The Silicon Valley Diet

Not long ago, while en route to lunch in downtown Palo Alto, I ventured into my dour pal, Arthur. He’d lost so much weight that I hardly recognized him. He looked like a walking snake or eel. His eyeballs, that protruded somewhat, were the only round things. My very first thought was that he had been dying from a horrible, wasting disease.
“Dude,” I said, “you look amazing!”

He shrugged, dourly. “How would you do it?” I inquired.
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Kate Moss · Daily Mail

“I’ve been seeing a diet doctor,” he said, also sketched out the diet plan which allowed him to shed 80 lbs. I made an appointment to see his Silicon Valley diet doctor daily. And, over the subsequent half an hour, I, also–nearly effortlessly–shed 50 pounds from the 205-pound temple which was my entire body…

During the developed world, people worry about being overweight. And in California, the fixation on the body and all of the ways it can be manipulated is especially intense these days. You’ve probably heard of Timothy Ferrissand the 2010 publication that got people worked up about biohacking, The 4-hour body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Unbelievable Gender, and Becoming Superhuman?     Never mind that science tells us that diets don’t work over the long run and may even cause obesity. We’re optimists out here and believe that, provided enough brain power and venture funds (along with the perfect concatenation of diet, drugs, software and gadgetry) we will be able to outwit nature. The aim is to sip from the fountains of affluence with impunity–and perhaps even live indefinitely.

Currently, two daily diet fads are battling for the hearts and pie openings of this Valley’s chubberati.

The primary one is a brand new riff about the ancient practice of fasting.   Its poster child is Phil Libin, as initially covered within  this profile in WIRED.   A co-founder of Evernote and CEO of an AI incubator known as All Turtles, Libin seats a WhatsApp forum made up of 2 dozen Valley grandees who have been experimenting with “intermittent” fasting–going without food for extended stretches of a day or days. Libin occasionally goes at a time, says WIRED. That being Silicon Valley, lots of folks who quickly scrupulously monitor their own body chemistry and then tweak it through vitamin supplements. Even the proponents of the diet also say that it gives them more energy, better concentration and stable moods; weight loss is only a happy side effect.

Naturally, there are skeptics.   Some say   that fasting chiefly created them more hungry, and weight loss was minimal. Other people say the diet is little more than (per Quartz) “proof that self-denial is your newest indulgence for elites.”
I’d like to live forever. Why not? It is a really cultural belief that we’re predicted to perish. Everybody in the past has died. I’d rather be optimistic.
Geoff Woo, CEO of Hvmn · Recode

Another diet in vogue out here is a souped-up version of the older, low-carb strategy that was popularized in the turn of this century as the Atkins Diet.   The breakthrough thought was that by reducing to a minimum the amount of carbohydrates one ingested, the dieter may induce “ketosis” where the entire body feasted on its own cells. However, the Atkins Diet was be unsustainable for a lot of its devotees. I tried it for a year and then shed 25 pounds immediately away. Eating beef for lunch, dinner and breakfast –washed down with a cappuccino made out of whole cream! –was interesting for a while. Then I    began to emphasise nonstop about crusty bread and beer and pizza…And one day, I went to a carb binge, and they found me glassy-eyed and in the gutter with Toll House cookie cutters on my lips. Within a few months, all of the weight, plus five bonus lbs, returned.

But now, very low carb is right back, and badder than ever before. The new and improved diet is based on food supplements which attempt to excite ketosis. The poster child for this particular diet fad is Geoff Woo, that conducts a Valley company named Hvmn that generates “nootropics”–over-the-counter, body-enhancing medication. In particular, based on the recent Atlantic article, the startup makes a foul-tasting elixir named Ketone which is supposed to mimic the exact fat-burning consequences of fasting with no forcing you to quit eating. That said, Woo takes Ketone and fasts, 18 hours daily, and contributes a WeFast set  of more than 7,000 people that are interested in the diet plan. You can learn more in his biohacking podcast.

Again, weight loss is not the most important reason to begin guzzling Ketone. The aim is to improve the functioning of your body (athletes) and brain (tech CEOs( presumably).

Here, also, we find   naysayers who question the viability of the strategy. See specifically this New York Times article, which cites a recent Australian study which found that ketones (the generic chemical, not the Hvmn brand(especially) actually induced athletes to perform worse than  people that took a placebo.

Yum: Who wants several zucchini “noodles?” Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket through Getty Images

The path my friend Arthur and that I took was pioneered by Dr. Bradford Rabin, a Stanford-educated economist who moved on to medical school and eventually became interested in diet –especially since some of his tech startup spouses were overweight. His LiveLight program depends on small, daily doses of phentermine, a common diet pill that’s been prescribed (with some controversy) since the 1950s. The medication kicks off a daily regimen which continues having a protein shake of Rabin’s own design, a low-fat, low-fat diet (no sugars, no dairy, a lot of vegetables) and plenty of daily exercise. He tracks patients’ progress by means of a phone app that doubles as a food journal, among other matters.

After the first day or two, I truly got into it. The daily weigh-in had been just like an endorphin hit, and the phentermine suppressed my appetite, letting me quickly proceed beyond the typical plateaus that stall dieters. (A negative effect of doubtful worth: The speed gave me so much energy, so I began writing weird   short fiction concerning Silicon Valley.) I got into shape, began running and running 10 miles on my 60th birthday in February. And after fourteen years, I’d lost so much weight that I looked like a snake that was walking, and also my friends were alerted I had a wasting disease. It turned out to be a happy time.
After approximately five decades, 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight than they lost. Long-term studies reveal dieters are more inclined than non-dieters to become overweight over the subsequent one to 15 decades.
Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt · The New York Times

But after I hit my target weight, I quit the diet also, like the protagonist in Flowers for Algernon, gradually began to backslide. 2 decades later, I’ve placed on half the pounds that I lost, which was not unexpected. I’d discussed the entire sustainability dilemma with Dr. Rabin and reasoned that if I couldn’t change my eating habits (that he recommended) I could go back to him to get a song up. Which I mean to do, as soon as the holidays are over.