Sunday, February 05, 2006

Shangri-La Diet

A Berkeley professor has a dream diet he calls Shangri-La. He says it's as simple as drinking sugar water. Diet commercials. Diet pills. Diet books. For millions of Americans, the search for the silver bullet to battle the bulge is a constant one.

Berkeley psychology professor Seth Roberts says he tried several diets for years but never found a lasting solution.

He said, "I drank a lot of water and lost weight, I ate less processed food and lost weight, I ate food with low glycemic index and lost weight and I ate sushi and lost weight."

Roberts' quest eventually led him to the Shangri La Diet - a diet that he has developed over 15 years of self-experimentation.

" I take one tablespoon a day of extra virgin olive oil. That's for me for other people it could different. And when I'm in cafe I have a cup of hot sugar water."

That's right! A diet as simple as taking tablespoons of oil and drinking glasses of sugar water in between meals to quell the urge to continue to eat.

"When I discovered the effects of the sugar in the water I lost 35 pounds in 3 months."

Roberts who weighed 200 pounds eventually lost 40 pounds. And his friend, Michael, lost 80 pounds in 6 months.

Roberts calls it the Shangri-La Diet, and suggests it works by suppressing a basic "caveman" instinct from days when access to food was intermittent. The diet tricks the body from thinking it needs to eat every last bit of food before an impending famine.

"It isn't really a fad diet," said Stephen Dubner, co-author of the "Freakonomics" column in The New York Times. "It's more about understanding the theory behind eating. It's not about denying things. It ultimately leads to lessening the amount you eat. In effect, by taking this canola oil and this sugar water, you're tricking your metabolism."

Dubner and his co-author, Steven Levitt, tried the diet themselves. Dubner said he lost 5 to 6 pounds over the course of a couple weeks, and had a "shockingly" easy time skipping lunch. Dubner said he wasn't really trying to diet, but Roberts, who began the diet at 200 pounds, eventually lost 40 pounds. His friend lost 80 pounds in six months on the Shangri-La Diet.

"This is an incredibly simple and elegant way of understanding what appetite is about," Dubner said. "The novelty of this is trying to persuade you to be more disciplined and tricking the system."

You can chase a butterfly all over the field and never catch it. But if you sit quietly in the grass it will come and sit on your shoulder.

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