This post is getting a lot of hits, months after I wrote it, so I ought to qualify it. In the initial month of trying the Shangri-La diet, it seemed to work a treat. After that it got complicated, and there are several further posts on this blog about what went wrong and how I tried to get it working again.
I certainly weigh less than before I tried it, but the amazing initial success lasted for exactly a month and then failed, in exactly the manner that habitual dieter friends have told me that any 'miracle diet' always does.
After that, I had to hack it a bit to get it to start working again, and that required that I understood the mechanism by which it is supposed to work. I then experienced a couple of months of slow weight loss.
I am sure that this (modified version) works for me. Your mileage may vary, but I do recommend you try it. You'll know quickly whether it works for you, but if it does, watch out carefully for signs that you're getting used to the taste of the tasteless calorie source, and take appropriate action. The version that worked for me is:
Drink 300 calories worth of extra-light olive oil first thing every morning and immediately wash the taste away with water. Let nothing except plain water pass your lips for one hour after that. Apart from that, eat whatever you like, whenever, for whatever reason. It doesn't matter in the slightest if you miss the odd day.
Here's the original post:
Well, in a qualified way.
The favourite notch on my belt has moved one place smaller. I'm visibly thinner and feel it. And the appetite loss is undeniable. I've pretty much forgotten what it's like to be hungry.
I'm slightly annoyed to have found evidence for something so silly on my first attempt to run an experiment on myself, and I strongly suspect that I've done something wrong, but I can't figure out what.
There are various reasons to believe that I've fooled myself here, but I don't find any of them really convincing:
Primarily, I've smoked more this month than I was expecting: There've been many cricket matches to play, many birthdays to celebrate, an old friend died and there were two associated wakes, and the Town Bumps races led to entire week of heavy drinking.
So I've essentially been drunk for the entire month. When you're drunk your willpower goes, and this tends to lead to smoking. But I'm nowhere near back to my usual rate.
But this may well be the whole reason for the weight loss. If a mild increase in smoking works this well I'm surprised it's not recommended for health reasons. I mean, it's obviously deadly, but I think most people would swap ten years of old age for a lifetime of obesity. And I've never heard anyone recommending heavy drinking as a route to weight loss!
My second reason for doubting myself is that I found I wanted the Shangri-La diet to work. It's clearly ridiculous, in fact if you were wanting to come up with a parody Placebo-Diet backed up with crazy pseudoscience you'd be hard-pressed to do better than this. The only improvement I can think of is to use sugar-pills instead of olive oil. And that's apparently pretty much what the original version Seth Roberts came up with was like.
Originally I was interested in checking out a hoax that appears to have convinced many people despite a complete lack of rigorous evidence. But the minute I noticed the appetite loss I started to believe, and I found I wanted it to be true. Around half-way through the month I noticed that I could wear my belt comfortably on a tighter notch in the morning, and I found myself trying to wear it on that notch throughout the day even though it became uncomfortable.
However, I've noticed this effect, and I've tried to counter it, using the defence that Eliezer Yudkowsky has called the Litany of Tarski: "If this works then I want to think it works. If this does not work then I want to think it does not work. Let me not become attached to beliefs I may not want."
And I'm pretty sure now, after 30 days, that it's moved slightly more than a whole notch. My belt is comfortable on its third notch in the morning and stays there all day now. At the beginning of the month I wrote that it was notch two in the morning and needing loosening to notch one as the day wore on.
So I'm calling this as a qualified success for Seth Roberts and Shangri-La. I'll update as planned so:
The odds of this result for the Willpower theory I guessed at 5/126. for Shangri La 50/137. For Helplessness 5/126
And I took my prior to be H60:W39:S1
So I update to H 60*5/126: W 39*5/126 : S 50/137
Multiplying through and rounding off: H55:W36:S9
And suddenly I'm shocked! This doesn't reflect my current beliefs at all.
I've tried this new thing. It clearly works. Emotionally I'm convinced that it works, and I'm going to keep trying it for the next month and I now confidently expect that it will continue to work.
Bayes is telling me that I don't have enough evidence to update my beliefs like this.
Given how unlikely I thought this theory was a priori, the fact that my test has landed on its central prediction should most likely indicate that some other theory is true, but that my weight loss happened by accident.
I can completely buy that now I've thought about it. The helplessness and willpower theories have had some of their probability mass stolen by the mad Shangri-La theory, but a one-person test (even if I had made accurate priors and controlled outside factors, which I didn't even attempt), is nowhere near enough to give Shangri-La an edge.
In fact the sheer dodginess of my one-person trial, and the placebo effect and various other expectation effects mean that I shouldn't update even this much, but if I had found no effect and refused to do the full update then I'd accuse myself of being biased, so sod that.
So I'm going to try to believe that there's a ten per cent probability that the Shangri-La Diet works. I don't think my brain's really set up for that!