspoon of almond butter and 2 glasses of wine. Probably not a good idea to drink when your crabby because I got in a fight over the topic of natural peanut butter and went to bed at 8pm. Slept 10 hours
    Day 5 Still tight throat, headache, dizzy, and crabby. All i want to do is cry. (i am not PMSing)
    Normally I am a rational, patient and kind person.
    Is the 4HB designed for women? Am I addicted to carbs and going through withdrawals?
    I’m frustrated with feeling crabby.
    Do you have any suggestions?? I have followed the 4HB 100%
    Any help is appreciated.

    • Luke says:

      Hi Danielle,
      Sorry to hear you’ve been having some troubles.
      It’s a great idea to get kick started for summer with this diet! Your results definitely don’t sound normal – if you’d like to share with me some of your regular meals, and perhaps a meal diary for a few days, I’d be happy to help you out and see if you can adjust things to have a better experience.
      You might also be interested in my program that’s designed to get started well, and then continue on with an easy to manage lifestyle of weight loss and weight maintenance – it’s called Complete Bodyfat Control.

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