How to lose 20 pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet (without eating meat)

My experience on losing weight with the Tim Ferriss “Slow-Carb Diet”, as made famous in his The Four Hour Body book.

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I live a good life here in Portland. Almost too good at times. With excellent food at overly reasonable prices basically everywhere, it can get hard to pass things up.

But after a few years of living the (not-extravagant-but-still) good life, I felt like I had lost a kind of connection with my own physical being. I still walked and hiked and got around a bunch, but I hadn’t really focused on how I felt inside.

In short, as the year began, I decided to do two things. First, I would sign up for my first ever run. Second, I would lose 20 pounds.

The first story has been told already. Here is the second one.

Against the grain

Some messages just hit you at the right time. I had recently gotten The 4-Hour Body from the library and was devouring it, as it were.

The first portion of the book talks about tactics that the author (Tim Ferriss, of 4-Hour Workweek fame) found that aid in weight loss. He suggested a program where one could lose 20 pounds in 30 days. As 20 pounds was about the distance between where I was and where I wanted to be, this seemed timely.

I read on for details, and didn’t like what I saw. This diet, known as the “Slow-Carb Diet”, was suggesting the following rules:

  • No bread, rice, wheat, potatoes, or anything “white”
  • No fruit (tomatoes and avocados are okay)
  • No drinking of calories
  • No dairy
  • All of the above six days out of every week, with the seventh day off

No bread? I love bread, and I’ve joked for years that I would happily eat a “bread sandwich”. No fruit and no drinking of calories? Pretzels and apple juice is my favorite snack in the world! (Because I’m apparently five years old.)

And what was I supposed to eat in all of my favorite foods’ place?

Lots of eggs and meat. The more eggs the better, apparently.

The meat of the matter

What this sounded like to me was Paleo, a vague descendant of the old Atkins diet and a fascinating emerging diet/lifestyle.

I don’t want to get too much into food politics here. As a rule, I just want you to care about what you eat, and make whatever decisions from there. That said, I have to admit that I’m more than a little skeptical about any diet that says that killing things and eating them is encouraged (so long as you feed them grass first), but that bread is your forsworn enemy.

And now here was Mr. Ferriss positing that the best way to lose weight fast was to get on board with this. This was upsetting to me. Like if someone told you that there was evidence that the best way to maintain a happy home and family was for a husband to regularly beat his wife. You just don’t want to think about the idea.

But the results of this diet were highly claimed. So I decided to see if there was any way I could adapt the Slow-Carb Diet to my own lifestyle choices.

So to the above rules (which are themselves abbreviated), I added a few of my own:

  • No eggs
  • No meat (including fish)
  • During the off (“cheat day”), dairy products are allowed

As for the bottom point, that was mainly for sanity’s sake, as I felt like a certain relaxation of the rules would be necessary to keep the train from totally derailing.

Where do you get your protein carbs?

So what did I eat?

Some people would call this diet the “Chipotle Diet”, and I’d agree, because Mexican food was a giant staple.

I was not compensated for this endorsement.
I was not compensated for this endorsement.

Here’s what I asked for when I would go to Chipotle:

  • Veggie bowl
  • No rice
  • Extra pinto beans
  • Extra veggies
  • Sofritas
  • Pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Lettuce

(I learned the hard way that you have to ask for extras of things when you opt-out of rice, otherwise the meal is very small and unsatisfying, and you are very unhappy.)

Here was a common meal (stir-fry) I made at home:

  • 1 pound of broccoli
  • Suitable amount of Gardein “chick’n” strips
  • Kimchi
Not trying to do too much product placement here, just saying what worked for me.
Not trying to do too much product placement here, just saying what worked for me.

Now, one pound of broccoli looks like an incredible, Costco-sized amount of food. But it really isn’t all that much, calorically-speaking. That’s one of the more interesting lessons learned for me: When you take away bread/rice, etc., the physical volume of food you must eat becomes much greater.

This is 2-3 servings, max. No joke.
This is 2-3 servings, max. No joke.

Here are some other meals that worked for me:

  • For evenings, or when I wanted something light, I would have a bean or lentil soup.
  • For mornings, I devised that Vega Protein and Greens, blended with water and almond milk, gave me a surprising amount of energy.
  • For snacks: almonds.
  • For something to drink that wasn’t water, I had green tea or yerba mate.

And that’s about it.

The results

Every time I would go for a run, I would weigh myself on the same scale. After all: track or you will fail.

So how did it work? Well, here’s the one-thousand-word version:

Numbers removed for modesty sake, but each horizontal bar is 5 pounds, and each vertical bar represents a cheat day.
Numbers removed for modesty sake, but each horizontal bar is 5 pounds, and each vertical bar represents a cheat day. Linear trend line isn’t that far off!

So, clearly it took quite a few more days longer than the “30 days” claim in the book. But it worked.

Did the process suck? Absolutely. But it worked.

Bid it require boatloads of resolve? Completely. But it worked.

Why was I able to do this now? Because I wanted it badly enough.

Do I look and feel much better now? Damn straight.

Was it worth it. Hell yes.

And I didn’t even have to worry about whether any of my food had once eaten grass or not.

So if you’re interested in losing weight, but don’t like the idea of eggs and meat in your life, fear not, this diet can still work for you.

The aftermath

Will I keep doing it, now that I have reached my goal?

The specifics are still being worked out, but the answer is “kind of”. The protein shake in the morning will definitely continue, and I’ll probably have more meals without bread or rice in them. But like so many things, the best way forward is a middle ground. Maybe I’ll just hold the bread sandwich.

But enough about me. What do you think about the Slow-Carb Diet? Have you tried it, or something similar?

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  1. Gina

    I want to do the slow carb diet without meat. I’ve been vegan and vegetarian for years and have also tried to lose weight on and off for years. I’m going to use eggs and replace the meat with tuna and salmon and chicken replacement meals. Veggie burgers don’t have enough protein. Anyway, I’m willing to try anything to lose weight. Implants 57 years old and I’m am not really into exercising. I work out about 3-5 times a week and I walk about 5 times a week but I’m not very into it. I only eat 758 calories a day and I was eating fruit and veggies tuna and hard boiled eggs. I lost 20 pounds but then it got on a plateau and it couldn’t get off of it. Implants going to try the slow carb diet hopefully with the protein as fish not meat. Thanks for your help.
    Gina Glatis

    • Mike Pumphrey

      Hi Gina. Thanks for your comment. If you’re not already, I highly recommend you working with a professional, just so you don’t run into problems along the way. Weight loss and other lifestyle changes are hard, and for some there is a very real risk of overdoing it. I want everyone to know that they are okay no matter what weight they’re at. And I wish you best of luck on your health journey.

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