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The Shangri-La Diet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Shangri-La Diet (ISBN 0-399-15364-0, published in 2006) is a book by Seth Roberts, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. The term also refers to the weight loss plan described in the book.

In the book, Roberts explores the hypothesis that modern food is so consistent in labeling, presentation, and flavor that people have developed conditioned responses to these foods, which he calls flavor-calorie associations. These associations, Roberts believes, lead the body to raise its weight set point, like a thermostat, triggering hunger and storing the excess calories as fat against future scarcity.

To bring weight under control, Roberts advocates consuming small amounts of very bland foods, such as extra-light olive oil (not to be confused with extra-virgin olive oil) or sugar water. (Diabetics, Roberts warns, should use the oil, not the sugar water.) The oil or sugar water should be consumed at least an hour away (i.e. before and after) from anything with flavor, even toothpaste. According to Roberts, this practice dissassociates flavor from calories, convincing the body to lower the set point, suppressing appetite, and thereby inducing weight loss without hunger. It is this aspect of the diet that inspired the name "Shangri-La."

Additionally, the book suggests "extra credit" techniques to further assist in lowering the body's set point, such as focusing on foods with lower glycemic indexes (similar to the South Beach Diet), consuming food with more subtle flavoring (such as sushi), and seeking out or creating foods with novel flavor combinations that the brain has not yet learned to associate with calories, which Roberts calls "crazy spicing."

According to Roberts and other practitioners of his plan, the diet's appetite-reducing properties are dramatic, often nearly immediate, and sustainable. Roberts states he lost fifty pounds on the diet over a period of months with virtually no effort, then intentionally gained ten back when his gauntness prompted his friends to ask after his health, and has now maintained the 40-pound weight loss for years by consuming just enough bland calories each day to remain at his desired weight. Dieters at Roberts' Shangri-La forum frequently write of being "Thanksgiving full" after consuming what they consider ridiculously small meals, of their formerly favorite foods no longer seeming appealing, and of an almost complete disinterest in (or even outright aversion to) food.

Roberts' flavor-calorie association theory was first published as part of a 2004 article on self-experimentation as a source of scientific ideas in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. This article is available at Roberts' official site.

External links

  • Official website about the book, by Seth Roberts. Includes blog and a forum.
  • Troubles in Shangri-La, criticism of the book by John Ford
  • Roberts's reply to Ford's criticism and Ford's reply to Roberts's
  • Can you fool the fat off?, skeptical take by Dr. Mark Friedman of the Monell Chemical Senses Center and former colleague of Israel Ramirez, the Monell researcher whose studies are relied on by Seth Roberts to support his theory
  • CalorieLab's interview with Seth Roberts, description of the diet, and Shangri-La Diet archives
  • Diet Channel Interview with Shangri-La Diet Author Seth Roberts,
  • -- the original Shangri-la Diet Blog
  • -- a diet link collection
  • -- the current list of "best practices" for the diet.
  • -- a good place to start for a follow-up on a seminal posting.


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