Interview with a Shangri-La Dieter

A few days ago I asked Mark Qualls, a 59-year-old truck driver who lives in Longmont, Colorado, about his success with the Shangri-La Diet, which he posted about.

How did you learn about it?

Freakonomics.  When I read about you in that book, it made sense to me. The whole idea of a setpoint. I used to be an accountant. I weighed 290 pounds. I’m 6′ 2″. I lost 25 pounds when I started driving a truck. I’ve been there for almost 12 years. Around 260. I get a lot of exercise delivering groceries. I can eat anything I want but the idea of going on a diet makes me hungry.  My doctor said lose a bit of weight but I just couldn’t do it.

How do you do the diet?

I use canola oil. I tried flax seed oil but it has a horrible taste. I have no problem taking the oil. I feel like I could do the oil for the rest of my life. At least 4 tablespoons per day. I don’t measure it. I have a jar by a sink at home, another in my truck. I take a sip, what seems about a tablespoon. I figure I’m getting at least 4 tablespoons per day.  Some days I may get only 3 tablespoons.

What effect has it had?

I feel like I’m in control. I stopped drinking sweet tea, used to drink tons of it. For 20 years. I’ve been able to stop. I couldn’t stand drinking water. Now that’s all I drink. That’s all I’ve had for two months. The most bizarre thing to me in the world. I deliver to convenience stores. All they have is soda pop and doughntuts and all that kind of stuff. I’d stop and have a doughnut and chocolate milk. Now I can go without it. I still think about it but now I can say  no.

What about weight loss?

I’m down from 255 to 229 – a little over 2 months. I don’t really try that hard. I pretty much eat what I want. On two days per week I try to eat hardly anything. Unless I almost eat nothing, I stay at the same weight. It’s not hard to do it – to eat almost nothing. Almost any time of day or night I think “I could eat something”. But then it’s okay not to. It gives you willpower – that’s how I explain it to people. Find the book and read the whole thing, I tell them. They need to understand the whole concept before they start taking oil.

Any downsides?

Eating is enjoyable to me. My mom is a great cook. My wife is a great cook. I like to eat. It’s emotionally satisfying thing to eat stuff. But when I take the oil I can not eat.  Now I eat slower. To try to enjoy the little bit of food you do it. You’re not going to eat 3 more times today. I tell myself, I’m going to enjoy every bite of this cottage cheese. Because that’s all I’m going to eat today. The social part I miss. It’s a social part of your life that you don’t have any more. Most of the time I’ve gone to eat with people since I started, I go ahead and eat something because I don’t want to be a jerk about it. I still lose weight. That will be a day where I don’t lose weight when I go out to eat. To lose weight I have to have a day when I don’t eat anything. Today is a day where I told myself I want to lose 1 more pound. I ate breakfast with a friend,. There’s nobody who expects me to eat with them. My wife’s away.

How do other people react?

My wife’s a skeptic about the whole thing. She doesn’t think I can’t keep the weight off. One lady at church, she got the book right away. She’d lost 50 pounds eating 1000 calories per day. She started the oil. She’s gung ho about it. We see each other Sunday: how much did you lose this week? we ask.