The Shangri-La Diet

Most interesting diet (fad?) in a long time. I first read about it at Aaron Swartz’s weblog, and he posted a followup today.

This is where Roberts’s big insight comes — he argues that we use a Pavlovian sort of flavor-conditioning system to see whether food is scarce. If we eat foods frequently, we grow to like their taste, and thus our brain realizes we’re eating them out of choice and raises the set point. On the other hand, if we eat new foods or foods with little taste, our brain assumes we’re eating them because there’s nothing else around and the set point is lowered.

And thus, the way to lower your set point: eat foods with no taste. Of course, they have to have calories as well, so Roberts’s preferred suggestion is extra-light olive oil (ELOO), which is basically just oil with absolutely no taste. Your body gets the calories but it doesn’t get the taste, so the set point goes lower every time you eat it.

Possibly just another diet fad, but easy to try, and unlike Atkins (for example) would appear to have no (potentially) dangerous side-effects. Most interesting to me, whether it’s this diet or some other future “eliminate fat” method/technology, are the societal implications.

Among those results: lots of people you know getting thin. It’s difficult to imagine what this is going to be like. The fat guy at the office won’t be fat anymore. That cute-but-slightly-overweight girl you’ve had your eye on won’t be slightly overweight anymore. Social dynamics will be seriously disrupted in a way that, to my knowledge, has no analog. People have gotten taller, and thinner, and prettier over time, to be sure, but never quite this fast.

Imagine if your weight were a choice, and everyone chose to be thin. Imagine if, in the span of two or three years, everyone were the exact weight they wanted to be. Eating whatever you want, no complaints about your weight, clothes fit more or less forever. It’s nearly unfathomable. Some magazines would die. Whole companies profiting on diets would go bust. Exercise would be focused on mobility and endurance rather than weight loss.
If this happened, people might actually have the attention span to focus on government corruption and nuclear war in the Middle East and electronic voting machine rigging and possibly slow the decline of our republic and the destruction of our planet.