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The Shangri-La Diet: What Went Wrong?

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Andrew Gelman astutely noted that the three researchers (Michel Cabanac, Anthony Sclafani, and Israel Ramirez) whose work I used the most to come up with the Shangri-La Diet were not at Harvard or Yale or Rockefeller University. Isn't that where breakthrough research is supposed to come from? This wasn't the only way that development of the Shangri-La Diet was not quite "right":

1. The research of Cabanac et al. got little recognition. The set point idea arose in the 1950s, or even earlier. In the 1970s, Cabanac saw very clearly that your set point depends on what you eat. With Rabe, he did an excellent experiment supporting this view. Not one weight-control researcher took note. No other lab built on this work.

2. I was not a weight-control researcher. In graduate school, I studied animal learning. Weight control is not just a different field of psychology; it is usually studied in a different department (nutrition or physiology).

3. The research I did was not funded. Given my lack of credentials and previous experience, it is not obvious it could ever be funded.

The hard-core defender of the system would say: SLD is rubbish. Just another fad diet. The open-minded defender would say: What do you want? You were a tenured professor at Berkeley. You published your work in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. It is well-recognized that really new ideas often take a while to be appreciated. The open-minded critic would say: All three points are correct. In addition, why isn't Israel Ramirez still a scientist? After all that brilliant research. What a loss. The hard-core critic would say: SLD reached the public as a self-help book. Why give the system any credit? Lots of non-scientists have published influential self-help books.

The hard-core views ignore reality. The SLD forums make it clear SLD is not rubbish. The notion that the system should get no credit at all ignores the fact that I made a living as a scientist at a well-respected place and published my work in a well-respected journal. The open-minded views, however, are both reasonable.

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