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The Strangest, Easiest Way To Lose Weight
A big part of the learning theory we use in the Head First books is figuring out how to "trick" your brain into thinking that learning Java is as important as watching for tigers. We pay a great deal of attention to what your brain cares about, particularly when the concerns (tigers-but-not-java) are in direct conflict with what your mind cares about (java-but-not-tigers).
Besides caring about tigers-and-not-java--and the problems that creates when we're trying to pay attention, learn, and remember--our legacy brain does something else we all struggle with--it thinks you won't get much to eat all winter, so it better store it up while it can.
Your brain thinks that food is scarce for you, so it better hang on to it. In other words, for almost all adults (particularly in the US), our brain wants us to be weigh more than our conscious mind wants. The brain never got the memo about how you probably aren't going to starve this winter.
Given how interested we are here into hacking and creating workarounds for the legacy brain issues, a new diet book that claims to take this approach got my attention. The claims are outrageous, the "plan" is absurd and counter-intuitive, but when the publisher sent me a copy of the book I figured it wouldn't hurt to try it. I say "wouldn't hurt" because it is ridiculously easy to try. And since the Freakonomics guys were recommending it, I figured there had to be something interesting. Plus. I loved the name: the Shangri-La Diet.
It's been two weeks since I started and oh-my-god.
It is almost impossible to describe what this "diet" (it's not really a diet) does. (All links are at the end of this post) A UC Berkeley professor named Seth Roberts claims to have found a way to trick the legacy brain into thinking it needs to weigh less. (Which means "lower your set point", for those who are familiar with that term).
It does not cause you to suddenly burn more calories.
It does not increase your metabolism.
It is not a drug.
It does not require counting calories.
It does not require changing what you eat (eventhough for a number of people, it will anyway).
It does not require exercise (eventhough I'm always going to strongly recommend it!).
[Update: It is based on quite a lot of different scientific research (rat studies, especially) that the author has managed to piece together into a theory and approach that works.
It is not simply a psychological trick.].
It claims to do just one thing--cause your body to want/need less food. Period. In other words, you know that feeling you have after you've eaten a huge dinner and you think, "I'll never eat another bite ever again" -- this so-called "diet" makes that feeling happen much earlier, after a much smaller meal. Quite simply, it reduces your appetite, but in a really freakish way. It is not an artificial appetite supressant; it works by using your body's natural appetite supressant--the desire to keep you at a particular weight.
For me, in two weeks, it's been working too well. I don't have a weight problem, so I wasn't interested in losing weight. I wanted to try it because it's fascinating, seems impossible to believe, and MAINLY for the claim that by reducing cravings, it helps you make better eating choices. My goal on this "diet" was that when it was time to eat, I wanted to find carrots and broccoli as viable an option as Ben and Jerry's. That hasn't completely happened (eventhough cravings have virtually disappeared), but within three days, I was actually forgetting to eat. For the last ten days I've had to remind myself--as a purely cognitive activity--that "this is probably a good time to eat something." Is there a danger that I'll become too thin? Sure, if I'm not paying attention. But that's easy enough to correct--there's basically a body-back guarantee. If I just stop the program, I'll get my old body back soon enough.
I was worried that this loss of desire for food would mean a loss of pleasure when eating. But this is not food aversion--while nothing beckons you or even sounds especially good, everything tastes just as wonderful as before. And it is the weirdest damn feeling. it's a kind of "not hungry" that is unlike anything I've ever experienced. It seems too good to be true.
And maybe it is. I only have two weeks' experience. Maybe the effect will wear off (eventhough there's little reason to believe that). And the research might turn out to be complete crap--some believe it might even be some kind of elaborate hoax. But I have two other friends on it now, and after five days, they've noticed the effect as well. So I'm not so much recommending it (since that would require more time) as reporting my thoughts about it, my short-term experience, and why I find it so fascinating.
* It doesn't seem to work for everyone. Some people claim it had no effect (I have a suspicion that some of the folks for whom it doesn't work weren't actually doing it with the kind of rigorous adherence to one simple rule that's required).
* Some people take much longer to see an effect, eventhough it seems that most people notice it in less than a week.
* You must MUST be able to find at least one two-hour time window each day where you have nothing but water. Nothing with any flavor of any kind is allowed--NO EXCEPTIONS--during that period, including brushing your teeth. For most people, two hours is no problem at all. but you have to be extremely careful or you risk not just eliminating the positive effect, but potentially ruining your chance of using it correctly in the future.
* In the middle of that two hour window, you must ingest one of two things. either a tablespoon of sugar dissolved in water, or a tablespoon of extra light olive oil. If either of those are not do-able for you, you're out of luck.
* The sugar water comes with the potential for a blood sugar reaction, so if you choose that instead of the olive oil, you can reduce or eliminate the effect by sipping slowly. I heat up the water, dissolve the sugar, and sip it over a half hour like really weak, sweet tea. I tried the olive oil and hated it.
* You must also. well, no, there IS nothing else. Seriously. Nothing. Eat whatever you want, do whatever you want, just take in the extra calories from either the sugar or the oil, and there's nothing more. THAT is the Shangri-La Diet. Sugar, or oil. End of story.
While I've more or less revealed the diet here, the Shangri-La Diet book is needed if you're going to try it, or you're interested in the research/science behind it. There are a lot of subtle variations and tweaks and tunes, and recommendations based on how much weight you want to lose, etc. So, again, if you're going to try it, I'd definitely get the book despite finding most of the information about it on the internet.
Extensive article with comments on CalorieLab.
The original NY Times piece by the Freakonomics guys.
Shangri-La Diet book (on Amazon).
Aaron Swartz blog post about it.
Disclaimer: I was given this book by the publisher. However, it would have come to my attention because of the similarity of our approaches--hacking the legacy brain. Indeed, within a week of getting the book, I was sent a related link by fellow blogger Scott Reynen who thought I might be interested. I do not use Amazon affiliate links, so I am not benefitting in any way from recommending the book here or elsewhere, and I have no relationship with the publisher or author. In fact, I'm buying my own extra copies now for others.
Also, I'm not a dietician or nutritionist! I have absolutely NO authority in this field--this is simply my personal thoughts about it. (However, I did major in exercise physiology, and spent ten years in the health/fitness industry, including a stint as the Training Director for The Sports Club Company, the group behind some of the largest and most exclusive health clubs in the world--The Sports Club/LA, Sports Club Reebok/New York, etc. But I specialized only in exercise, and had nothing to do with diets and nutrition.).
OK, now back to our regularly scheduled "creating passionate users" topics ; ).
Posted by: Evelyn Source