The Potato Diet: Does Going Spuds-Only Really Help You Lose Weight?

Potato Diet

Fad diets have come and gone over the years; Atkins, paleo and macrobiotic plans have all had their time in the sun. Each promises to help adherents drop pounds effortlessly but mostly leads to disappointment. So you can be forgiven a touch of skepticism when presented with the latest headliner: the potato diet. Before you roll your eyes, there are a few facts you may want to learn, the least of which is that this plan—defying all predictions—actually works.

What Is The Potato Diet?

The potato diet is lauded as a tool to lose weight quickly without having to endure the hunger common with calorie-restrictive diets. The eating plan is exactly what it sounds like: using potatoes as a primary source of nutrients, sometimes to the exclusion of other food groups.

Drop Pounds With Ease

This diet was popularized by the world-renown illusionist Penn Jillette with his book Presto: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales. After facing health problems, Jillette used this unorthodox method to lose 75 pounds in a little over 80 days. Director Kevin Smith had a similar experience. He survived a heart attack in February of 2018 and was told by his doctors that achieving a healthy weight could prevent further risk. To that end, Smith started the potato diet and lost 17 pounds in about a week.

Why Does The Potato Diet Work So Well?

It may sound too good to be true, but the potato diet can help individuals lose weight without feeling like they’re sacrificing anything. Both Jillette and Smith adopted this plan without the addition of exercise and still dropped pounds. That said, there are a few things you should know to make this diet work for you.

peeled potatoes

Eat As Much As You Want

Potatoes are a low-calorie food, so you can eat quite a few without going over your recommended daily caloric intake. They’re also a great source of carbohydrates and fiber (as long as you leave the skin on), which contributes to feeling full. Australian citizen Andrew Flinders Taylor used the potato diet to lose 117 pounds over the course of a year and did so without a daily caloric limit. He simply ate until he felt full and still lost weight.

Start Fresh

Many times, obesity can be traced back to unhealthy eating habits. Reducing food options so drastically can help you go “cold turkey” on junk. After essentially going back to square one with your food choices, you can gradually build up a healthier diet from scratch.

Watch Your Cholesterol

Losing weight often results in lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Jillette and Taylor saw reduced levels within a few months of following the diet. If you’re in a situation where high levels are threatening your health, the potato diet may be a great tool to help you reach healthy numbers quickly.

How Can You Follow The Potato Diet Safely?

Eliminating entire food groups from your diet can be tricky. As with any restrictive diet, it’s essential that you get the appropriate amount of nutrients your body needs to function. Failure to do so can result in lasting damage.

Keep It Short-Term

The potato diet is an excellent “head-start” on a longer lifestyle change. It can be disheartening to adhere to an eating plan, only to see no tangible effect for your hard work. With the potato diet, you can see the difference in a matter of days, which may help your motivation.

potato meal

However, nutritionists advise against following a single-food diet for an extended period of time. A few weeks of potato-only meals is fine, but longer stints require some precaution. Jillette offset the risk of nutrient deficiency by adding vegetable stews to his diet after two weeks. Nutritionists offer a similar solution: use potatoes as your carb and add high-nutrient vegetables to your meals. Remember, losing weight is about getting healthy, and sometimes that requires a little compromise.

Mix It Up

Taylor didn’t limit himself to just one type of potato. While the white potato was a staple, he didn’t shy away from red potatoes and, especially important, sweet potatoes. It may seem counter-intuitive to include a vegetable with “sweet” in its name, but sweet potatoes are actually higher in vitamins A and E than their white cousins, which makes them a solid addition to any healthy eating plan.

Include Proteins

The greatest worry nutritionists express is that individuals on the potato diet may lack proteins, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. You likely already know the importance of the first two—protein is vital for building and maintaining muscle, while calcium is needed for bone strength. Omega-3 fatty acids, while not touted as often for their benefits, are integral to health. They bear an essential role in fueling internal organs and regulating hormone production. Unlike other fatty acids, omega-3 cannot be manufactured in the human body and therefore must be obtained through food.

Nutritionists suggest adding lean meats like chicken and fish as sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. If you want to stay strictly vegetarian, there are many other foods that can provide these essential nutrients, such as beans, nuts and leafy vegetables. For calcium, you can incorporate dairy products like milk, butter and cheese. If you like, you can opt for low-fat dairy options: for example, Taylor used calcium-enriched soy milk to make mashed potatoes.

potatoes

Fight Boredom

Both Jillette and Taylor said they purposefully chose the potato diet because it was monotonous. Separating enjoyment from food was part of their long-term plans. However, not everyone can stick to the same food day in and day out, and that’s okay.

If you need a little variety, don’t feel compelled to stick to spuds alone. Doing so may lead you to break your diet if only to taste something different. Instead, if you’re feeling dull, there are a few things you can try to make mealtime more interesting.

Herbs and spices are your best friend. They don’t add significant calories to the dish but greatly improve the taste. You can also experiment with new recipes. Potatoes lend themselves to a range of preparations, and don’t forget that you can eat as many different types of potatoes as you want. If you’ve reached the stage of adding in vegetables, you can try pairing different veggie dishes with your starchy main course, such as vegetarian chili over a baked potato.

Take Vitamins

Another step to ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients is to take a multi-vitamin. This is especially important if you’re in the potato-only phase of your diet. While an excellent source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C, potatoes lack in vitamins K and B12. Nutritionists also note that while potatoes may offer enough iron for men, women require a higher daily intake, and therefore should take iron supplements.

Add Exercise

While Jillette opted not to include exercise into his health plan, Taylor added 90 minutes of physical activity to his day after the first month of dieting. Make no mistake, exercise or not, you’ll still lose weight. But regular physical activity has a positive effect on your metabolism. Muscle cells burn calories at higher rates than fat cells, which means that the more muscle you develop, the higher your metabolic rate is likely to be.

sliced potatoes

Exercise also has its own benefits: more energy and the release of endorphins, which can help with depression. While not a traditional component of the potato diet, exercise is nevertheless an important aspect of living healthy. Developing a regular exercise regimen can help you prevent gaining back weight as you gradually add other foods to your diet.

If you’ve turned to the potato diet due to cardiovascular health, like Jillette and Smith, exercise is recommended by doctors to strengthen your heart. Getting your heart rate up can improve blood circulation and lower your risk for further cardiovascular problems. If all of that isn’t convincing enough, remember that reps at the gym can help tone and sculpt your new physique.

Should You Try The Potato Diet?

There can be no doubt that the potato diet actually works. If you need to lose weight quickly, switching to potato-only meals will certainly do the trick. That being said, everyone’s bodies work differently, and some people respond to particular eating plans better than others. Some individuals may need more protein; some individuals may notice spikes and drops in energy as a consequence of the potato’s starchy nature.

If you decide to give this a try, do so with advice from your doctor and know that it’s perfectly fine to tweak this diet to your needs. The goal is to achieve a healthy weight and establish healthy eating habits—part of that is listening to your body when it tells you it needs something. With that in mind, the potato diet could be exactly the plan you’re looking for, especially if you’ve struggled with other diets. Give yourself a head start on a healthy lifestyle with the potato diet, and wow friends and family with tales of your spud-tastic exploits.

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