We’re all (okay, most of us are) looking for simple solutions to diet and exercise that won’t overwhelm us. That’s why Nashville-based celebrity trainer and nutrition expert Erin Oprea came up with The 4 x 4 Diet. And nope, this diet plan isn’t meant to hit you like a pickup truck, although trucks and singing about them are pretty popular in her town. (Seriously, google country music and pickup trucks. It’s a thang! Shout out to Lee Brice for one of the best songs about a truck ever.)
The other kind of 4 x 4 Nashville seems to be obsessed with is Oprea’s simple plan to knock out 4 key food habits combined with 4-minute high-intensity interval workout bursts known Tabata drills that fit into a four-week program. Get it? 4 x 4. And yes, for those fans of the likes of Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Nettles, and Lee Ann Womack — all clients of Oprea — this 4 x 4 is meant to steer you in the right direction. While Oprea likes to work in 4s, the message is simple: move your body and eat clean. Check out Oprea’s 4 food fails you should drop now:
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Skip Starches At Night
Why you should consume carbs during the day, especially in the A.M.: Sugars and starches fuel your body with energy! You need that to get through whatever the day throws at you. And fiber gets bowel movements flowing in the right direction and helps keep blood sugar in check.
Why you shouldn’t eat carbs when it’s dark: “Because you’re not burning as many calories [at night], your body is more likely to convert those carbs into fat,” writes Oprea. Yikes! It’s tough to kill the cravings but you’ll want to avoid bread, cookies, crackers, rice, pies, beans and other high starch foods during the wind-down hours.
Ease Up On Sugar
See the reminder above that sugar is a carb! Pro-tip: if you are sweet on sugar, fuel up early in the day. Even foods containing natural sugar can be a diet pitfall. “One of my clients basically only ate fruit for ten days and gained seven pounds,” warns Oprea. Foods with added sugar have an even bigger pitfall: calories without nutrients. One of Oprea’s easy tips for avoiding excess sugar intake is a simple one to follow: avoid processed foods. Who knew strawberries and Mallomars were such a dangerous bedtime combination? (Ok . . . we all know but sometimes feigning ignorance helps burn calories.)
Sodium isn’t all bad. You actually need it. As Oprea points out, “It plays an important role in transmitting nerve impulses and muscle contractions, it teams up with potassium to keep your body’s water balance in check, and it helps you control your blood pressure.” But the list of what excess sodium can do to your system reads like dire warnings in a pharma commercial. High sodium diets can ultimately boost blood pressure, damage your heart, or lead to stroke. On the lower end of concerns, but a big one if you are watching your weight: Extra sodium “makes you retain water,” Oprea schools. Water weight is a dieter’s enemy. Kind of like the landlord who waits a couple of months to deposit rent checks and you suddenly realize you had a pretty bloated sense of financial confidence.
Don’t Be Such a Lush
To see the right kind of changes in your body and achieve diet success, Oprea suggests you “cut back” on alcohol. By the way, that’s one of the things that takes a bit of the pressure off in the health expert’s diet plan: she never absolutely restricts. She just suggests you “cut back.” There are a lot of reasons not to go overboard with alcohol from long-term health risks to short-term embarrassment (or entertainment if you are around the right people). The main diet killer Oprea highlights: “It’s full of empty calories and can make you gain weight.” If you must drink, Oprea suggests the old office party trick of enjoying one glass of wine or a martini and drinking it slowly. Most of us might call that “nursing,” but I didn’t realize how sad that imagery was until Oprea more elegantly described the better manners directive to “treat your taste buds . . . and really savor [your drink].”
Following these tips gives you the first 4 of the 4 x 4 and according to Oprea, should help you flatten your belly in just 4 weeks due to less bloating and an awakened metabolism. To get the full rundown of Oprea’s more than 50 recipes and 30 workout routines to help you eliminate bad habits and start some good ones — take a deep dive into what the city of Nashville already knows about and pick up The 4 x 4 Diet.
Illustration: Marie Guillard