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Review of the “4 Hour Body”

I absolutely loved the book, The 4 Hour Work Week.” I thought it was breath of fresh air, offering creative and innovative ideas for people to revamp their way of thinking about work. Particularly these days when the economy is so poor, the ideas contained in the book are even more applicable. I also thought that people who were used to a 9-5 world exclusively, would develop an appreciation for what is it like in the independent, entrepreneurial world, and thus think twice about topics like high taxes and excessive spending. That is why I had such high hopes for the follow-up book, “The 4 Hour Body.”

After thoroughly reading it and going back over many sections, I would consider it a mixed bag at best. Some of the ideas are solid and highly useful — controlling glucose for fat loss, reversing “permanent” injuries and innovative ways to pay for a hospital stay turned vacation. Implied within some chapters are exceptional messages — People can do more than what they think, most things (maybe everything?) is correctable and most of all, eat right and get moving. For these, I soundly applaud the author. Exceptional messages!

Where I found the booked both disappointing and deeply flawed was in the “how” portions; that is, the ideas and suggestions that were provided had many problems associated with them and some of the notions that his suggestions were built upon are simply wrong. There were quite a number of them, but allow me to provide 3 examples:

1. The use of Cinnamon for everyone, to control blood sugar.

A little explanation is needed here. You cannot “jam” the model of Natural Medicine into the model of Standard Medicine. In very basic terms, Standard Medicine (for the most part) views external pathogens as the problem and looks at what pharmaceutical can be used to kill or at least control it. Antibiotics are the most obvious example. The emphasis is on the drug. As such, it is very common for 10 people to receive the identical pharmaceutical for symptoms that are similar.

Natural Medicine looks at the INDIVIDUAL, not just the “disease” or symptoms and asks the question, “What substance(s) can be used to strengthen the constitution so that his/her system can defend itself against said pathogen.” The emphasis is on the individual. As such, it is  UNcommon for 10 people to receive the same herb (or other nutrition) for symptoms that are similar. Instead, each person would most likely receive substances unique to their constitution. 10 people. Maybe 8 or 9 different substances.

Cinnamon is an herb that is very warming by its nature. As such, it is prescribed to individuals who have issues with cold or cold-based problems (or constitutions). It works beautifully. It is a disaster for individuals whose constitution is warm or hot, and/or have heat-based issues.

If a person has any type of  “-itis” (ex/ colitis) which is a heat based inflammatory, digestive issue, giving them cinnamon would be a disaster. Gasoline to the fire. . . . . One would consider something cooling in nature, like Aloe. Water to the fire. . .

Those whose constitution are cool or cold will prosper using Cinnamon to control blood sugar. Those who have a warm or heat-based constitution will over a period of time, suffer issues such as adrenal exhaustion, mineral and trace mineral deficiency, hydration issues and potentially heart-based problems and more.

2. “Slow Carb Diet.”

This is not nearly as problematic as the aforementioned, but it is simply not an accurate one. It is based on the mistaken Glycemic Index theory; that is, some foods are said to have higher or lower GI indexes and evoke  stronger or weaker glucose responses. I could list about 40 different citations here but space constrains do not allow this, so let me list the following:

The British J. of Nutrition confirmed prior findings, noting “. . . There was no association between GI and insulin index or the amount of insulin generated.” Ice Cream has a lower GI than a baked potato. Anyone think ice cream is healthier?

Bottom line – all that matters (for fat loss) is the net reduction in all types of carbohydrates. If you replace high GI foods with low GI foods in the same amounts, you will get fat. . . just 15-30 minutes later, the time difference between “high” and “low” GI foods and insulin responses.

3. “You can go from running a 5K to a 50K in 12 weeks.”

That is the claim. Can you really do this?

I don’t know. What I do know, having done 7 marathons now,  is that the VAST majority are not in any type of shape to do this and even for those that are, this is the ideal prescription for injury and burnout.

Also, as I mentioned in my prior blog post on “The Misguided Art of Hacking,” why would you want to? Ultramarathoner Dean Karnazes said it best, “There are no shortcuts to excellence.”

In summary, I would describe this book as a well-meaning, curious case study. The ideas and suggestions appeared to work for the author and may work for those who have a similar constitution, physique, energy level, dedication, determination and mind-set. Should any of these vary, his suggestions could prove to be extremely unhealthy. . . to say the least.

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Doc Wellness says March 10, 2011

I have already received a huge number of comments and questions about this post. Most were questions and the comments were favorable, and I appreciate this.

For a couple of critical ones, please note that I am not critical of the author as a person or his writing style. In fact, I admire what he has done and as mentioned, loved the prior book. I also appreciate the degree of difficult in writing period, particularly a book.

However, he is simply wrong on a number of points, glaringly wrong. I would like to avoid additional problems and thus, by writing the above hopefully have made an impact on those that were having difficulties after applying his suggestions.

When we write, it is easy to edit. When we see patients directly, we cannot pick and choose what to listen to. Slick marketing will not cover up mistakes. That is THE major difference between theoretical writing and clinical practice.

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