The Five Stages of (Potato Hack) Grief

Yesterday I was thinking about all my conversations with people in the past two years about the Potato Hack and it struck me how those talks often mirrored the Five Stages of Grief – just like how Tim Steele mentions in The Potato Hack book.

And so it is with the potato hack. It’s amusing how people react when they first learn of the potato hack. Denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance. Never fails.

With the Potato Hack, most people never make it through all the stages. They get stuck. This is unfortunate because the Potato Hack is extremely powerful.


I took this photo at a Portland coffee shop in 2010.

#1 Denial

Stage 1 is denial. Denial is expressed with laughter and disbelief. How can anyone eat nothing but plain boiled potatoes with just salt for days? The idea is too foreign to them. It can’t be real.

Denial extends to people that think carbs or potatoes are inherently fattening. Or maybe they think the diet will leave them in a malnourished state. You may be able to convince them or they might move to the next stage.

#2 Anger

When you hold very firm nutritional beliefs and an idea such as the Potato Hack threatens those beliefs, you can lash out. Just start throwing anything you can think of to tear down the idea.

This is what we saw in 2016 when Karl Denninger and Richard Nikoley battled on Twitter and their blogs. I covered that war in the post Designing a Modern Peasant Diet. Denninger, a low-carb zealot, went from Denial straight into Anger once Nikoley made some convincing arguments. Denninger fumed, wrote a bunch of nonsense, and then took those posts down.

#3 Bargaining

Bargaining is the most predictable stage. Once they’ve accepted the concept, moved past any objection they can think of, they immediately start looking for loopholes. Can I have sour cream? Can I have ketchup? What about apples? Salads? Eggs? Protein shakes?

They want to drop weight and they get that the Potato Hack can help. Now they want a way to make it easier.

#4 Depression

Depression is what I see in the eyes of people just after the Bargaining stage. A look of sadness. How could they give up the flavors they crave for even a single day, let alone 3 or 5 days?

Many will make it to this stage, imagine the Depression, and then never do a thing about it. It is too much. Depression feels bad. They can move through the Depression stage or head back to the kitchen for some ice cream and cookies to make the sadness disappear.

#5 Acceptance

A small minority will make it to the Acceptance stage. They know the Potato Hack will work and they know it will be a challenge, but they have accepted the challenge. Good for them.

During the Potato Hack, they will probably lose a few pounds, but even more, they will learn about themselves and their relationship to food and flavors in a hypercaloric environment. They will grow from the experience.

Potato Hack Diet book

Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified


Add yours

  1. On Tim’s site that you linked to in your previous post it appears that he prepares and eats his potatoes in a variety of ways and with a variety of seasonings although he keeps the amount of the seasoning minimal. What am I missing here?

  2. @Norlee – I believe that is the difference between our day to day relationship with potatoes and how we consume potatoes on the Potato Hack days.

    When we hack, all we do is eat boiled potatoes with salt (or without salt).

    Personally, 99% of the potatoes I eat are cold boiled with salt. I don’t venture into the potato recipes. During the winter holidays, I will have mashed potatoes, but that is it. I never eat fried potatoes.

  3. I made it through day 1 eating only boiled cold unseasoned potatoes but even more than I miss variety of flavor I miss variety of texture. I guess I’m in the bargaining stage – I’m going to continue on with the bland but changing up the textures.
    I am also can’t tell when I’m hungry or when I’m full – very interesting!

  4. @Norlee – Interesting indeed. You are rebooting your internal operating system. What is real physical hunger and what isn’t? True hunger tends to get stronger and originate from below the neck. Fake hunger will often materialize more as thoughts (above the neck). Is the stomach leading the brain or vice-versa? Waiting 20 minutes will often answer that question.

  5. Hey, guys! Thanks for the cool posts, MAS. The “original” potato hack calls for only potatoes, no seasoning. I really like eating plain potatoes, especially when I “hack.” I always recommend that people try at least a day or two with just potatoes, for the experience. But for weight loss, it seems to be fine if you add in some basic spices like salt and pepper, vinegar, a dab of ketchup. Just make sure that the BULK of your daily calories are from potatoes, not condiments.

    As to texture, I find potatoes to be prepared in so many ways that there’s a texture to suit everyone. Mashed potatoes, potato soup, even potato flat bread can all be made with just potatoes. But making them tastier makes it easier to eat more, so I try to stick with simpler preparations. For instance, all week I’m having 1 cold boiled potato for breakfast, 2 warmed boiled potatoes for lunch, and then dinner is a variety of hashbrowns, air-fryer French fries, potato soup, etc…

    I am always amazed at how my ever-present ravenous appetite is calmly suppressed when I eat this way.

  6. @Tim – thanks for the info! weight loss is my goal so after one day of plain potatoes I am spicing it up a bit.

  7. I cook diced potatoes in a crock pot, then crisp them in a waffle iron…variations on a theme

  8. I am on day 2 of boiled potatoes however the bland taste is boring. I boiled them in garlic powder so the taste isn’t too bad but what receipe’s do you have to give variations. My stomach is not happy and my mind is trying to overcome. Thank you

  9. Hi MAS,

    Years ago (25+) on Oprah there was a guy commenting on poor guy eating carrots and beans saying it was a “good diet.”

    Carrots have 41 kcal/100 g about half that of potatoes.

    Potatoes and Heinz Baked Beans have 81 kcal/100 g. Carbohydrate much the same. The beans have more fibre and protein.

    Grating vegetables seems to “fool the stomach into thinking” it has more than it has. If preparing any fruit or vegetable e.g. grating or chopping it should be done as close as possible to time of consumption, with a target of less than 30 minutes.

    I think I could survive on grated carrot and baked beans rather more easily than boiled potatoes.

    Plain yogurt 66 kcal/100 g (reduced calories )or Greek Style Yogurt 99 kcal/100 g (extra calories) could be added to make “potato salad.”

    In a similar vein of thought another two tastes, both with extra calories, could be Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce 96 kcal/100 g or Heinz Organic Tomato Ketchup 112 kcal/100 g.

    A two part plain yogurt – one part organic tomato ketchup mix – “thousand island dressing” would have much the same calories as the potatoes. More parts yogurt would reduce the calories. The dressing would be a small quantity in the order of teaspoons per pound of potatoes.

    It would be interesting to know your thoughts. Thank you for the “ideas.”

    All the very best


  10. @Willim – I love raw carrots and legumes. I eat raw carrots daily and legumes a few times a week. Like potatoes they fall into a group of foods that use volume to turn down hunger with fewer calories.

    There are books on Volumetrics that take a deeper dive on the topic.

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