Many people have asked me in the last year if I’m still on The Potato Diet and how it is working for me. Before I bring readers up to date, I would like everyone interested in The Potato Diet to get a copy of The Potato Hack Diet by Tim Steele. It will answer all your questions. I’m just one data point. The Potato Hack Diet is based on the results of many dieters. Now onto my story.
The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified
My One Year Update
A year ago I posted that I was going to do the Potato Diet to lose 15-20 pounds. That post was followed up with my Week 1 results. In the post, I answer a few questions as best as I could at the time.
At the end of last December, I was getting some odd measurements when I weighed myself. Even though I was creating a calorie deficit, I wasn’t losing weight. At that time I was recovering from a knee injury. Part of my recovery was strength training to recover lost muscle and I also starting taking creatine monohydrate again. Both could result in weight gain. So once again I found myself with conflicting health goals. I couldn’t use pounds lost as a metric.
As someone that has completely rejected the Quantified Self movement, I decided that in 2016, I would measure nothing. I have not stepped on a scale or used a tape measure once this entire year. I am now using The Frankie Method, which I described in 2010.
The combination of potatoes, strength training, and creatine monohydrate resulted in me getting visibly leaner. Good enough for Frankie. Good enough for me.
Am I Still Eating Potatoes?
I’ve been asked this numerous times this year. The answer is YES. On an average week, I consume 10-12 pounds of potatoes. Typically, I buy a waxy potato, although occasionally I will get a Russet. I purchase the potatoes from a restaurant supply grocery store that is open to the public called Cash & Carry. A 15-pound bag of potatoes averages $3.
Recently I started adding some organic potatoes into the mix. Maybe 5 pounds a month. With the organic, I eat the peel. With conventional, I don’t. I boil the potatoes and then let them chill in the refrigerator. I typically consume them cold with some salt.
Most weeks I replace meals with potatoes randomly. I’m at a good weight, so I don’t need to just eat potatoes for 2-3 days straight.
Why Am I Still Eating So Many Potatoes?
In addition to nutrition, one of my main interests is economics. I like taking what I learn in economics and applying it to other domains. I cover this thought in more detail in the post Approaching Nutrition From an Investor’s Mindset.
Anyway, I see potatoes as the PERFECT intersection of nutrition and economics.
- Potatoes are one of the cheapest sources of calories.
- Potatoes have one of the highest satiety ratings.
- Plain boiled potatoes are nutritious.
- Boiled potatoes have almost no flavor (more on that later).
- Quick and easy to prepare. Especially if you boil 3-5 pounds at a time.
What this means is I can load up on potatoes as a safe food. I don’t need to think about several meals a week. How many times do we eat up going out for a calorie-rich meal because we were too tired or busy to prepare something?
For me I know I always have a container of boiled potatoes in the refrigerator.
If I were to stop eating potatoes now, I’d suddenly need to start planning several additional meals a week. This would not only have decision costs but time and material costs. The foods that I would use to replace the potatoes would certainly have a greater flavor stimulus, so I’d either consume more or use limited willpower to stop eating sooner.
Why would I want to do that? Potatoes for the win.
“But I Could Never Eat Just Potatoes!”
Now I want to address the most common objection. People embrace the idea of eating less to lose weight, however many feel threatened at the thought of losing flavor. In modern society, not only do we rarely miss a meal, but each meal needs to taste great. In the history of mankind, how long has that been true? Only recently and we are seeing the result of having endless options of great tasting food at every meal.
I want to pause here for those that are unaware of the “Food Reward / Hyperpalatablity” theory of obesity. The article How ‘Hyperpalatable’ Foods Could Turn You Into A Food Addict is a good primer. From that article:
Our food environment has changed dramatically over the years, most notably through the introduction of so-called “hyperpalatable” foods. These foods are deliberately engineered in such a way that they surpass the reward properties of traditional foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Food chemists achieve this by suffusing products with increased levels of fat, sugar, flavors, and food additives.
Every year the food in our environment becomes more flavorful. Some through engineering, some through more access to novel cuisines. A classic dieting strategy cited is to use moderation and willpower. How is that working for you? Or society? The food chemists get better every year and we’re still the same humans.
The Potato to the Rescue
If you have excess weight, you consumed more resources than you needed. You not only consumed too many calories, you consumed too many flavors.
Starting the Potato Diet is a conscious decision to reduce the excess flavor signals in our environment. That is a bizarre idea to embrace at first, but once I did, everything clicked. I posted this after my week 1 experience:
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.
Penn Jillette lost over 100 pounds in 3 months. He began his diet by consuming nothing but potatoes for 15 days. After that period he completely lost his taste for all the junk food that made him heavy and was so readily available in his hometown of Las Vegas.
Every meal I consume of cold boiled potatoes, I not only know that I’m creating a hunger-free calorie deficit, but I’m also greatly reducing the power highly flavorful food has on me the rest of the week. I see these little deficits I create throughout the week as a savings account. Eating 10-12 pounds of potatoes a week gives me enough caloric headroom to eat whatever I want on the other meals and not gain weight. Zero willpower required.
Nov 25, 2016 — 11:40 pm
I’m glad you’re back! I have a similar approach, except I rarely eat potato-only meals. Every so often I’ll notice that my meals have been full of highly flavored, calorie-dense foods, and that my portion sizes are creeping up, so I’ll steam some gold potatoes in the pressure cooker. I eat them with some protein and vegetable, but the salted, steamed potato is the main dish. I also do the calorie banking with beans, which are even easier to eat on their own. The beans, especially, are great on days when I have restaurant dinner plans.
Nov 26, 2016 — 9:37 am
@Diana – I too like the beans. but I can’t eat that much. I haven’t figured out a way to make them a staple without gut pain. Small amounts are fine though. Even lentils soaked for a day in baking soda and cooked with ginger are problematic for me as a staple.
Øyvind in Norway
Nov 26, 2016 — 10:47 am
Ah, MAS does what he does best.
Enjoyed this – well written, and very interesting.
I do poorly if I -have- to do something for x days, but do well if I can convince myself that I am doing what I want to do. I’ll experiment with doing potato meals instead of potato days.
Nov 26, 2016 — 12:22 pm
Similar results in my case, without following an obsessive schedule I spend periods of up to a week eating only potatoes mixed with sauerkraut and sourcream. or just only potatoes that I also keep available in the refrigerator. A couple of years ago I would not have believed that I could feel so much comfort and lightness eating just only potatoes. On the other hand, all the burden related to cooking, cleaning and organizing grocery shopping is reduced to a minimum.
The rest of the time I alternate between self limited periods of the warrior’s diet and others, usually short ones, in which I do not follow any pattern. It is my mood who decides when they start and end.
The warrior’s diet greatly reduces the daily load of cooking and cleaning too and it creates a feeling close to ecstasy at dinner time, it is also fabulous at bedtime: deep sleep and onirically overcharged nights.
Periods without fixed patterns in times and selected foods somehow make me feel an ordinary human, they are a kind of reset for my psyche.
Nov 30, 2016 — 4:56 pm
Regarding Quantified Self, I found this interesting. I have to resist a constant urge to count, analyze, etc.
Nov 30, 2016 — 8:28 pm
@Al – I have no doubt that technology will someday be valuable, but my guess is we are a long way off.
Jan 24, 2017 — 10:38 am
Hey. Glad you’re back. Do you follow a consistent meal pattern or is it more random? I find that eating around the same times controls my hunger. Also, have you tried supplementing with raw potato starch?
Jan 24, 2017 — 10:41 am
@Stphen – Thanks. I try to be consistent, but often I’m not. I am more consistent when I’m eating higher protein.
I’ve tried raw potato starch twice and both times it wrecked my gut with doses as small as a teaspoon. I might try reducing to half a teaspoon since I still have a full bag to go through,
Feb 1, 2017 — 1:41 pm
So it has to be regular potatoes? Why wouldn’t sweet potatoes or yams work?
Feb 1, 2017 — 5:29 pm
@John – I haven’t tested sweet potatoes. Try it and find out.
Jul 2, 2022 — 9:33 am
Since I’m cooking for a household that includes a type 2 diabetic, straight potatoes would be a non-starter for us. However, we could try the same general idea substituting something like kitchari (an Indian convalescent dish of rice + split mung beans). Still a relatively bland palette reset, inexpensive, etc. but with a balance of carbs and protein. If we try it I’ll report back.
In terms of flavor stimuli… I’m going to reflect on this more. Agreed that industrial foods are manipulating our bodies against us, but there are also longstanding traditions that deliberately incorporate flavor stimuli in healthful ways. I’m thinking of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine which seek to balance the 5/6 flavors these systems define. Also, my husband is Thai and loves intensely flavorful food. I believe flavor stimuli can be handled responsibly, but need to reflect on this slippery slope further.