Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On a Lighter Note . . . to Shangri-La

The internet has many amazing qualities. The speed at which we can access information, for good or ill, is amazing, absolutely amazing. Further, the development of blogs has changed my reading habits a good deal. I find myself reading more and more blogs, as one will often reference another. Of course, this can lead to overload, and one must constantly cull one’s reading. However, we do discover some gems, at little or no price (especially as opposed to the cost of a book, and with a much wider gate than limiting oneself to what the NYT Book Review, TNR, NY Review of Books decide is worth considering, as much as I appreciate all of those sources). All of this is leading me to Seth Roberts, whom I discovered, I don’t remember from whom, via a blog. Roberts is a professor of psychology @ Berkley, a blogger, and, perhaps most importantly, a self-experimenter. That’s right, Roberts experiments on himself (and I’m sure lots of lab rats and other such things as psychologists do). He tests, reports, measures (a challenge, but he pursues it), and he reports.

One problem he got into was weight loss. Like many of us, he got heavier than he wanted. He began experimenting with small changes. Then he went to Paris, not normally considered the weight loss capital of the world. But he drank a new (to him) sugared drink with a strange new flavor, and despite his culinary enthusiasm, he had a limited appetite and actually lost weight. From this personal episode, combined with the ability to due to scientific research (he’s on the editorial board of Nutrition, for example), he came to the conclusion that flavors not associated with calories (but containing calories) decrease the body’s set point for weight (the body has an internal thermostat of sorts to maintain a set weight). Drinking the strange drink, not earlier associated with calories, lowered his set point, thus reducing his appetite. Later, testing further, he found that sugar water did the same trick, but for some quirk of evolution, sweetness as a taste didn’t count as a flavor, so drinking sugar water a couple of times a day allowed him to continue his weight loss. He later discovered that unflavored oils did the same thing without the extra sugar calories and allowing greater consumption of some healthy, although virtually tasteless oils. He, and many others, continue to lose weight.

Roberts published his findings and theory in The Shangri-La Diet: The No Hunger, Eat Anything Weight-Loss Plan (2006) after getting a boost from the Freakinomics blog site at the NYT. Anyway, it’s a fun read, an interesting guy, now on a kick in favor of cultured food that put bugs (good ones) in the gut, such as yogurt and kim-chee. Anyway, I’ve just started his regiment, and no results yet. But we’ll see, and I think that’s also a good thing by his way of thinking. A fun, quick read with a very easy application if you want to try it out.

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