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on May 4, 2006
I was very skeptical of the claims made about this diet. Who wouldn't be? It sounds like the ultimate diet scam, designed to appeal to sedentary fat idiots who long to believe they can lose weight without expending any effort or having to give up their favorite junk food. Then I read the book. It's very clear and well-reasoned, but it was still hard to get past the fact that it goes against practically all the standard weight loss ideas I'd ever heard. Of course in the long run none of the standard ideas ever helped me lose weight and keep it off, so I decided to give this method a try. The great thing about it is, it's exceptionally easy and painless and very inexpensive to try it. Spoiler alert! I hate to give away the ending but for me at least it TOTALLY WORKS! I've noticed that people's reactions to this book, with very few exceptions, fall into two categories: those who think it's crazy and can't possibly work, and those who actually try it and are very surprised to find themselves losing weight. The book itself is kind of quirky and offbeat, but seems to be backed up by solid research. For such a small book it sure has a lot of footnotes. Can I just say something? I'm not hungry!
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on December 10, 2006
I'm yet another person who is happy with the results from following the guidance in this book. I think that it's clearly true that this "diet" (it is not really a diet per se) is working for a whole lot of people, and also that there are some people for whom it is not working.

It's unlikely that tons and tons of people are all experiencing a similar psychological effect. It's possible, but if that were true, I'd expect that some other fad would have been able to produce a similar widespread effect long ago. And if it is true, then so much the better, and the people who can't reproduce the effect, should move on, and appreciate that it does seem to work for many.

I also think the theory behind why the "diet" works is interesting, but not completely validated. That is, while it seems to work, perhaps the reasons why are wrong (more likely, that the theory isn't totally complete). I think they make intuitive sense, but it may be there's some other factor that differentiates some people, and makes the core idea not work for them.

But I think the most common reason for this not working is probably due to misunderstanding the idea. I've seen the same few mistakes made over and over:

1) Not understanding the diet, and not following it properly. When it passes by word of mouth, for example, many people will try extra-virgin olive oil instead of extra-light olive oil (ELOO).

2) If you're already on a diet, and go off that diet when you start this one (or relax your old diet in any way), you can pretty much guarantee you're going to gain weight, at least in the short term, because your caloric intake is likely to skyrocket, even w/ the appetite control from the ELOO / sugar water. That's what you get when you start eating a lot more junk than you're used to.

3) Shangri-La will make you less hungry, but it is ultimately up to you to eat less. It's clear in the book that you still need to restrict your caloric intake, it's just that the ELOO / sugar water, when used properly, can help on the appetite, making it easy to self-restrict your caloric intake. If you have some psychological need to always eat what's in front of you, even when you're full, then you may not eat any less, and you won't lose any weight.

Personally, I do have a bit of a psychological tie to cleaning my plate, especially since I paid for the food and want to get my money's worth. I'm working on that, but what I've tried to do is make sure that I put less food in front of myself to begin with. For example, there's a pizza place a few blocks from me that sells pizza by the slice. When I first started the diet, I'd get two pieces, and would end up hungry pretty soon after. A week after starting the diet, I went into the pizza place. I decided to eat one slice, and then only get the second slice if I was still hungry. I wasn't, so I left, and didn't get hungry again the rest of the day. If I'd have ordered two slices, as normal, I still would have eaten the second slice, and never would have restricted my caloric intake on the meal.

I'm still working on this. But I have found that within a week, I was able to reduce my calories by half from before starting the diet, without any real hunger discomfort (certainly, when I get hungry I eat). That doesn't mean I always take in half as many calories, mainly because there's still the psychological aspect of cleaning my plate! I've had meals where I really wasn't hungry at all a couple of bites into the meal, but I still kept eating, because I'd paid for the food...

All in all, I'm aware of this issue, and I'm still keeping the calories down, and losing weight, totally without hunger. I think I've got room for improvement, but it is coming down to concious choices. I think I'm appealing to my desire to get the most for my money by trying to order less. For example, I can now generally either eat an appetizer or an entree... I don't need both. I just pick the thing that looks best.

Hope this helps.
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on January 8, 2011
I read about Seth Roberts while reading Freakenomics in late 2007. I was unhappily overweight but didn't really want to go through the diet yo-yo, yet 1 more time. I've done South Beach, Atkins, Zone, blood type diet, low- glycemic, counting calories, and tried going vegetarian for a short while. Long story short, all the diets worked as long as I stayed on them. When I cheated on them, I binged and before long I was back to where I started from + a few more pounds. Enter Seth Roberts... I thought it sounded crazy, everyone I spoke to about it thinks I'm crazy for trying it but in the end no one can argue with the fact that I have gone from a size 12 to a size 6 and kept it off for 2 years. Never during this time have I ever felt like I was depriving myself. It was, without fail the most BORING diet I have ever done and the most SUCCESSFUL. I stopped weighing myself after the first 3 months because I've learned that my weight loss on it felt like 2 steps forward 1 step back the whole time. I'd feel uncomfortably heavy for a few days and then suddenly "woosh", I'd wake up feeling like 5 pds lighter. Weighing myself during these ups and downs ended up messing with my head as the scale would always creep slowly down but never seemed to align with how heavy or light I felt. I now use my clothes as a judge for when I need to oil up again for a week or two. (Now that I'm in maintenance phase, I generally go as much as 3 months without any oil and then a week or two of 2.5 TBS/day and I'm back on track). During my 4 months of weight loss phasing, I was doing 2.5TBS 2xs a day. (I know it's a bit more than Seth's suggested high end, but it worked for me...) I always take my oil as such:
1) I swallow a probiotic with a gulp of COLD water.
2) pour out my full oil dose into a shot measuring cup
3) tip my head back and pour a little bit more COLD water in the back of my mouth and hold it there
4) Carefully pour the measured oil on top of the cold water already in my mouth 5) Close my mouth and swallow everything in 1 gulp. That's it.
By doing this method, my stomach never hurts from the oil and I NEVER taste it. (I know it's extra light tasting, but I can still taste it when I drink it alone...bleh)

Things I never expected from this diet but nonetheless were great benefits IMHO:
1) My bad cholesterol & blood pressure had always been high before but 7 months after being on the diet my annual physical results were surprisingly great. 50% across the board except my good cholesterol which was really high.
2) I have a degenerative joint disease and my joints have been having fewer flare ups (not that they've gone away or anything medically miraculous, it's just there are more good days and the bad days aren't quite as bad)
3) My hair is thick, looks really healthy, and grows really fast.
4) I've had lunches consisting of a donut and cookies while on this diet
5) Never having to say "no" when there is birthday cake in the office
6) I've had a bagel with butter as part of my breakfast almost every weekday for the past 2+ years
7) I learned to stop eating when I was full and to not stress nearly so much about leaving food on my plate (child of immigrant parents so I'll probably never completely be able to forget that) But also learned to tell the difference between emotional eating & actually being hungry. I hadn't realized how much emotional eating I was doing until the constant hunger went away.
8) Never EVER feeling deprived. I ALWAYS got to eat what I wanted. I only ever had to "control myself" for 2 hours (x2 during weight loss phase) each day... Easiest diet trade off, ever.
9) If I'm hungry, I eat!!!

Not so great things about the diet:
1) My tailor's bill (I just recently got rid of my most heinous fat clothes as I've accepted I won't be going back that way but I had a lot of good quality clothes tailored down and down further as I lost mass and my tailor consequently loves me)
2) No motivation to exercise. I haven't worked out in over 3 years. AT ALL... I know that's unhealthy but I'm happy with the way I look and can eat anything I want, this diet killed my 2 biggest reasons for going to the gym before. (In my defense, I do walk a LOT now, so am not completely sedentary but I'm talking about the 2hour cardio + weight sessions I used to do at the gym waaaay back when)
3) Changed my relationship with food... It used to be that I would create a little drama about each of my 3 meals a day. What was i going to have, would I like it, what if it's not filling? What if I hate it, then what will I do, what time should I eat, what if that's too early/late and I'm not hungry for... over and over for each of my 3 meals... Now it doesn't matter as obsessively as it used to, before. I'm still a foodie as far as liking quality, preparation and presentation but my life does not hinge on the seemingly big questions about breakfast/lunch/dinner. I've completely forgotten to eat while on this diet and I have NEVER been that kind of person before. I've needed to find new things to obsess over and that's been kind of hard.
4) Depending on the time you take your oils, it can affect your social life. I like to take my oil between 11-1 at my desk at work. (when I was in the weight loss phase, I took the 2nd dose between 5&7) Well the timing for me, meant that I was least hungry at the end of the day so I skipped dinner more often than not. During the weight loss phase (and a few months after I cut down the oil to 1x per day) I stopped eating dinner for about 7 months because I felt really full at night. Even now in maintenance I only eat dinner 2-3 times per week. That's a heck of a lot of times that people have the opportunity to tell you you're crazy/stupid/unhealthy for not eating dinner. With my friends, it's a little easier, as by now they all know me and know I love food, I just eat less and less as the day progresses, but try explaining that to a date or your mother... not so easy... I tried varying the times I take the oils and if i take them right before I go to bed, I'm eventually not hungry in the morning and while that's easier to escape the social disapproval, I really like breakfast foods and missed them, a LOT just after a few days so I switched back...
5) Made my tastes in food change... I was an artificially prepackaged junkie and it gradually changed me and now I actually crave healthier/fresher food. It was a sad sad day when I gleefully unwrapped an oreo cakester and crammed it into my mouth only to discover it tasted like a vat of chemically laced crisco... my ode to pop tarts had to be rewritten into a mango sonata... Now that i'm in maintenance, I will say, that my love for artificial and candy has sort of come back but it goes away on my oil weeks and I finally bit the bullet and joined a CSA since I was spending so much on fresh produce anyway...(that last bit makes me sound like such a health nut, but i'm not, I swear...)
6) How often I've purchased this book because 1) Seth Roberts deserves every tiny bit of royalty from me for teaching me how to be in control of my hunger vs being at the mercy of my food obsessed stomach/brain 2) It worked for me, so I believe it should work for everyone 3) People keep borrowing my book after i've been raving about it and don't give it back... 4) I now keep a little supply of the books but I hope that everyone he helps does buy this book to give him the little "thank you" he deserves!!! :)
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on January 11, 2007
In his well-written and easy-to-understand book Mr. Roberts sets forth a controversial weight-loss idea. With much fear and trembling I decided to try his method. Because of my being a borderline diabetic, the sugar water was not an option, and I chose Refined Walnut Oil. True to what Mr. Roberts stated, my strong cravings stopped and I felt full much quicker. Also true to what he said, this won't work if a person eats when they are not hungry (emotional eating). Although I have to deal with this on my own, it is easier now that the cravings have abated.

After 2 1/2 months I have lost 26 pounds. My cholesterol dropped from 290 to 217; my HDL (the good kind) went up 9 points; my LDL (the bad kind) dropped over 100 points; and my triglycerides plummeted 100 points. I truly was amazed.

If you purchase this book, keep in mind that there are many diets available. This particular one works for me. If it works for you, great! If it doesn't, keep looking.
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on May 5, 2006
I'm so sorry that the one star reviewer didn't try the diet. I think he/she would've been surprised by how well it works. And it's not just for "couch potatoes." It's for anyone who wants to lose weight. This country has a terrible obesity problem. I know this program can help, because it helped me.

I lost 10% of my body weight in a couple of months on this program. I would like to say as emphatically as I can that the book doesn't contain "pseudo-science." The author(a Ph.D professor at one of the country's top universities!) goes to great pains to include material from other scientists and respected journals. And the footnotes are exhaustive! Sometimes when a new idea comes along, it's difficult for some to let go of old dogma. Don't be discouraged by naysayers! Keep an open mind. Try it yourself.
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on May 2, 2006
(This is a re-post of my review originally posted on May 24th, but which, somehow, managed to just disappear from this forum.)

I started on the Shangri-La diet in late September, 2005 at 184 lbs and, over the course of 15 weeks, lost 11% of my body weight (2-.5 lbs or about 1.4 lbs per week). I subsequently lost another 5 lbs over the following 6 or 8 weeks, but stopped tracking it closely enough to be sure about the timeframe. (I'm now at a body-mass index of 21.4, which is exactly where I want to be.)

That amount of weight loss is not terribly noteworthy, in my opinion, because I have lost that much weight before, and so have many others. What is noteworthy is how easy this was for me compared to the other two times I have lost weight. I did not exercise at all and - I cannot emphasize this enough - I had no ongoing, nagging hunger, and no desire to empty the fridge at 10:00pm, as I always have had in the past when attempting to lose weight. (I'll also add that most of my weight loss occurred during the period from Halloween through New Years, which is generally not the easiest time of the year to lose weight.) I continued to eat out three to four times a week, and was not very careful about what I did eat. Previously, a "good eating day" was staying at my maintenance calorie level of about 2,300 calories and a "bad" day was eating 25% more than that; using this approach, a "bad" day became getting up to my maintenance calorie level, and when I did, I physically felt like I had overeaten.

Using this approach, I just didn't feel like eating that much, and as a result, I lost weight. I did count calories - not to control what I ate - but just out of curiosity to see how my appetite had changed. On average, I easily ate about 700 calories per day less than my normal maintenance calorie level. Overall, I have found this to be an amazingly effective approach as a weight loss tool because it has made eating less very easy due to a greatly diminished appetite.

In an email to Seth Roberts before the book was published, I said that the biggest problem with the approach was that no one was going to place enough credence in it to even give it a try. (Out of 10 people who asked me about it after seeing my weight loss, not one tried it even after I provided a very detailed written summary of my experience.) I think the credibility issue comes from two places: 1) the approach seems so outrageously counter-intuitive that it comes across as ridiculous; 2) the idea of flavor-calorie associations as a leading cause of weight gain or loss has gotten very little attention because no one has previously made a connection between the fields of associative learning and physiology. However, as Dr. Roberts documents in his book, there are many research studies (see Sclafani, Cabanac, Ramirez and others) strongly supporting the notion that flavor-calorie associations do affect setpoint, appetite, and, therefore, weight.

By nature, I am very skeptical. I am also strongly predisposed towards reason, empirical evidence, and the application of science to fundamental questions. Having read Seth's original paper that preceded this book, and taken time to understand his theory, I thought it was worth a try, and so I subjected myself to an experiment - that being his Shangri-La diet. For me, it has worked amazingly well, and I've easily lost 25 lbs. (In addition to having lost a considerable amount of weight, my grocery bill has literally been cut in half.) If you are looking to lose weight, try putting aside any skepticism for a week or two and see if it works for you. Although it's possible that this approach won't work for you (nothing works all of the time), the large number of blog postings I have read, and my personal experience, give me a great deal of confidence that it very likely will.

Although there is a fair amount of information available on the internet about the Shangri-La approach, I strongly recommend buying the book. It is a very comprehensive and well laid out explanation, and it provides a substantial amount of practical guidance on implementing the approach. (The appendix, which contains a very good narrative of the research underlying the Shangri-La diet, is really worth reading, and I wish it were presented earlier in the book. If you do buy the book, take the time to read the Appendix because it will give you a very good understanding of why the approach works, and of the many studies that support Seth Roberts's theory.)
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I buy the idea that the human body has a "set point" that shuts off hunger and appetite. But I found it hard to accept that a little extra light olive oil could affect this "set point." On the other hand, what could it hurt to try? Olive oil, after all, is pretty good for one!

As the author did, I am carrying out a personal experiment. Using extra light olive oil (the author also discusses an alternative), taking 2-3 tablespoons one hour after and one hour before my next ingestion of something with "taste," I find that I have lost about 6 pounds over the past couple months. I just seem not to be that hungry and to feel "full" fairly quickly with a relatively small amount of food. Not dramatic, but suggestive?

More interesting. . . . For a period of two days, I accidentally took extra virgin olive oil instead of extra light olive oil. And I ate at my old level (too much!), much more than when I was on extra light olive oil. Now that I realize my error, I'm back to extra light.

So, what is my conclusion? I don't see why extra light olive oil should affect any "set point." However, it has seemed to work for me. So, whether it is placebo or actual, I will continue with the Shangri-La Diet!

[Postscript: I have seen a few of the critical reviewers of this book comment that while they might not feel so hungry, they eat as much as before. Indeed, when I go to a restaurant, for example, I feel "full" fairly early, but can and certainly do eat all that I have paid for. However, I don't think that this is a problem with the diet--it is an issue of the individual's willingness to stop when full. If one does not stop eating when full, that's not the diet's shortcoming. It's on me if I eat past the point where I'm full, not on the diet.]
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on November 29, 2006
This has radically changed my relationship with food. If I weren't losing weight - which I am, 18 lbs in 2.5 months so far - I'd take my 3 Tbsp. of flavorless oil each day anyhow because I'm no longer obsessed with food and eating. At first that made me sad, because food has been a huge source of joy in my life, but now I am just so relieved to be "normal." To be hungry around mealtimes instead of all day... To truly enjoy the healthiest possible foods (I crave fresh fruits and vegetables like crazy)... It's a fascinating book (backed up by a wonderfully knowledgable and supportive online forum). I first read about the concept in the Freakanomics column in the NYTimes Magazine last year. Pondered it, but didn't really do anything about it. Gained weight (ugh). Then I saw the book at the store and thought this time I'm going for it. It's healthy, cheap, and makes eating reasonably and healthfully so much easier than it has ever been before. Tip: for me, drinking alcohol counters the appetite suppression effect, so I avoid it.
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on June 3, 2006
I started this diet in November, of 2005. By June of 2006, I'd lost about sixty pounds. While I was convinced that the diet worked, I wasn't sure what value the book could add to what I could find on the internet.

It turns out that the book is well worth buying at Amazon. First, the book explained why the diet works in a way I can use to explain to other people. I've had people who refused to keep trying the diet, even after it worked for them, because they wouldn't do it if they didn't understand how it worked.

Second, the book has a lot clearer, newer and better information on how to do the diet. I got lucky with my read on what to do and how to do it. A lot of people have not had my success because they made the wrong guesses from what they could find on-line. The book is clear, direct and easy to understand.

Third, the book has additional tools and guidance. It helped me tweak what I was doing and find alternatives I had never suspected.

For twelve dollars, it is a killer deal. I save that each week in food I don't eat alone. Before Shangri-la I was over 240 pounds. With the diet I'm at 180 and still losing weight. My set point has shifted and unlike other diets I haven't had my metabolism come to a halt. When I hit plateaus is is only my body getting ready to lose more weight, not evidence that the diet has failed and I'm about to regain the weight.

This was a life changing event for me, and the book is well worth buying or giving to friends or those you care for. I've gotten four orders of the book so far to give to friends and family and we've been lucky, once they've had the book the diet has worked for all of us.
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on June 26, 2006
The last thing I ever imagined I'd be doing is writing a review for a diet book. While I have made various attempts over the years to lose weight, both successfully and unsuccessfully, I have never followed a structured, popular diet - being entirely skeptical of the weight-loss industry and abiding by the age-old adage of 'eat less, exercise more'. Finding myself in the midst of trying to do just that (eat less, exercise more) once again - only this time unsuccessfully in terms of weight loss - I was very receptive to the Shangri-La theory when I heard about it, and pleased with the perfectly reasoned and non-sensational manner in which the author presents it in this book. After about two months on the diet I have easily lost about 18 pounds so far. Yes, I have been eating much, much less yet, ironically and surprisingly, enjoying food more now than at any other time of my life and eating a broader variety of wholesome foods. I find myself seeking out new flavors and craving healthier choices.

My only (minor) complaint about this book is the way it is described on the cover as an " anything..." weight-loss plan, as if one could successfully subsist on nothing but, say, ice cream. I suspect this statement had much more to do with the marketing department of the publisher than the author himself, however. I feel the power of this method is not that it gives me the license to eat whatever I want (which it most certainly does not); rather that it enables me to put my basic knowledge of good nutrition into practice, something that I have struggled with for years. Before the Shangri-La method I understood - cognitively - the food choices I should be making (nutritious foods, smaller portions, etc.) but I had some unknown barrier to applying that knowledge to my everyday decisions. Shangri-La has removed that barrier, making it an essential tool to healthy eating.

I highly recommend this book. I am eating far less of a far greater variety of foods. And that is a delicious paradox indeed!
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