Baltimore-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Spiro Antoniades hit rock bottom in 2004 when his own doctor told Antoniades he was starting to become diabetic.
"I panicked and took a whole week off work, which for me was a big deal," says Antoniades. "I went to the medical library and studied everything that I could think of."
Like many other people struggling with excess weight, Antoniades had tried other diets before, but without success. "And I was exercising three or four times a week pretty vigorously, but not enough."
The answer came in a bottle. A hot sauce bottle. Antoniades began to use hot sauce to punish his bad behaviours. "I knew that hot sauce, hot peppers and chilli peppers suppressed my appetite and kept me from overeating," he says.
"The hot sauce diet was, for me, the catalyst. I already understood everything I was doing wrong, but even though I consider myself a very disciplined and smart person, I couldn't control myself."
A year after starting his hot sauce diet, Antoniades had lost 70 pounds and put his personal dieting experience into an inspiring and humorous book called The Hot Sauce Diet: A Journey of Behavior Modification (iUniverse, 2006).
The science of hot sauce
Hot sauce works to advance weight loss in three ways, says Antoniades:
1. It's an appetite suppressant.
2. It makes you thirsty, which makes you drink more water and therefore eat less.
3. Hot sauce is toxic and can make your face flush and feel uncomfortable. This discomfort creates a situation of aversive conditioning.
Antoniades took a shot of hot sauce when he was experiencing abnormal eating behaviours that included a feeling of being way too hungry. The hot sauce shot would curb his hunger.
Is it as simple as it sounds?
No, says Antoniades. He maintains that you have to know yourself and the wrong behaviour for his method to be successful. Antoniades recognized early in his own weight loss process that one of his weak periods was after work. "I'd come home starving and I'd eat the whole family dinner before we even sat down at the dinner table, and then I'd eat another dinner."
Antoniades employed his "pushback" -- one teaspoon of hot sauce in a glass of tomato juice -- to calm his appetite, pique his thirst and cause him to drink water. He found that, by using his pushback, he was able to eat dinner normally.
At work, Antoniades would do the same at lunch, liberally lacing his soup with hot sauce. Then, using a stopwatch, he timed himself with a goal of taking 10 minutes to finish his soup. "That's something else I've learned from the behavioural psychology research. It should take you about 20 minutes to eat a meal. My meals used to average 30 seconds."
How to make the hot sauce diet work for you
1. Count your calories and know the details of your diet.
2. Slap the Angry Hungry Man (or Woman) with some hot sauce.
3. Let the sauce work, and drink a lot of water to remove the burn.
4. Eat a balanced, sensible diet.
Dangers of consuming too much hot sauce?
"The active ingredient in hot sauce is capsaicin," says Antoniades. "It's toxic, but you have to drink about 1.5 litres."
What about ulcers? Antoniades cites a study where rats subjected to lethal doses of capsaicin died from respiratory failure and, upon autopsy, no ulcers were found. But what if you're a human? "I was worried about ulcers when I started the diet, but I found nothing happened. In fact, there's no scientific evidence that spicy food or substances cause ulcers."Page 1 of 1