Why are we writing about a fitness book on Gizmodo? Because for some of us, the body is just another gadget.
I met Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour Work Week, in a dirty thai boxing gym, around 2002. Neither one of us had written anything professionally. He tried to sell me brain pills. I didn't buy them! But I never forgot the exuberant, intelligent, athletic guy who came through our doors. Years later, when I saw him earning press for his runaway smash hit book, I laughed and wasn't surprised.
Most people know Tim as a guy who figured out advice for shorting out the work cycle. I skimmed the book once back in the day and it affected me and my writing team at Giz. I took it to heart that its not necessary for me or my guys to work 18 hour days; it's more important to me that everyone gets the stuff that will make a difference—in traffic and content—on the site and leaves the more granular work to the interns and new staff. Whatever can't get done by the end of the day is fine, as long as the important stuff was finished.
But that's not really the important thing to know about Tim. As I mentioned before, I know Tim from our days as athletes, and so I knew that his book about the body would be meaningful if he applied his usual methods of understanding how a system works and then exploiting it to have the most impact possible for any given amount of effort. In a way, Tim's the most ungeeky hacker I know.
Tim's roots as a body hacker started when he was a wrestler, starving himself to lose weight, and eventually figuring out tricks to shed pounds while doing minimal damage. When I met Tim, I was part of a boxing gym where we were obsessed with weight. Not for vanity, but for practicality: if you could weigh in lighter, you were often matched with shorter, weaker guys and you had an advantage.
Tim's book is not just about weight loss, although there are fascinating chapters—backed by his own first hand research and papers he quotes—about how to hack our bodies to more easily gain muscle, sleep better and improve sex. There are chapters on burning massive calories by exposure to cold water. There are chapters on how to import tools from foreign countries to repair "permanent" injuries. He also argues against principles we take as simple truths, like the fact that all calories are equal, and that dieting or getting stronger is as simple as exercising or eating less. It's just not that simple, he claims. In some cases, he says its simpler. We'll be running some excerpts from his book over the next few days and as Tim says, its worth being skeptical of his theories, but it's also worth giving some a shot.
Geeks can be accomplished beings in today's world. But there's stereotypically little overlap between the mental and physical prowess for geeks. I'm not sure it has to be that way, and maybe the right perspective is key to changing how we use our bodies. So I'll suggest this: The body is a gadget. Even without scifi augmentations of metal, we are biochemical and mechanical wonders. And we can be hacked.
We believe the body is a gadget. Here's how to hack it.
The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman is available from Amazon.com.