Adventures in Shangri-La

by Megan M. on August 18, 2006 (Blog) |

I promised a long, long time ago (about halfway through my trip, I think) that I’d post about these olive oil adventures I’d been having. So I’m going to do that now. There’s not a lot to it – just enough for me to remember and try to experiment accurately with – but it’s an interesting idea.

I’m not going to try and explain how it works. It has to do with your body weight set point and how your body decides to raise or lower that set point based on taste-calorie associations. For all of that, you’ll have to read the book or look it up on the web (the information might be floating around somewhere). But here’s what happened.

The day before I left for Wales, I drank a water bottle full of water, plus 400 calories of sugar. Nothing else – no lemon, nothing. Just sugar water. It gave a fun sugar high, but that high was nothing compared to the high I got from starting this book: The Shangri-La Diet, by Seth Roberts. It was very wacky. It was far too crazy. It was even crazier than something that would prompt you to say, “It’s so crazy, it just might work!” That crazy. Much too crazy. Ergo, incredibly fun!

I decided that with singing coming on I didn’t want to be guzzling sugar water every day, so I bought a bottle of olive oil to bring with me. Every day, an hour after consuming any kind of taste or food whatsoever, I’d drink three big gulps of olive oil. Then I’d wait another whole hour before consuming any kind of taste or food whatsoever, and then just go on with my day – eat whatever I pleased. I mean, within reason. Not trying to diet, not stuffing myself like a monster.

I did this every single day. Sometimes the novelty of drinking olive oil would make me feel a little bizarre (and sometimes icky). But it was over as quickly as it had begun and I just kept doing it, once a day.

After about a week I started to notice something weird. I’d been prepared for it, intellectually – but when it actually happened, it still took me by surprise.

I wasn’t hungry.

At all.


I started having to remind myself to eat, even if I wasn’t hungry – because if I didn’t remind myself, I wouldn’t eat, and at the end of the day I’d be dizzy and woozy from not having gotten any nutrition! I was all right for the first few days – I was sleeping all the time because of my jet lag, so it wasn’t an issue – but as soon as I started trying to really do anything, I had to make sure I got fed!

When I ate, it was new and interesting. It wasn’t about the quantity of food I could get into my tummy… it was suddenly about the quality, about the fabulous taste of things, instead of the bulk of them, “enough food” to keep me satisfied. I wouldn’t eat much – just something reasonable, and then I’d stop. I was eating far less, each meal, than I used to. Maybe even about half – it was strange and bizarre. And later that day, I’d still have to remind myself to eat.

This had a really neat effect on my day to day existence. All of a sudden, I didn’t spend half my day wondering what I was going to eat next. I didn’t sit around trying to concentrate, craving something like sugar and feeling bonkers. It was incredibly weird, and fabulous.

Shortly before I started competing that week, I stopped drinking the olive oil. I didn’t want to have to think about it while I was concentrating on performing, and I figured the effects would continue to last at least a little while. And as it turned out, after my parents got there, I had a little more money for food, so it wasn’t such a big deal, to be hungry.

A few days after I competed – about a week after I’d stopped drinking the olive oil, I started to get hungry again. It started very small – but it increased gradually until it got just about to where it was in the beginning. And I thought, when I get back to the States, I’m going to have to try this again, and see how it works.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Part of the theory is that the number of calories you consume in the form of sugar water or olive oil (and certain other kinds of oils) can’t hold a candle to the number of calories you save by not being obsessed with food – and I think it’s right. And I didn’t drop any pounds while I was gone – I was more interested in being able to afford to eat, and not starving all the time! But I think now I know why.

I was drinking far too much olive oil.

Those three big gulps? Totally not comparable to three or four tablespoons, which is about 400 calories. I was drinking maybe twice as much, maybe three times as much as I was supposed to. Which totally makes sense in light of having not dropped any pounds (in addition to my frequent Desserts in the Name of Relaxation), but also makes me a little concerned that the effect won’t be as dramatic this time, when I take the recommended amount instead of my drastic I-Don’t-Have-A-Tablespoon-Available dosage.

But… it might work just fine.

So I’m going to see what happens. Yay for self experimentation! Anyway, it’s a really interesting book. I hate reading books with ‘diet’ in the title, but the thing greatly amused me and you might get a kick out of it, too. And if you do pick up – let me know what you think, I’m interested. And I’ll keep y’all posted on my olive oil / sugar water experiment. :P

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