Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shangri-La Diet Experiment

I'm going to try to run a fad-diet experiment on myself. Here's the protocol:


For the whole of July, when I first wake up every morning, I'm going to drink two tablespoons of Sainsbury's Mild Olive Oil. As far as I can tell, this stuff is absolutely tasteless. The only way you can tell you've swallowed it is that your teeth feel oily.

After that, for one hour, I'm not going to let anything that tastes of anything into my mouth. Not tea, not toothpaste. Water is ok, but nothing with flavour. It strikes me that the easiest way to manage this will just be to go to sleep for an extra hour, but if I don't feel sleepy then I'll just read a book or go for a walk or something.

That's it. After that hour is over I'll just completely forget about it, and eat what I like when I'm hungry, and do as much exercise as I feel like.


I have three models for what will happen, and I'm trying to distinguish between them:

Shangri-La: Seth Roberts is right. My appetite should lessen dramatically, and as a result of eating less my weight should drop by a considerable amount. Some advocates have been reporting 2-3lbs a week. That's a vast difference, a stone over a month,  and should be easily noticeable. I'd imagine that my favourite place for a belt will move a couple of notches.

Willpower: The 'standard model' weight change = calories in - calories out. Notable both for its obvious thermodynamic truth, and for the persistent hopeless failure of its (naive) prescription ( try to eat less and do more exercise to lose weight ) over many years. I'll be consuming around 300 kilocalories a day extra, and so after 30 days I should have 9000 extra calories of fat, which is about 3lbs. That should be noticeable. 

Helplessness: My own theory is that a set point weight exists for each person, and that any exercise you do will be compensated for by increased appetite. (Fast carbs can screw up this system and cause obesity, and it appears that smoking can screw it up and cause leanness.), and that the extra 300 kcal should be precisely balanced by a loss of appetite at other times, and at the end of the month there should be no difference at all.

There's obviously also the confounding factor that I'm probably still adjusting to semi-giving up smoking. I can't say whether that will currently be moving my weight up or down, but let's just assume that after six months the effect either way will be small.

Current State

At the moment I don't know my weight and I don't care either. Within reason, muscles are good, fat is bad, and they both weigh something. What I care about is the increasing spare tyre round my waist.

My waist measurement is currently a whopping 37". In the morning, my belt feels comfortable on its second notch. On the first notch it doesn't hold my trousers up. On the third it feels a bit tight and I get the urge to loosen it when I sit down. As the day wears on, I tend to need to loosen it a bit.

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