Potato Hacking For the Reluctant

I’ve done several posts on how to use potatoes to get lean. Head over to my Potato Hack Diet page to see those posts in the proper order. This post will be me reaching for an explanation on why some people cannot imagine themselves going days or even a single meal eating just boiled potatoes.

In the post The Five Stages of (Potato Hack) Grief, I outlined the phases one could experience. Let’s focus in on Stage #4 Depression. The idea of eating just potatoes is not a pleasant idea for most. From that post:

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.

I’ve seen many smart and ambitious people make it to this stage and then go no further. Then they come up with rationalizations and discard not only the idea of doing a full Potato Hack but even the idea of adding more boiled potatoes into their weekly meals.

The Flavor -> Satiety Link

If it were just unambitious lazy people that didn’t pursue the Potato Hack, I could understand, but I was talking to people more successful than me. People with a history of struggle and success.

My hypothesis is that people subconsciously associate flavor with satiety. Their conscious mind understands it is calories that leads to satiety. But we don’t eat calories. We eat food. Food has flavor. Eating plain boiled potatoes has almost no flavor. Therefore not only would the experience be unpleasant, but it feels like it may not work. That is the disconnect that makes the Potato Hack work, but it is also the disconnect that keeps many people from trying the diet.

Adults get to eat whatever they want. So we choose foods that taste good to us. These positive flavor signals get repeated every time we eat. For years. For decades. These flavors move us from the unpleasant feeling of hunger to the pleasant feeling of satiety. We form memories and emotions around foods, meals, and restaurants that deliver us to satiety time and time again.

The flavors are reinforcing. But that is the problem. Because we live in a hyper-abundant society where food is always available, usually cheap, and tastes amazing, we overconsume. In other words, the flavors became engrained and got the upper-hand.

Potato Hack Training Wheels

Going 3 days eating cold boiled plain potatoes is not an option for some. They won’t even go a single meal and some wouldn’t even try my single potato idea (Marine Potato 20). The Flavor -> Satiety link is too strong. It needs to be weakened.

Eat a bowl of boiled potatoes warm with salt and a splash of red wine vinegar. It actually tastes pretty good. The red wine vinegar only adds a few calories. If that goes fine – and I believe it will – start swapping out meals here and there with this method. This will gradually build up calorie deficits throughout the week. It will also reduce the flavor signals you experience.

At some point, you may decide to try a stricter Potato Hack or not. That is up to you. Knocking out a meal here and there with potatoes is a powerful tool for both leaning out but also staying lean.

red potatoes


Add yours

  1. @MAS
    Interesting post. I do several 72 hour fasts (black coffee and water) a year, with some but not too much effort. But I’ve never made it more than one day on a strict potato hack (I end up adding catsup or a bit of cheese on day two). The psychological aspect is powerful.

  2. @MAS
    Also, your discussion of weakening the flavor-calorie link reminded me of the Shangri-La Diet. (You did a post about it in 2011.)

  3. @Jim – The Shangri-La Diet was ahead of the rest.

  4. Do you think muscle loss would be an issue on a potatohack? What’s been your experience? It feels odd not eating any protein for a few days. Potatohack combined with whey protein shakes a possibility?

  5. @Robert – I don’t think muscle loss on a Potato Hack is a concern for a few reasons.

    1- There are many reports of diets longer than 3-5 days with low calories or low protein or even fasting where the muscle is preserved. One story:

    2- Even if there was muscle loss, muscle memory would bring you back to where you were rather quick. https://criticalmas.org/2009/01/how-mickey-rourke-gained-27-pounds-of-muscle-for-the-wrestler/

    I would not add whey protein because there are other health benefits one gets from the Potato Hack. Those are covered on other posts and in the Tim Steele book.

  6. @MAS – Thanks, that makes sense. Also, there’s plenty of carbs in a potatohack, so GNG won’t be an issue, as it is in fasting and in low carb diets.

    I guess I just needed to hear it from someone building muscle. If a middle aged lady loves the hack, it doesn’t make the same impact on me.

    Tim Steele has probably received hundreds of questions about trying to hack the potatohack, all kinds of suggestions for modifications. I guess it’s all part of the process, the “bargaining”.

  7. Haha – Nice try! Welcome to “acceptance.” 5lbs of spuds have about 45g of protein, so the potato hack is not totally devoid of protein. If you are actively trying to build muscle, you’ll want to eat considerably more than the recommended amounts (ie. .8g/kg), but for a couple of rest days, even a couple weeks, you can easily get by on 30-40g/day without losing hard-earned muscle. I think the benefits to insulin sensitivity, gut health, and fat loss far outweigh the possibility of losing muscle mass.

  8. @Tim – Yes, just reached the acceptance phase. Decided with the wife to start Wednesday, and keep going to Friday or Saturday. Then repeat next week possibly. Her gut has been a bit out of shape after a food poisoning a few weeks ago, might need a “reset”.

    You’re right, 30-40 g of protein a day is almost enough to keep nitrogen balance, especially if you take it easy. And less fat is more important than much muscle for looking good anyway.

  9. Came to your site looking for another article and ended up here.

    Put me down as another you inspired to do the potato diet.

    I did it last year (2017) for lent, I ate nothing but cold, unsalted, boiled potatoes for 6 out of 7 days a week (Sunday is a feast day after all).

  10. @rbiser – Nice. 6 days beats my record.

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