In a series of posts, each titled Calorie Learning: [something], I’m going to use a blog to communicate self-experimentation. To see the whole series, look in the category Calorie Learning (under Self-Experimentation).
This research will be about how we (or at least I) learn to associate flavors with calories — more precisely, smells with calories. This learning is at the heart of the Shangri-La Diet, which derives from a theory that says the flavors of your food increase your set point if they are associated with calories. The stronger the association, the bigger the increase.
Why study this? 1. Maybe I can improve the diet. 2. It matters. It happens with every bit of food you eat. It controls what you eat and your appearance (assuming my theory is right). 3. Little is known about it. As I wrote in the appendix to The Shangri-La Diet, Anthony Sclafani has studied this learning extensively in rats. No one has studied it extensively in people. 4. The experiments can be simple and easy — or at least that’s what I think now.
A few weeks ago, a friend told me how much she liked those cellophane-wrapped white-bread sandwiches sold in delis and bodegas. Egg salad sandwiches, for example. They were addictive, she said. That sounded about right: White bread (and bread in general) is digested very fast, witness its very high glycemic index. Fast digestion means the calorie signal it generates in the brain overlaps a great deal with the flavor signal it generates in the brain. The more overlap of the two signals, the stronger the association created. The stronger a flavor’s association with calories, the more you like it.
Her comment gave me an idea: I can create a random new flavor by randomly combining many spices, mixing them into butter, and spreading the butter on white bread. The spices supply the flavor, which I can reproduce as often as I want by making a big enough batch of spicy butter when I start. Spice mixtures are cheap. I can easily and cheaply make a huge number of flavors that should taste entirely new. This means I can start fresh — which is where you want to start when doing a learning experiment — as often as I want. White bread is cheap, easily available, has little flavor, and provides a strong signal per calorie. If I want to increase the time between the flavor and the calories, maybe I can spread the butter on crackers, which have few calories, and eat the bread later.
Will it work? Stay tuned.