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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Shangri-La Begins

I've decided to try out the Shangri-La Diet.

First of all, I acknowledge that it's rather out of character for me to say that I am going to go on any kind of diet at all. For one thing, I think most diets out there aren't particularly good for you, or if they are, they are too difficult to follow, which is why the success rates aren't very high. For another thing, I'm generally pretty happy with my average weight, and tend to allow myself to eat whatever I want. But it's becoming harder to manage my weight easily as I age, so I've decided to give this a try. Finally, most things associated with the word "diet" are disgusting. Diet Coke, for instance. The word "diet" is practically meaningless in contexts like that anyway. People think of diet as being good for you, but Diet Coke is not good for you. It's not even better for you than regular Coke. But "diet" sells. I'm just waiting for the day someone tries to market Diet Air.

So back to the Shangri-La Diet. This diet was started by Seth Roberts, and you can read about it on his website or in his book. The premise of the diet is built on the idea of a set point -- a weight that your body is programmed to aim for. This set point can go up or down depending on a number of factors, including how much you eat and how good your food tastes. If your set point is higher than your weight, your body will be programmed to gain weight. If the set point is lower than your weight, your body will strive to lose weight. So that's the first part of the idea behind the diet.

The second part is built on the idea that you can lower your set point by ingesting calories that are not associated with flavor. This is the tricky part of the theory to understand. But how I understand it is that flavor signals to your brain that you are in a time of plenty as far as food is concerned, and your body takes this signal and goes into stock up mode, in preparation for a time of famine. (Possibly a result of our evolution.) So if you are ingesting bland foods, your body assumes that it is a time of famine, because you wouldn't choose to eat bland food if you didn't have to, and so it switches into a more conservative mode of operation, believing that it will need to live off its fat stores for a while. So the idea is to ingest some bland calories to trick your body into lowering its set point.

When the diet first came on the scene around 2000, fructose water was used as a bland but high caloric method of tricking your body into lowering your set point. These days Seth and his fellow dieters have switched to oil, such as extra light (not extra virgin) olive oil. I guess the reason for the switch has mainly to do with concerns over blood sugar levels being affected by the fructose water.

So as far as I understand the diet based on Seth's site and other Shangri-La sites on the web, the general idea is to take a tablespoon or two of oil sometime during the day without tasting anything for an hour before or after. That includes gum and toothpaste and flavored lip gloss. This will give you 100-200 essentially flavorless calories, and will begin to lower your set point. Over time you should lose weight.

The overwhelming response from people who have tried the diet is very positive. Most people are getting results (generally dropping around 1 pound per week) much quicker and more effortlessly than they have achieved using other weight loss methods. People still eat what they want, the difference is that what they want changes. Appetites lower and cravings begin to lean toward more wholesome foods.

So I figure I will give it a try. Can't hurt, after all.

I took my first tablespoon of oil this morning, and I'll admit that it did gross me out a little. There really is virtually no taste, but you can feel the oily liquid in your mouth, and that's kind of weird. I thought I might need a water chaser, but it turns out I didn't. It's only the first second or two that is gross, and then it's like it never happened.

My beginning weight is 161, and I have a goal of achieving 145. This is just a rough goal, because frankly I don't put too much stock in weight. In fact I had a rule of never weighing myself, which I started in high school, because I believe it's generally bad for your self esteem to obsess over something that can fluctuate several units per day anyway. But I really like Ian's bathroom scale, because it tells you not only your weight but your body fat percentage. And it's the body fat that I'm worried about. My BFP today was 36.4%, I believe. Might have been 34.6, I'll have to double check. I'm not sure what is considered healthy for a woman, but I think it should be closer to 25%. So we'll see if I can bring it down to there.

I'll report in every week or so with my progress.

Day 1:
161 lbs
36.4% BF

145 lbs
25% BF

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