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I Hack the Body Electric

4 Hour Body zealots self-quantify to lose the founder fifteen.

“IN MY CASE, IT WAS MORE LIKE THE FOUNDER 30,” said Mark Webster, who started his own interactive design consultancy, Kickstart Concepts, back in 2009, and is currently working on another venture. Mr. Webster got a copy of The 4 Hour Body when he attended Mr. Ferriss’s launch party in December. “It was at that horrible nightclub, Greenhouse, where there’s always tech parties.” Mr. Webster said he hadn’t seen a critical mass of compatriots on the diet, but a behavioral switch had definitely been flipped. “That whole Mountain Dew late-night pizza culture is dying out. When I go on business breakfast, we’re all ordering egg whites.”

“Maybe it is tech’s dirty little secret, because I’ve seen a lot of people opening their burritos lately,” he added, describing a recent tech lunch, “We were basically standing around some lecture, they got sandwiches, and everyone goes to throw the bread away and eat the filling.”

As evidence of the healthy-office trend, Mr. Webb said, just last month four employees asked him to swap out their office chairs for standing desks at the Barbarian Group. “Standing desks are definitely in vogue right now. You know Jay Parkinson?” he asked, referring to Williamsburg doctor behind Hello, Health. “All of us read his Tumblr and he’s been going on about all this new data about sitting and how bad it is. So, yeah, you’re out all night, you think ‘I don’t need to exercise if I stood up all day.’”

Last month, in a blog post announcing its new ergonomically-optimized 5,000 sq. ft. office space on 6th Avenue, ff Venture Capital partner David Teten also mentioned standing desk, as well as subbing out desk chairs for exercise balls and wobble boards for the VC firm and start-ups that would call the space home. The next week, Mark Peter Davis, co-founder of Kohort, a service for organizing groups, wrote a blog post about office culture entitled, “Why We Do Push-Ups.”

DATA NERDS KNOW that adding variables requires measurement to see what works. “Oh, yeah, personal informatics? I love that shit,” said Mr. Webb. “We all have Daytum and RescueTime. Do you know that one? It’s a personal productivity thing for your computer. It tracks how much time you spend on each program. You look at your stats and you’re like, oh, I spent half my week on Facebook.”

Mr. Webb lost his Fitbit, but he’s created his own system. “I have a spreadsheet in Evernote where I do all the abdomen and leg and arm measurements each weekend and still measure my weight every day. You lose weight so fast, it’s rewarding. I keep it all on a giant spreadsheet and chart it out.” He uses the Withings scale to weigh himself. “Of course we all have it. It’s a scale with Wi-Fi in it that sends your weight to a personal informatics site, which is awwwwwwwwesome.”

Ms. Hess, a self-described numbers person,who got into the 4 Hour Body after watching fellow New Work City denizens Tony Bacigalupoand Fredrick Selby encourage each other by texting photos of cheat day meals and emailing support, says she’s just as into the self-quantifying aspect. “As a curvy woman I did a few different measurements in my torso–butt, hips, belly button, and waist–and then I did bust and I did face. My friends were like, what’s ‘face’?!” Ms. Hess, a pretty, diminutive redhead, told The Observer, moving her hand up her body as she listed each area. “I get puffy in my cheeks when I gain a few pounds, so I put the tape measure around my neck and under my ears and then around to just over my mouth to see what the horizontal circumference would be,” she says, miming the movement. “I tweeted it and people were like, how do you measure your face? They thought I was doing it vertically, like to see how big my chins were.”

After adopting the plan three weeks ago, Ms. Hess says she’s still in the euphoria stage although she’s heard it takes woman longer to drop the weight. “It definitely skews tech and that’s because of Tim. I’d also say it skews very male,” she explained. “There are not a lot of diet books if any out there that a man would be caught dead reading on the subway. But The 4 Hour Body, it sounds like something futuristic, it sounds like Superman.”

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Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com


  1. Anonymous says:

    You guys forgot to give a shout-out to IAC company DailyBurn. We’ve put together a gym that includes a pull-up bar, dumbbells, and more at our office. Plus, we are all training together for the NJ Tough Mudder. You can find us at 1pm almost everyday along the Hudson doing a group run.

    I love that working tech does not equal being a pasty skinny nerd – we are all out there getting fit and building cool products. 

    1. Nitasha Tiku says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Kathryn! But what’s with the no standing desks? Tell Barry to dig deeper

  2. LDM says:

    Tim Ferriss?  No thanks.

  3. Cosimo says:

    Wow, this must be the most content-less, ad-filled article ever published in the history of mankind…

    1. Nitasha Tiku says:

      So you’re saying I’ve made history?!

  4. Farid says:

    Oops. Forgot to add 

  5. Measuring the face? Oops! Forgot to include that in the app. 

  6. I’ve definitely put on the founder 15. Time to hit the gym. 

  7. body electric you say? work out to this: http://www.myspace.com/tcta

  8. Comparative anatomy relates to the comparison of anatomical structures (both gross and microscopic) in different animals.Anthropological anatomy or physical anthropology relates to the comparison of the anatomy of different races of humans.Artistic anatomy relates to anatomic studies for artistic reasons.