Be sure to check out my Potato Hack Diet Best of Page.
I had no plans to post my Week 1 results, but I wanted to share how things are going on the Potato Diet. For a background to this post see The Potato Diet – My Plan to Lose 15-20 Pounds.
Last week I ate nothing but cold boiled potatoes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Unlike my initial experiment, I decided not to weigh my intake. A big appeal to the Potato Diet is that you shouldn’t need to measure anything. It works by filling your belly with heavy low-calorie potatoes. If should be very hard to eat to a caloric surplus. It should even be hard to eat to maintenance calories.
WEEK 1: -3 pounds and -0.5 inch (widest point) 🙂
My measurements were taken Sunday to Sunday. Weighing myself immediately after three days of potatoes heading into Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been a useful number if I used the regular food days to overeat. I am pleased with those numbers, but I hesitate to get excited because almost all diets start off strong. The real test will be seeing how it progresses in the next two months.
The three days I ate potatoes were highly productive. I got a lot of work done. I don’t think potatoes are magical. They might be, but I reasoned that not having to think about food and food preparation for three days freed my mind up to focus on other tasks. And as a result, I performed those tasks more efficiently.
So Cheap It is Silly
I discovered that Grocery Store Outlet sells a 3-pound bag of small potatoes for 99 cents. The idea of being able to feed yourself with real food for $1 a day in America is amazing. That is cheaper than when I ate street food in Thailand and Cambodia.
Most days I eat out for lunch. Add a cheap breakfast and a home-cooked dinner and I’m looking at maybe spending $15 a day on food. Often less. If I buy 15 pounds of potatoes (that is the high estimate) a week for $5, then I’m actually pocketing $40 each, and every week I am on a 3-day Potato Diet.
Many diets require an increase in spending. Special foods and supplements can be costly. The Potato Diet is so economical, I decided that even if it turns out to be unsuccessful, I might do it periodically just to pocket some extra money.
Photo by Renoir Gaither
One of the most interesting aspects of the Potato Diet is satiety is reached much quicker than when you eat normal food. When I eat a normal meal it takes so many minutes before I am full. It is a ritual that I have done thousands of times. Eating just potatoes disrupts that ritual.
Because potatoes are so filling, I started eating slower. I’ve always known eating slower was a good idea, but on the Potato Diet is more than a good idea. If you eat quickly or even normal fast, you might get a stomach ache. There were two times this happened to me. Now I am eating slower.
Exercise and Movement
My exercise did not change. I still did two weight training sessions at the gym. However, the amount of walking I normally do greatly declined. So my 3-pound weight loss was not impacted by changes to my activity. If anything, had I walked a normal amount last week, I might have lost more weight.
Eating Regular Food After 3 Days
I imagined myself eating a lot of food after 3 days of potatoes, but I didn’t. It was Thanksgiving Day and I never ate less food on that holiday. I also didn’t desire sweet foods. There is a big bowl of Halloween candy in our kitchen that I didn’t touch once. In the week after Halloween, I was visiting the bowl a few times a day.
Another thing I noticed was that I craved protein. More than normal. After 3 days of eating potatoes with just 5% protein, I wanted eggs, tuna, and meat. This could be another pathway on why the diet works for many. It is well known that appetite is lower and calories drop when protein is increased. So my week was a cycle between two fat loss strategies. First consuming heavy low-calorie potatoes to reach satiety easier and then following that up with higher protein to also increase satiety. And if you add in how the lack of taste lowered my desire to consume calorie-dense foods, you have the 3 of the main dietary paths to successful fat loss as outlined in Ari Whitten’s excellent book Forever Fat Loss.
Forever Fat Loss: Escape the Low Calorie and Low Carb Diet Traps and Achieve Effortless and Permanent Fat Loss by Working with Your Biology Instead of Against It by Ari Whitten
I am not an expert on the Potato Diet, but I will do my best to address some of the questions I’ve received in comments and elsewhere.
Q: Why are spices not allowed?
A: If one can’t eat potatoes to caloric excess it shouldn’t matter if salt or other spices are added. Adding salt is not suddenly going to make me eat an extra pound of potatoes. I suspect the benefit of not adding spices is not about restricting the number of potatoes you consume, but your relationship with regular food. When I deprived my tongue of flavor for three days, I wanted foods with simple flavors. Eggs, fruit, baked chicken, and other basic foods all tasted wonderful. Better than they did prior to depriving myself of spices for three days. Basic foods have an edge over modern foods in that we tend not to eat them to excess.
If you absolutely must have spices or you aren’t going to attempt the diet, then I say add the spices, but you won’t be getting all the benefits, and **my guess** is you might be more likely to eat foods with richer flavors that are more calorie-dense on the non-potato days.
Q: Why is this diet not recommended for those who eat every several hours?
On Vegetable Pharm, there is a detailed explanation. Search for the phrase “Not recommended for people who eat every 2-3 hours”. This is a warning for people that have known blood sugar issues or eating disorders to do their own research and get doctor clearance before doing the diet. For healthy people that eat every 2-3 hours (Zone Dieters), I think the Potato Diet might be a good tool to relearn what satiety feels like. Eating 5-6 small meals a day without getting full makes me more and more hungry. The potato is a good teacher. I snack less because I’m full from the prior meal and I know I’m not getting a distracting novel flavor.
Q: Is there a difference between starchy and waxy potatoes?
A: I could not find an answer to this one. I suspect not. The calorie density per gram does not appear to vary much. If there is a difference, I suspect it is minor.
I want to say that I still drink black coffee and espresso. Having carbs with my coffee makes me feel better. I’m far less likely to get jittery or crash. When I did Intermittent Fasting I often felt awful after drinking coffee. Not at first, but over time. This is a big reason I picked the Potato Diet over IF, even though I got results with IF years ago.
The best resource for the potato hack is the Tim Steele book Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified.
Nov 30, 2015 — 12:10 pm
Interesting stuff, been waiting for an update before I try (for loss and gut health)
How long do they keep when boiled?
Would cold baked potatoes work as well, or is the boiling important?
Nov 30, 2015 — 12:16 pm
Good job, MAS!
Now, to take it to completion. 3 days a week should have you at goal weight in a month or two. Then 3 days a month, or a couple times a year, will keep you there.
Nov 30, 2015 — 1:46 pm
This is inspiring! I am going to try doing this diet every other day and see what happens. Even if my weight loss is not dramatic, I like these features:
• Anti-inflammatory effect of potatoes
• Simplicity, not thinking about food choices
• Low cost
• Protein hunger bounce (I always get a big protein hunger from IF, so I know how that feels)
• Satiety without needing to fast 100%
What’s not to dig?!
Nov 30, 2015 — 1:55 pm
Good idea to eat slowly. I’ve been getting an upset stomach after eating about 1.5-2lbs of potatoes. I tend to eat fast. That’s probably why I’m getting queasy afterwards
Nov 30, 2015 — 2:15 pm
@And – I’ve read they keep boiled for 3-4 days.
Dec 1, 2015 — 2:22 pm
Does the body go into “starvation mode” on just potatoes? I read somewhere that IFing isn’t as good for females as males due to different hormonal structure, etc. & that IFing (and “starvation mode” in general) is bad for fertility. Any thoughts on how a wannabe fertile body might react to a potato diet hack?
Dec 1, 2015 — 5:00 pm
@Rita – I would think it does the opposite. At the top of the Potato Diet page on VegPharm, it covers how the hormones associated with communicating satiety as satisfied on a full belly.
On IF the body is fueled by FFA (free fatty acids). On PD, the body is fueled by glucose as potatoes are 95% carbs. For my needs and the needs of others this is a good thing. See my notes on this post: https://criticalmas.org/2015/10/the-myth-of-stress-notes/
As for fertility, I wouldn’t recommend dieting at all. Growth mindset. Lots of nutrients and enough calories to support you and the baby (or babies). That is my initial reaction, but I have not researched fertility at all.
Dec 1, 2015 — 10:34 pm
So let me recap, a very high carb diet works, a very high protein diet works and a very high fat diet works. Couldn’t it just be that we should alternative that macro nutritions?
Dec 2, 2015 — 4:47 am
This was interesting enough for me to try a little tweak.
I have no wish to go full potato, but it occured to me that doing potatoes for breakfast and lunch would keep calories lower than usual for those two meals, and take away the need for entertaining food, whilst still allowing me to eat a normal dinner with the wife and kids.
Trying it out today, feels alright. Cold taters for breakfast, reheated with a side of salsa for lunch. Not too shabby.
Dec 2, 2015 — 11:28 am
What’s your reasoning for only doing this 3 days a week? I’m 25-30 pounds overweight and want to jump start my weight loss, so would I’d be able to do this diet for every day for a couple or three weeks just to sort of get my system dumping this weight at a quicker pace?
Dec 2, 2015 — 11:40 am
@Brian – I picked 3 days because it works with my schedule and it is tough enough to be doable, but not too extreme.
The downside I see to going for long periods besides it being tough to choke down potatoes for that many days is that you might become nutrient deficient. Cycling back to regular food makes sure you are getting enough of the nutrients not found in potatoes.
Also if you might benefit from cycling into a few high protein days between potato cycles. I touched on this briefly in the post.
Something else I have been thinking about is my fat setpoint. If I push it too far too fast, will I be at a greater risk for regaining weight? Under normal diets based on hunger and restriction, I believe that to be true, but I’m not sure about the Potato Diet. This is something I will discover and share.
Dec 2, 2015 — 12:20 pm
Hey Brian and MAS – You could do the Potato Hack/Diet for weeks at a time if you wanted. I did it for 14 days the first time I tried, lost about 10 or 12 pounds. I don’t think there is much danger of doing this, but as MAS says, I would worry about long term nutrient deficiencies with such prolonged eating of just potatoes.
I’ve changed my recommendations to 3-5 day stretches. 3 days is so easy to do it’s ridiculous. 5 days gets a bit tedious. But here’s the best part. The fat loss starts on day 1 and continues as long as you are doing it. Since losing and maintaining your weight is a lifelong “hack,” using 3-5 days of potato hacking once a week or so to lose weight, then once a month or a couple times a year to maintain, just seems much easier to do than stressing your body with extended potato dieting.
When I did 14 days, the scale just kept going down. After a week, I was like, this is so easy, I want to do another week! It actually got me down to my lowest adult weight, and I was 46. It was exciting for me, I’ll tell you that! After playing with it for a couple years, and learning more about health and dieting, I think a slower approach to weight loss might be better.
If one has 20-100 pounds (or so) to lose, it’s probably better if they lose it at a rate of 2-3 pounds a week steadily. 3 days of potato hacking per week should do that perfectly for most people. It will also help you to fine tune your regular diet, based on newly acquired hunger signals that you will get from the potato hack.
I’m here to tell you, all the magic of the potato hack is lost if you never learn to eat right. This is the bane of almost all diets. People lose weight, and then their old habits sneak back in, and the weight comes back in spades.
Here’s also where continued 3 day stints of the PH are helpful. People tend to gain weight almost imperceptibly throughout the year, a 3 day PH every month or so can help you to maintain your weight, even though you aren’t seeing massive drops on the scale when you do it.
Hope that’s helpful!
Dec 2, 2015 — 1:17 pm
I like Øyvind’s idea. It’s like a potato version of Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 :).
Dec 2, 2015 — 6:21 pm
@Beth – When I’ve hit my goal, I might do the inverse of Øyvind’s idea. Save the potatoes until bedtime. That is when I tend to eat the most calories.
Dec 3, 2015 — 5:05 am
After my 2/3 potato day, I’ve got the following to share:
– Potatoes keep you full.
– Definitely peel the potatoes. I’ve always preferred to not peel them, but tastewise and gutwise this did not work for me.
– Fast eaters like me REALLY need to slow down when doing this tater thing. Trust me.
– I’m down 1 kg after one day. Probably fluids and stuff, but still.
I’ll return to this. Might even just throw in a day here and there, until I feel like focusing on fat loss.
Dec 3, 2015 — 10:15 am
Thanks, Tim. Great discussion. Is the vergetablepharm website yours?
Dec 3, 2015 — 10:26 am
RE: Peeling I think this decision comes down to the type of potato you buy. I have been using a waxy (not starchy) potato and I have not peeled. During my 2 day test, I used a starchy potato and I absolutely peeled it.
@Brian – Yes. VegPharm is Tim’s site.
Dec 5, 2015 — 11:01 am
Excellent post! You are to be commended!
I’d like to try this with white rice!
Dec 5, 2015 — 12:04 pm
I just had my first potato meal an hour ago and I didn’t mind it at all. Can’t wait for it to start ‘kicking in!’
Dec 7, 2015 — 12:13 pm
My daughter and started this yesterday, I got some really bad gas pains last night, and one bout of diarrhea. Going to try again today and see how I feel. I love potatoes, so that part is not a problem. Although today I pan fried them in a spray of olive oil. Then I was reading about eating it cold, should I stick with cold or does it really matter?
Dec 7, 2015 — 12:27 pm
@Karen – It is OK to reheat the potatoes.
If you are having digestive issues, you may wish to back off and do 1 meal a day for the first 3-5 days and then reassess.
Dec 18, 2015 — 6:55 pm
I just came upon this site today. Is everyone finished with this? I see time has passed. Is boiling a necessity; I have been successfully steaming potatoes for regular meals & it’s quite fast with a more pleasant texture than boiling, especially skinless potatoes. During low carb dieting I found having a couple of baby potatoes caused no harm (as opposed to rice or pasta) & when feeling a bit peckish, a couple of those baby potatoes (cold) are quite tasty (skin on) – & filling too. This potatoe diet sounds quite intriguing to me & that generally spells better success. … Hmm, ;);)could I go on a porridge diet, (no salt/sugar/milk of course) that could make me quite content – comfort food!? I’m kidding … unless someone tells me otherwise. Did anyone miss crunchy food? I find they are my craving for instant anxiety relief.
Dec 19, 2015 — 9:06 am
@Bonnie – Just try the steamed potatoes. Should work. I don’t know.
Jean m mcgrath
Dec 13, 2021 — 3:13 pm
I have been on the potatoes for 6 months and have lost 40 pounds. I am going to make a lifestyle change now and continue for at least another year. I was 236 in June and I am 196 right now. I feel good, feel full, and at supper I add peas or corn, veggies, and a fruit for snack, usually an orange. This works for me… I started after I read an article from Esther Lebeck Loveridge. She has been doing it for 5 years now, and lost 100 pounds after her first year. She started in her late 60s. In 6 months all my bloodwork was better.
Dec 13, 2021 — 3:18 pm
@Jean – Awesome! After I had lost most of my weight, I started adding proteins to the potatoes.
That post was 3 years ago. I’ve keep all the weight off. Effortless too.
Nov 22, 2022 — 10:23 pm
I am trying another potato hack to get ready for our summer here in NZ. Unfortunately I am getting extreme calf cramps during my walks, my whole calf seizes up and I cannot move. It’s not like a cramp that comes and goes, it just seizes and stays that way. Is this too much potassium? What can I do?
Nov 23, 2022 — 6:54 pm
@Rachel – I have not read about or experienced cramps from potatoes.
You could reduce the hack to just 1 meal a day. Supplement with magnesium and see if that helps.