The Slow Carb Diet — How Tim Ferriss’ Book Inspired an Amateur Hockey Player to Knock off the Extra Fat and Continue to Keep it Off

Illustrations: Sajeev Kumarapuram and Ramya Ramakrishnan

“You look like you have lost weight!”

The one statement that most people cannot resist grinning to. From the god awful muffin top to the grotesque man boobs, there are plenty of jiggly bits we all want to get rid of. And things were no different for web designer Raymond Selzer, who could do with losing a couple of pounds. Being a hockey enthusiast, he had every reason you could think of to get fitter.

Since I was looking to shed a few of the dreaded kilos I had gained after a foodtastic festival of Onam, we got connected and talked shop about the much acclaimed Slow Carb Diet.

I must admit here, I had my trepidations about the word ‘diet’.

Popular diets, usually advice living on cold mulch or bland boiled stuff. Certainly not great options for a foodie. And being asthmatic, there was only so much jogging and cross training that I could do, before the lazy lungs gave up. Since Raymond was a fellow asthmatic and detested flavorless food, I knew that his definition of diet may be something I could fall in line with.

That is where Tim Ferriss and his hugely popular book, ‘The 4 Hour Body’ comes to the rescue. Not only are the recipes, fun and quirky; they are truly delicious. Plus, no crazy body-breaking workout routines to put you off the plan. And which diet in the world allows you to drink a glass of red wine EVERY single day. Even more exciting, is the fact that you have to COMPULSORILY CHEAT! If this is called dieting, I can’t think of anyone saying no to some major weight loss.

Say Hello to Raymond Selzer

This hockey playing, cook, wasn’t exactly the fittest guy around. Like most of the planet, he too could lose a few pounds.

Well, he lost 40 lb. !

His love for hockey and becoming a better player got him started on this journey, which he admits has changed his perspective about food and cooking. So we talked about what he was cooking and how he knocked off the weight, one recipe at a time.

What got you into the diet and cooking slow carb recipes?

I wanted to increase my endurance for hockey and look better. So when I heard about this, there was no looking back. I loved the challenge of finding quirky twists to classic recipes. Occasionally, I would just get this wild idea to try something spectacularly out of the box. And then I just did it. It was like a constant battle between me and the carbs.

Can you tell me about one of these spectacular ideas?

I was craving Asian dumplings one night. But that much dough was too much for slow carb. Then it dawned on me, I could make mini cabbage roll dumplings. That’s when I came up with the Pork and Green Onion Cabbage Dumplings. And it worked! I ate all 18 dumplings in one sitting, haha!

What was your most satisfying slow carb meal?

Haha, that’s a hard choice. The Red Wine Braised Beef with Cauliflower Puree was super duper rich and filling, you’d never even know it was “healthy”. That would be my pick in terms of how good a meal it was.

What was the biggest challenge for you?

The Slow Carb Pizza. It was way more effort and expense than it was worth, but it was a fun challenge nonetheless. And it’s not just the time, the ingredient limitations were a challenge too. Imagine Pizza without tomatoes. Now that was hard.

Were the rules around alcohol difficult to deal with?

No, I like red wine, and I cook with it a lot, and will even drink it with meals, but my go to alcohol is beer. So that was slightly hard, but not exactly painful.

Is it an expensive diet to maintain?

It can be at times; I use cauliflower a lot to replace rice and potatoes. While a head of cauliflower might run me about $2.50, the same amount of rice or potatoes come in at $1 max. But I suppose that’s a little offset by how cheap lentils are.

Is the cooking harder than what you would do normally?

I think there’s more effort involved in cooking good slow carb recipes. But I enjoy cooking so it’s not an issue for me, though I can see some people wanting to avoid stuff like ricing cauliflower.

What do you do? Did the cooking interfere with work?

I’m a web designer/developer. So I like the whole creative process. I think cooking is just an extension of my general passion for making things. And because I liked doing it, it was not an interference at all.

Tell me something about the results.

The results were immediate. I was using this app called fitday.com to monitor my results. I was losing 2 lb. every week. That went up to 3 lb. when I started intermittent fasting.

Any last words on the diet?

Love the diet, swear by it!

At the end of our little cooking Q&A session, it was obvious to me that the creative process of making great recipes to get in shape kept Raymond motivated. Of course, anyone who is into any sport, will admit that getting fitter makes a world of difference on the pitch. A combination of these two factors kept him going.

Top Tips and Tricks to go Slow Carb

  • Get creative with Cauliflower, it’s versatile and replaces most carbs
  • Replace rice with lentil, more proteins, and less waist-expanding carbs
  • Swap meat with fish or grass fed beef in your favorite recipes
  • Don’t go near dairy, unless its cottage cheese
  • Drink only two glasses of red wine every day (WOW!!)

As much as these tips sound like a lot of diets out there, the results cannot be ignored.

For me though, the best part is that there was very little meal planning involved. He simply used whatever inspiration came to him and adapted usual recipes to include more veggies, legumes, and lean meat.

So busy mommies and workaholics with no time for elaborate meal planning can get on this diet, without too much trouble. He is a designer with an active schedule, but still managed to keep the diet going.

Such a far cry from normal diets that take a lot of meticulous planning and execution.

What did he do?

The full guidelines on the Slow Carb Diet has been described extensively on Wikipedia. These are some of the things Raymond himself did.

  • January to September 2013: Strict slow carb diet from Monday-Friday, with cheat days on Friday night to Sunday.
  • The last two months: Intermittent fasting, eating only between 11am and 7pm during the week.
  • Tracked results using fitday.com.

There are a lot of foods that are allowed as part of the slow carb diet. Choose your favorite ingredients from this list and get hooked to the slow carb cooking, just like Raymond did.

Temptations and Challenges

He confirms that it was hard at first.

“There were times when I caught myself day dreaming about a good loaf of pumpernickel rye or big breaded chicken wings.”

Sometimes when he went out with his dodgeball friends, he watched as they chomped on burgers and fries and gulped down pints of beer. And he had to make do with green tea and salad. But the thought of looking slimmer and better, kept him from falling off the wagon.

So at first cheat days were a godsend. Chicken wings were his regular meal, in the guilt-free weekends. And the cheat days, worked perfectly in sync with his social calendar. He could entertain his friends without having to stick to the diet.

This is pure genius, because most dieters fall off the wagon during the food and booze filled weekends.

Soon, though, avoiding starchy foods became such a habit, that cheating got harder and harder!

“I remember I was watching a rerun of Friends. One time, late at night Joey goes to Rachel and Monica’s, and he grabs what I think was a shepherd’s pie. Right away I thought, you can’t eat that! It’s late at night, and it has potatoes!”

Thoughts and Critiques

Raymond confesses that he hasn’t tried other popular diets, so can’t do a comparison with diets like Atkins. But he swears by it. Not only did he feel himself being faster while playing hockey, he also got a lot of positive feedback, post the diet.

“Lots of people commented; people I hadn’t seen in a while, so they noticed the difference.”

I have to admit that I am impressed with the recipes and the cooking. I mean one look at the Slow Carb Eggs Benedict with Roast Cauliflower had me itching to get the apron and start cooking.

And it’s not just the presentation of the dishes that is praiseworthy. The brilliant thought process behind the Orange Teriyaki Chicken on Palak Daal is commendable. Besides the kitschy amalgamation of Indian and Japanese cuisine, the sheer nutrient value in that one meal is amazing.

In his recipes, he also covers all the three major meals of the day and some snacks too. Even with the variety of the cuisine, one can’t complain. You have options ranging from American to Chinese to Swedish and several other cuisines.

The average cooking time is around 40 minutes, but some recipes can be whipped up in less than 15 minutes. All of them look well thought out, and seem filling and flavorful. So, as long as I have Raymond’s recipes as a guideline, I am more than game for the cooking involved.

As much as I am convinced about the cooking, I have my reservations about the diet and its specifications. Let’s face it, people have been eating rice for years and not piling on the pounds. Also such a complete no-no for dairy, surely cannot be favorable in the long run. And how are you going to keep the weight off if there are almost three days of cheating in the week?

There’s certainly a lot to ponder about ‘The 4 Hour Body’ and its many claims. However, there is definitely something right about this diet, because the world loves the diet, and the success stories are plenty.

And when the food looks this good, what’s the harm in giving it a go, eh? So what are you waiting for? Get cooking folks!