The potato diet has been around since the 1800’s as a weight loss approach for those living too luxuriously and in need of a digestive system reset. It has recently become popular through Tim Steele’s website and book, The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified. I decided to try the potato diet or potato hack on myself because I have clients who eat clean, sleep 7-8 hours a day, exercise regularly, and have not been able to lose weight. Losing weight isn’t easy, if it was, it wouldn’t be a $65 million dollar industry. My health goals this year were not to lose weight but I’m glad I did because there was weight I needed to lose and even though my diet is pretty clean, there were changes I needed to make to the volume and ratio of foods I was eating.
The reason why the potato diet has worked for people to lose weight and resets the digestive system is because:
- Immediately reduces calorie intake which is the reason it leads to significant weight loss. The theory of food reward is a hard-wired evolutionary mechanism that helps us survive during times of food scarcity. The more rewarding foods are, the more we will eat them. We eat a lot when food is bountiful and much is in season because our bodies wants to fill itself with the macronutrients and be satisfied by the variety of tastes and textures in our mouths. If we only have potato to eat, we will only eat enough to satisfy our hunger but no more.
- Eating nothing but white potatoes may sound crazy because you would think eating all of that starch would elevate blood sugar. If you eat potatoes that have been cooked and cooled, the starch is converted to resistant starch. Resistant starch is a fiber so it is not absorbed by humans, but rather it feeds our good intestinal bacteria and has insignificant effect on blood sugar. Reheating cooled potatoes is ok because it keeps the potato as a resistant starch. It’s recommended, especially if you have problems with blood sugar, to check your blood sugar with a glucometer after the first few potato meals and if your blood sugar spikes, switch to eating cook and cooled potatoes.
On the potato diet I ate:
- Boiled 3 – 4 lbs of red, white, or russet potatoes. This was enough for a days worth of potatoes for me.
- I timed the boiling to complete right before a meal time and then would eat a meal of hot potatoes. Once the potatoes cooled, I would store them in the refrigerator and would either eat cold potatoes or reheat the potatoes for the rest of the meals during the day.
- Ate potatoes with a little sprinkle of salt.
- Drank hot tea. This warm drink gave me a sense of fullness.
Week 1: 3 consecutive days on the potato diet, rest of the days ate my regular diet (free of gluten, dairy, added sugar, and processed food)
Week 2: 1 day on the potato diet, rest of the days ate my regular diet (free of gluten, dairy, added sugar, and processed food)
Week 3: 2 days on the potato diet, rest of the day ate my regular diet (free of gluten, dairy, added sugar, and processed food)
I am very happy with my experience on the potato diet. Even though my health goals this year were not to lose weight, I am happy I lost 4 lbs. I have been doing a lot of Crossfit the past two years and have more muscle mass and realize I need to lean out. Most importantly, removing all of the food on the potato diet made me think about the meals I usually eat (but couldn’t). I realized I was eating too much protein and not enough vegetables. On the days I wasn’t on the potato diet, I made sure my meals were 3/4 vegetables and 1/4 protein. I’ve been able to keep the 4lbs off because I’m eating more vegetables and also less because my appetite has decreased from the days I just eat potatoes.
If you are interested in trying the potato diet, here are the guidelines:
- Eat nothing but white potatoes for three to five days. They can be cooked and cooled and then reheated prior to eating if you want to reduce blood sugar impact. It only works with white potatoes. Sweet potatoes are not allowed because they don’t form resistant starch in the way that white potatoes do.
- Eat two to five pounds of potatoes each day whenever you are hungry. You don’t need to count anything while you’re doing this diet. Most people will not go above five pounds.
- No other foods are allowed on the potatoes—no butter, no sourcream, no cheese, and no bacon bits. And now that you understand the concept of food reward—where the more variety you have, the more different tastes and flavors and textures, the more you’ll eat—you’ll understand why that prohibition is there.
- A little bit of salt is one exception. It’s discouraged, but it’s an option for people who just cannot do the potato diet without a tiny bit of salt. If people feel it needs salt for other reasons, then they could consider having just a glass of water with some sea salt in the morning, apart from the potatoes.
- Drink when thirsty—coffee, tea, and water only.
- Light exercise such as walking, yoga, gentle cycling, and swimming only on the Potato Hack days.