When people think of the typical, trendy diet foods, potatoes generally don’t top the list. That space is usually reserved for kale, chia seeds and other so-called superfoods. But for one man, eating only potatoes for a year led to a weight loss of 117 pounds, and the reason why might surprise you.
Andrew Taylor, an Australian dad and former competitive kayaker, realized in 2015 — at a weight of 334 pounds — that he was addicted to food. Over the years, he had tried multiple diets only to gain the weight back, and he knew he needed to do something drastically different. Realizing that he was working with an addiction, however, changed things for Taylor: He decided that he needed to treat his problem like one would any other addiction — by getting as close to abstinence as possible.
Since he couldn’t be abstinent from food, clearly, he decided to make his diet as basic as he could. After doing research on different nutrient-packed foods, Taylor decided that he would eat nothing but potatoes (along with a few seasonings, of course) for all of 2016. He also drank the occasional beer and took a B12 vitamin to make up for the lack of protein.
Many thought Taylor was crazy for taking on such an intense task — one that he went on to call the Spud Fit Challenge. Still, it helped him lose a full 117 pounds.
“It’s been the best year of my life,” Taylor told The Independent near the end of 2016. “My health just continues to improve.”
Since his initial year of success, Taylor has started sharing his ways with others through coaching, videos and books.
But is a potato-only diet actually healthy? Should the average person take the Spud Fit Challenge if they’re looking to lose a few pounds?
A Healthy Diet = Variety
A person can definitely survive on solely potatoes for a decent length of time, and according to Colorado Potatoes, potatoes do pack a heavier nutritional punch than they’re often given credit for, with plenty of vitamins and minerals on offer.
Generally, though, nutritionists don’t recommend Taylor’s approach, as a healthier diet should include a variety of different, whole foods that can give bodies the full range of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that they need.
“Variety is really important to get the nutrients our bodies need,” nutritionist Sue Todd told the BBC in an article about a different man who’d taken on a potato-only diet.
In that same article, nutritionist Fiona Hunter added:
“The body needs 40 nutrients to function and no single food will provide all of these. … A diet of just potatoes will be deficient in vitamins A, E and K, the minerals calcium and selenium, essential fatty acids, protein and dietary fiber. Although they may provide enough iron for a man, they will not provide enough iron for women.”
Hunter suggested substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes sometimes in order to make a potato diet a tiny bit more nutritionally diverse (something Taylor did, as well as occasionally making mashed potatoes with soy milk).
Not only can eating only potatoes be restrictive in the nutrients you get, but it can become psychologically restrictive as well. That restriction was helpful to Taylor in breaking his food addiction, and he now eats other plant-based foods as well. However, not all experts recommend this strategy.
“One of the things that dietitians work on is helping people feel comfortable so that they can eat a healthy and balanced diet without feeling that they’re stuck in a world of food addiction,” dietitian and sports nutritionist Jennifer Sygo told CTV News. And while a potatoes-only diet could be achievable with supplements, she said, she wouldn’t recommend it for weight loss or treating addictions: “That’s a pretty imbalanced way of going about that.”
That’s not to say that implementing more potatoes into one’s life isn’t healthy, especially if they are replacing, say, a bag of Cheez Doodles or a daily cheeseburger. Most health experts would recommend bringing more protein and greens into the mix for some healthy variety.
If you’re looking to shake up your eating habits in the new year, speak to your doctor or a nutritionist about how to do so healthily and sustainably. With the proper program in place, you should be adopting healthy habits in no time — and you won’t have to eat only one food for an entire year.
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