Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shangri-La Diet: What people have to say about it.

      I am going to deviate from the norm of blogging about primary literature on research articles and dive into a diet regimen introduced and extensively elaborated on by Seth Roberts.  As a disclaimer: I am not recommending this diet; it is something that should be looked at and analyzed, however.  Also, I have not read the full text of The Shangri-La Diet and what I am going to write about stems from online research, particularly from the author's website itself, Sethroberts.net.  I am going to look into what the Shangri-La diet actually is, how it relates to Psychology and what things people are actually saying about it.  The website I got most of my information off of can be found at SethRoberts.net.
      Let me start off with a quick background about the Shangri-La diet.  Roberts believes in a “set point” theory of weight control: at any given time, your body wants to be a certain weight, and it will increase or decrease feelings of hunger and its metabolic rate in order to achieve that weight. Any attempt to modify your weight away from your current set point will meet with failure, or at least will be very difficult to achieve and maintain. Roberts compares the set point to the temperature setting for a thermostat.  The set point idea is not new, but Roberts extends it by claiming that the set point can be modified by diet. This is the second part of his theory: the “taste-calorie association.” Roberts believes that the “tastiness” of the food you consume controls your set point. Specifically, tastier food raises your set point (i.e., makes your body want to get fatter), while bland food lowers your set point (i.e., makes your body want to adapt to being leaner).  According to calorielab.com, the three major ways of breaking the taste-calorie association is to: consume calories that have little or no taste, consume calories that have an unfamiliar taste, consume foods that are only detected by the body after a delay (in order to dissociate the initial taste from the later calorie hit).
     One of my earlier blog posts was also about a taste-calorie association and about how rats would eat more when given a tasty, calorie-dense food because that is how we have come to associate and enjoy the two together.  Seth Roberts talks about different techniques of breaking the taste-calorie association and suppressing appetite.  The consumption of oils is one thing I came across (in my readings of people's experiences) as a successful technique.  Drinking a spoonful of olive oil or canola oil twice a day seems to work in suppressing appetite; people report eating less in a meal after they have consumed olive oil.  Seth Roberts recommends drinking the spoonful of oil an hour before or an hour after the meal, long enough so that a connection is not made between the food and the oil, however.  The oil is tasteless and relatively odorless and you are still consuming calories (about 200-300 a day), but not associating it to any particular taste or smell in your brain and thus not reinforcing those connections that have been made between taste and calories.  One of the reasons why we eat so much is because we feel good after we consume those calories because of the pleasurable associations we have created in our brain between tastes/smells and the foods we consume.  By consuming tasteless things like oils, people are cutting down on the amount of food/calories that they want to take in and this reduces junk/snack food consumption tremendously.  Another technique to suppress appetite is to drink vinegar-water before a meal.  Although that sounds pretty disgusting, it has a purpose in aiming to suppress appetite and prevent you from overeating (and especially snacking on junk and desserts after your meal) which is a big cause of weight gain.
    When reading the experiences of a first time user of the Shangri-La diet on her first day, I became intrigued at the immediate impact this diet has.  The user said she skipped breakfast and had no appetite to eat and was only getting full off of half a sandwich, some chips and maybe a fruit later on in the day.  It is amazing how changing your daily regimen can cause you to lose drastic amounts of weight, as some report losing averages of 2-3 pounds a week over the course of months.  
     There is a discussion about bland, unprocessed foods compared to processed foods.  The idea behind this is that processed foods have been added with so many tastes including spices, salts, fats, etc. and that every piece of the processed food tastes the same, in any part of the world, that our brain recognizes those tastes, makes the associations with calories and we eat it non-stop.  Things like salts, fats, sugars are tastes that we are genetically wired to eat because they signal that we will get full off of that meal (by ingesting calories).  These were cues that our ancestors used to know if a food was going to fill them up or if they were going to starve.  And now in the 21st century, these are the same cues that are signaling to us that the foods are full of calories... but since food is so abundant in this day and age we end up overeating.  The blandness argument makes sense because we are not going to immediately recognize the calories that we are ingesting and therefore, not overeat.  In many ways, the taste of the food is acting as a conditioned stimulus that signals the unconditioned stimulus - calories.  By breaking that association, or messing with the association and introducing tasteless or unfamiliarly tasting foods, then we are breaking the CS-US association and we are less likely to eat as much.
     In conclusion, the real successes I see behind the Shangri-La diet are that you do not need to restrict the foods you eat or have an insane amount of will-power in order to keep up the weight-loss or maintain your progress. With the suppression of appetite, you won't feel like eating any more and you will be more inclined to restrict the amount of calories that you consume.  As some people posted about, they can still have their cheese and ice creams, but they're not mindlessly eating two bags of M&M's in one sitting at the movie theaters, but rather something like half a bag and being just as satisfied.  Humans are intellectual beings that learn and form associations between millions of things.  Taste, calories and appetite are just a few examples of the things we make associations between and can learn to break and manipulate!

1 comment:

  1. I haven't really been able to figure out why or fix the fact that 3/4ths of the text is highlighted. Sorry about that.