Potato Diet Week 2 – Brief Update

UPDATE: The Potato Hack Diet by Tim Steele is now for sale on Amazon. It will answer all your questions. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the Potato Diet.

In week 1, I lost 3 pounds and 0.5 inch. In week 2, I lost 1.5 pounds and 0.25 inch.

Losing 4.5 pounds in two weeks without hunger is pretty cool. Before I head into week 3, I revisited The Potato Diet page to see if I could pick up a tip to guide me back to a weekly 3 pound loss.

7. Skipping breakfast encouraged, eat twice a day, minimal snacking

I’m haven’t being doing Intermittent Fasting (IF) the past two weeks. I covered in this post that I feel much better when I have carbs prior to coffee. And since I drink coffee in the morning, pure IF is not an option for me at this time.

¡Una papa en la mañana!

In week 3, I will cut back on my morning potatoes. I’ll have one prior to my first cup of coffee to combat stress hormones and prevent “the crash” I now feel when I have coffee on an empty stomach. One potato is the next best thing to zero potatoes.

I’ll keep you posted. And due to a social commitment, I moved the Week 3 Potato Diet up one day to SUNDAY, MONDAY, TUESDAY.


Photo by JaBB


Potato Diet Week 1 – Results and Observations

UPDATE: The Potato Hack Diet by Tim Steele is now for sale on Amazon. It will answer all your questions. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the Potato Diet.

I had no plans to post my Week 1 results, but I wanted to share how thing 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

Faster Satiety

One of the most interesting aspects to 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 with the Potato Diet is more than a good idea. It 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 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
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 amount 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 more 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.

Last Words

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 Potato Diet – My Plan to Lose 15-20 Pounds

UPDATE: The Potato Hack Diet by Tim Steele is now for sale on Amazon. It will answer all your questions. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the Potato Diet.

Earlier this month I posted No Hunger Games – A Day of Just Boiled Potatoes. It was a trial run of two days of eating just cold boiled potatoes. That post goes into why it is easy to go into a calorie deficit without feeling hungry if one just eats potatoes. The Potato Diet guide on Vegetable Pharm is the comprehensive guide. If you have any questions, they are likely answered there.

The two day test showed me a few things:

  1. That I could eat to satiety in a caloric deficit. No hunger.
  2. That I could sleep throughout the night and not wake up hungry.
  3. With my current coffee consumption, I found I felt much better throughout the day than I currently do when I intermittent fast. If I were not a coffee drinker, I might prefer IF, but ditching coffee as we head into a Seattle winter is not an option.

Shortly after the two day experiment, I planned to start The Potato Diet, but I caught a minor cold and then had to travel out of state for a week. Well, now I am back and feeling great. I’m ready to do my first major food experiment in a very long time. Here is my plan.

  • GOAL: Lose 15-20 pounds
  • POTATO DIET: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday every week.
  • EXERCISE: Sunday, Thursday

Continue with 3x a week until goal is met and then scale to a maintenance plan. Discontinue or scale back if I experience excessive lethargy or coldness. If after a month I fail to see at least a 5# lose, I will reassess.


I will be boiling white potatoes and consuming them cold. No salt, spices or anything. If the diet is successful and I use the Potato Diet as a maintenance tool, I might add salt or spices at that time.

Today is Day 1. I don’t plan on doing weekly updates. Maybe 1-2 updates a month. Some of you will want to know why I have picked this diet over other strategies. The short answer is I do better on simple rule diets that require minimal planning. The long answer will be the topic of a future post.


No Hunger Games – A Day of Just Boiled Potatoes

Back in 2012 when FreeTheAnimal was discussing the Potato Diet, I didn’t pay too much attention. I was doing my own experiment to gain weight using ice cream and dairy kefir. But this year I’ve been more interested in the role food volume plays on satiety. So I looked it up again.

I read The Potato Diet guide on Vegetable Pharm and it made sense. Fill your belly full of heavy low calorie nutritious potatoes and you’ll create a caloric deficit and do so without feeling hungry. Yesterday I decided to test it out for one day.

First I wanted to check the math. After running numerous online calculators, I determined that my base metabolic rate is between 2,100 and 2,400 calories. To be conservative, I will use 2,100 calories as my number. A pound of boiled white potatoes is 354 calories. This means I could sit on my ass and eat almost 6 pounds of potatoes without gaining an ounce. But the potato diet works on the premise that one gets full sooner.

The day before I boiled about 6 pounds of medium sized potatoes and placed them in the refrigerator overnight. Eating the potatoes cooled increased the amount of resistance starch, which according the Potato Diet post can further help with gut health and hunger signals. No salt or spices are allowed. The potatoes are to be consumed plain. Adding flavor would increase their satiety.

I decided to let hunger be my guide and not try and restrict consumption to achieve a certain level. If I was hungry, I would eat. If I finished all my potatoes and was still hungry, I would end the experiment.

During the day, I weighed the potatoes. At times my belly was full but I felt false hunger. Meaning I craved color, flavor and variety, but I wasn’t really hungry. It was a gray rainy day in Seattle. Not part of the day. The entire day. I picked a tough day to try this experiment. To get my flavor stimulus, I consumed more coffee than usual. I’m not sure if that is allowed or not, but one battle at a time.


Before heading to sleep, I added everything up. I consumed 5 pounds of potatoes and nothing else. That works out to 1,770 calories. If my metabolism is 2,100 then that works out to a 15.7% deficit. If I’m at 2,400 then it is a 26.3% deficit. Very interesting.

One of my concerns would be that I’d wake up in the middle of the night hungry. That didn’t happen. In fact, I wasn’t even hungry when I woke up. I had already decided to extend the experiment another day. Perhaps my lack of morning hunger was partially due to the fact I had removed the flavor stimulus?

Also my inner economist was pleased. I purchase a 15 pound bag of potatoes for $3.99. Yesterday I fed myself for just $1.33.

I haven’t decided how deep I will go into this experiment, but yesterday was a great learning experience. Have you tried the Potato Diet? What were your results?


Intermittent Fasting – Finding a New Middle Ground

Last week I went back and revisited all my old posts on Intermittent Fasting. Because of the concerns I discussed in Irresponsible Health Blogging, a few posts were edited and a few were deleted. I also completely rewrote my Best Of Intermittent Fasting page. My goal was to do two things. First I did not want to be seen as giving a blanket recommendation to IF. Second, I did not want to regurgitate the science explanations that I got from other sites, some of which I now have less confidence in.

Last month when I put out the post Intermittent Fasting – Context is Likely Important, I honestly thought it was a good way to end the series. I felt it was balanced and addressed both the fans and the critics of IF. But you can’t please everyone. Some of the fans discounted my concerns and a few people on a Ray Peat forum felt even with all my caveats and experience that I’d be making a big mistake to resume even a little IF.

It got me thinking if there might be a way to reconcile the two sides.

The Benefits and Criticisms of IF

I have an idea for a different approach to fasting that might work, but before I explain my plan I want to first go over the benefits and criticisms of IF first. I see three major cited benefits for IF. They are:

  1. Learning How to Deal with Hunger – In a 2012 post I talked about how following The Zone Diet basically trained my body to be hungry almost all the time. I was always thinking about food and meal planning. For me to resume a normal 3 meal a day habit, I first had to learn to be OK with hunger. IF was that teacher. Being OK with hunger made me calmer. It allowed me to spend more time preparing meals. I learned to cook. I no longer had to reach for a protein bar to immediately kill my hunger.
  2. Fat Loss – Fat loss is about creating a caloric deficit. You can try and manage this on a day by day, meal by meal basis, but that can be costly in both time and willpower. Creating a larger deficits once or twice a week and then eating normally the rest of the week both works and can be liberating. This is the basis for the Eat Stop Eat guide by Brad Pilon. I don’t believe there is anything magical about fasting, but for me it was a simple compelling strategy that worked far better than other diets.
  3. Autophagy / Life Extension – I’m not going to go into much this topic, so I’ll direct you to the excellent post Death Will Eat Itself by J.D. Moyer. The short version is when you deprive the cell of nutrients, it begins to self clean. Many people believe this can result in many health benefits including life extension.

Now for the criticisms.

  1. Reduced Metabolism – The body is smart and if one engages in too much fasting, it can reduce metabolism. How much is too much? This is highly debatable and will vary from person to person. I cover the case against triggering autophagy in the post Intermittent Fasting – What Paleo Didn’t Teach Me. The simple explanation is that by forcing autophagy and reducing metabolism, you are decreasing cell protection and slowing down repair, because now the cell is under stress.
  2. You Don’t Need to Become a “Fat Burner” to Burn Fat – Paleo has been big on pushing the message that one needs to access stored body fat directly via low carb or ketosis in order to lose weight. This is false, as the body is always burning fat. Thankfully this myth is going away. There are still people pushing ketosis as a magical way to lose fat. Although it may be easier, it is the stressful path and can lead to a lower metabolism.

What Diana Schwarzbein Said That Resonated With Me

After the Context post, I watched the Diana Schwarzbein Survival of the Smartest lecture twice. Took notes too. She discusses how on a hormonal level we are either using or building. When we fast, we are using. We we eat we are building. And our ability to rebuild hormones is greatly reduced as we age. For women age 35 and for men age 40.

So our ability to handle fasting can be diminished as we age. If we already have poor sleep, over exercise or abuse chemicals (caffeine, nicotine) then fasting would be even worse.

What I learned from Schwarzbein was the cascade of stress hormones can cause the metabolism to tank. This lines up with the Ray Peat people and their criticisms regarding forcefully triggering autophagy. She also talked about how hormonally breaking down can feel good. It is a survival technique for the species. However, repeatedly running on stress hormones is not good and can gradually lead to chronic health problems.

Seeking an Alternative Approach to Fasting

I first learned about autophagy from Art De Vany. He mentioned in his lecture how during the fasted state the cell consumes the damaged proteins first. Diana Schwarzbein said something similar in her lecture, stating that in the absence of glucose, amino acids are broken down to make sugar. The problem is the accompanying stress hormonal response.

All this made me ask the question: Can one get the benefits of fasting without the stress hormone response? Maybe you can. If carbs and salt can suppress stress hormones and protein suppresses autophagy, what would happen if one consumed just enough sugar/salt to shutdown the stress hormones?

I did some searching and discovered the online book The Protein Cycling Diet. This book is very pro-autophagy and goes into great detail on science. To trigger autophagy it recommends following a very low protein diet. How low? 5% of less of total calories.

The problem with this diet is that capping protein at 5% is going to be tough as most foods exceed 5% protein. Even foods you wouldn’t think had much protein are often greater than 5%. White rice is 8% protein. A potato is 7%. Once you start digging through the nutritional content of food, it looks almost impossible to construct a meal with 5% or less protein.

Unless, instead of constructing a very low protein diet one greatly reduces the amount of calories.

The Ray Peat people love salted orange juice as it shuts down stress hormones. Orange juice has a protein content of 5%. Good. Raw honey, which was discussed in the post In Defense of Sugar, has only trace amounts of protein.


Photo by mbeo

The Low Stress Intermittent Fast

Here is how I envision the plan working. Once or twice a week on days when I wake up with great sleep and I have no plans to exercise, I will begin the day with a small amount of either honey or salted OJ. Then if I feel anxious or stressed during that day, consume a little more until the 22 hour fast is complete. I’ll also have a small amount of honey or salted OJ prior to every caffeinated drink to blunt the stress response. At the end of the day, I will end the low stress IF and have a normal meal.

Will this method meet my goals? I think so. First, it will teach me to deal with hunger. Not as powerfully as a zero calorie fast, but I suspect it will still be effective. Second, it will create a caloric deficit for fat loss. Third, I think but have no way of knowing that will trigger autophagy, but do it in a way that lowers stress hormones and doesn’t compromise metabolism.

One criticism might be the very act of doing this could reduce metabolism via the reduction in calories. To reduce the chance of that happening, I would not do this fast on consecutive days. When I do eat, it will a carbohydrate friendly diet.

Am I on the right path here? One question I do not know is just how many grams of sugar (OJ or honey) will be needed to address stress hormones. I’ll guess for now. If I feel cold or anxious then I’ll up the sugar/salt, otherwise I’ll lower until that sweet spot is found.