Shangri-La Diet by Seth Roberts

How would you like to lose weight just by taking a spoonful of sugar or oil twice a day, without adding exercise or going on a special diet? Seth Roberts says it’s possible and has lost weight with his method. He has dubbed his unique diet “Shangri-La” and believes it’s a simple and enlightening idea that anyone can achieve weight loss success with. We picked up a copy of the book, but were left with more doubts than anticipation.

We’ve always said that all diets work, if you stick to them. The trick is to find a diet that fits your personal tastes and lifestyle, because that is the one you will stick to. We’ve all been through the motions of diets that restrict carbs, fats, and portions. The one thing they have in common is that they provide guidelines of which foods you should eat, and which you should avoid. This seems to work for most people, as long as the foods on their list were foods they enjoyed. Many people don’t follow specific diet plans, but just do their own thing. Even they usually know what foods are better for them to eat, and which foods signal trouble.

The Shangri-La Diet is different from the above diets because in Shangri-La, it doesn’t matter what foods you eat. In Shangri-La, you are never hungry, so you can choose any foods you want without worry of overeating. Well, it’s not quite that simple. You are encouraged to choose foods without much flavor, but you won’t care because you aren’t hungry anyway. If you eat more flavorful foods, you might change your mind about being hungry and eat too much.

Roberts doesn’t exactly offer a diet plan in his book. You won’t find guidelines for healthy eating. You won’t even be encouraged to exercise. Several chapters are devoted to explaining the set-point theory (how much our bodies want to weigh) and how choosing low-flavor foods can change it.

The main point of this book seems to be appetite suppression. The author offers two concoctions that are supposed to suppress your appetite and help you eat less during your meals. One suggestion is sugar water. You combine 3 teaspoons of sugar with a glass of water and drink it an hour before mealtime, or an hour after your meal. The other option is to combine flavorless oil such as canola or extra light olive oil, with water and drink that. The problem: Most overweight people do not overeat because they are hungry. We polled more than 10,000 dieters last year and learned that only 6% overate out of true hunger. The rest ate out of boredom or from stress or other emotional reasons. An appetite suppressant may not be the answer for most people.

Roberts theorizes that our body’s set point is largely affected by the flavors of our foods. He believes that if we eat foods with less flavor, that we can lower our set point and make it easier to lose weight. There may be some truth to how flavor affects our diets and weight. However, we prefer the basis behind the Flavor Point Diet, by David Katz. According to Katz, Flavor variety stimulates the appetite center in your brain, while flavor repetition soothes it. You can eat a variety of flavors over time, but eating too many flavors at any one time puts your brain’s appetite center into overdrive. Katz takes the idea much further by developing a diet plan around flavors. Instead of suggesting we eat flavorless foods, he suggests we plan meals around specific flavors to have the same effect – but taste better. Katz also makes sure that the flavorful meal plans are nutritionally balanced and calorie controlled.

Does it work?
We noticed mixed reactions from people that have tried the Shangri-La diet. Many people said it didn’t work. Either it didn’t suppress their appetite, or it DID, but they still didn’t lose weight. Some people said it worked for them, once they combined it with Weight Watchers or a 1200-calorie diet plan. Think about that one. And then there were some people that claimed it really did suppress their appetites so they ate less, and gradually lost weight. If or how it may work for you will depend on what you actually end up eating over the course of the day. There isn’t anything magical about sugar or oil alone. You will have to eat less overall. You really should pay attention to the types of foods you eat and not just let your appetite (or lack thereof) be your guide. One thing we’ve all learned from the health consequences of being obese is that the types of foods we eat are crucial to our health, not just our weight. Something else to consider is that this theory may be similar to hypnosis in that you have to want it to work for it to be successful. The power of suggestion could be an important factor. Shangri-La is a mythical place, so you may have to open your mind for this to work for you.

Fitness Factor: Shamefully absent. Roberts not only tells us that exercise is not necessary for weight loss success, but also indicates that activity levels have nothing to do with obesity. Shangri-La indeed!

Pros: The book is interesting. It may be a wacky, but of all the fad diet ideas, this is probably the least harmful to try. Plus, it’s cheap!

The concept is hard to swallow. Literally. Drinking oil is not very appetizing! We also found some advise confusing. For example, we are advised to eat something new every day, cooking from scratch and constantly trying new flavors via foods and seasonings. Two pages later, we are advised to eat flavorless, bland foods. The plan does very little to promote healthy eating or fitness.

Who is this diet best for? This diet might work for the 6% of overweight people that overeat due to true, physical hunger, and are open to the idea that they can suppress their appetites through oil or sugar water.


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