Questions & Answers
So many questions come in every day, we would like to answer some of the more frequent questions here:
Q. What was your diet like prior to the potato diet?
A. My best estimate is that it was probably a little better than the average US citizen only becasue of a high rate of produce consumption. I generally would eat about 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But I ate everything else too. I would eat a wide range of food, a little bit of everything, including foods that aren't considered "healthy".
Q. What gave you the idea to eat nothing but potatoes for 60 days straight?
A. It seemed like potatoes, french fries, and potato chips were being blamed for everything bad in the world. I woke up one morning, feeling beat up about the image of the potato and decided to do something about it. I thought of the movie "Stand by Me". There is a scene in the movie where these boys are camping out and are having one of those great conversations around the camp fire that only little boys have. One of the boys asks "If you could have only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?" In the movie he says Cherry flavored Pez, but I chose potatoes. I thought if I commit to a diet only of potatoes, then I could show the world how healthy they really are.
Q. How was your digestion?
A. Potatoes are pretty easy on the digestive system. I actually got a lot of emails from people who suffer from severe digestive disorders and literally, potatoes are the only thing they can eat. My 60 days of potatoes was nothing compared to some folks with these digestive disorders. I was getting a lot of fiber so things were pretty regular, but not to regular.
Q. You essentially ate nothing but potatoes, fat and flavoring for two months. Can you give us an idea of how much fat you were eating? What kind of fat was it?
A. I averaged about 2 tablespoons of cooking oil a day over the span of 60 days. Canola oil was used for frying and olive oil was used for roasting.
Q. What types of potatoes did you eat and how were they prepared?
A. I literally ate every kind of potato I could get my hands on. I ate yellow skin/yellow flesh, red skin/white flesh, red skin/red flesh, purple skin/white flesh, purple skin/purple flesh, russet potatoes with white flesh, russet potatoes with yellow flesh, white potatoes, yellow potatoes with white flesh, purple fingerlings, yellow fingerlings, red fingerlings and numerous experimental varieties. When you are eating only potatoes for 60 days I knew I needed as much variety as I could get in order to avoid diet boredom. I fried, boiled, steamed, roasted, BBQ, deep fried, baked, microwaved, mashed them, made potato juice, potato smoothies, and potato ice cream. BTW, plain potato juice isn't something I would recommend.
Q. What foods did you crave/miss the most?
A. I craved mostly foods that had a "juicy crunch", like an apple, cucumbers, carrots, or celery. I never acquired a taste for raw potatoes so virtually all the potatos I consumed were cooked. No matter how you cook potatoes, you always get that soft cooked texture. I craved foods with a crispier texture.
Q. How was your energy level?
A. My energy level was very good the entire time of the diet. I really didn't notice a change in energy at the start of the diet so I assumed that the potato diet didn't have a positive or negative effect on my energy level. It wasn't until I finished the diet and started to consume other foods that I noticed my energy level seemed to drop a bit.
Q. Did you peel them or eat the skin?
A. I ate the skin at least 90% of the time, if not more. There is a myth that all the nutrition in a potato is in the skin or right under the skin. That's not true, there are nutrients spread throughout the potato but most of the fiber is located in the skin.
Q. What variety of potato is your favorite?
A. It really depends on the cooking method. For frying, I prefer russet potatoes. For baking, red potatoes. For mashed, I prefer yellow potatoes, and for roasting, a toss-up between russets and reds.
Q. Were there any unexpected effects of the diet?
A. The only 'unusual' thing that occured is what my wife told me. I'm a hibitual snorer. The day I started eating only potatoes, my snoring stopped. It restarted the day I started to include other foods in my diet. I'm assuming it was just some wierd coincidence, but that's what she tells me. Also, I seemed to avoid the cold viruses that circulated at home and at work. Along with avoiding the germs, my cholesterol dropped significantly. My doctor and I expected it to drop, but not at the level we saw. I've had borderline high cholesterol for the past decade. I started the diet at 214 and saw it drop to 147 at the end of 60 days. We anticipated a drop of maybe 10-25 points, so it was a huge surprise to see a 67 point drop.
Q. Can you explain the details of your health improvements while on the 60 day potato diet?
A. While I knew the potato was healthy, I was just hoping to be alive at the end of the 60 days! I had no idea that my overall health would improve the way it did. When I started the diet, I weighed 197 lbs., my cholesterol was borderline high of 214, my triglycerides were at 135, and my glucose was 104. I saw improvements in all those indicators. I lost 21 pounds, my cholesterol dropped to 147, that's a 67 point drop, my triglycerides dropped to 75, and my fasting glucose level came down to 94. All great improvements! My plan wasn't to lose weight but potatoes are so filling, it was difficult to eat enough of them each day. If you think about 10 hours where you can eat during the day, I was literally eating 2 potatoes an hour! Some days I just ran out of time before I could finish all 20 potatoes.
Q. How long did it take you after the diet ended to eat another potato?
A. As strange as it sounds, potatoes were my first 2 meals after my diet ended. I was saving my first non-potato meal for a special event that was planned at a local Head Start facility. The beef, dairy, apple and potato producers in Washington State put together a nice dinner event and nutrition workshop for all the kids and their parents at the Head Start in Moses Lake. I still eat potatoes pretty regularly, but most of the time now I'm eating them with more than just seasonings.
Q. Do you think you were able to meet your calorie goal of 2,200 calories per day? Were you hungary during your diet?
A. I was not meeting the goal of 2,200 calories a day during the first 3 weeks of the diet, during that time I only ate until I was full. I didn't realize that potatoes would give me such a high sense of fullness after each meal. So for those first 3 weeks, I was only consuming about 1,600 calories a day. After the third week I had lost 12 pounds and realized that I needed to change strategy. I then began to eat more potatoes despite the sense of fullness I was experiencing. So for the remaining 5 1/2 weeks I was very diligent about eating the 2,200 calories. I continued to lose weight but at a slower pace. I lost an additional 9 pounds over the coarse of those remaining 5 1/2 weeks. At the start of my diet I estimated, via a couple different online calorie calculators, that I burn closer to 2,800 calories a day. Something that may have also played a role in continued weight loss was the amount of resistant starch I was getting from potatoes. I ate a lot of cooked potatoes that had been refrigerated. These are generally higher in resistant starch. If I were to do the diet again, I would like to set up an experiment to gauge the effect of resistant starch.
Q. Can you give me some insights on healthy ways to eat potatoes and french fries?
A. Potatoes are rich in many nutrients including potassium, vitamin C, fiber and vitamin B6. I was actually exceeding the Food and Drug Administration's recommended daily allowance for 13 different nutritional items on my potato only diet. My science background tells me that there is no such thing as healthy or unhealthy foods, only healthy or unhealthy diets. This always sounds so shocking to most people when I write or say it out loud, but I had to add french fries and potato chips to my diet to make it more healthy. Because there is no fat in a potato, I had to add some so my body would have access to the essential fatty acids that every body needs to function. While potatoes and french fries can be part of any healthy diet, many of us are all ready getting plenty if not to many fatty acids. If you already have a diet high in the essential fatty acids there are ways to eat potatoes that can lower your fat intake. Consider other vegetables as toppings or mixtures to mashed or baked potatoes. Stir fry veggies or even salsa are great toppings for baked or mashed potatoes. This can reduce your fat intake and not sacrifice taste. Baking french fries instead of using the fryer is another way to reduce your fat intake. School lunch programs have gotten rid of the fryers and are mostly using ovens, and the kids still enjoy the taste.