Explaining Seth's

Appetite Theory



The claim: A small amount of flavorless calories makes you substantially less hungry the whole day.

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*we don't advocate any particular nutrition theory and we have no association with seth or his ideas. If you're here to test this with us and you worry about placebo effects you can skip to the bottom and sign up (if it's still open).



Your body has a set-point, like a thermostat setting for your hunger. If your set-point is higher than your weight, you're mostly hungry. If it's lower you're mostly not.


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+ You can expand this to read Neurobiologist Stephan Guyenet on a variant of Setpoint Theory

"Yes, we are overweight because we eat too many calories relative to energy expended. [But only] restricting calories isn't necessarily a good solution because the body will attempt to defend its setpoint, whether high or low, by increasing hunger and decreasing its metabolic rate. That's why low-calorie diets, and most diets in general, typically fail in the long term." (M.I.T. Medical concurs: "The ideal approach to weight control would be a safe method that lowers or raises the set point rather than simply resisting it.")

Elsewhere he describes the mechanisms: "The reason is that this short term meal to meal energy homeostasis called the sytadin system. Basically, when your body senses that you’ve had enough food to fulfill your metabolic needs, based on your habitual meal pattern, then it sends signals to the brain via stretch receptors in the stomach and via a variety of gut hormones that communicate to the brain. A lot of it is going through the vagus nerve. That’s the short term homeostatic regulation system.

"The long term homeostatic system is, again, in the same way that the brain is measuring the internal state of the body by monitoring the digestive track after you eat a meal, the brain, and this time it is primarily the hypothalamus, is monitoring the size of your body fat stores. Like any negative feedback system, just like the thermostat in your house, you have to have a signal that’s travelling from body fat to get to your censor. So that signal, in this case, is primarily the hormone Leptin."

Note that Guyenet does not endorse Seth's version of set-point theory, and you can read more from Guyenet here.



Raising Your Set-Point (Hungrier)

Eating flavorful calories that you enjoy is 'feast mode' and raises your set-point. "Time to fatten up because it's summer but winter is coming!"



Lowering Your Set-Point (More Full)

Calories from foods you don't know put you in fasting mode and lower your set-point. "Since we're scrounging for unfamiliar food I guess winter is here. Time to conserve!"


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So far so good! We'd just need to eat unfamiliar things to lower our set-point.





Wouldn't I just acquire the taste and stop finding it 'unfamiliar'?

Yes you likely would. But Seth had a clever idea for this...

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A clever idea:

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"Eat flavorless calories. You can't acquire a taste if there's no taste!"


*again, This is all according to the late Seth Roberts, a professor whose work we are summarizing, and who is pictured as a little cartoon right there. 


Seth's Approach

Consuming 200 or so flavorless calories lowers your body's set-point and makes you less hungry. Seth's tests found that extra light olive oil (NOT extra virgin olive oil) was flavorless and calorie-rich enough to do the job in about 2 Tablespoons.

He also stresses that you can't have any flavors (or strong smells!) within an hour of the oil, before or after. If you do, your body will just assume that those oil calories came from whatever you tasted and you won't see the appetite reduction.


You actively feel like not eating … It’s a kind of not hungry that you’ve never felt before
— Joyce Cohen, NY Times columnist.

Why Test


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Because "Despite reports of such drastic success from many credible observers...

...this beautiful and elegant theory has never been analyzed by controlled experiment." -Eliezer Yudkowsky


And so here we are

We are running a (controlled) test of Seth's Theory. If you're able to click this then the alpha is still open:




Below I'll list some resources if you'd like to read more about Seth's Theory. We found many inaccurate summaries of the idea out there so be careful.

1. Seth's Blog (official) 2. LessWrong (intrigued but somewhat critical) 3. Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz pts. [1], [2], [3] (starts out skeptical)

here's the best critical exchange on the theory that we found. if you have a better critical source--that clearly understands the theory-- please do get in touch and we will add it. Also, StephAn Guynet, Lyle McDonald, and others suggest that alternate theories may be compatible with ELOO working as seth suggested. the test we're performing here won't rule out all other competing theories but it is a step forward since 1. it attempts to isolate a mechanism (appetite) and 2. it tests the the flavorless 'window' not just the eloo itself. you can find more details in the faq.

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