Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Shangri-la diet

I blogged about this when it was featured in the Freakonomics section of the NYTimes magazine (that column can be found here). Now, Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology, has a book coming out about his unusual diet.

Briefly, Roberts used himself as a lab rat and tried a variety of diets to try and lose weight. He hypothesized that the body has a "setpoint" which is the weight it thinks it should way. If you weigh more than your setpoint, you will not feel hungry or want to eat much. If you weigh less, you'll obsess about food and tend to eat more. This concept has considerable empirical support and explains why while many dieters succesfully lose weight, so few can keep it off: will power or an unusual diet works for a while but it is very difficult to keep it up.

Based on his experience drinking unusual sugared sodas while on vacation, Roberts hypothesized that regular intake of a small numbers of calories with no flavor (or, it turns out, just sweetness) would reset the setpoint allowing him to lose weight. Depending on whether you believe the NYTimes article or the book he lost somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds over a period of 3 months, by taking in a few hundred calories as either extralight (and therefore almost flavorless) olive oil or water sweetened with fructose. Otherwise he ate what he wished, but he found he didn't have much an appetite.

He believes that other light oils like canola or table sugar (sucrose) in water work just as well. He cut down the number of calories taken in this way once he got thin enough and has managed to keep the weight off.

The extent of the empirical evidence is his weight loss and that some friends have also lost weight this way. No animal trials, no human trials, nothing. He does quote a few commentors on blogs who had initial succes with the diet after the Freakanomics feature. I'd have a lot more faith that this would work if there were more data. He quotes a bunch of animal research that has some relevance to his theory but no direct tests of this diet. (The Penguin site does note that "fformal clinical trials will soon be under way" whatever that means; the skeptic in me wonders if the trials aren't working so they are getting the book out before it becomes clear this method doesn't work for most people).

The theory underlying the diet, which seems to be that taking in bland calories signals scarcity while taking in lots of familiar, highly flavored foods signals abundance doesn't seem very intuitive to me; lab mice and rats along with many other animals stay thin on chow. In fact, in his extra credit chapter which gives other tips for losing weight is sometimes self-contradictory, simultaneously advocating eating a variety of unusually flavored foods and eating bland food like cottage cheese. He does rail against fast food as too many calories that taste the same everytime.

Besides the anecdotal nature of his success, the book feels as though it was thrown together in a hurry to capitalize on the media exposure he was getting (I think he also appeared on Good Morning America or elsewhere). It is 176 pages, but the information could have fit in half that number. Like the proverbial term paper, they seem to have used every trick to make it longer: small pages, big margins, etc.

Finally, Roberts seems to have an unusual relationship to food and eating. One of the benefits he sees in the diet is the time he saves. He currently eats only one small meal a day, and doesn't seem to miss the rest. I can remember a number of great meals I've eaten, but if Roberts has similar memories, he doesn't share them in the book.

I love food and I love eating. I'm pretty sure I'd abandon any diet where I only had appetite for one small meal a day, and I'd miss the pleasure of eating tasty food if I was so limited. I don't sense Roberts has even considered that. I suspect that even if people lose weight on this diet, they'll gain it back as they either grow tired of plain oil and sugar water or miss the experience of eating.

That said, it seems to work. I'm never shy about trying a preposterous new diet and I could always lose a few lbs. so I've given this one a shot for the last week. I haven't been regularly checking my weight, but the decreased appetitie is noticeable. I fill up on much less food than typically, although still much more than Roberts eats. I should note than I'm big, exercise a lot and usually eat quite a bit. Now I'd say that a reasonable portion is enough for me, but I still eat three good meals a day.

The drinking sugar water or oil isn't too bad, although to avoid establishing taste-calorie connections in your brain you have to not take in anything flavored (food, drink, even brushing your teeth seems to count) for an hour before or after, which means you have to plan a bit.

Of course, every diet works at the start. I'll keep Dr. Andy readers updated about how I'm able to keep this up overtime. You may remember I succesfully lost 15lbs by fasting one day a week. That diet works well but requires an enormous amount of willpower, going to be at night, having had no calories for 24 hours with a full refrigerator downstairs. If I ever decide to get really thin for a race, I may try combining the diets and fast a day a week except for some plain oil or sugar water.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The book is not out yet. Some publicist from Penguin emailed me to ask if I wanted a copy to review and I said yes. So I did get the book free, but I have no other financial interest. I suspect Dr. Roberts will soon be a wealthy man, whether or not his experience turns out to be generally applicable.

UPDATE: follow my weight loss here.


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Flea said...

I'm gonna write a diet book. Seems like it's worth a try!


At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Lee Provost (Canada) said...

It's like the saying goes.."if it's too good to be true.....? If he is really serious about helping people, it would be beneficial to us all if we could have some clinical trial results.

At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Jaz said...

I am very interested in your results and also wonder if the tasteless oil could be replaced with oil capsules, like fish oil capsules, that I can take along to work with me.

I have ordered the book and will try it in the described way first though.

Thank you for blogging this.

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Good post, particularly the points on trials.

Be interested to see how your thoughts develop Andy. I also got a freebie in the post - can't seem to understand how a psych prof steers well clear of addressing why people end up over-weight in the first place. Especially those who will probably end up being the publisher's target demographic...

At 5:30 AM, Blogger Ruth Heasman said...

Hi Dr Andy,

Did you lose any more weight on the Shangri-la diet? It's working well for me - I've lost 17 lbs so far in three months. The decrease in appetite has been a real relief and I can get on with things other than eating or thinking about eating ;-) . I'm interested to know whether you've continued the diet and how it's working for you. You say you're a runner. Some of the people on the http://boards.sethroberts.net/ forums who are heavy exercisers have found the diet doesn't work so well for them. I think it maybe be because the hunger caused by exercising to some extent nullifies the effect of the appetite supression. Have you found that this is the case for you?

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Grace Sohl said...

I tried the diet and at first lost 5 pounds but that was it. I am still taking the oil and will try to take it at different times but I'm wondering if age has anything to do with whether or not you lose a lot of weight. Also, I do exercise on a regular basis and wondering if perhaps that triggers a different response and not causing the weight loss I'm looking for.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Celia said...

This article is fantastic; the information you show us is very interesting and is really good written. It’s just great!! Do you want to know something more? Read it... Glass Bongs and Bong featuring Herbal Smoke, water bongs, bongs online head shop, Marijuana Alternative,glass water bongs, Hashish, Ganja, homemade bongs, Smokeshop, cannibis, legal smoking alternatives for herbal highs and aphrodisia. http://www.headshopinternational.com

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is yet another example of a snake oil salesman taking a well known effect and wrapping it in the popular jargon of the day. In this case, taking a tablespoon of olive oil 30 minutes before a meal is a known appetite suppressant. This has absolutely nothing to do with body weight set points. Any good scientist can fill his day dreaming up plausible theories to explain phenomenology. But this has almost no value because the possible explanations are almost endless. Real science involves proving which theory among this endless list is true.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Diana said...

Shangri-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. In the book, "Shangri-La" is a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise but particularly, sportsbook, a mythical Himalayan utopia—a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. The word also evokes the imagery of exoticism of the Orient. The story of Shangri-La is based on the concept of Shambhala, a mystical city in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. http://www.enterbet.com

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous tires said...

companies marketing mineral makeups and also get the best bargains in mineral makeup you can imagine,
find aout how to consolidate your students loans or just how to lower your actual rates.,
looking for breast enlargements? in Rochester,
homeopathy for eczema learn about it.,
Allergies, information about lipitor,
save big with great bargains in mineral makeup,

change edition interviewing motivational people preparing second

interviewing motivational people preparing second time

interviewing people motivational preparing for a second time

black mold exposure

black mold exposure symptoms

black mold symptoms of exposure

free job interview questions

free job interview answers

interview answers to get a job

lookfor hair styles for fine thin hair

search hair styles for fine thin hair

hair styles for fine thin hair

beach resort in the philippines

great beach resort in the philippines

luxury beach resort in the philippines
iron garden gates, here,
iron garden gates,
wrought iron garden gates
, here
wrought iron garden gates
You: The Owner's Manual: An Insider's Guide to the Body That Will Make You Healthier and Younger
eat eating mindless more than think we we why

texturizers here,
black hair texturizer,
find aout how care curly hair,
find about how to care curly hair,
care curly hair,
lipitor rash,
lipitor reactions,
new house ventura california,
the house new houston tx,
new house washington dc,
new house pa philadelphia,
san antonio tx house new,
house new pa philadelphia,
new house washington dc,
new house ventura california,
the house new houston tx,
house new san antonio tx,
the house new houston tx, that you are looking for,
new house ventura california, you need to buy,
new house washington dc,
house new pa philadelphia,
new house san antonio tx,

hair surgery transplant

air filter allergy

refurbished dell laptop computers

hair surgery transplant

air filter allergy

refurbished dell laptop computers

hair surgery transplant

air filter allergy

refurbished dell laptop computers

chocolate esophagus heartburn study

chocolate esophagus heartburn study
be informed,

digestion healing healthy heartburn natural preventing way

digestion healing healthy heartburn natural preventing way
sew skirts, 16simple styles you can make!,
sew what skirts 16 simple styles you,
rebates and discounts on sunsetter awnings,
sunsetter awnings discounts and rebates,
discount on sunsetter awnings

truck and bus tires 12r 22.5, get the best price,
tires truck and bus 12r 22.5 best price,
tires truck bus tires12r 22.5 best price,
plush car seat strap covers,
car seat strap covers,plush,
car seat strap, plush covers,
oscoda voip phone systems, the best!,
oscoda voip the phone system,
oscoda voip phone systems,
exterior iron gates,
oriental wrought iron gates,
powder coated iron garden fencing,

At 10:12 AM, Blogger gwadzilla said...

I am ready to lose weight

I am ready to try this diet

At 6:34 AM, Anonymous black mold said...

black mold exposure,
black mold symptoms of exposure,

wrought iron garden gates,
your next iron garden gates, here,

hair styles for fine thin hair,
search hair styles for fine thin hair,

night vision binoculars,
buy, night vision binoculars,

lipitor reactions,
lipitor reactions,

luxury beach resort in the philippines,
beach resort in the philippines,

homeopathy for baby eczema.,
homeopathy for baby eczema.,

save big with great mineral makeup bargains,
companies marketing mineral makeups,

prodam iphone praha,
Apple prodam iphone praha,

iphone clone cect manual,
manual for iphone clone cect,

fero 52 binoculars night vision,
fero 52 night vision,

best night vision binoculars,
buy, best night vision binoculars,

computer programs to make photo albums,
computer programs, make photo albums,

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

best bonus no risk bankrolls without deposit automatically match your initial deposit once with a 100% bonus
Bonus Account, where it will remain and be released to your cash ... The items you download here are available more room like you details
free $50 dollars bonus money for playing real account :)
provide you with the best poker bonus and referral codes titan and mansion from around the net. Our bonus money free codes are worth big cash
Deposit Bonus Options, . http://www.pokermaniak.com.pl/Inne.html .. We are giving away bankrolls FREE CASH 7 Days A Week. 100% or more are non-cashable and have a maximum cash-out of 10 times or higher than ever.
free internet poker cash deposit, unless a previous agreement non with management has Bonus guide poker and full tilt
freeroll and tour free with green bottle, cash bonus we offer the first time you deposit ... First Deposit bonuses in order to offer you a poker bonus that meets the level
free poker bankroll and no required bonus - web under build sign up bankrolls and build your blog bonuses below.
Turniej sit and go omaha texas holdem grać należąco albo po piwie, chyba że głodny wtedy najjaśniej jak się da lub uprzednio wyprostować poker książkę Dostępne platformy unikalnej platformy. Za darmo to umarło, dawaj bonusy pokerowe. Gra poker jest tutaj.
darmowy poker anline bonus actual grając masz szanse wygrać dużą kase, spora ilość graczy online i wilele darmowych turniei, dlatego nie zastanawiaj się długo.
bonus depozytu Jak nie zwykle za darmo i nie wpłacasz :P

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous natural weight loss said...

Nice post. I agree on what you have mentioned. I also want to share on ways to lose weight. This is the most reliable source and methods I have seen online. So this might help you.

At 1:13 AM, Blogger javieth said...

when a person make a diet is important to have a good control with a doctor and is necessary to combine it with frequent exercises but if you want to encrease your sexual health is necessary to
buy viagra, so your problem will solve too fast and you will notice a great and powerful sexual health.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Computer Repair Bracknell said...

I like the idea of the diet. Seems to be based on at least some attempt at looking under the surface. But it's definitely not scientifically validated, not matter how hard he protests.

At 2:15 AM, Anonymous tips malam pertama said...

awesome book... but i dont think i will lose my weight reading that book :-)

tips malam pertama
malam pertama
malam pertama pengantin
kisah malam pertama
cerita malam pertama
pengalaman malam pertama
seks malam pertama
cerita lucu malam pertama
madu khaula
percocet 5 325
vicodin 5 500
antique bird cages
maytag dishwasher parts
headboards for queenbeds
ge dryer parts
ge dishwasher parts
ativan vs xanax
klonopin vs xanax
lorazepam vs xanax
zoloft weight gain
phentermine results
nexium coupon
advantix for dogs


Post a Comment

<< Home