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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oil Consumption Up, Energy Demand Down
A Shangri-La Diet Update:

Gastronomically speaking, this has probably been the two strangest weeks of my life.

As I mentioned before, I've begun the Shangri-La Diet invented by Seth Roberts and outlined by his new book. Though "diet" is a loose term for what I've been doing, simply consuming 1 1/2 teaspoons of canola oil twice a day, without tasting anything else for one hour before or one hour after. Yet by doing so, I've completely changed my eating habits and have accomplished a breakthough which has always eluded me: to eat less food, more slowly.

At currently 5'8 and 225 lbs., I've always been a large quantity eater. I'm the type of guy who can eat a whole large pizza in a night, or a whole package or oreos, or a whole tub of ice cream, who always orders the large size and asks for free refills on his drinks, and always finishes his meal faster than anyone else at the table. In recent years, I've been able to mitigate this habit by low-carb eating, but that system began to break down once I discovered the "ditto foods" of low-carb candy bars and low-carb ice cream, which retrained my sweet tooth for high-carb fair. My current lifestyle involves few home-cooked meals and buying food on the go. I also will regularly consume large amounts of diet soda, easily 2-3 liters a day. But I feel all these habits now changing.

At first, the change was subtle. For the sake of full experimentation, I suspended any low-carb eating habits and decided to eat what I felt like. But on the first day, instead of getting 2 cheeseburger bites at 7/11, I oddly only felt like getting one. Or I'd order a burger and fries one night--both medium size rather than large like I usually do--and find myself taking a while to finish them. Then the change really set in. I'd buy two P'EatZZas at 7-Eleven with a snack. Usually, I'd scarf these down in no time. Instead, I'd nibble on one P'EatZZa for almost a half-hour, nibble on my snack and barely finish it, procrastinate for hours before eating the other P'EatZZa, and feel stuffed for the rest of the day. If I had a piece of candy, like a chocolate truffle, I would take several bites to finish it, savouring it for minutes. At home, I would prepare a peanut butter sandwich, and rather than big bites, I'd eat little rows at a time like corn, sucking on the peanut butter inside like a popsicle. And that sandwich would fill me up all evening.

I now have the appetite and eating habits of some 80-year old nursing home patient! When I ate dinner the other night with my wife and mother-in-law--modest portions meatloaf & mashed potatoes & green beans--I was the last of us three to finish, and felt stuffed afterwards. I was given a glass of sugar-sweetened ice tea and finished only half of it. Speaking of beverages, for no apparent reason, my consumption of zero-calorie diet soda has also has gone down. Where before, I would've finished a 20 oz glass of soda in 10 minutes, I now nurse it for up to an hour. Whereas I'd buy Two 2-Liter bottles a day, now one bottle may last me for two days.

My food-spending habits have begun to adjust accordingly. I'll see foods sold in large quantities--a long-john donut, a giant burrito, a carton of ice cream, a buffet restaurant--and can't put my mind around the idea of buying that much and eating that much. Instead, I find myself buying delicacies. Last week, I bought a Whitman's Sampler (consistent with Dr. Robert's advice not to eat the same thing twice), and spent 4 days finishing it. I buy Ben & Jerry's in pints and eat a 1/4 of it at a time, instead of a quart of plainer ice cream. When at the mall, I bought four individual gourmet Godiva truffles for $7.00. Then I spent $5.00 eating a small bowl of du jour potato soup with some bread on the side. All of this was food I really enjoyed and savoured, and it was my main meal for that whole day, compared to the $12.00 I may have spent on large quantities of mediocre food at a weekend lunch buffet. In this sense, I experience the "Shangri-La" part of the diet: I enjoy a better quality and variety of foods, foods which I would've shunned for fear of eating them in mass quantities.

This change, frankly, has also been oddly depressing. I use to eat alot, and enjoy doing so. But I now feel like I'm not good at something I use to be good at, and don't know what to do with the time I spent pre-occupied with food. I jokingly described it to my wife as "being impotent", but with food instead of with sex. And I was the Hugh Hefner of food. But I'm getting over this, and feeling encouragement that I'm able to moderate behavior I wasn't able to before, that I've found a physiological solution to something I've traditionally considered a vice and a moral failing.

From the past week or so, I've felt a very slight weight-loss, which I can't confirm from the usual variation on my bathroom scale, and may just amount to wishful thinking. As you can tell by the above, I'm not abstaining from traditionally fattening foods, so I may just be breaking even. If there is any weight-loss from the above behavior, it could take a month to notice effects. But I can easily see myself taking the canola oil for the long term, and using that method in combination with other dieting techniques. I can also better feel a calorie "set-point" that Dr. Roberts speaks of. There are days when I will eat alot, and when I add the calories, find that I should be gaining weight at that rate. But the next day, I'll have little if any appetite. Or if I consume a certain type of food I was craving, like meat, my appetite will drop. Overall, I now feel like my appetite is working for me instead of against me.

I'll keep you all posted if there's any progress. If I lose 5 pounds as is, I'll consider the diet a success. If I gain 5 pounds or stay still as is, I consider it a failure and adjust my behavior accordingly.

4 Comments:

Blogger Stephen said...

You've nailed it, just like it felt for me. I've lost over fifty pounds so far (I started in November of last year), and it has been a success for me.

Wish you the best.

5/05/2006 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been taking light olive oil between meals for about a week or ten days. It's adding up to something. For one thing, I have lost a few pounds. But the really interesting thing is the change of mental experience about food.

I have had a number of experiences similar to what is described in the main entry. Last night I went to a diner about 9 pm with my wife, opened the menu, and had this EXTREMELY STRANGE THOUGHT that went, "Thank God they offer small Greek salads!"

My usual thought would have been, "Am I going to be restrained enough to eat just a small salad? God, I'm really hungry. Maybe a big salad with chicken on it."

I find myself eating much smaller amounts and savoring the food intensely, without the kick-in of ravenous ingestion. I still finish what I put on my plate, but I buying small bowls and plates of things...and finding the idea of large portions really unappetizing.

This is very very strange, and I dig it.

John Maguire
Lowell MA

5/18/2006 6:35 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I am consuming a tablespoon or so of extra light olive oil in the evening, along with the vitamins, minerals, fish oil capsules I take daily. I'm assuming this is a good practice, as the oil is food and probably helps the supplements not get lost in digestion - that is, absorbed.

I have found that yes, I am less hungry this week. I am also eating a very carb restricted diet currently, something which has worked for me in the past. The consumption of fats has always tended to lessen my hunger - so I can't say hands-down it is the oil that is helping. What is oil after all, but liquid fat? But is it the tasteless aspect of the oil?

I had dinner at Outback Steakhouse last night and I noticed that, other than consuming only half my meal, the food tasted really, really good. Even the unsweetened iced tea tasted a 9 out of 10.

5/18/2006 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you all eating your 3 meals a day and putting in the sugar water or olive oil inbetween breakfast/lunch and lunch/dinner? I don't understand how to do this program and I have a lot of weight to lose and want to get started.

6/29/2006 2:00 PM  

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