Shangri-la Diet Take II

About two years ago, I tried a novel way of losing weight, drinking oil. It worked well, allowing me to lose about 40 pounds over about nine months (from 218 to 178 pounds). But then I stalled a bit and couldn’t get below 175. After reading some books on various topics related to food, health and weight, I decided to try a low carb approach. At first that worked well, too. At one point I hit 163 pounds, less than 10 pounds from my goal weight. But over time, I gained that weight back and for a while I was stuck around 175.

This spring, things started to go downhill, I gained about 10 pounds in a couple of months, due largely to an increasing amount of fast food and beer. I decided that I can’t give back all the gains that I had made. I started running in July, and slowly I made progress. Over the weeks, I’ve been able to run longer distances and my walks are now pretty brisk and long. I was getting a little fitter, but I wasn’t losing any weight.

It was time to give SLD another shot, to see if I could take off the 10-15 pounds I’d recently gained and to see if it could get me any closer to my goal weight of 155. So last week I decided to do the following:
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Life is a pattern game

Last Spring, I listened to Freakonomics on CD as I drove from Illinois to Arizona. In the appendix, the authors have a short article on Seth Roberts and his strange idea that drinking sugar water can lead to weight loss.

A month or two later, frustrated with my inability to lose weight on my own, I looked up Seth’s scientific paper online about what makes food fattening and tried his method. It worked! I started losing weight again.

After a few weeks of sipping sugar water and drinking olive oil, I spent a week in New York for the Del Close Marathon. I was explaining it to a friend and he responded, “Oh you mean the Shangri-la Diet.”

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Shangri-La Diet and Science

The theory that underpins the The Shangri-La Diet is in part based on numerous studies that have explored how animals (including humans) develop a desire for flavors that they encounter over and over in association with calories. If we taste a flavor and our body soon after absorbs a good supply of calories, our bodies will begin to crave that flavor. Lately, I’ve been perusing various search engines of scientific journals. I’ve been looking for studies that might support (or refute) SLD. Here is an interesting one I found:Flavor–nutrient learning in restrained and unrestrained eaters

Female participants consumed two differently flavored desserts. Each was presented three times on separate days. One was formulated with a high-energy content (1882 kJ) and the other with a low-energy content (226 kJ). After training, we found little evidence for learned satiation. However, we did observe flavor-preference learning. Specifically, participants acquired a greater liking and desire-to-eat the dessert flavor that was paired with a higher energy density during training.*

* Emphasis added by me. Also, I don’t mean to suggest that the authors of this study are proponents of SLD or even that they are aware of it, only that the author of SLD cites flavor calorie association studies as early inspirations for his own ideas.

In other words,

  • The more we eat high-energy content foods (HECF), the more we will crave such foods.
  • The more we eat foods with the same flavor, the more we will crave those foods, as long as those foods are also dense sources of calories.

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Losing weight by drinking oil

Back in August, I posted this video about my new ‘diet’ plan.

Calling it a diet is misleading though. It’s more of a way to trick your body into losing weight. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds since I made that video, about 40 pounds total on the Shangri-la Diet. It has not been hard. It hasn’t taken a lot of will power. I don’t starve myself. I never feel deprived.

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