Looking to the Dietary Gods: Eating Well According to the Ancients

(Photo: H.Koppdelaney)

Just a few weeks ago, I received the following from Ryan Holiday:

“…in the last 6 months, I’ve lost 15 lbs and am in the best shape of my life. From adding in sprinting to my running regime, using kettle bells once a week, using a weighted vest while taking long walks, and the cat vomit exercise, I now have abs and — like I said — lost weight in places I didn’t know I was storing fat. It was all from your book and keeping to the slow-carb diet. Here’s the part I really have to thank you for: by changing the way I thought about running, I ran the fastest mile in my life, and that’s after four years of cross country and track in high school. Last Friday, I ran a 4:55 mile. A month before my 24th birthday, I shattered my all time best from track: 5:02. Being that close to breaking five minutes had always haunted me.”

Those of you who’ve read this blog for a while know that Ryan is 24-years old and works directly with Dov Charney as his online strategist for American Apparel. He takes more heat, makes more high-stakes decisions, and takes more risks in a given week than most people experience in any given quarter… and he does so with an unusual calm. Unbeknownst to most, he largely credits this ability to his study of Stoicism, among other practical philosophies.

How did this philosophical bent accelerate his physical changes?…

Ryan made the above progress, in part, because he looked at how to transform choices related to food into a vehicle for larger transformation. If you want incentives to change, losing an additional 10 pounds oftentimes just doesn’t cut it.

So let us look to the ancients.

This guest post from Ryan explores his thinking and features wisdom from Epicurus, Seneca, Epictetus, the Spartans, Montaigne and others.

Enter Ryan Holiday

I’ve been grappling with a dilemma.

It’s a philosophical problem that’s thousands of years old, but fresh in an age of obesity, eating disorders and widespread factory farming: how does eating fit into the so-called “good life”?

What does our diet have to say about our ethics and priorities? The world seems broken down into two camps: those that rarely give the connection a second thought, and those who care too much. Could there be a better way?

And so I sought out the answer in the best way I knew how—by looking to the masters.

A student once asked Epictetus how he ought to eat. This, Epictetus replied, was simple. The right way to eat is the same as the right way to live: be “just, cheerful, equable, temperate, and orderly.” He meant that meals embody the principles and the disposition of the person who eats them. Food means choices and choices mean a chance to fulfill our principles. [So think: being thankful, eating just what you need, tipping generously, caring about where it comes from and how it got there.]

Epictetus was not alone. Philosophers have been experimenting with food for centuries in hopes of finding the best ways to be healthy and to enjoy life. (Seneca, for instance, was once a vegetarian for a year.) They sought to curb the impulse to gluttony just as strongly as they fought the urge to obsess over their weight and appearance. They looked to minimize harm and to live in accordance with nature—just as we wonder about animal cruelty or shop organic today. Ultimately, they understood that everything we do—especially something with life or death implications like diet—is a platform for philosophy, that something you do at least three times a day is worth doing well.

By “well”, do I mean healthy? Or well, as in luxuriously? In fact, I mean both. In this short article, we’ll examine eating “well” through three lenses: ethics, discipline (restraint and release), and health. It’s my hope that you’ll then realize that eating well is not just compatible with the philosophic life, but an integral and essential part of it. And conveniently, it has been baked into the The 4-Hour Body and slow-carb diet lessons.

1) Ethics

The ethics of what we eat is well-trod ground, as vegetarians and vegans constantly point out.

But I think Montaigne expressed the philosophy best when he reminded himself that he not only owed kindness and justice to his fellow man, but to animals capable of receiving the same.

Notice how different this is from most attitudes about food. Justice means doing what is fair and reasoned; kindness means empathy and consideration. Most discussions about diet (from paleo to veganism) are pervasively selfish: ‘But what can I have for dessert?’ ‘Sorry, I don’t consume diary.’ ‘Am I allowed to have this?’ Rarely: ‘is eating this the right thing to do?’ We too quickly condemn what might be best for our health, or conversely assume that the optimal nutrition for us trumps any obligations we have as people. Montaigne reminds us of our real obligations, that we should always try to do what is fair and just—what we can look ourselves in the mirror and be okay with afterward.

It’s a question I faced after reading Jonathan Foer’s wonderful book Eating Animals. I knew vaguely that the horrors of slaughterhouses existed and that I could find hundreds of slaughterhouse abuse videos on YouTube in a second or read the flyers PETA gives out, but I deliberately chose not to. In avoiding them, I made the tacit admission that something was wrong, while refusing to examine that feeling further. There is the story of a Spartan King who met two of his subjects, a youth and the youth’s lover, accidentally in a crowd. Embarrassed, the subjects tried to hide their blushing cheeks, but he noticed and replied, “Son, you ought to keep the company of the sort of people who won’t cause you to change color when observed.”

By eating well, we can be proud and transparent, rather than secretly uncomfortable. For starters, by eating more naturally (protein-dense, appropriate portions), we reduce our footprint—the amount we ask of the world to give us. By caring about the quality of what we ingest, we opt out of brutal factory farming and toxic industrial agriculture—keeping excessive blood off our hands. And by eating locally, we support small businesses and entrepreneurs instead of corporate behemoths who have few qualms about poisoning and fattening us (by doing the same to their “product”) if it means greater profits.

Philosophy gives us the tools to root around within ourselves and find these inconsistencies. We can put them out in the open and resolve them. There is something deeply troubling about a system that drives us to obscure the sources of our food. It asks us to not think of what we are eating or why. I don’t arrive at the same conclusions as Foer (vegetarianism), but I made a commitment after reading it, to eat the healthiest diet I could, as honorably and justly as was possible. I’m comfortable looking in the mirror after eating meat from farms like Niman Ranch or Good Shepherd Heritage Poultry. (thanks RareCuts.com!) If I don’t have access to these, it means I must go without, which is not a problem because philosophy helps there as well.

2) Discipline (Restraint and Release)

The Stoics avoided pleasure to prepare for adversity. The Epicureans enjoyed pleasure to help get them through adversity. As with most things, the best option for most people is somewhere in between.

Treat yourself to good meals so you don’t covet and crave them (Tim’s cheat days); learn to love simple foods and they’ll become all you need to be happy. And of course, the Cynics practiced a third way: they saw through the whole charade. Food is just dead animals, they said, plants and liquids we’re eventually going to excrete. No need to get excited nor stressed.

Cumulatively, these three schools all realized that it was important to be disciplined and in control of yourself in normal situations, so that you can develop the coping skills to deal with difficult situations. Modern science adds another layer of insight when it shows us that self-control is a finite resource. Subjects who are forced to resist eating fresh-baked cookies, for example, give up on tough math problems more quickly and have trouble sticking with other tasks. This is definitely not the right attitude if you want to be introspective, dedicated and hardworking. So here we have the the real genius of Tim’s “Cheat Days” and the Epicurean concept of enjoying the little things—it’s an outlet for release that makes discipline easier.

Practicing restraint and targeted release is a deeply philosophic exercise. It means being in tune with your body and living naturally. These are two things that are increasingly difficult in a world of plenty. To be able to say “no,” knowing that what may feel good now will actually feel bad later, is to master the self. To be able to reward the self with simple pleasures is to successful navigate the fine line between self-control and self-flagellation.

Cicero wrote that “need is what provides the seasoning for any and every appetite.” He was observing a truism that was old even in his day–that the most enjoyable meals are not the most expensive or exotic, but come at some moment we never expected. After being sick for a long time, at the end of a long hard day or even, perhaps, not even food but a drink when we are incredibly thirsty. Discipline provide a bit extra seasoning we can add to every single thing that we consume. And if could make the notorious Spartan black broth digestible, it can work for us in our comfy nerfy-lives.

3) Health

Of course, eating well and being healthy go hand in hand. But philosophers have stressed this connection for reasons you may not expect.

The right diet is important not because it helps you live longer, they are quick to point out, but because it makes you a better philosopher. Think about what a better person you could be if you didn’t fucking hate yourself after gorging your face at a dinner, or feel sick and bloated with gluten, to which you’re allergic. If you felt in control of, and confident about, your body instead of lethargic and dissatisfied. Jumping these dietary hurdles is, in effect, a dress rehearsal for awareness in other areas. How much easier would it then be to be empathic, kind and generous? To focus on other people with energy that’s no longer directed at your own problems?

A healthy man can help others better and longer. Anntonius the Pious, one of the truly great Roman Emperors, kept a simple diet so he could work from dawn to dusk with as few bathroom interruptions as possible—so he could be at the service of the people for longer. And as Seneca wrote to a friend, the better you eat, the less you need to exercise, thus leaving more time for philosophy. Our keen edge, he said, is too often dulled by heavy eating and then wasted further as we drain our life-force in exercise trying to work it off. It’s ironic and sad how many people think they eat well (whole grains, carbs and fruits) but really sentence themselves to needless time at the gym. Imagine what would have come of that time if spent doing good for themselves and others.

We all know that eating healthily is good, but too often we forget why. It is not just about us. It’s about our place in the world and the role we need to fulfill. Like a soldier’s diet, our choices about food help us with the job we must do, and if we waver in our dietary decisions, we may come up empty at a critical moment elsewhere.

An Athenian statesman once attended a dinner party put on by Plato. When he met his host again, he is reported to have said “Plato, your dinners are enjoyable not only when one is eating them, but on the morning after as well.” The man’s point was that he’d felt good the next day too. He was sharp and ready to go instead of a miserable bloated mess. To me, this is a host and a guest understanding the proper role of food, health and pleasure in our lives


We live incredibly unnatural, stressful lives in increasingly unhealthy times.

The Japanese novelist and runner Haruki Murakami has a theory along the following lines: an unhealthy soul [whether deliberate or from external forces] requires a healthy body. How we treat this bit of flesh we’ve been given says a lot about what we will become on the inside.

Put in a more uplifting light, in such a crazy world, we need to utilize every positive counterweight we can. Eating well is one powerful option.

The benefits aren’t just physical, but also emotional and even existential. Some of the most important moments in my life and career have come at dinners with friends. I think back on these meals, like an Epicurean, and I can savor the the taste all over again. No matter where I am, what I am going through or how long ago it was, I always have this to turn to, to lean on, to enjoy.

By leaning on the masters, who have meditated with this topic for centuries, we find age-old but fresh perspectives. I followed their lead and began thinking philosophically about food–that is, trying to eat both naturally, reasonably and ethically–and I saw drastic changes. I am in the best shape of my life physically and mentally.

And this is why Philosophy is so important. Because it can turn a simple thing like eating into a lens for viewing the world, a path to what we all want: the good life.


Interested in philosophy and excellent reading in general? Consider joining Ryan’s free reading list e-mail. It started as a small private e-mail list for friends, but it has now become a book club of about 1,500 people.

If you liked this, I also recommend:

Stoicism 101: A Practical Guide for Entrepreneurs

On The Shortness of Life: An Introduction to Seneca

All posts in “Practical Philosophy”

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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140 Replies to “Looking to the Dietary Gods: Eating Well According to the Ancients”

  1. Very interesting stuff, Ryan 🙂

    I think my favorite point is the idea of asking what’s fair to request from the world. Am I really so special to demand excess pollution, animal deaths, etc just to enjoy a bag of Cheetos and a steak? I hadn’t thought of eating in those terms before, so it’s definitely some good food for thought.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I think that’s a good way of phrasing the question because it forces equal reconsideration by the gluttons and the paleo crowd. Just because you want it–because it’s healthy and “what a cave man would eat” or because it’s tasty and a treat–doesn’t mean it is right for you to have it. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t selfish.

  2. Good article! Intermittent fasting strikes the perfect balance between restraint and release IMO.

    I have been following the leangains IF approach with some slow carb strategies and it works very well. Never had such an easy time following a diet before. I think the fact that you know that ‘release’ (big meals) is coming makes ‘restraint’ (fasting 16 hrs) a huge part of this.

    1. Definetley agree John. Leangains really broke down the ridiculous and completely impractical “5 meals a day minimum” wall that had been put in place by every hackspert that runs a gym or sold a supplement. Interestingly Ryan Holiday’s post on “The Rules” in his blog talks a little about the the logical walls that can prevent you from progress. Anyone thats walled in by the 5 meal myth I’d highly encourage you to visit the leangains website.

    1. Thanks Zane. Now I have to figure out what to do next. I’ve been thinking my goal is to NOT run a marathon. It seems like everyone who runs feels obligated to turn it into that, so I’m going to be the contrarian and try to just keep doing what I love.

  3. Hey Ryan and Tim,

    Excellent post.

    I was just working with a group of yogi’s last week and the teacher made a startling comment. I am paraphrasing here: “Food choices is the newest way to inflict our ethics and stand in judgment of others.”

    Week after week I see people coming to yoga camp with a myriad of thou shalt not’s of eating. After a few days and a thousand miles away out of sight of the prying eyes of their social norm I watch them start splurdging — a sweet slice of chocolate decadent cake melts the edge as they begin to really enjoy the beauty of the place in a new way.

    Zhu Xilin a qigong teacher I studied with years ago suggested. “Pay attention to how you feel a few hours and the next day after eating. This is when you will know what is the right foods for you”

    Paleo works well for me. Do I practice what I preach?

    I am becoming more disciplined more by the day if only for exactly the same conclusion Ryan reaches. “Put in a more uplifting light, in such a crazy world, we need to utilize every positive counterweight we can. Eating well is one powerful option.”

    Yes…and…I still struggle with the dastardly emotional eating habits that continually have to reprogram in my brain.

    Mostly I have to keep working on being kind to myself. Recognizing that this includes eating healthfully for me. And, when I misstep, try not to beat myself up. For me this is particularly difficult battle (emotions) that stoicism (based on will-power and philosophy) lacks the nuance to address.

    Funny how much controversy food can cause both socially and individually. Though I don’t entirely agree that philosophy holds the all the answers to improved eating habits. This article does and excellent job of demonstrating how it can be employed to strengthen resolve.



    1. Right. There’s never a reason to beat yourself up. I can’t believe I am going to quote Oprah here but I believe she once said something like, it’s not about whether you ate the whole sleeve of Oreos it’s whether you went ahead and finished the whole bag. That is, if you mess up in the morning its OK. You’ve got plenty more opportunities to make the right decision coming up the pike.

  4. Great piece. Well said: [So think: being thankful, eating just what you need, tipping generously, caring about where it comes from and how it got there.]

    That’s how we try and run our company and the food we source. We also think everyone should have access to that same equitable food.

    Thanks for addressing this topic.


    founder, yumbutter

  5. Forced to resist eating fresh-baked cookies?

    I do believe those researchers were practicing torture techniques. Someone should report them to the ethics board…

  6. Great post, I agree whole-heartedly. I think a lot of these topics on living a healthier, better, happier, etc come down to a similar concept. Simplicity. We are surrounded by complexity in every direction – and sometimes pumping the brakes a bit and just breaking things down into simple manageable pieces is helpful approach to a surprising number of things we encounter in our daily lives.

  7. Thanks for the thought-provoking article Ryan.

    I appreciate being reminded that our food and eating choices are an extension of our personal philosophy. Eating decisions are just one of many secret choices we make throughout the day that reflect who we are and link to where we’re headed without us really realizing it. (ie: do we snuggle with our significant other while we talk, or no?)

    I’m glad your discussion caused me to stop and re-evaluate my everyday automatic-pilot choices once again. (I’m also glad that I started to follow the 4 Hour Body Slow Carb diet so the personal evaluation went a little better than it would have a month ago!)

  8. I think one has to keep the enjoyment of life into the equation. I know I’d be miserable eating vegan long term. I’ve seen vegans and they always seem so pale and sickly. I’m sure there are exceptions; they’re the ones on the infomercials. 🙂

    However, I know Clarence Bass promoted an almost vegan diet, but he’d eat red meat once per week for his health. I think this is a good way to go about it. He’s taking the best of both sides of the debate.

    1. Max Bronson,

      Although your perspective is popular – much like flat world and blood letting was at one time – and your observational anecdotal evidence is certainly one form of evidence to consider (if approached with proper critical thinking and a large enough data field), yet it is foolish for us to think that anecdotal evidence is enough, especially when better forms of evidence, facts, science and reality exist.

      I suggest you reconsider your current perspective of vegans as part of some very old mythology, propaganda and confirmation biases… especially with the understanding that vegans are less than 1% of the population and the other 99% consists of far more sickly anorexic-obese meat eaters!

      Here is a start:



  9. Thanks Ryan on the great insight and correlation between diet and philosophy!

    Following the running principals from Brian Mackenzie in the Four Hour Body, I went from my longest run Ever of 5 miles (and always cramping at the end) to a 1/2 marathon of 1:53, with only 3 weeks of short training runs and weight lifting!

    Thanks again Tim

  10. Wow! Ryan is emersed in this stuff! He’s awesome. I (serendipitously) joined his mailing list yesterday. Pretty psyched to get a bit of his brain fertilizer. Thanks for having the nuts to really go for it.

  11. Great article. I never gave much thought to how much discipline I have exerted over the last six-weeks of slow carbing, I just wanted to lose weight (25 lbs and counting). On non-binge days I have given up so many beers, ferrera rochers (best things ever), chips, fried chicken, and I’ve gone out to bars with all my friends and not had a drop of alcohol (well, a couple shots of Gin, but It hasn’t hurt my progress). I never thought of how well I was circumscribing my desires. Thanks for the new angle on my dieting!

  12. Wow, Great Post!

    This line “To be able to say “no,” knowing that what may feel good now will actually feel bad later, is to master the self,” really spoke to me.

    I printed it out and put it near my desk where I’ll always see it. Great lesson for all aspects of life. Congrats on the sub: 5 min mile! I recently ran a mile for the first time ever, different achievement, some relative joy 🙂

  13. Haven’t read the article yet, because your blog doesn’t seem to be compatible with Instapaper any more. Where you aware of that? Any particular reason?

    1. Hi MB,

      That’s weird. We haven’t changed anything, but perhaps a new WordPress version is causing this? Anyone else having issues?

      If that fails, you could also use Evernote.com in place of Instapaper. I use it for scraping articles for later reading.

      All the best,


  14. Ryan,

    Its so refreshing to see diet analyzed from this perspective. I often forget how much everyday actions, like choosing what to eat, can be used as a tool for expressing our general philosophy of life design.

    I just wrote an article about a simplified version of a paleo diet and didn’t once consider the lesson or the overarching goal.

    Thanks for shedding new light (yet centuries old) on such a common dilemma.

    -ND, handmadebrain.com

  15. Hey man,

    A big area of food that is not often discussed is wasted food. I just completed a challenge where I had to eat only what I found growing around my southern california neighborhood for 3 weeks. There’s lots of fruit and other edibles that goes to waste out there.

    Food also goes to waste at home. How much of what is in our cupboards and in our refrigerators right now will go to waste?

    I think a cool diet to attempt, at least once, is to simply not buy another thing until you eat everything that you currently have on hand.


    1. Cool article. With the popularity of the Paleo diet, “Omnivore’s Dilemma” etc. I think that people are starting to think about food in deeper ways. Part of it is probably caused by the ridiculous epidemic of obesity in the United States. As smoking goes down, something else equally health-destroying comes in to take its place. Hopefully, the culture will move in the direction of healthy living, but I don’t see it happening any time soon. Now, where’s my Double-Down??

    2. @ Mike Roberts

      I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s one thing to maybe buy/find food that fits with your personal philosophy, but making sure that what you buy/harvest isn’t wasted.

      It’s a very lofty goal to eat only what you have on hand before you purchase/harvest more, but I think that it speaks to the philosophy as well as the economics – which quite frankly, are a very big concern these days. It also sparks creativity that can happen when you must combine items that you normally wouldn’t.

  16. The worlds most simple get healthy plan.

    “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.” & “Move often”.

    I can’t believe it took me 27 years to figure this out. Less is more. Great post! 🙂

  17. Thanks for the post. One of my goals is to start eating more with an awareness of where the food comes from and make choices based on that.

  18. YAY! I can return the comments I receive “Ryan, you’re so enlightened for someone so young :)”

    So many of illness are born of improper digestion. We never take time to bless our food any more or respect the sources it came from. My father took eating very seriously. We ate at the table in silence to encourage all of our energy into digestion and awareness of what we were eating.

    What we put into our mouths is reflective of our thoughts. If we can’t find sweetness in our life we’re going ingest it. Digestion is our way of assimilating life to be processed by our belief systems and body whether we’re taking in food or information.

    I really liked Tim’s idea of photographing everything we put into our mouths as a practice of awareness.

    Since I’m better in Eastern philosophy here’s a passage form Hatha Yoga Pradipika with commentary from Swami Muktibodhananda.

    “The stomach should never be overloaded, it should be half filled with food, one quarter water and one quarter with air. Eating to please Shiva means that when taking food the yogi should not feel that he is eating for himself. He should cultivate the attitude that he is nourishing the body for its maintenance so his consciousness can continue its process of unfoldment and spiritual evolution.”

    He goes on to talk about yoga food being boring, though Pandit Dabral (my yoga teacher) would hold cooking classes talking about food spirituality with non boring food 🙂


  19. Thanks for this post. I started a journey several months ago in revamping my diet after my wife was deemed allergic to gluten & eggs. What I found, including that from the 4 Hour Body, was life changing. However, I have had trouble explaining my changes to people. I find myself at a loss for words in trying to explain how I can “give up” things that are so damaging to me. People don’t understand how I can give the cold shoulder to such staples as cereal and bagels. Now, thanks to this post, it makes sense. I think I have taken a few steps “deeper” into finding the meaning of my relationship with food. Nowhere near as deep as Ryan, but they are steps just the same.

  20. Wow, I just can’t get enough of leaning on the stoa! Seneca’s hunger caused him the find even bad bread “soft and wheaty” I love enjoying simple meals as if they cost a fortune. Treating my earthenware as if it were gold.

  21. My husband told me to read this post, because I’ve been mulling over the issue of “food religion” I see.

    I am so glad you wrote this, Ryan. Props to Tim for hosting this guest post too. We need to hear this, I needed to read this now.

    Seriously, as a Mom and health foodie, I see such division among mothers making their food choices religious and alienating. It’s a fine line between applying your philosophy to your life and being gracious in the company of those who do not share it.

    My favorite meal last year was an “experimental dinner” we had for my birthday. We invited 8 friends all instructed to bring 2 things purchased at the local Farmer’s Market or our Seattle Pike Place Market. No prior planning such as who could bring a veggie, meat, etc. was made. If we ended up with a bunch of carrots and strawberries, we were prepared to order pizza as back up. But, once everyone arrived, we had an assortment of veggies, fruit, meat and a loaf of bread. It was so much fun to create a meal from everything, divide the work and just talk with everyone. I savored every bite, and felt amazing the next day!

    Anyway, great post. Believe it or not, I find it very helpful on my personal journey to transform how our family eats. I want my kids to learn about the importance of food. I want them to be empowered to make critical choices for themselves and never fall into the trap of thinking the need to starve or simply check out of their power in eating.

    Best, Holli

    1. this sounds like so much fun!

      Kinda like “Chopped” only noone gets chopped and ya’ll get to enjoy making and sharing a foodie experience

  22. I really like posts that is a convergence of ideas. This one is exactly that eating meets philosophy. Thank you Ryan for your insights. I am now going to embark on a journey to learn more about my food – which may be scary seeing that I am living in China.

  23. Great piece Ryan, especially in the last few years I have really tried to be more selective of the quality of the food I eat, whether it’s “healthy” foods or junk food. I try to support companies that are ethical and treat employees well. I always think if the Employees are miserable or poorly paid then they are likely not handling the food products in a caring manner either. Also one day it just kind of hit me as I looked down a long aisle in a grocery store and really noticed for the first time just how much shit there is on the shelves. Then started looking at what people were putting in their carts and how it matched their physiques.

    I have struggled for years with taking off the excess, my former job as a cop did not help, between PTSD and really cheap “cop deal” greasy breakfasts and meals, it’s amazing most officers can function when they need to. I’ve tried eating “healthy” and exercise…..hated it, felt constrained on what I could eat and how much and I hate working out. I like playing sports and walking. Canadian winters coop you up for 5 months a year unless you like ski-dooing or ice fishing and treadmills just plain suck.

    Did Atkins, lost almost 30 lbs in 2 months, was feeling great weight wise but hated the diet and found it very hard on my digestive tract. Then re-introduced carbs into my eating….then thinking my body didn’t remember it’s name I kept re-introducing them more and more. Thus back up around 230+ (I’m 6′).

    Bought audio version of 4 hr ww last year and listened to it about 8 times, helped me to make some great changes on time management. Then finally got 4 hr body at beginning of June and started on the 10th of June. Yesterday was cheat day #4, and am currently down 10 lbs, have lost 2 1/2″ on waist, 2 inches of man boobage is gone, Legs and arms between 1-2″.

    Have not done any workouts, just normal recreation and daily activities. have been tweaking a little each week, I don’t have the means to measure fat vs muscle but I’m down from an extra large to a large shirt size.

    Will introduce workouts once I get to target weight. I wanted to challenge the book and show that you can lose while eating without portioning, never being hungry, and be somewhat lazy physically.

    Plus the food is way better then Atkins, my digestion is good, and I’m not being restricted from Pilsbury Cinnamon buns in a tube, cause I can still eat them once a week.(Ooey gooey goodness with icing)

    Thanks Tim for the books, especially the 4hr body because now I know I will reach my target weight and that I will never go back to fat, I could never be confident of that before but definitely am now. Thanks Ryan for the blog post. Very thought provoking.

  24. One of the best articles on nutrition I’ve ever read. You don’t explain the WHAT but, more importantly, the WHY.

  25. A good article on how diet can lead to improvements in your wellbeing, but it blurs the distinction between personal philosphy and practical philosophy. Ethically speaking dietary choices might be good for you personally, but may lower the overall good in society/ the world. Mass production of food can always be improved upon, but it could be argued to be a necessary evil in the face of a growing world population. The poor of the world can rarely eat protein rich (the appropriate word here) diets.

  26. So true. Although, eating like your ancestors did for the purpose of eating as your ancestors did is not the smartest reason for paleo, it turns out that it works in most cases. But there few exceptions of course when it’s worth to take advantage of achievements modern day civilization, such as supplements.

    For those interested in Paleo I would recommend this point as a starting point: http://zze.st/paleo-primal-diet/ (basically a collections of links to the most important articles, web-sites & blogs)

  27. Wow Ryan, I’ve never thought of diet in terms of philosophy before. But it makes perfect sense. Personally, I consider myself an “intuitive” eater. I eat what my body tells me to, and nothing that doesn’t feel right to me. Over a period of about 3 years, this has gradually led me to a 90% raw vegan diet. I have no convictions about this. If I wake up tomorrow wanting a steak, I’ll get the best steak I can find and I’ll enjoy it.

    What I’ve found is this: We are essentially animals, and we do have instincts that tell us exactly what we need and what’s good for us (and NOT good for us). By eating chemicals and processed foods, those signals get messed up, but if we can get clean, they come back pretty quickly and they’re incredibly accurate. In other words, you begin to crave the foods you actually need, instead of cheetos and pizza. The wonderful thing is, that your whole body, including your taste buds will then support you: if you eat the foods you need and crave, they taste like the best things in the world.

    By eating this way, I don’t need to be disciplined. I don’t have to try and stay away from anything. I no longer eat dairy of any kind, but there’s no hardship involved. Cheese doesn’t look appetizing to me. Neither does bread. But if someone eats them in front of me, I have no issues. There’s no “longing”, because I “can’t have this”, but there’s no condemnation either. These are deeply personal choices. Dairy doesn’t appeal to me, but that doesn’t automatically make it bad for everyone.

    Being on this path has allowed me to lose almost 100 pounds. I feel better than I ever have, with tons of energy and mental clarity. And all that without having to force myself into anything (eating foods I hate or not eating foods I love). From an ethical point of view, it works out, too. I don’t think it’s morally wrong to eat animals, but I don’t like the idea of eating meat from animals that have been mistreated. Sorry to get a bit metaphysical here, but food has energy. And the energy of meat from a healthy, happy cow is very different from that of slaughterhouse beef. To me, that means that when I look at a steak in the supermarket, it looks “dead” to me. Nothing in my body wants any part of that. It actually repulses me a little. While I don’t currently have any desire to eat meat, when I look at a steak at the Argentinian butcher’s, meat from free-roaming happy cattle, I don’t have the same reaction. It doesn’t repulse me, it’s more of a “that looks good, but I don’t want it right now” kind of feeling. So it works on all levels. 🙂

  28. This post is fantastic, I’ve learned a little about a few philosophers and realise that I take a lot of their advice already, which is quite nice. I’ve been a vegan since 1995 and am active but have carried some extra weight after initial loss in 95, I didn’t really care though, no Harajuku moment until Feb 2011.

    Slow carb eating has got me on track and I’ve lost 15lbs since March, and really it hasn’t been too difficult. You soon forget about bread…

    This article speaks to me I like the concept of lifestyle over diet and particularly

    Most discussions about diet (from paleo to veganism) are pervasively selfish: ‘But what can I have for dessert?’ ‘Sorry, I don’t consume diary.’ ‘Am I allowed to have this?’

    I get this a lot and it irritates me no end. It’s not that I can’t or am not allowed I choose not to. I’ve always been like this and my strong sense of not imposing my views on others, unless requested to, prevents me from being in the vegan police.

    TF mentions something in the book about vegans being too extreme, I know many and most are, the trouble comes with being too emotionally attached to the vegan diet. Same with the few paleo people I’ve had dealings with.

    I’m not keen on the caveman thing, although I get the logic, simply because it completely negates thousands of years progress. So while we can dip into the past to learn from, similar to what Ryan does in this article, we should not be ruled by it. That would be daft.

    The Epicurian concpet of taking pleasure in the simple things is key, to all of this IMO, as Ryan says enjoying the treats on cheat day – today for me, love fruity porridge – but also to live a great life. Appreciate feeling good in the morning and notice how different it is to how you feel after cheat day.

    I have a vegan protein shake in the morning, as advised in 4HB, but with supergreens powder added. This is great and makes me feel fantastic through nutrition rather than stimulation. And I do take pleasure in this.

    I have been motivated by 4HB and now this post helps reinforce this from a philosophical standpoint. The goal now is to be superhuman, not necessarily in strength terms but in being healthy and feeling good.

    Data regarding well being tends to be measured from an average position, below which you are depressed, above which you aren’t. But strivign for that is no fun, let’s go for fantastic.

    The three areas Ryan covers here can certainly contribute to an overall plan to achieve fantastic and superhuman. I want the lower down slope of the normal distribution curve.

  29. Great post Ryan. Valuable contribution yet again.

    I just can’t see the consistency between your interest in philosophy and working for American Apparel. Just because they have ethical factories doesn’t hide the sins of Dov or the company.

    I have thought about this a few times over the years because it’s just such an implausible scenario. That someone so seemingly clear-sighted could be so blind?

    In the end we just have to accept that there is somehow a consistency in all this, a guiding morality, and not messiah-induced hyperopia.

  30. Fantastic model to live by Ryan. Not easy but the results speak for themselves as you have proven to us all. Congrats and thanks for the inspiration!

  31. Love it, Ryan and Tim!

    Stopping to ask, “Do I really want this? Does this bring me pleasure/feed my soul? Does this bring me closer to my goals?” is so clarifying for every choice in life … including and especially food.

    One of my favorite eating well moments came during a layover in the Frankfurt airport on my way to Paris and the extreme satisfaction I felt ordering in German a Weissbier and Wienerwurst Paearchen and feeling like I was enjoying the food of the gods at that moment!

    It was such an exquisitely delightful experience I had to take a picture to commemorate it.

    Thanks for the inspiration to re-enjoy that experience! ; )



  32. Hi Tim,

    I am 48 and I used to weigh 214lbs with high BP , Cholestrol & Type 2..on 4 medications everyday..

    By chance I started reading ” 4 hour body” from Page #74-105…started my slow carb diet Feb 2011 thru June 2011..I lost 27 lbs….I am off 2 medications, I walk 1hr everyday, I am thinking about working on six pack abs…ha..ha

    You are the Man!

    Thank you sir…

  33. The post exactly encapsulates what I think about food and eating. I don’t eat meat or fowl and am on the way to eliminating fish. I like to feel good about the person I see in the mirror, and I cant when I eat animals.

    I therefore explore other foods and enjoy new discoveries. If I deeply crave a bite of stew or roasted duck, I eat it. I always find myself thinking, “well, that was nice, but not so great that I want to eat animals again.”

    Moreover, I help care for my 81 y.o. mother. I notice that as her digestive system becomes more sensitive, simpler foods are better. We threw away the highly processed products with a gazillion ingredients and her tummy’s a lot better,

  34. I also liked the bit about tipping generously. I used to work for Starbucks, and I can tell you that our friends in retail food service work their butts off…with a smile. Though I enjoyed my job (except for cleaning the toilet) I did earn every penny of my tips 🙂

  35. Tim and Ryan, thanks for the philosophy, but it would have been great if your conclusion included a sample diet. The 4HB has some great guidelines, but does this diet have to be used for fat loss?

    What kind of diet do you guys use day to day for maintenance or do you constantely diet according to your goal, i.e weight loss 6 weeks, then weight gain etc.


  36. Such a great post.

    One of my favorite quotes from Jonathan Safran Foer:

    –“One of the greatest opportunities to live our values – or betray them – lies in the food we put on our plates.”

  37. As a life coach who works with Food Addiction, THANK YOU for this great post, I will be sending many of my clients to read it.

    Ryan, you are pretty darn wise for your years and Tim, as always, you are truly an inspiration, bringing us one great idea to ponder after another.

  38. Not to be that guy, but if we think animals have any rights at all, we probably shouldn’t slaughter them and eat their flesh. This is central to ethical eating.

  39. I feel best on a paleo diet and will stick with that for the time being. Ultimately though, just for the sake of not having to rely on an endless conveyor belt of animals to satisfy my hunger i would love to find a ‘paleo version’ of the vegetarian diet i.e. a vegetarian diet which provides all the benefits of a paleo diet, namely, lots of energy and a clear head. The question is, does such a diet exist or is the best solution in this regard always going to be the diet humans have evolved on ie one that includes devouring meat?

    The problem with most vegetarian diets is they are loaded with grains (i don’t feel good on grains), sugar and soya, which is not ideal. They are also low in quality protein which may be OK for some, but not others, such as those who lead a physically active lifestyle especially strength athletes, bodybuilders etc.

    Once the meat is removed from the diet what becomes the quality protein source that replaces it? Some people will recommend green algae’s and such like but this stuff does not taste good and is expensive to buy in amounts which supplies anywhere near enough protein. Others recommend nuts and seeds. I personally do not feel good taking too much nuts and seeds so i imagine that approach isn’t for everyone either. Raw diary, raw whey etc may be an option but it is currently not very accessible and a lot of people have problems with diary.

    So recently I have been looking for people/traditions who utilise a vegetarian diet which provides ample quality protein, is low on sugar and devoid of grains. Gordon Ramsey a celebrity british chef who loves his meat, visited an Ashram in India and was blown away by how good the food tasted and how it satisfied his hunger (did contain grains though). So there could be a lot to learn from the vegetarian traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism (i am particularly interested in what the shaolin monks eat, or do they just eat more of what the sedentary monk eats?).

    Some people i have come across who are of interest are:

    • Daniel Vitalis – He is a raw foodist and friend of David Wolfe. He consumes huge amounts of colostrum as a protein source (colostrum is very expensive so not affordable for a mere average wage earning mortal such as myself).

    • Gabriel Cousins – An advocate of a low GI raw food diet. I haven’t tried it and i can’t see where the protein comes from.

    i haven’t done too much research into this as i am still refining what works for me i.e. the paleo diet, but i thought this topic might attract a few people who are on the same wavelength and who may be able to provide a few ideas.

    So in summary i am after a diet (if it exists) which:

    • Is meat free and supplies ample protein to replace the meat.

    • Is grain free

    • Is sugar free

    • Must be affordable (no expensive super duper quadruply activated protein powders)

    • Must be tasty (no bowls of algae for breakfast).

    • And most importantly leave you healthy, feeling full of energy and a clear head.

  40. Ryan (and Tim),

    Thanks for this–it was a fun read. Philosophy definitely has a lot to teach us; the ancients certainly, and though the discipline has become hyper-specialized, there are a few contemporary branches that I find just as actionable and profound.

    Today, I think it’s safe to say that both you and Tim would be considered Pragmatists, in the technical sense, or at least have a lot in common with them. If you haven’t read any, I think you would particularly enjoy/get a lot out of William James (see, “What Makes a Life Significant“).

    C.S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey are seen as the most important American Pragmatists, and Pragmatism is America’s greatest contribution to the philosophical tradition and discipline.

    Pragmatism’s fundamental argument is that finding Truth via Knowledge is neither possible nor helpful, and that we should rather focus on how to make things better (i.e., focus on meliorism). This is the common thread through the philosophy I notice Tim picking up on, and it’s what you focus on here, so it seems like both of you would have a field day with Pragmatism: Minimum Effective Dose philosophy, if you will.

    If you’re interested, there’s a lot I’d recommend depending on your motivation but you can just google “[Author] full text” and you’ll find a lot, particularly with James and Dewey. James’ work is all online now and Emory has done a great job compiling it.

    So for you, or anyone else interested in actionable philosophy that is particularly relevant to us as Americans–the classical American Pragmatists were the cultural-critical thought leaders of their time–since it’s absolutely shot through our culture, here’s a list to check out:

    William James: Beautiful writer, tons of profound and immanently relevant stuff. Highlights: “Pragmatism: A New Name for an Old Way of Thinking” (esp. chapters “What Pragmatism Means” and “Pragmatism and Common Sense); “Talks to Teachers and to Students on Some of Life Ideals” (esp. chapters “Interest,” “On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings, and “What Makes a Life Significant”); and “A Pluralistic Universe” (esp. the first and last chapters).

    John Dewey: Much more dense than James but absurdly insightful, especially with respect to education, culture, and the role of philosophy. Highlights: “Reconstruction in Philosophy,” “Democracy in Education” (esp. later chapters), and “The Public and Its Problems.”

    Richard Rorty: Contemporary, died in 2007, beautiful writer and incredibly rigorous thinker–intensely loved and and hated, but not much in the middle (which I take to be a good thing). Highlights: “Philosophy and Social Hope” (esp. sec. 2, “Hope in Place of Knowledge”) and “Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature” (completely rocked the world of philosophy when it was published in 1980).

    Cornel West: Living today, wonderful, passionate writer, and harsh cultural critic. Deals mostly with hope, injustice, and the tragic. Highlights: “Democracy Matters,” “The Limits of Neopragmatism,” and “Pragmatism and the Sense of the Tragic.”

    1. By the way, totally on board regarding with the “eat how you live, and live well” jive. I my diet is essentially paleo via continual testing, revision, etc.

    2. The writers you have just listed are in the “Progressive” tradition

      with the idea than human life is progressing to some end of history

      utopian existence. There is very little room in this strain of thought for individual thought and action.

  41. Interesting collection of insights. Thanks for taking the time to nourish our minds. I wish I could afford to live on organic but I live on disability so not a chance. I do try to afford some things.

  42. Enter Jim, Enter John, Enter Jack… There is no Enter “Tim” anymore right? I know it’s very 80-20 “productive” to let others write the stuff, but why do you still surround this blog with your pictures Tim? Out of ideas? Just writing what a lot of us are thinking. What about you, isn’t it your blog? There should be more Tim-Posts, and not only those that are smart advertising 🙂

  43. Many kudos on the article, Ryan and Tim. I think you’ll find in Eastern cultures as well, similar sentiments and philosophies on diet and nutrition.

    Japan was the first Asian country to set dietary guidelines back in 1985. One of the government’s recommendations reads, “Make all activities pertaining to food pleasurable ones. Use mealtimes as occasions for family communication and enjoy cooking at home.”

    This speaks to the ‘luxurious’ aspect of eating you reference, Ryan, and is something too often missed by the diet-crazed, who continue to search for a theoretical optima while ignoring their own food preferences.

  44. Seriously? Why is this such a surprise and new experience for people? If you have travelled and had the experience of those who have nothing but the food on the table, you would certainly appreciate the experience of good simple foods. It shouldn’t take quotes from the “scholars” to remind you that food should be one of life’s pleasures, to share and be thankful. Food will always come second to interesting people and loved ones.. and so it should be.

    I have respect for Ryan’s opinions, but i am disappointed that the commenters haven’t worked out what food means to them a long time ago, especially when reading a blog such as this.. where the invitation to think outside the square and be appreciative of the hidden knowledge virtually drips off of these pages. All too often we are too afraid to have that contrarian view, to go against the consensus. Are we too lazy to go and find our own truth?

    We are 200 to 300 years into our civilised society. The ancient cultures consider a meal an event to enjoy the company, to give thanks for being alive to savour the taste of find foods. Why make it be or sound more complicated than it really is?

  45. Wow amazing blog post. Something we all know too well. It’s so much easier to say yes than it is to say no. Love the content about Discipline (Restraint and Release) Thank you

  46. The paleo diet works best for me. On it i have lots of energy and a clear head + the food tastes good. In an ideal world though, animals wouldn’t have to die in their droves just to keep me alive.

    My question is, is there a diet that provides all the benefits of the paleo diet but does not include meat 🙂 and if so what are the viable meat replacements (please don’t say green algae’s etc.)? …or is the most ideal diet in terms of supporting optimal health, always going to be the one humans have evolved on?

    1. Davro, the algae’s are so worth trying. Please give them a chance, they are really very powerful.

      I’ve been vege (just like silver backs and buffalo etc) for 13yrs. I don’t bang on about it, I just don’t want to partake in funding the production of meat.

      I was taking seeds and nuts to get my complete protiens then i tried ultimate greens and I couldn’t believe the buzz these chlorophyll organisms gave me!!

    2. @Davro: Check out this interview on Robb Wolf’s blog with Mat Lalonde–should answer your questions.

      Short answer is no, if long-term health is your goal. Short-term performance…well, actually, the answer is still no…but read “The Meatless Machine” in the appendix to 4HB. Also, it’s important to recognize the difference between something that’s possible vs. something that’s optimal; it’s possible (and difficult) to survive without meat, but it’s far from optimal.

      1. It seems then ‘the ancients’ (by ancients im thinking of the major religious traditions which are vegetarian such as buddhism, hinduism, taoism etc) chose a less optimal diet which aligns with their ethical views by excluding meat, in place of an optimal diet which includes meat. I wonder if this is the case, if this was a trade off that was decided upon, or if they found that a meatless diet did actually enable optimal health?

    3. Humans are omnivores. Humans have displaced many top predators and now it’s our responsibility to keep the numbers of the prey in check. If everyone were vegetarians, what would we do with all the animals?? let them roam free? Humans have survived for so long because we have eaten everything possible.

  47. Nice article on a touchy subject. It avoids truisms and direct advice all together.

    When talking food, I often assume others have similar understandings and values as I have (mine are similar to this post), and fail at communicating as they don’t. This blogpost is motivating me, when talking food, to direct the conversation to values and principles.

  48. Another solid blog Tim!

    Yea under #2, I completely understand the three different approaches to food you describe. Myself, I’ve learned to see it as fuel, a necessary consumption of organic matter that allow my body to heal, improve, perform and look the way I want it too.

    I think you touch on something here that I’ve used to great success, but that takes time and strategy – removing emotional connections to food. I’ve found it takes some time and everyone, of course, is different, but I have also found that it is absolutely possible to help people move past their emotional connections to food and place those connections, more purposefully, onto something else of their choosing that will benefit them more.

    Just my 2 cents. Love this article man!!

  49. Speaking of food…a great food for the soul educational field trips!! PLEASE consider Donorschoose.org again for your 34th birthday. My students LOVED your GIVE BACK BIRTHDAY last year! WE took an Adventure on the High Sea and we were thrilled! What a great experience you and your friends made happen!

  50. Yes we should eat what feels right, but don’t turn a blind eye to the impact of your actions, because in the end your health is tied to the health of everything else. It is unconscionable not to consider the environmental, social, and ethical impact of a diet that is high in animal protein. “Don’t believe the hype” when it comes to diets, we haven’t made it to 7 billion people because we have finicky nutritional needs.

  51. think that’s a good way of phrasing the question because it forces equal reconsideration by the gluttons and the paleo crowd. Just because you want it–because it’s healthy and “what a cave man would eat” or because it’s tasty and a treat–doesn’t mean it is right for you to have it. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t selfish.

  52. I know an article like this won’t appeal to a lot of people, but it should! 🙂

    Eating on purpose is something I’ve been thinking a lot about. I got fat because I didn’t eat with a correct mindset. It was either to cope with something, because it was the thing I was supposed to do, or because I was bored. I wish I had learned growing up how to eat responsibly.

    The philosophy of the Cynics is the one I’d like to adopt generally, since food has played such an important role in my life. Not that I don’t want to enjoy food, but I want to relearn how to enjoy it the right way.


  53. Question:

    I don’t know of any other way to contact you. I was wondering if you found in any of your research evidence that suggest problems with increased Gout facilitated by the slow carb (high protein) diet and the cold therapy specifically Ice baths. The sharply increased blood/uric acid levels combined with the extreme cold for a repetitive and extended period of time to the extremities. I’m curious of your results, if any.


  54. Inspirational post!

    For me, paleo has also shown to be optimal in terms of physical and mental results. It’s a shame that ‘honest’ food is sometimes hard to get by though.

  55. My guess is that Plato’s guest meant that the stimulating philosophical conversation was what was enjoyable the next morning, not the way the food was working through his digestive tract.

    1. No need to guess. He meant it just as I said–that it wasn’t a gluttonous feast as was common in that day.

  56. I love the insights here, but when I see quotes like “corporate behemoths who have few qualms about poisoning and fattening us” I can’t help but ask when the last time the author, or anyone else, has had a food company force-feed them Doritos or Pepsi. We are the ones who put the food in our mouths and swallow.

    Like you say: practice restraint. And don’t give your power away by blaming food companies for selling you the very products you choose to buy and eat.

    1. corporate behemoths who have few qualms about poisoning and fattening us

      They don’t care; check out McDonalds, the emphasis is on profit and nothing else. While we do put the food in our mouths those companies do their best to limit choices, which combined with laziness means people get big.

      IN a similar way that big companies pushed powdered baby milk to African mothers, big companies do the same to the ignorant uncaring masses. If those companies were to care about the health of their consumers their products would be healthy and those same masses would be less fat. Simples.

      Availability and cost govern what the vast majority of people eat.

  57. Great point about the mental health benefits that philosophers have made about eating right. My company is sponsoring a wellness weak for our employees because we know that healthy employees perform better!

  58. I couldn’t agree more with this article. About a year ago, I started eating Mila – a proprietary blend of chia seeds – which hits the mark on all the qualifications of a food you can feel great about eating. Full disclosure – I loved the food so much, I became a distributor for the company… so, yes, this post is self-serving in that respect – I’d love for the whole world to be eating Mila, because it’s so good for our health, and the way the company creates it is in alignment with the values described in this post:

    – A whole, raw food: chia seeds, which sustained the ancient Aztec Indians for generations

    – Plant-based omega-3s, protein, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients = *killer* nutritional value

    – cultivated on small family farms with inter-generational land contracts, contributing to the economies of poor countries and helping farmers feed their families

    – each purchase gives $ back to the company’s foundation, which partners with schools, orphanages and missionaries to bring restoration, health, and sustainable change

    – structure of the company maximizes the dollars that go back to the distributors, supporting the thousands of families that are doing the work of spreading this food across the globe

    The onus is on all of us to make responsible food choices. Eating (and being a distributor for) Mila enables me to feel like I’m doing my part – not just for my body and my family, but also for the farmers who grow it and the land that produces it.

  59. Thanks Ryan – an extremely compelling read. I have never come across a better philosophical case for eating well. I read the 4-Hour Body (thanks Tim, I responded to your post and got my order in early so I nabbed a signed copy!!) over Christmas and I felt like your post was the perfect compliment to the book’s excellent case for eating well. And, with a dash of Epicurean indulgence (Tim’s cheat meals, Epicurean enjoyment of meals with friends, etc.), smart restraint and power over appetite can be very liberating and momentum-building.

    I do have a question though. Tim makes the case that reason and logic break down in humans and we therefore need more than a cognitive approach to maintain our progress towards physical or other goals. He cites contests, publicly posted progress photos and online accountability on DailyBurn.com as examples of creatively using incentives like a sense of competition or fear of humiliation to drive results.

    Can you think of strong examples to fuse this kind of an incentive-driven approach along with a simple-to-understand philosophy in order to help the inner city impoverished class to provide better nutrition for their children? In college I worked for years on a volunteer basis with economically disadvantaged kids in Benton Harbor, MI and a constant frustration was the fact that they were fed food of horrible quality. Part of the problem is obviously economics but part of it is a shift in thinking that is extremely tough to bring about. Any ideas for how to ease such a transition of attitudes and thinking about food?

    Thanks for putting up with my wordy comment/question:)

    1. I don’t think philosophy is about contests or self-bribes. Its not simply means to an end–it is a process that is an end.

      I mean to say that while philosophy is practical and has real results, you’re missing the point if you have to trick yourself into doing it.

      1. Thanks for the reply Ryan. And point taken. I don’t think philosophy is about contests, self-bribes or any other form of mental gymnastics. I am just really interested in the gap between sound philosophy and consistent positive outcomes. It seems that the human condition is such that intention and cogent worldviews may be brilliant but still the possessor of said mindset falls short of the life he or she is envisioning because life change is so multifaceted and involves more than just a shift in reason.

        But I do agree that philosophy is a process or a kind of constant conditioning and that motivation for immersion must transcend hoped-for results

  60. Great post. Not the kinda BS one can pull out overnight. It takes years of personal development to put this one together.

    Just wondering: you were running under 6 minute miles and STILL had 15 pounds to lose?? why do this? you were already healthy, no?

  61. What foods to eat?

    Food thats good to your brain and taste good

    How much and when to eat it throughout the day?

    Don’t complicate things. Test it.

  62. What a great blog post!

    It’s so refreshing to read a truly reverent, rather than moralistic, view. Life doesn’t seem to become suddenly extra-wonderful because it’s in meat form; it’s always wonderful.

  63. Great post, thanks for sharing. Interesting point about feeling sick after gorging – went through that feeling plenty of times and always regret it.

    Keep up the good work.

  64. I think one has to keep the enjoyment of life into the equation. I know I’d be miserable eating vegan long term. I’ve seen vegans and they always seem so pale and sickly. I’m sure there are exceptions; they’re the ones on the infomercials.

    However, I know Clarence Bass promoted an almost vegan diet, but he’d eat red meat once per week for his health.

    I think this is a good way to go about it. He’s taking the best of both sides of the debate.

  65. This post moved the hell out of me.

    Dan John in “Never Let Go” talks about free will like a can of shaving cream. You think you have more left, you push the buttom, and the can starts wheezing.

    I love the discipline aspect of letting yourself enjoy like so you can be disciplined in other aspects.

    Thank you for this.

  66. I am about to start the Four Hour Body diet, but I am unable to eat eggs… had my gall bladder out 2 years ago and had pancreatitis along with it, and I cannot eat high fat foods. I have lost 80 pounds just by not eating fat, but now I am stuck and have 40 more pounds to lose. Can I eat Eggbeaters instead ? It’s eggs without the fat…

  67. Great post, totally believe a strong physical body leans towards strong emotionally, they both need each other and though healthy dieting and living, we can have both

  68. Hi Tim, I saw you on Dr. Oz… and ordered both your books…. You rock man…. Sending huge hugs, love and light…

    From NC….


    1. karen, I also bought the book right after the show. I think i’ve showed just about all my friends. I absolutely love the diet (i’ve been on it for 5 days). My problem is that I actually measured myself and I’ve gained an additional inch. My pants even feel tighter. Wondering what I am doing wrong.

      Tim, Is it possible to gain the first week so your body can adjust? Can you give me a sample of what exactly i should be eating.

      My breakfast this week consisted of spinach, egg whites — one day i had turkey sausage and one day i had black beans with it.

      Lunch: grass fed beef burger, side of black beans and spinach.

      Dinner: either turkey burger or salmon with a side of black beans and a vegetable.

      Evening: one glass of red wine.

      I am trying to eat enough so i feel full longer but how much is too much?

      1. Hi Deb,

        It’s entirely possible that you’re gaining a little muscle first, due to increased protein intake. Not to worry, stick with the diet for a few weeks and report back. Assuming you don’t have a medical condition, it won’t fail. Keep the faith!

        Also, I’d suggest eating whole eggs if you can get high-quality organic eggs.

        Good luck!


  69. Just check out Ayurveda.

    Its the oldest nutritional science there is (5000+ years) and goes deeper than anything the greeks ever conceived of about food.

    Also there´s tons of new scientific evidence that logically explains this ancient teaching and confirms its effectivity.

    Live long and prosper!

  70. A most excellent and very well written post!

    Great timing for me as I have recently gone back to being 75% vegetarian with occasional pasture raised meat (thanks for the blog post on meat terms too 🙂 . I’m always doing organic and mostly slow carb anyway but with the change of getting back to pasture meats I feel better physically, spiritually and mentally as this article pointed out.

    One nit picky note is the shout out to rarecuts, i just checked their menu and it includes “Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Onion Jam Topping”, not exactly a humane dish there but it wouldn’t be the first time I saw a fancy pasture meat restaurant serve Foie Gras, which means I don’t go back. Silly gourmet places just don’t care, they seem to need that junk on the menu.

  71. Eating has become a mere habit of satisfying our stomach actually consume more than what the body needs and to say the advertising that invades all the time selling junk food.

    Good article!


  72. great post and discussion. it’s very inspiring to think about something as ‘trivial’ as food as a way of taking back control over one’s body and philosophy of life! and i guess epictet’s call for temperance is the best food advise one could think of!

  73. I think excercise personally is more important to me. When I was trying to gain weight I’d stuff myself and it’d be make me feel crappy since I was drinking 2 liters of milk a day. But after a hour in the gym I felt great. Ultimately it helped me since it added a good amount of muscle to my skinny body and right now my fast metabolism ensures I still look decent even though I’m travelling and can’t work out.

  74. It’s so true… What I eat completely effects the way I feel that day and the following days as well. I always do what I can to eat sustainable, organic, and locally grown fresh foods. There’s a million great reasons to eat right and stay active…. Your body feels great, your skin glows, and your mind is sharp. Great stuff. Love this post!

  75. Hi Tim.

    I know you don’t read these or care, but I wanted to say Thanks for doing your homework on 4 Hour Body. As a 10 year veteran of nutritional industry R&D, I can verify that most of your facts (over 80% is all you need, right?) are sound. It’s essentially the Paleolithic diet, the one we are genetically programmed to respond best to.

    I’ve been doing the slow carb diet as you recommend. My weight loss has not been dramatic, but I have not gained. Indeed, I lost 2 pounds the day following my first (fairly modest) free day last Saturday. That surprised me.

    My long term goal is to lose 1 pound per day (+/- 5 pounds, per the Excel graph of one of the case studies in your book) without undue exercise. I have decided that the baby steps workout I am capable of is 1 minute (60 seconds) of dumbell curls morning and night. That’s all. I don’t expect to bulk up at that rate, but I might burn a few more muscle calories through toning.

    The main thing I have noticed 1.5 weeks in is that I do not get cravings and I do not go hungry. Beans and lean proteins are nutrient packed and I think my body knows this. I actually have to make myself eat meals sometimes, even if I don’t want to, like this morning. I snack on raw nuts on the rare occasions I need a quick pick me up, like yesterday at work, after a weekend of non-stop rock-n-roll (I play music semi-pro: http://www.guppyeffect.com).

    Lastly, although I am not a strong proponent of soy, I do disagree with you about not eating it. I am 80-90% (bingo!) vegetarian and I avoid eggs mostly because it is hard to get free range ones near me, and the industrial egg farm up the road is a smelly monstrosity that totally turns me off commercial eggs. I also don’t eat dairy anymore, and unsweetend soy milk is a decent alternative to milk in my coffee (nutty flavor).

    Perhaps you saw the recent study that showed beans and lentils are the best protein sources for health and the environment: http://www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/green_sustainable/best_meat_worst_meat_the_best_protein_choices?page=2&utm_source=YahooBlog_Best_Worst_Proteins_071811.

    I like lentils but I can’t eat them because whenever I do, I begin to emit toxic levels of greenhouse gasses myself. Beans are actually OK. Do you have any solutions for gas control?



  76. I am new around here; my chiropractor turned me on to the 4 hour work week. The book turned me on to the blog.

    Diets, yiekkks never could seem to manage them. Not sure if my boat has long been passed by the folks around here but I am here and learning.

    I’m in my sixties am a hundred pounds overweight, 4 years ago the bottom fell out of my life and now am learning a completely new way to live. The first and hardest thing for me was to look in the full size mirror and not run away. The next was to accept and love what I saw in that mirror. Third is to figure out what I can do about it and what I am willing to do about it. That is where I am now. I refuse to blame anyone. I refuse to think of myself as “bad” “indigent” a “pig” or any of the references that relate to the many who are over-weight. I am not even sure I want to do anything about “it”. What I do want is to be “healthy” over concern about my image is not healthy, eating properly is finding ways to exercise that work for me is. I am grateful for my chiropractor introducing me to Tim and his work. Thanks Ryan for your post.

  77. hey tim i just came back from south korea and i do find that the food there has made me lose major weight.. they eat only fresh foods with no chemicals in them that we as americans digest every day.. unfortunately i think that these chemicals cause the obesity here.. i have cut out all of the canned foods and frozen foods. i only eat foods that come naturally out of the ground and puree or cook from scratch just like our recent ancestors did and i still have the weight loss.. the problem here in america is that people think they are too busy to cook like this and get lazy..they lean on these foods and there is a huge market for them… if people only understood that all the cancers and the bad diseases are all from what we put in our mouths maybe they would look at the food they purchase differently.. people in asia know this only too well and they keep their bodies as temples… they are the oldest living culture and we as americans can take a major education from them… just sayin…hhh… well i can only hope that people will listen and try to change a little for their good… masalama .. go with god… (arabic)…

  78. Tim, I can’t thank you enough for the Slow-Carb diet.

    I’ve always worked out and have been a solo Crossfitter for a few years. But over the last couple of years, I’d been eating anything I want and gaining weight.

    On the day I started the Slow-Carb diet, January 3rd, I was at 219lbs (6’2″, 43 years). Snoring was starting to get worse, and I was taking allergy medicine almost every day.

    On Friday, I was at 200lbs. I can bench 250lbs+, deadlift 300lbs+, 22 Pullups. Snoring has gone down to “rarely”, and I can’t remember the last time I took an allergy pill.

    People ask about my “diet”. I tell them it’s not a diet, it’s just the way I eat now.

    You’re a life-changer. THANK YOU!

  79. Mr. Holiday, I really like the way you expressed the relation of food for “health and pleasure”. Very well done. And I loved reading all of the Phillosophical veiws, it was enlightening in the best sense. Diet changes are so hard on one’s whole body–. I’m happy you wrote this, so I could read this. Very fun. And to, Mr. Ferriss, Thankyou for your book the 4-hour work week, I have yet to finish it ( tisk tisk, kidding) but, I do go back to read through it fairly often (I’m almost through it, I don’t beat myself up though, because you tought me a little something about a “low information diet”, works for me and totally makes a difference, especially in my personal life. Your book made a montumental difference in a young girl, in a critical point in time: I will always be greatful that your book, found me. You’re book makes me smile, and laugh at times– so thanks for helping make my life a bit more fun,exciting, a whole lot easier, and really– better than it was. Much Love, Ms. Taylor

  80. Great post Tim! Nutrition is the base behind an incredible life, there’s no doubt about it. I recently watched the documentary “Fat, Sick and Almost Dead” and was shocked at how many Americans looked right at the camera and said that they knew that what they were eating was killing them….but changing their diets would be too much effort or wasn’t worth their time. These were people who would give their own life expectancy at 42-55!

    Please keep reaching people and advocating Paleoesque eating and nutritional awareness. Hope your deadlift hits 600# soon.

  81. I get what is being said here about being more aware of the choices we make and I agree. But, this article and many others like it all say the same thing: eat locally, eat free range, grass fed etc….. Ok, what if those options aren’t available? What if I can’t afford that really expensive grass fed beef??

  82. this is one of the best articles about food and diet i have ever been reading.

    to put in perspective about having a good diet so “we” can be productive and “giving” in many ways as humans is one of my favorite points of this articles and there is so much inspiration and love in it, im impressed… its kind of spiritual way, and i mean that in the best way, in a strong and masculine forced way, so to speak.

    / sebastian

  83. CP here, new to this site.

    Found it after a friend suggested 4HWW, I ended up buying 4HB instead on my kindle.

    Today is day 1, where do we share progress and pics? I need to hurry and get tested, this wednesday was the earliest appointment I could make for the water testing.

    Thing is I already lost 6 pounds. Would you suggest I put 6 back on take pics, get tested and start all over..lol

    I know that bench mark is important!

  84. I have to agree with Mike Roberts

    Food waste is a huge issue. I really enjoy foraging. Its a relaxing pastime that gets me outside doing natural exercise. I never get bored because i am laser focused on filling my basket.

    I agree that food goes to waste at home. Do we have a house rule now. The third week of every money we have to eat only what we can find in the house.

    It leads to some great cooking and breaks some of the food habits that we get into during the rest of the month

    ~ Maya

  85. Great article about food and philosophy. Very well done. there are a lot of diet plans on-line and self-help books in loosing weight. there are also a lot of diets that celebrity swears which i find weirdly crazy and sometimes bizarre, but none of them gives you the philosophical view of eating and loosing weight.

    “The right diet is important not because it helps you live longer”

    —I totally have to agree on this line.Kudos.

    what we should and how much eat is always a choice for all of us. we should always eat with the correct mind set. also exercise with proper diet is always a good thing.

  86. Interesting…. perhaps if we are looking at the ancients we should also consider what Ayurveda has to offer. I have read the 4 hour body and countless other books on the ideal way of eating but perhaps (just go with me on this one) seeking out a constant state of perfection is not the answer to happiness? Perfect diet, perfect performance, perfect physical form are all illusive. Illness, injury, death, destruction- all happen.

    I was certainly in the perfection camp for a long time, I am retired dancer and ex- health craze freak. The truth of the matter is that when you push one element of the body like the exterior or it’s performance, some very important elements are not considered~ the internal. The mind suffers, the internal organs are robed when you tax the body to it’s extremes. The truth is that the long term damage of the of a diet with extreme restrictions and then binging as discussed in this forum creates disease. Young bodies can take it for a while but the diseases set in from the imbalances another set of ideas must be considered.

    I am not an Ayurvedic practitioner, just an experimenter. It’s wisdom has been around long enough that it should be considered.(it is the nutritional branch of yoga) If taking a pill is the answer to things consider how extreme that is to a naturally occurring thing like the body. The first healing elixir was warm water, we have just tried to top that ever since, what happened to the basics?