Ten Popular Diets — Which Work and Which Are Hype?


100+ pounds lost on The Slow-Carb Diet®.

If you want to lose fat in 2014, how about we do it together?  I need to work off some Danish butter cookies.

Last year, the Lift team helped me test The Slow-Carb Diet® with 3,500 readers.  The result: 84% of people lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds over four weeks.  Many people lost more than 20 pounds.  This didn’t surprise me, given the case studies of people who’ve lost 100+ pounds.

Working alongside UC Berkeley, Lift is now launching the largest study of popular diets ever performed.  You can choose from 10 different diets (Paleo, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.), and the study includes control groups and a randomized trial.  The Slow-Carb Diet is one option.

I will be participating, cheering you on…and advising.  Here’s what you should do today:

  1. Download the Lift app for goal tracking and motivation. Lift now has Android and web versions, along with the original iPhone version.
  2. Visit the Quantified Diet homepage to choose your diet, or to be randomly assigned to one.
  3. If you choose the Slow-Carb Diet, join the community at 4HBTalk or Reddit for support.  I will pop in every once in a while to check things out.  I’ll be following the diet with you, in addition to using biochemical cocktails I’ll share later.
  4. If you want the full monty, get The 4-Hour Body.  You can lose a ton of weight without it, but the details in the book will prevent you from stalling and make everything faster.

For more background on this study, I asked Tony Stubblebine, CEO of Lift, to tell the story.  Here it is!  It’s a quick read, and I suggest it…

Enter Tony

A year ago, we ran 3,500 readers of Tim’s blog through a four-week study of the Slow-Carb Diet, tracking their progress through Lift.

The results were amazing: 84% of people who stuck to the diet lost weight and the average weight loss was 8.6 pounds over four weeks.  Those stats are crazy, right? Some people lose 100+ lbs going Slow-Carb, but I never dreamed that people’s success rate would be so consistent.

After seeing the results, I wondered whether people fail to adopt healthy habits due to lack of independently testing.  Getting people to change isn’t just about giving good advice; it’s also about giving them confidence in the advice. Our study showed that Slow-Carb definitely works. But what about the rest of the diet world?

As soon as we published the Slow-Carb Diet results, a young researcher at UC Berkeley reached out.  The proposal: that we turn the Slow-Carb Diet study into a full blown scientific research project, or, as he coined it, “The Manhattan Project of diet research.”

Tim is unique, in that he had the vision and the guts to put his diet to the test. Very few (probably zero) other diet authors have tried this.  What if we could replicate this on an epic scale with other approaches?  Real objective data?

Unfortunately, academia doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with popular diets. By the time a study comes out, we’ve all moved on to the next thing. The research that we did on The 4-Hour Body was pioneering in its speed. Tim and I conceived the study in October, ran it in November, and published the results in December.

Taking that rapid, crowd-sourced approach to diet experimentation would be like dropping a nuclear bomb on the existing diet industry. This sort of research could completely change our notion of what works…and for whom.

Our UC Berkeley advisors had just one concern: we had to get more rigorous about our experimental design.

This second study, which we’re calling The Quantified Diet Project, includes a comparison of ten different approaches to healthy diet, a control group, and another group going through a randomized trial.

With your help, we can start getting scientifically-valid measurements for all popular diet advice.  What works and what doesn’t?  The results might surprise you.

When you join, you’ll be presented with ten approaches to healthy diet, along with two control groups. All of these approaches have been vetted for healthiness, but you’ll have a chance to opt out of any that don’t fit your lifestyle.

And, of course, if you are a strong believer in The Slow-Carb Diet, you can go straight to that option (Slow-Carb obviously works).

This is a chance to lose weight, increase your health, boost your energy, and make a real contribution to science.  Join the Quantified Diet Study today!  It could change your life and change how scientific studies are performed.  Win-win.

Here’s to an incredible 2014, starting now,

- Tony Stubblebine
CEO & Co-founder the Lift app
Advice, motivation, and tracking for more than 100,000 goals.

Posted on: January 5, 2014.

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132 comments on “Ten Popular Diets — Which Work and Which Are Hype?

  1. It looks like you can’t choose your own diet (self-designed)–is this correct? The one that gives me spectacular results doesn’t fit into any of the categories as far as I can tell (lots of vegetables, and a LOT of fat).


  2. Just to throw this out there:
    I don’t want to discourage any new years resolutions,
    but I thought her findings might help explain the differences in results between diets as well as have some impact on the design of diets.
    For example, the thermostat metaphor of the brain’s weigth range: What if the speed with which weight is lost determines how much weight comes back on because of the way the brain’s thermostat can respond?
    Or the argument of failing strategies that rely on constant application of will power: What if the diet’s fit to the lifestyle determines how long it is applied?
    Cheers :)


  3. I’ve heard the Lift app mentioned before, I may even have it downloaded on my phone the first time I heard it mentioned here.

    I’m going to be using that baby to help me keep myself accountable for my progress in 2014.


  4. I’m very excited to participate. I very successfully followed the slow-carb diet to lose 30 lbs. in two months in early 2011, but was derailed and have been stop/start dieting since then. I started the slow carb diet along with a quantified self lifestyle to track everything and hopefully use the numbers to motivate me daily.

    I’ll be adding this to my daily quant routine. Feel free to follow me on Lift. Name on there is “Stephen Panico”, Twitter handle is @stephenpanico. I’ll be starting some discussions with some of my best diet recipes and tricks.

    To get the discussion started here, will anyone following slow-carb be supplementing it with the PAGG stack? I’m debating adding it in, as it was only marginally effective for me for the three weeks I used it earlier in 2013.


  5. I’m focusing on 50 lbs for 50 – which is what I will be very shortly. My eating habits aren’t too bad, but I spend more time sitting than I should. Metabolism is shot. I’ve never been much for exercise for the sake of exercise. But give me a project and I can usually burn some calories. Lucky for me my house was damaged in a storm last year. I have several weeks of flooring, sheet rock and paint to look forward too.


  6. I would like to know, in the 4HB, if your following the Occam protocol one or two, do you do more than one set? I know it may be a stupid question, but it only lists one set of reps and on weight. If you do more than one set, how many sets do you do? Thank you


  7. big tim,

    thanks for one of the most important poems of my life “Slow Dance.” I was living life as a race and that simple poem made me sit back and make some more sense of life. Just awesome! It also led me to create my own blog on weebly to give more meaning to life, I’m sure you’ll like creativity of the idea… :) cheers


    • I believe after determining the weight you only do one set per exercise p197 paragraph five. However when I tried this out I did do one warm up set prior to each heavy set. See p 219 re warm ups.


  8. Interesting post.

    It all comes down to what kind of physique you want combined with lifestyle. For example, I am into lifting weights and bodybuilding. My diet and fitness goals related to both are going to be a lot different than someone who is looking to drop 50 lbs or drop a pants size or two.

    The key is to find out “what” you want your overall health and fitness goals to be and then study which diet/workout program suits your needs best and tweak things occasionally.


  9. One thing to look into is the body fat. I really try to eat right, and thank God I have a great body. Let me recommend a few apps: A6W is great. And 7 minutes workout. You should try it out. Runtastic is great for aerobics and is so power-packed, you’d love it. Just try these apps out. Good for you.


  10. Hi Tim (and likely associated VAs)-

    Thanks so much for your recent contributions to my life. 4HWW has changed things for me dramatically, and I’m about a third of the way through 4HB. For the first time in a long time I’m excited to get my life back.

    Knowing you’re busy and respecting your time, I was wondering if you or someone else here could comment on two questions:

    1) Do we know if any long-term juvenile (IDDM) diabetics have succeeded with this routine?

    2) Does taking hot baths have an opposite effect as cold baths / showers? Does it add weight? My sense is that it wouldn’t because fat gain is about storing excess calories whereas fat loss in the context of your Ice Age is about thermodynamic homeostasis.

    Thanks for everything! Happy to be here


  11. Some interesting thoughts here. I’m going to be starting a new workout program next month and have been looking for ideas on how to go about it. I’ve usually been about just eating well in general and excercising at the gym, but no doubt that specific diets can work for some people.


  12. Hey,
    I personally found after a few months on a blended diet with a little extra walking, I was able to shave off a few spare kilos. For those interested, the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead is a grate inspiration!


  13. Hi! Super excited about The Tim Ferriss Experiment – however I’m in Australia and unable to download it as is only downloadable on iTunes USA. Is there any other way I can access the episodes?

    Thanks a million!!



  14. Tim, you have received a lot of feedback from people on The Slow-Carb Diet. Do see differences between the people that successfully change their eating habits and ones that struggle. What strategies would you recommend to someone focusing on adopting new healthy eating habits? Thanks.


    • Tim rarely responds to any blog questions on here anymore.

      As someone who’s been obsessed with bodybuilding, health and fitness for 8 years, I would answer your question by saying the primary difference I notice with people who stay on track with their diet/workout regime from those who don’t, all comes down to their level of commitment. The people who are in the middle of changing their diet and stick with it are those who rarely break from the daily rituals that made them successful with it.

      A real life case example related to your question would be Jared Fogle (the Subway guy). When he started eating at Subway, he would always order a 6-inch turkey sub for lunch and a full-length veggie sub for dinner, both meals with a bag of baked chips and a diet soda. The Subway diet was 100 percent his idea too. He said “The big thing was no mayo, no oil, no cheese,” he said. “I did it for 11 months.”

      The key strategy is at the end of the day is just to be discipline about eating very specific foods day in and day out. Sometimes people may get sick of eating the same foods over and over again but I have never really had that problem. If I get tired of chicken, I will substituted it for fish or turkey. Sorry for the long answer but hope that helps.



      • Thanks for the answer Ross. I agree with your answer. I am conducting an experiment on myself to determine the most effective ways to add a habit. I have added 239 positive habits in 239 days. I have noticed having a reason is key factor to push through when things get tough and boring. Sticking to a diet requires commitment and willpower. Having a reason will help you to have the strength and discipline to stick to your plan and stay on track.


  15. Wow. I’ve long wanted to try the SCD but never had the time to be serious about it. Right now I’m 2 weeks into this quantified diet thing (I got into SCD group by the choice of Holy Random) and feel great! I was a bit afraid I would skew the results of the research because I don’t really want to lose much weight (maintenance would be alright for me), but I’m minus 4 pounds and counting — all without any trouble whatsoever!
    This is surely the easiest diet that ever is. A guy can eat a delicious pizza in front of me, and I just make my mental check and forget about it.


  16. I’m on the Paleo Diet for a few months now and I love it.

    The Paleo Diet is a low-carb diet which is based on what our caveman used to eat. The food we are ‘supposed’ to eat.

    From the moment I started the diet I feel a lot fitter and healthier. Could really advice it!


  17. Hey Tim,

    Any ETA on the next episode of Random? Seems like we’re due for another one soon…

    Thanks for being an inspiration!



  18. As a physician who has been managing diets for 3 decades, the most successful weight loss plan I’ve seen is a simple balanced diet, composed of foods you normally like and will eat, with moderated caloric intake, and combined with a reasonably active lifestyle. No gimmicks, no secrets, no quick & miraculous answers. For feedback reinforcement, I’ve recommended an app called “My Fitness Pal” (sometimes called “Calorie Counter& Diet Tracker”). Easy-peasy, slow and steady, and IT WORKS!


    • Mike, as a physician for 3 decades tracking this, have you ever monitored your patients’ biomarkers to see any changes as a result of their dietary intake? To me this seems to be the real measure of health versus weight alone. While yes a “balanced” diet is good, we have to admit not everyone is going to react the same to every food (eg why do some people die from eating peanuts and i can eat a jar a week of PB), so we can’t make blanket statements such as one diet is good for all. Any thoughts. Thanks.


  19. I have what is probably a very basic question considering the current comments on ketogenic diets, but I haven’t been able to find any info in a (albeit relatively quick) google search. Maybe one of you can help.

    Are green beans allowed on the Slow Carb Diet?

    They are technically a fruit, but the glycemic index is very low. I’m just a little confused, and as a good old southern boy, I like my green beans.

    Thanks everybody!


  20. Hello Tim,

    When are you going to hold a session on “The Experiment” about learning deep snow skiing (powder/freeride/heliskiing)?

    That would great either here in the Alps or Rocky Mountains…

    Servus from Bavaria,
    Divad Edliw (reverse both for real name)


  21. When you are not busy, can you tell me who to speak with about questions for The Tim Ferriss experiment?

    I purchased the whole season, yet, I have only received episodes 1, 2, and 3. How do I receive the rest of the season?


  22. 2 years ago I began to address my addiction to flour, sugar, binge foods and larger than “normal” quantities of food through the 12-step program of food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous – http://www.foodaddicts.org. I have not only recovered a right-sized body by losing 110 pounds but I now have ways to help me maintain that weight. This is a program of recovery. In my opinion anyone who has tried other means to lose weight but has not been able to maintain the weight loss will beneft from this program. I have not ingested any flour or sugar over the last 2 years and I don’t miss it! I have ways to deal with life situations without using food. This is a free program of recovery. Check it out!


  23. I have lost 30 lbs. because of “slow carb diet”. This fact started many positive changes in my life so I’m gratefull Tim. Thanks. And I wish You very well in Your quest :)


  24. Hey Tim,

    I am a Palo Alto native who currently resides in Manhattan while I attend college. I am a huge fan of 4HB and a dedicated reader of your fantastic blog.

    Since moving to New York (where are the fresh vegetables?) and adjusting to cafeteria dining, I have found that I have gained 5-10lbs. I just started doing the Kiwi workout and I love it — quick and to the point. I have tried many different meal/exercise plans, but no program has been sustainable and effective. When I eat old, gross salad, etc. I find that I am starving 2 hours later. I’ve tried doing the 3 minute slow-carb breakfast, but the vegetables take 7 minutes and the microwave is a 5 minute walk away.

    So here is my challenge to you: How can a college student eat well, feel good, and still partake in the less healthy (ahem) joys of college, while maintaining a toned body and not hating the food she eats? Oh, one more thing, I’m broke. Can it be done?

    I’ve been trying to deconstruct this challenge and I would really appreciate any advice you may have for me.

    With gratitude,


  25. Hey
    I have been inspired by your book . But we indians eat rice and curry or wheat bread called roti and curry. How can I substitute the roti or rice . Any suggestions . And v love are tea with milk and sugar … u talked abt artifixaula artificial sweeteners being a big no no . What are the alternatives and I hate spinach …. I really wanna try this but I m unable to plan a indian way..kindly help


  26. Ok, an update after using the lift app as part of this. Silly me, I thought that was kinda the point of this, to gather data…..
    Anywho, 3rd time of slow carb. The first time, I lost 15 lbs, the second, 10, this time, 10, all three after a month. I started at 5’11”, 183 lbs, this time around. In other words, I do not have a lot to lose, but here in my later 50s I find a little more belly than I want. My comparison is 10 years ago, when doing martial arts, I weighed around 162, and was still there when I did a sprint tri a couple years later. Some was muscle, most belly, yada yada.
    My observation from reading non this blog articles is that most people who do a higher protien diet, low carb thing tend to gain the weight back fast-and at my not too terribly fatter self weight, that is what i found also. I will stick with it, though, because I really was tired of chocolate pop tarts for breakfast and dollar menu lunches. This is healthier… and my new fave lunch (since I eat in my truck alot) is a salad with roma tomatoes, avacado and honey smoked salmon.
    I also had a torn meniscus last year, so now that its better (surgery) I hope to start my gecko feet running again, which should help a little. Toying with either another sprint or doing the 5x5x5 powerlifting program from earlier in the blog…. havent made a decision on that yet.
    My conclusion is that SCD works way better for thos with a lot to lose, and not as effective for those needing to lose 10 or 15. Perhaps that is more for the cold showers, pagg stack, squats before dinner, but I did not try that. Most of what I do lose is water weight, and it pops back on quickly. I was surprised that the lift app did not check in again at the end of 28 days, just after the first week, that might be something to relay to the designers of that program.


  27. Hey Tim,

    I met you briefly in San Fran back in Sept at the “fireside chat”.

    At the time I was 12 days into the slow carb. Now I am 5 and 1/2 months in and as of Saturday’s weigh in, I’m down 60 lbs!

    Your books are life changing. First the 4 Hr workweek (I quit my day job almost 4 yrs ago to do my eCommerce biz full time) and now this amazing new health change. What would I do without you!?

    Hope to run into you again in the future. You mentioned you have a place in Utah. I live in Provo, so let me know if you ever do any live events in the Beehive state!

    Thanks Tim!


  28. Hey all,
    I’ve read the 4HB’s relevant chapters and am ready to launch tomorrow.
    One concern though: I haven’t found any information on what happens when people stop the SCD, and yoyoing back to much worse then when I started is a concern.
    Any insight would be very much appreciated.
    Have a blast of a year,



  29. Hi Guys! I’m starting to read up about SCD and I have a small question, haven’t found the answer yet, but I think you can help me: can I use the diet to cut when i work out and don’t want to lose muscle weight, but just get rid of body fat? Thanks in advance!


  30. Hi Tim!
    As a tango follower, I have always pondered over if it is a good idea to learn the leaders role as well. Some people say it will confuse the intuition of following.
    What do you think?


  31. Hi Guys

    Have been reading the 4 hour body and am very interested in following the eating plan. My only query I have is that I exercise most mornings and have breakfast when I get home. That obviously contradicts the golden rule of eating within 30 minutes of waking. Not sure I I could push down 3 eggs then exercise…..

    Any suggestions??


    • Hey Melissa,

      Not sure how early you are already waking up but you could wake up a little bit earlier (obvious, I know). Another suggestion is you could prepare hardboiled eggs beforehand and put them back in the fridge. That way all you have to do is take them out of the fridge and eat them. That way it would be quick and simple.

      You could always stick to what you are doing too. When I was more into my bodybuilding routine, I was going to the gym at 5 am and not eating breakfast till I got home and cooked afterwards like you are currently doing. If the routine you are doing now works great, you might not want to mess with success. Hope this helps.


    • Or you could just eat when you get home and release 4 lbs. instead of 6 lbs. There are so many elements in the plan I doubt any one small variation is going to kill it for you. Personally I skipped the cold showers and still released 30 lbs. in 5 weeks. Best of luck.


  32. I do not eat any junk food at all, ever. I ride my bike, hike and do gyrotonics twice a week and my life is generally busy, physically. I cannot loose weight. It drives me crazy. Walked 806km in 4 weeks and lost 5kg, felt like heaven, it’s all back after less than a year. I walked through rainforest for 4 weeks and didn’t loose 1kg!!! My weight is all around my waistline and I often eat too much in the evening as I don’t eat enough during the day; but I don’t binge. I’ve always lost weight on diets (tried them all) but as soon as I stop, it creeps back again. I’m 57 and I am TIRED of diets! What can I do, any suggestions?


  33. There are lots of effective diet programs out there but the hype outnumber them like 3 to 1. You can be fit in any way you can think of as long as you have the dedication to achieve your goals and stick with it.