Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Ooh la la it’s Shangri-La

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I’m a member of a secret cult, even weirder than that of those blog. It’s a kind of social experiment. It’s stranger than fiction. It’s big in California, and in blogland, but no-one’s heard of it in London or Ladenburg. It’s gained currency through blogging, and one of those blogs has become a book. It’s called the Shangri-La diet.

It’s diet heaven. First of all, you remove no food sort. In fact, you have to eat MORE. I have been Shanging for four and a half weeks and have lost four kilograms (that’s nearly nine pounds). I am a Weight Watchers veteran, and still recommend it to anyone who needs the support of a weekly group and the threat of the weekly weigh-in, but it took me SIX MONTHS to lose four kilograms on WW. Shangri-La is also free, unless you buy the book, which you don’t actually need to since all the information you need is available on the web, as is the support group. So it’s free, it’s quick and it works.

Let me tell you a little more. First of all, there’s loads of science behind it, which I’m not going to explain here because I’m not a scientist and I still haven’t got my head around it yet. There are some links at the end where you can read more, and it’s worth doing because it’s fascinating. Anyway! Here’s the deal: in the morning, one full hour after you’ve eaten or had any flavour in your mouth (that goes for toothpaste and your morning coffee too) you have either:

  • one to three tablespoons of sugar diluted in 1.5 litres of water
  • a tablespoon of extra light olive oil

Then you wait another full hour before putting anything except water into your mouth. Repeat again after lunch.

I’m doing the sugar water, because I rather like sugar, the thought of schlucking oil grosses me out and also because extra light olive oil is kind of hard to find in downtown Ladenburg. The result is that you LOSE YOUR APPETITE. I have a life-long snack habit: I’m always hanging around the fridge wondering what to eat next or having a taste of whatever my kids are eating. While at mealtimes I always make healthy choices I can’t resist second helpings. In the last four and a half weeks I have stopped snacking and I eat three small to medium meals a day. In fact last night, I skipped supper because I just wasn’t hungry. Let me assure you: this has never happened in my life before – I am ALWAYS hungry.

The basic theory is that flavourless calories fill you up. Shangri-La is teaching us to eat like our ancestors, except that we don’t need to store fat against the lean years because – barring nuclear fallout or an early Ice Age – the lean years aren’t going to come. There are other theories: eating foods with a strong calorie-flavour association makes you fat (ie try to eat bland), foods that always taste the same (fast foods) make you fat because of the calorie-flavour association (so you try to vary the flavours of what you eat). It’s also recommended that you try to eat low GI foods and avoid alcohol. I’ve done all of the above, but with no concerted effort – I’ve enjoyed meals in restaurants (I was often too full for dessert – that’s a first), I often have an ice-cream with my kids, I’ve had the odd glass of wine. And it still works!

The diet was invented and tested – on himself – by a Berkeley psychology professor called Seth Roberts. His site is informative and useful. There are forums where you can register and ask questions, Seth’s blog, links to other Shanging blogs and the science in detail. There are loads of articles from converts and sceptics alike. My best is this one from the converted sceptics over at Diet Blog.

For those who’re interested in the power of blogging, the popularity of this diet has spread via online testimonials. One person has amazing success, posts about it, inspires someone else and so on. Seth talks a bit about viral marketing and how it’s worked for him. His experiment and his blog came first, and after the success of both, he got an agent and a book deal.

For me, Shangri-La is not really a diet but a tool. As a usually healthy eater and a mild exerciser, this is exactly what I need: something to stave off the hunger pangs, help me to enjoy my meals without over-eating and stop the snacking. If you’ve got two kilograms to lose or twenty, it could just work for you.

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Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

12 thoughts on “Ooh la la it’s Shangri-La

  1. Hello Charlotte, This is a great description of what is, as you say, a good tool. It’s good to hear a report from the trenches! Best, BL

  2. Freakonomics Duo Duped — Fructose Water Diet is Dangerous
    September 11, 2005
    Connie Bennett
    Living the Low-Carb Life: From Atkins to the Zone Choosing the Diet That’s Right for You
    Jonny Bowden
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    Today’s New York Times Magazine “Freakonomics” article from Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt spotlights a potentially very dangerous, health-destroying “accidental diet” that includes drinking a few spoonfuls of sugar water a day using granulated fructose.

    Taking fructose-water beverage breaks while trying to lose weight is foolhardy, to say the least — that is, if you want to be healthy and live as long as you can.

    In fact, considerable recent research shows that fructose — which is not made from fruit but rather from corn — is the most dangerous of all sugars, as I’ve reported here previously.

    Unfortunately, Dubner and Levitt — two talented, imaginative, prolific authors, who’ve penned the fascinating Freakonomics: A Rogue-Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything — have been duped in a monstrous way into promoting an unscientific diet — from an unqualified psychology professor, no less — that could cause irreparable harm and even early death.

    The last thing I want to do is disparage Dubner and Levitt. In fact, I have considerable respect for the duo, whose Freakonomics has been the #1 bestselling business book on the Wall Street Journal list for 20 consecutive weeks and is #3 today on the the New York Times list.

    Rather, I want to give New York Times readers and other folks the real scoop about Roberts’s foolhardy, fructose-laden diet.

    Basically, obese University of California at Berkeley psychology professor Seth Roberts, Ph.D, 52, reportedly used his own body as a science laboratory for 12 years, all the while diligently recording data along the way.

    Finally, after much self-experimentation, Roberts — who embraced the theory that our bodies are regulated by a “set point” — allegedly “discovered two agents capable of tricking the set-point system,” Dubner and Levitt explain in their article.

    In order to peel off the pounds, Roberts ultimately devised a dubious regime — he started drinking several ounces of sugar water using granulated fructose (instead of table sugar) and consuming a few tablespoonfuls of unflavored canola or extra light olive oil, doing both a few times a day.

    He attributes these fructose and oil concoctions as helping him to lose 40 pounds and keep it off. “He could eat pretty much whenever and whatever he wanted, but he was far less hungry than he had ever been,” the Freakonomics duo note.

    Roberts calls his preposterous weight-loss program the “Shangri-La Diet” and even enlisted friends and colleages to follow his perverted plan, and they usually had “similar results.”

    While I heartily applaud the idea of dispassionately studying yourself like a rab rat to help you lose weight and kick habits — in fact, I advise members of my online KickSugar group to “watch yourself like a lab rat” — this self-experimentation has to be tempered with informed nutritional choices. And this is where Roberts’s theories fail miserably.

    To be blunt, Roberts — whose professed research interests include mood, weight and sleep — is completely clueless about the damning science research on fructose (and also canola oil).

    Nationally known nutritionist and weight loss expert Jonny Bowden, who I was able to reach today at home, puts it succinctly. “Fructose is the most damaging of sugars. It raises triglycerides and creates insulin resistance using a different pathway than normal,” he told me.

    “Sure, fructose has a low-glycemic index, but every nutritionist worth his salt has learned that its glycemic index is irrelevant to the extensive damage that it causes,” Bowden, who is the iVillage.com “Weight Loss Coach” and author of Living the Low Carb Life: Choosing the Diet That’s Right for You, from Atkins to the Zone.

    Moreover, Bowden cautions that looking at weight loss as a measure of a person’s health is deceptive and misleading. “There’s absolutely nothing in this regimen that anyone in the field of nutrition would consider a scientific theory. ”

    “This is like models saying you can lose weight by having cocaine and aspirin in the morning or that if you ate food shaped like a heart, you’d have the heart of a lion,” continues Bowden, who punched holes in every one of Roberts’ theories, including the one about the role of sweetness and appetite.

    “The idea of sweetness not being a flavor to trigger appetite is pretty much contradicted by all the research…

    “Every person who has ever tried to lose weight — not no mention every clinician in the world — know that sweetness triggers the desire for more food,” he says. “After all, ever try to eat just one chocolate chip cookie?”

    (Read the post Bowden put on his blog today, too, after talking with me. And see the link he provided to another fructose study.)

    Russ Bianchi, CEO and managing director of the renowned global health formulation and product development firm Adept Solutions, Inc., dubs Roberts’s regime “the Bataan Death March Diet,” referring to an infamous incident in 1942 during World War II.

    “Crystalline fructose is no different from high fructose corn syrup in its metabolization and is NOT natural and NOT fruit sugar,” explains Bianchi, referring to numerous studies fingering HFCS as highly dangerous.

    “I bet BIG MONEY that if you took a triglyceride and LDL cholesterol count on this guy, it’s higher than normal safety ranges. I predict that, like runner Jim Fixx, who ate lots of fructose-containing sports bars, Roberts will drop dead of an unexplained heart attack. He’s doing considerable damage to his system.”

    Rather, Bianchi recommends that people trying to lose weight eat a calorie-reduced diet that includes dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, healthy oils such as olive oil, fish, poultry, eggs, and limited whole grains, as well as exercising, not smoking, limiting or restricting alcohol, and eating no processed junk food and drinks, particularly those containing fructose or high fructose corn syrup.

    Please, Dr. Roberts, I implore you, stop your fructose-drinking habit! If you’re so big on self-experimentation, look into some legitimate studies about fructose and then reassess what you’re doing to your body and what you’re urging others to do. You might be slim now, but your fructose habit ultimately could lead to the reverse unwanted effect.

    For your safety and well being, I urge you to confer with a fellow staffer at another University of California campus. Talk to Peter J. Havel, Ph.D., a nutrition and endocrinology researcher at UC Davis, who has done considerable research on fructose.

    Dr. Havel, whom I interviewed a while back for my upcoming book, SUGAR SHOCK!, was the principal researcher for a study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, which suggests that there’s a hormonal mechanism by which consuming a diet high in chemically produced fructose could lead people to increase their caloric intake and gain weight.

    In fact, Havel — who worked with researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of British Columbia, the USDA and the University of Cincinnati — concluded that fructose fails to trigger the usual hormonal responses that turn down appetite and increase metabolic rate and that this could lead people to take in more calories and gain weight.

    “We found that consuming fructose-sweetened beveerages with meals resulted in decreased secretion of insulin and reduced production of leptin, and both of these hormones help regulate food intake and body weight,” Dr. Havel told me.

    In fact, Dr. Havel believes, as do some other researchers, that “when fructose is metabolized, it goes directly to the liver, where it is more prone to being metabolized and converted into fat than glucose and therefore raises triglyceride levels.”

    Still other studies have shown that long-term fructose consumption can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

    “These results,” Dr. Havel notes, “suggest that long-term consumption of diets high in fructose could lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”

    Please, savvy nutritionists and doctors, join me in getting out the truth about fructose, especially to Roberts.

    For starters, enlighten Freakonomics authors Dubner and Levitt by writing to them on their blog.
    Next, dash off an e-mail to Roberts, urging him to cut out the fructose and canola oil.
    Contact psychologist Robert Rosenthal, who praises Roberts in the Times magazine piece.
    Finally, spread the word to your friends and family by sending them the link to this blog entry.
    Yeah, yeah, we’re all fully aware, as the media keep reminding us, that America is eager for the next diet craze.

    But don’t down sugar-water beverages, as Roberts suggests, because following this ludicrous diet could land you in a hell on earth instead of the promised “Shangri-La.”

    The prof’s abyssmal dieting disaster is just as bad, if not worse, than that touted by actress Rachel McAdams (“Red Eye.”)

    In fact, I recently wrote about her maple syrup regimen (here “Big Boos…,” here (“Experts Offer…”) and here (“Nutritionist to the Stars…”)

    What gives? Why, within a couple of weeks, are we hearing such nutritional nonsense about sugary beverages being a “diet aid” from both an actress and then a pysch professor? So much for my end-of-summer fun.

    God forbid, don’t start a hazardous habit of slipping a few spoonfuls of fructose sugar into your mouth to get rid of excess weight. That’s a “sacrifice,” as Dubner and Levitt call it, that you may not live to regret.

  3. Well there’s always the olive oil, which is one of the healthiest foods in the world!

  4. Surely a can of coke has at least that much sugar and god knows what else? Frutcose has become the sweetener of choice in many processed foods.

    My idiots reading of the diet didnt pick up the fructose focus.
    There are indeed issues with excessive fructose-only consumption, and these have been known for some time.

    But table sugar (which charlotte uses) is not fructose only, but suchrose, a mix of glucose, and fructose.

    The main issues with sugar seem to be with rapid raise in blood glucose and tooth decay, and if overdone, obesity, but that is due to excessive calorie intake, rather than the sugar itself. Consuming a table spoon of sugar in water isnt life threatening, otherwise lemonade would be deadly.

    Rather than pointing at this diet, surely the bigger issue is the excessive
    addition of fructose to cool drinks etc.

    The link between the brain and diet is not well understood, and rather than just focus on the chemistry of nutrition, modern medicine would be well served by looked more closely at how what we think impacts diet etc. The shangri-la diet raises many questions, and instead of waving the fructose red herring, science ought to figure out why it works.

  5. The olive oil is good for your HDL/LDL and triglyceride levels, though the sugar is less than one candy bar a day …

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you–I’m telling both of my parents about this right away!

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  9. I heard you can shock detox by drinking a large quantity of Olive Oil??

  10. The people complaining about how fructose is bad and dangerous are missing his main point – it’s the flavour that increases setpoint and lack of flavour that decreases it. Read his more detailed paper he did for the journal Behaviour and Brain Sciences here: http://sethroberts.net/science/index.html (click on the link “Self Experimentation as a source of new ideas).

    Read that and you will get better insight into the actual testing he did on himself, the reasearch and related studies and the various experiments he performed. He rules out many factors to get to test his theory, including the complaints levelled at him by the diet maven Connie Bennett (above).

    Please note that Connie’s book is all about low carb diets, which doesn’t make her the most un-biased critic. Not to mentio that Atkins and high protein diets effects on the human body are far worse (they induce ketosis in the body which, among other serious health effects, can kill you).

    A spoonfull or three of diluted sugar water dosen’t cause near the effects that ketosis does. Plus we eat that amount of sugar and more daily and no one is up in arms.

    Except the low carb diet writers.

  11. She knows her fingers, david. I passed them underwear to college g strings girls her head down on.

  12. due to the busy schedules from work, most people would just prefer to eat on fastfoods ;

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