Assorted Links

These final assorted links were found in draft mode. – Amy

  • Postdoc leaves academia (fMRI emotion research). “I actually ran into that process in three different labs, two of which were at TopUniversityA with PIs who I highly revered and respected. It’s just how it goes in those fields…remove all of the negative results, don’t actually report the ridiculous number of fishing expeditions you went on (especially in fMRI research), make it sound like you mostly knew what you were going to find in the first place, make it a nice clean story. When my colleagues (from a well-known, well-respected emotion research lab) were trying to talk me into removing all of the negative results and altering what my original hypothesis was, literally saying “everyone does it…” that was it for me. I had a sinking feeling that everyone did do it that way and that I couldn’t trust the majority of work I had to depend on/reference myself. The level of denial in psychology and human neuroimaging research that this process just clogs the system with useless BS is something I just can’t stomach.” Devastating criticism — especially finding the same thing in three different labs. I believe nothing involving fMRI and psychology. My friend Hal Pashler wrote about this. At UC Berkeley, the fMRI machine used by psychology researchers malfunctioned for years. Nobody noticed. Only when someone from UC Davis got different results at Berkeley was the problem detected.
  • interview with me about the Shangri-La Diet. The questions do a good job of making the mechanism clear.
  • Little or no benefit of antidepressants when children are asked

Thanks to Nile McAdams and Alex Chernavsky.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s and Cory Montieth’s Death From Heroin: Why?

Philip Seymour Hoffman, the great actor, was found dead a few days ago with a needle in his arm. Last year, Cory Montieth, the actor, died in similar circumstances. Why did they die? It was hardly the first time they’d taken heroin.

Starting in the 1970s, Shepard Siegel, a psychology professor at McMaster University, did a series of rat experiments that showed that drug tolerance and craving involved a large amount of Pavlovian conditioning. Repeated exposure (e.g., injection) of Drug X in Situation Y (e.g., your bedroom at 11 p.m.) will cause learning of an association between X and Y. This association has two effects. First, when exposed to Y, you will crave X. Second, when you take Drug X in Situation Y, the effect of the drug is diminished. You become “tolerant” to it. Continue reading “Philip Seymour Hoffman’s and Cory Montieth’s Death From Heroin: Why?”

Which Ideas of this Blog are the Most Useful?

“Your writing has dramatically improved my health in a number of ways,” a reader said. I asked for details. He replied:

I’ve tried most of your health interventions. The first was SLD. Overall, I lost about 90 lbs. Roughly half of this was from a more traditional diet of eating whole foods esp. vegetables and exercise. I had plateaued until I discovered SLD and lost the rest. I added flax oil, butter and homemade kefir to my taste free meal over time. The butter helped me lose more weight. At the same calories, the saturated fat was somehow more filling. Initially the butter made me happier but that wore off after a few months. My HDLs and triglyceride levels are better than when I was training for a marathon and not eating this stuff. The flax oil has improved my gum health. I can’t really see a direct result from the kefir. I’m more eating it on faith. I skinned my knees quite badly a while ago. My wife commented on how quickly I healed. So maybe the kefir and other items are helping me heal faster. Continue reading “Which Ideas of this Blog are the Most Useful?”

“Hunger is a Necessary Nutrient” (Ancestral Health Symposium 2013)

Nassim Taleb said this or something close to it on the first day of the Ancestral Health Symposium in Atlanta, which was yesterday. Danielle Fong told me something similar last week: We should use all of our metabolic pathways. Of course it is hard to know what metabolic pathways you are using. In contrast, Taleb’s point — not original with him, but a new way (at least to me) of summarizing research — is easily applied.

What I know overwhelmingly supports Taleb’s point. 1. When I did the Shangri-La Diet the first time, I was stunned how little hunger I felt. This wasn’t bad — presumably my set point had been too high, lack of hunger reflected the dropping set point, it was good to know how to lower the set point — but it was dreary, not feeling hunger. It was as if life had gone from color to black and white. Something was missing. 2. Data supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting, which produces more hunger than the control condition. 3. The experience of my friend who had great benefits from alternate-day fasting. He told me he had never felt hunger before, at least of that magnitude. A great increase in hunger, in other words, happened at exactly the same time as a great improvement in health.

Obviously Taleb is talking about hunger caused by lack of food, rather than hunger caused by learned association (if you eat at noon every day you will become hungry at noon, if you eat every time you enter Store X, you will be come hungry when you enter Store X, the existence of this effect is why they are called appetizers). The Shangri-La Diet reduces your set point but only if your set point controls when/how much you eat is this going to make a difference. So to lose weight you need to do two things: 1. Lower your set point. 2. Lower your weight to your set point. While SLD certainly does #1, it does not do #2. You can make sure your weight is near your set point if you feel strong hunger if you don’t eat for a while.

Taleb’s comment suggests focussing on the outcome of fasting, rather than on its duration or frequency. Instead of fasting every other day (or whatever), fast until you feel strong hunger. How often you need to do this, how strong the hunger should be, are questions to answer via trial and error.



Congratulations, Morex! Shangri-La Diet Success

The photo on the left was taken summer 2011; the photo on the right was taken June 2013. He lost 75 pounds in 5 months. Morex writes:

All my life I had been the fat guy. I was that kid in school that couldn’t run or go out and play because I was too heavy. You know how that is.

My teenage years and all my adult life I had been the fat guy. Until today.

I tried every kind of diet to my knowledge. I exercise since I have memory. But I never could lose enough weight or maintain the little weight loss I could achieve.

Until I read Freakonomics, which led me to research about Seth and SLD, which led me to these forums and to reading the book.

So last January [January 2013], after reading a little about how SLD works, I decided to give it a go.

He gives details here.

Teeccino Tasting Notes

I started drinking lots of tea when I started the Shangri-La Diet. The diet made me crave food with smell, which tea provided. I started chewing gum, too, but that was less enjoyable, maybe because I never became a gum connoisseur.

I recently learned about Teeccino coffee-substitute “tees” (brewed like tea) from Patrick Pineda of Tisano. They resemble Pero but with more flavor and variety. I really liked the first two flavors I tried (Vanilla Nut and French Roast) so I wrote to Teeccino asking for samples of all the flavors. In addition to no caffeine, Teechino drinks are high in inulin, a soluble fiber.

Here are my comments on the samples.

Dandelion Dark Roast. Similar to French Roast (relatively strong coffee taste) but more earthy-tasting. Maybe that’s the dandelion.

French Vanilla. Strong vanilla taste. Too much like vanilla for me, I want something more complicated.

Caramel Nut. Halfway between  caramel and burnt caramel, which I like. As complex as French Roast.

Mocha. Excellent. Complexity of coffee plus complexity of chocolate.

Chocolate. Like mocha, except darker coffee flavor.

Original. Excellent. Weaker coffee flavor plus fruity complexity.

Almond Amaretto. Wonderful combination of coffee flavor with nutty almond/amaretto flavor.

Java. Rounded coffee flavor.

Chocolate Mint. Enough mint but not enough chocolate and coffee.

Southern Pecan. Delicious. Pecan and coffee flavors well-balanced. I wonder: What does Northern Pecan taste like?

Maya Chai. Tastes like chai. I would prefer, in addition, a dark coffee taste.

Shangri-La Diet Success, Including Better Sleep

Greg Pomerantz writes:

Over the Thanksgiving [2012] holiday, I suggested to a relative, Richard, that he try the Shangri-la Diet. At the time I had heard about it but did not know anyone who had tried it. I did not have any particular reason to think it would work, but since Rich had tried a number of other diets (including low carb, which he is still following for the most part) I thought it would be worth a shot.

He started the diet over the Thanksgiving holiday and has kept it up since then with a few breaks. He lost 13 pounds in the first month and another 6 pounds over the next two weeks. Altogether he lost a total of 32 pounds over the 16 weeks following Thanksgiving, an average of 2 pounds per week. During this period, he traveled a fair amount and was not able to maintain the diet every day. However, he reported that one of his favorite things about the Shangri-la Diet is how easy it is to restart after a lapse. He began using extra light olive oil but has switched to walnut oil.

There were two surprising results other than the weight loss (which I think is exceptional in its own right). First, his blood sugar control has improved, even compared to the low carbohydrate diet he was (and still is) consuming. Second, he has been sleeping better at night due to a reduction in his nighttime appetite. I believe the two may be related — one of his medications for type 2 diabetes greatly increases his appetite and causes weight gain. He has been using much less of that medication because of his improved blood sugar on the Shangri-la Diet. Therefore, reduced appetite from the diet plus a reduction in an appetite-increasing medication results in lower nighttime appetite and therefore better sleep.

Lose Smell, Lose Weight: Evidence For the Theory Behind the Shangri-La Diet

A friend of this blog writes:

What prompted me to try SLD: When I first went paleo I dropped 30 pounds with no exercise or food restriction, but my weight has been stable for about a year. In January and February [2013] I went through a bad allergy spell, with my nose congested all the time. I dropped six pounds in that time. When the seasonal allergy went away, the weight came right back. Calories without smell suddenly look like a big factor.

Here is a paper about the theory behind the Shangri-La Diet.

Does Unfamiliar Food Cause Weight Loss?

My theory of weight control predicts that eating unfamiliar food will cause weight loss. As food becomes familiar, we learn to associate its smell with its calories. Stronger smell-calorie associations produce a higher set point than weaker ones. Unfamiliar food has not yet gone through this learning process.

One way to eat unfamiliar food is to travel to another country. When I’ve done this, I’ve usually come home a few pounds lighter, supporting the prediction.

Another way is to have someone else choose what you’ll eat.  This is what Dan Goldstein did. “I emailed my friend Dan Reeves, who has a fitness-expert sister named Melanie Reeves Wicklow, to request a healthy diet I could follow for seven days with no exceptions.” He thought of it as a diet where he would make no decisions about what to eat.

Here’s what happened on Day One:

Discovered that if you eat oatmeal with an egg in it instead of just oatmeal, you feel full for much longer.

Here’s what happened overall:

I lost 15 pounds in about a couple months after the “no-decision” diet. (I lost no weight during the week of the diet).

My explanation: During the week of the diet, he ate the specified amounts, which were more than he would have eaten based on hunger. This kept his weight up. During the following weeks, three things happened: 1. He resumed eating according to hunger. His lower set point caused lack of hunger, which caused less eating, which caused weight loss. 2. Because he ate less, his set point went down. 3. During the no-decision week, he picked up some new habits, causing him to eat less familiar food during the following weeks. He says that the no-decision week “changed his cravings” and caused him to “commit to eating better”.

He also says the no-decision week caused him to exercise more but no details are given. I doubt this made a difference. Few people lose 15 pounds in two months from exercise so minor that they don’t bother to describe it.

Thanks to Andrew Gelman.

Furikake (Japanese Condiment): Attention Crazy Spicers!

From a trip to Japan a friend gave me a mystery jar of some sort of flavoring. It turned out to be wasabi-flavored furikake. Furikake is used to season rice, I learned. It vaguely resembles salt and pepper but is far more complex and powerful. A version I bought has 25 ingredients, including sesame, wheat flour, lactose, salt, MSG, salmon, fish bone powder, and soybean protein. I use it many ways: on roast beef, eggs, and yogurt, for example. It is the easiest way I know to make hamburgers taste good.

The nearest Japanese market (in Berkeley) has 25 different types, I discovered. They cost about $4 each. I bought four. I’m going to buy ten more, to use for crazy spicing (randomly varying the smell of food to prevent strong smell-calorie associations from forming).

Assorted Links

Thanks to Rashad Mamood.

Assorted Links

Thanks to Bryan Castañeda.

Great Side Effects of the Shangri-La Diet

In a recent post on the Shangri-La Diet forums, Morex, who lives in Mexico, describes several great side effects of the Shangri-La Diet:

1. At peace with food. “I am in control of what I eat. If I want I have a piece of chocolate or some peanuts, but food is no longer in command. Food is no longer an obstacle or an excuse. This is FANTASTIC! For 40 years I had a horrible relationship with food. It commanded my every activity in the day. I was always on the look for better flavors and foods that would quench my never fading hunger. This is no longer an issue.”

2. No more junk food. “Thanks to SLD, I quit junk food. I no longer crave it and when I have tasted it, it’s horrible! Too salty and greasy. Or too sweet. That means no soda, pizza, chips, donuts, candy or anything like that. When I want something sweet in the afternoon, I’d have a teaspoon of honey and that’s it.”

3. More money.  “We eat so little that we are saving extra cash. Who knows, maybe we could soon afford a nice vacation on the beach! (Vacations for Mexicans in Mexico are VERY expensive.)”

4. More time. Much more time. “Since we have been doing SLD, our days are longer! Because of the fact that we eat so very little portions, we are barely cooking. And when we do, it lasts for about 4 days! Before SLD we spent about an hour a meal. 30 mins. cooking, and 30 mins. eating. Some days it was longer, depending on what we cooked. That means that we spent about 3 or 4 hours a day cooking and eating. Now we prepare meals in about 10 minutes and eat in about 5!!! That’s right. For breakfast I have half a bran cookie, some cereal or some fruit. For lunch I just heat up in the microwave something we cooked. For dinner we have a little oatmeal or cereal. And that’s it! My days are longer for 3 hours! We have been reading our books (we’re book worms here), watching movies we didn’t have the time to watch and going out for walks!! FREAKING AWESOME!”

I didn’t have the first two problems (loss of control and junk food) but I too distinctly noticed saving money and (especially) time. Just like he says. It’s been a long time since I wrote The Shangri-La Diet but I think I failed to mention how much time and money I saved. (If I’m wrong, please correct me.)

What about his weight? He doesn’t have a scale but says this: “Before SLD I was size 44. Today [after 2 months of SLD] I am 38, which I haven’t been able to wear since I was in the University (19 years old).” He wants to get to size 36. He also posts several pictures, before and after.

Thanks, Morex.


Shangri-La Success in Detail

An Indianapolis man named Hugh, who goes by Nufftin on the Shangri-La Diet forums, has been blogging about his weight loss (including graphs) at increments of 10 pounds lost (he writes a post when he’s lost 10 pounds, 20 pounds, etc.). So far he’s lost more than 50 pounds and is close to his goal weight, which is near his weight in college.

I decided to read all the entries and note what I learned. He started more than a year ago.

November 2011. He’s been gaining weight for a long time. He is about 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighs more than 200 pounds, giving him a BMI in the 30s. He does not explain why he decided to try it. He has nice clothes that no longer fit.

April 2012 (10 pounds down). It took a long time to lose the first 10 pounds because he started just before Thanksgiving and Christmas, big eating holidays, and he gave up. He started again January 1 and gave up again. Then he started again in February. Daily weight spikes can be as much as 4 pounds (he weighs 4 pounds more on Tuesday than he did on Monday), but that only happened once (New Year’s Party?). After he becomes consistent with the diet (in February), the graph of his daily weights is enormously convincing that the diet works.

May 2012 (20 pounds down). Here’s exactly how he does the diet: “a shot glass full of extra-light tasting olive oil in the morning, with no eating for an hour each side; two heaping tablespoons of table sugar dissolved in as much water as it will take to dissolve it in the evening.” (You can see why I would write a rather short book about such a diet.)  He also does 15 minutes of exercise most days but I won’t describe it in detail since it doesn’t seem to matter — he stops exercising but keeps losing weight. Some old clothes now fit again. Only two people have commented on his weight loss. Maybe everyone notices but intentional weight loss is so rare it could be he’s dying. (Which is what one of my Berkeley colleagues thought about my weight loss. He actually said, “Are you dying?”) No one wants to hear that.

July 2012 (30 pounds down). The diet does require some effort. “I lost concentration for a couple of nights and, BOOM. To be fair, it was due to two great dinner parties (feta cheese hamburgers and The Descendants at one, Cuban sandwiches at the other).” These two “losses of concentration” did not have long-term effects. After 5-6 days — how long it took an unusually large amount of food to pass through his body and his salt balance to return to normal? — after those parties, his weight returned to its usual downward line.

September 2012 (40 pounds down). One of his shirts is now too big for him. He gained 6 pounds during a two-week trip. The gained weight comes off quickly (in about a week) but this time there is a noticeable long-term effect: Weight loss resumes at the same rate as before but the function is shifted by two weeks. He stops his 15 minutes of exercise and nothing happens to his rate of weight loss.

January 2013 (50 pounds down). It has taken 15 months to lose 50 pounds. There was one serious plateau, from December 2012 to January 2013, where he did not lose weight. Almost all of his pants are too big. He can take off his shirt at the pool.


Impossible Things That Are True: The Shangri-La Diet and the Behavior of Goldman Sachs

It simply cannot be that drinking sugar water causes weight loss. Sugar caused the obesity epidemic! It simply cannot be that eating fat will cause weight loss. Eating fat is why we’re fat! Everyone knows this. It simply cannot be that whether you smell a food while you eat it makes any difference. Weight loss is all about calories in, calories out.  The Shangri-La Diet says all three things are true. I cannot think of an historical precedent. Science has uncovered all sorts of unlikely stuff but nothing so surprising that is also immediately useful.

I thought of the Shangri-La Diet when I read this description by Michael Lewis of what Goldman Sachs has recently done: Continue reading “Impossible Things That Are True: The Shangri-La Diet and the Behavior of Goldman Sachs”

Assorted Links

Are Low-Carb Diets Dangerous?

A link from dearieme led me to a recent study that found low-carb high-protein diets — presumably used to lose weight — associated with heart disease. The heart disease increase was substantial — as much as 60% in those with the most extreme diets. (A critic of the study, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, called the increase in risk “incredibly small“.) Four other studies of the same question have produced results consistent with this association. No study — at least, no study mentioned in the report — has produced results in the opposite direction (low-carb high-protein diets associated with a decrease in heart disease).

I find this interesting for several reasons.

1. I learned about the study from The psychological costs of obesity are huge. The popularity of low-carb diets probably has a lot — or everything — to do with the failure of researchers to find something better. I have never seen people who criticize low-carb diets appear aware of this. I disagree with a lot of Good Calories Bad Calories but I completely agree with its criticism of researchers. Continue reading “Are Low-Carb Diets Dangerous?”

Best Introduction to the Shangri-La Diet?

A long thread at Mark’s Daily Apple may be the best introduction to the Shangri-La Diet. It is dramatic (people object, people say the diet is crazy), varied (many voices, many sorts of data), responsive to feedback (questions and objections are answered) and no doubt more convincing than my book (because it isn’t by me). The helpful elements include:

1.  An introductory success story (from a woman named heatseeker) that I have already blogged about.

2. Someone makes a common Paleo objection — it works because of macronutrient ratios. “You have stumbled on the perfect macro ratios for you!” Heatseeker says this is unlikely because she barely changed her macro ratios. She answers many other questions and objections (e.g., “how do you choke down the coconut oil?”).

3. Someone says it didn’t work for them (“neither did anything else”). Continue reading “Best Introduction to the Shangri-La Diet?”

Success on the Shangri-La Diet

Over at Mark’s Daily Apple forum, someone named heatseeker posted this:

I hesitated to post a thread about this because I feel like these forums have been overrun with “fad” diets and hacks lately–and because it’s honestly so bizarre-sounding that I feel a little silly admitting it–but my success on the Shangri-La Diet has been such that I felt I should share. I’ve had serious body fat setpoint issues since, oh, college, I guess–six years–and after watching my setpoint slowly creep up throughout my 20s with absolutely NOTHING making any difference, I’m finally losing weight steadily. I’ve lost 13lb and it’s still coming off like clockwork. Nothing else in my diet or exercise regimes changed, and I’ve experienced no strength losses (I’ve continued to make gains, actually).

I use refined coconut oil, 2tbsp/day. I was using unrefined at first but the flavor was too strong.

Has anyone else done the SLD, and had success? I just felt like I should spread the word, because I know there are some other setpoint-challenged people on these forums, and this has been a big breakthrough for me.

“I haven’t heard about it,” responded zoebird. Then someone posted several links.

Is Jimmy Moore’s Ketosis Diet the Shangri-La Diet in Disguise?

I have recently encountered three examples that suggest low-carb diets don’t work well long-term:

1. Alex Chernavsky tried a low-carb diet in 2002. Starting at 270 pounds, he lost 70 pounds. A year later, he started to rapidly regain the lost weight. He stopped the diet.

2. A “medical professional” started at about 260 pounds (she’s 5’3″).  After reading Wheat Belly, she gave up wheat. “After several months of being wheat free I lost 10 lbs. But that’s where it stopped.” Then she did  full low-carb. “From May to July I did what basically was Atkins induction. I lost 20 lbs but then the weight loss stopped.”

3. Jimmy Moore lost a lot of weight eating low-carb. Starting in 2004 at 410 pounds, he lost 180 pounds. Then he gained half of it back, ending up near 300 pounds in early 2012. Continue reading “Is Jimmy Moore’s Ketosis Diet the Shangri-La Diet in Disguise?”