Most years I give a book to my friends that I want to give a general gift to for Christmas. Books aren’t too expensive and yet thoughtful. (I’m big on thoughtful gifts, and I thought I’d written a blog post about it, but seems not. One for the future.) This is generally a book that is or has made an impact on me.
This year the book is The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris.
This is appropriate because last year I gave a number of people the Four Hour Work Week by Ferris. That book lead to the creation of Photographer and Model and my involvement in entrepreneurship.
This time Tim has turned his thoughts to fitness and health.
He’s tried different things to change everything from how he sleeps to gaining muscle to losing fat to running faster and longer. The subtitle kind of sums it up, “An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman.”
The underlying theme is try stuff and measure to see if it works. Measure what matters. These are very important principles.
I wrote a post a long time ago, and just published, asking if I was a Metric’s Asshole and it was based on the principle that you don’t know something will or won’t work unless you try it and have a way to confirm it worked. People often tell me something will or won’t work and when asked how they know, they don’t have any real proof.
Medicine is going through a renaissance right now with something called “Evidence Based Medicine”. We studied it in Paramedic School and it is often mentioned in the literature. Basically this means we should test and measure the things we do in EMS and in medicine and see if they really make a difference. Where they’ve done this they’ve found major things taught as must do are really not needed or even harmful. For instance, the newest guidelines for CPR have lowered the importance of breathing in CPR. It used to be you started breathing for them as soon as possible. Now you should start and continue chest compressions before even trying to breath for them. It significantly improves outcomes for the patient.
To call Ferris’ book evidence based medicine might be a stretch, but he doesn’t recommend anything unless he’s tried it, measured the results, and found a positive outcome.
Measure What Matters
Measure what matters is a quote from Peter Drecker and one I’ve used a number of times. To me there are two meanings. One is measure the right thing, and the other is to measure what is important for the change you want to make.
Ferris’ has a story of a man who decided he wanted to lose 28 lbs in 6 months. So he created a spreadsheet that told him where his weight should be each day. Then he calculated a min and max for each, giving himself a range where he needed to be. Then he’d measure himself every day. And made no other changes. He made a conscious effort to not change diet nor exercise during the experiment. The only time he changed that was the couple of times he got too low, under his min. Then he gorged on doughnuts.
Six months later he was down 28 lbs, doing nothing but measuring.
Another meaning of measure what matters is the measure the correct things. Many people measure weight when they diet. This is a mistake. It can and will work, especially if you are really fat, but just making your mass go down, doesn’t tell you how much fat you’ve lost. You need to measure body fat, or lean mass. The easiest way to do this to measure your circumference. Use a tape measure and measure your belly, hips, chest, arms, thighs.
The second easiest, and the high tech one that I use, is a body fat scale. You step on it and it tells you your weight and percent body fat. These scales are very effected by hydration, but if you do it exactly the same every day, you get good trend data. (Discovered a few days ago, I’d been hitting the wrong preset button – you have to enter your height – for weeks. When it thought I was 6’1″ instead of 5’8″ like my wife, my %BF dropped dramatically.)
A Bunch of Specifics
The only problem with the book is there is so much you can do in it. Do you want to gain muscle? There’s chapters for that. Lose fat (notice not weight)? Chapters for that too. Better sleep? Better sex? Chapters there too. You could make lots of changes.
The back of the book says, “Which 150 pages will you read?” He suggests you pick out one or two things you want to change and just read those parts.
So that’s what I’m going to try and do. And for each thing I try I’ll write a blog post with my experiments and outcomes, hopefully with measurements and data.
Afterward: I’m not making these changes because it is the beginning of the year. I’m making them because the book just came out. So they aren’t new years goals or resolutions.