A great question on slow carb – diet or balanced eating plan?

I got a great question today, and having written the answer, with my brain still ticking, I thought ‘that deserves a post’. So here it is.

@Komosky - i see a lot of these deserts are ‘slow carb’ it’s not really a diet but a more balanced way of eating eh? almost every diet tries to eliminate carbs completely, whats ur thought?

My thoughts (edited since original reply):
Good observation. The Four Hour Body slow carb regime is really a sustainable alternative to regular western diets, I think. I have really been trying to avoid the term ‘diet’ for that exact reason, I prefer ‘regime’.

I think all low and slow carb diets are aimed at inducing ketosis, so rather than burning glucose, you burn fat as your main energy source. Perfectly acceptable alternative that a lot of previous generations were doing, and seems to keep people’s obesity in better moderation.

I think the primary reason most diets have success, whether its slow carb, south beach, weight watchers, etc is because it turns people who eat unconsciously into people who eat with thought to their food and the effect it has on them. Tim cites an example of a guy who did nothing but track his weight loss and achieved his goal. I think this is a classic example.

So, to break down any diet, you could say it has 2 components for the diet ‘user’:
1/ conscious awareness of food (and exercise)
2/ the fine details – like food type, lifestyle, style (restricting intake/exercising/timing/supplements/cost/convenience etc).

All diets or regimes have number 1 covered. You are thinking about it, and you didn’t used to. Check.

So, the question becomes simply, is component #2 sustainable? If yes, then it’s a potential for a new regime that will be ongoing (your ‘balanced eating plan’). If no, then it is purely a ‘diet’ – a short-lived change that most likely has a goal target and once met, the user will go away from the diet plan.

Slow carb is a winner because it passes the #2 test. It’s not impractical, doesn’t have bad side effects and therefore it ticks both 1 and 2. A lot of others couldn’t be sustainable, so they fail sustainability testing in component #2, and are just ‘diets’. One could argue that due to the ‘cheat day’ mentality, slow carb is still a diet. But it’s easy to see how a very slight modification, once desired fat loss/weight is achieved could make it an ongoing lifestyle. Basically you could do a ‘cheat item’ each day, and forgo the cheat day after a while I think – but only when you are ‘maintaining’ ie not looking for a change in your body, and simply living normally.

I’m really interested to know what other readers think about the 4 Hour Body slow carb meals? Is it a ‘diet’, or is it a ‘lifestyle change’ to a balanced way of eating? Leave a comment below, or click here to tweet me.

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10 Responses to A great question on slow carb – diet or balanced eating plan?

  • Carsten says:

    I think the main point is that people actually think about what they eat. The slow carb has the advantage that it is really easy and already planned out in the 4HB by Tim Ferriss. So people can focus on what they eat and how much they eat.

    • Luke says:

      Good point Carsten. I think you summarize it well. I have found that this, as compared to lots of other ways of eating, is the one where I’m thinking the least, which I really appreciate.

  • M. Hirko says:

    Great Post! I do tend to disagree with one point. Tim Ferriss’ Slow Carb diet is far more stringent than the actual slow carb diet, where whole grains and fruit are tolerated. This diet is not sustainable by normal people in this grab and go society. Even Tim calls it inconvenient, “Diets are not supposed to be fun.” It is a means to get down to a target weight. Keeping in mind what you sacrificed to get there, an additional pressure is applied to continue making healthy choices which include whole wheats and other banned foods in heavy moderation. I had a revelation about why this diet works back when i started this diet, back when it was easy. It can be found here: http://slocarb.blogspot.com/2011/01/food.html

  • So, so true! I find that almost all of my “unconscious” snacking (not actually unconscious, but definitely unexamined) is easy to grab, carb-o-licious foods. I noticed just in the last week (only 7 days in now) that I curbed my snacking (especially that “not-hungry-just-bored” snacking) a ton, just because the easy foods weren’t within “the rules”. Maybe I just need to have a guideline to follow in order to be aware of the foods I’m eating. The bonus with slow-carbs as presented in 4HB is that I don’t get hungry between meals, but I’m also never uncomfortably full. Genius!

    • Luke says:

      Thanks for your comment!
      Sounds like having a few rules is a good way to prompt that extra bit of thought before snacking.. I know I’ve found the exact same thing. Like a little mental reminder. I like it!
      I think over time, building a guideline of foods, whether its slow carb or otherwise, is key to having a great balanced life and feeling healthy. You’re right about slow carb meals – not too much, not too little, and plenty of energy – a really nice balance!
      All the best!
      Luke

  • I’ve been thinking about why Slow Carb is working for me, when I’ve never before been able to cut out white foods (I’ve been thinking that I *should* for years). I think it relates to something Gretchen Rubin at the Happiness Project has been writing about – being a “moderator” or “abstainer” in your habits. I think I’m an abstainer, but with moderator tendencies. So if I weren’t ever going to have bread again, I wouldn’t be able to give it up at all. But being able to eat a whole loaf of crusty garlic bread once a week makes it easy to stay away the other six days.

  • Littlepurplegoth says:

    It’s definately not a diet. Over the course of a day, even a week, I’m eating as many calories as I was. I’m steadily losing weight that I’ve carted around for 15 years (barring odd months) and I’ve always naturally eaten classic ‘slow carb’. I’m expecting to move on from loss to maintain/muscle gain in the next couple of months, and that’s when I expect this to get ‘interesting’

    • Luke says:

      Hey thanks for your comment!
      You’re right that this is a sustainable approach to eating and lifestyle, in the longer term, and I believe using slow carb as a base, it would be easy to maintain a balanced healthy weight over many years, even including a starch a couple of times a week.
      Moving into a muscle building phase is definitely interesting! You get a real picture of just how many calories it takes to build a pound of muscle, and how your new body size really does require more food in. That’s a challenge, once you’re used to eating a certain amount, having to adjust every couple of weeks. But it’s worth doing and is a great adventure!

      All the best,
      Luke

  • Jimmy says:

    I tend to follow a tiered diet plan. I strive mostly for Paleo options, but if I can’t i’ll drop to the next tier, being low carb, then slow carb, then really no specific diet. When eating out, it’s really not too hard to ask for veggies/beans instead of rice. Really the only time my options fall into the last category is when it is a party or social event, but then i’m not too worried because I’ve been eating well.

    • Luke says:

      That’s a nice way to look at it Jimmy. So effectively, you stack the options in order of most likely to give you the results you want, to least likely to give you results you want, and go from there.
      This would also work well if slow carb is the basis, and then you drop to low carb, then to paleo after that. If low carb was the basis, however, there’s a lot of Paleo foods that would bounce someone out of ketosis pretty quick ;)
      All the best,
      Luke

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