Today's post, Akrasia and Shangri-La was originally published on 10 April 2009. A summary (taken from the LW wiki):


The Shangri-La diet works amazingly well for some people, but completely fails for others, for no known reason. Since the diet has a metabolic rationale and is not supposed to require willpower, its failure in my and other cases is unambigiously mysterious. If it required a component of willpower, then I and others might be tempted to blame myself for not having willpower. The art of combating akrasia (willpower failure) has the same sort of mysteries and is in the same primitive state; we don't know the deeper rule that explains why a trick works for one person but not another.

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This post is part of the Rerunning the Sequences series, where we'll be going through Eliezer Yudkowsky's old posts in order so that people who are interested can (re-)read and discuss them. The previous post was The Unfinished Mystery of the Shangri-La Diet, and you can use the sequence_reruns tag or rss feed to follow the rest of the series.

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A line of conversation with DaFranker ( ) suggests to me that some people may be fighting the wrong causes by seeking to confront akrasia.

On another line of thought, one diet I was on - <500 calories a day - required zero willpower to maintain once I had been on it for a week or so (the benefits were significant enough and the return rapid enough that I had no desire to go off the diet). (Essentially I copied the HCG diet without the HCG. High protein, low carb, low fat.) Lost somewhere in the vicinity of forty five pounds, of which I've regained twenty five since dropping off of it. Preparing to go back on an approximation of the diet (leaving out the fruits and crackers this time and trading them in for whey protein to support heavy exercise).