Tuesday, February 16, 2016

book review: The 4 x 4 Diet by Erin Oprea.

Okay, so exercise and diet plan books are not exactly my usual fare. My focus tends to center around children's fiction, fantasy and sci-fi, and if I go for nonfiction, then it's generally on some sort of artsy-fartsy topic.

That said, I am in need of some help in the health department. With a ten month old baby and a 40-hours-per-week job, I am short on time. I have very little time to devote to my physical or mental health, let alone my creative endeavors. That's why I opted to read and try The 4 x 4 Diet by Erin Oprea. 

The idea of 4 areas of focus for my diet and 4 minutes per day of exercise caught my attention. Yes, I know, fad diets don't work, and you have to be willing (or able, in my case) to put time and effort into your health to see changes. But this book sounded more like a simplified common-sense strategy than an unrealistic fad diet. So I figured I'd give it a go.

I did have to think a little bit about how to proceed with this review. I can review the book, and my thoughts and impressions, without completing the 4 week plan, or I can try to follow the 4 week plan and give a legit evaluation. After a little bit of consideration, I decided to do both; I'm going to do a first cursory review of the book itself now, and share a brief follow-up post later to complete the review with my results.

When it comes to health, diet, and fitness, I tend to gravitate toward simple strategies that embrace overall wellness without being too stringent or unrealistic. This book definitely cuts the mustard in that respect.

The book starts with Erin building up by giving her background as a personal trainer and nutritionist, along with some of her personal background that has influenced her research and her ideas. Then she gives you 4 diet habits to work toward creating, but she doesn't insist that you stick to them 100% of the time. She has realistic expectations that readers and clients will allow themselves cheat meals, as she does herself, but that the new habits they create will make them want to eat well most of the time. It's all about eating healthy, clean foods, not about crazy restrictions that make you want to give up. The 4 diet habits are pretty straightforward: cut out starch in the evening, cut back on sodium, cut back on sugar, and cut back on alcohol. 

Erin does not say you have to completely give anything up. You just have to retool your diet to be smarter, cleaner, and healthier. Sounds reasonable! That said...I think I will have a hard time going fully gung-ho for a few reasons, namely: the time and cost of preparing everything from scratch that she suggests, and the tricky part of finding low or no-starch options for dinner time when we are used to eating potatoes or rice many nights per week. So, I may have to approach the diet portion of this by breaking it down into more attainable versions of what she recommends. We'll see. I will give it a shot, anyway!

Now, on to exercise. This is something that I desperately need in my life. I have so very little time and energy for exercise, but it's gotten to the point where my body is actually craving it. For someone whose natural state is to embrace the couch potato life, that is saying something. But let me whine again about how I have no time. So! I saw that Erin actually says that 4 minutes per day of exercise, in the form of simple, high-intensity tabatas, will make a difference, I thought, I'm in! THAT I can do.

Basically, tabatas are 4 minute sessions of HIIT, which break down to 20 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times. Simple enough for an exercise novice like me to handle. Erin breaks down exercise suggestions with small black and white photos (I wish they were larger photos, but I'm sure I can find better examples of her workouts online). [more on this]

Finally, the last portion of the book is devoted to giving the reader a nice, simple, ready-made plan for easing into the 4 diet habits and daily 4 minute workouts. I am a fan of the idea of easing in to such a lifestyle change as giving up my potatoes and forcing myself to exercise. The plan looks easy enough to follow; I'll update the blog once I've given it a shot!

I'd definitely recommend this title. I enjoy reading through the background information on Erin's strategies. She has done her research, and the nerd in me rejoices in the solid evidence backing up her claims. I do think this title is more for me, a person who is pretty much starting from scratch and needing a lot of help, than someone who is already a health food and fitness enthusiast.

For more on Erin Oprea and her 4x4 Diet, visit these links:

I'm going to start giving this 4x4 plan a shot next week, so if you're interested, check back in a month for more on how it went!

**Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, all opinions are my own!

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