“Make your food boring and your life interesting.” That’s one lesson Andrew Flinders Taylor points out in a Youtube video he posted last December, where he detailed all of the things he learned after eating potatoes for every meal, every single day, for nearly a year. That’s right: Potatoes all day, every day.
While his before and after photos are impressive, we still had some questions: Is this safe or practical? What about protein? And are the results Taylor experienced actually sustainable or realistic for other people? We delved into the nuances of Taylor’s diet, based on the details he dished on his FAQ page, and asked an obesity specialist for his input. Here’s what we learned.
Is the Potato Diet Effective?
During his challenge, Taylor ate all kinds of potatoes, including sweet potatoes. To add flavor to his meals, he used a sprinkle of dried herbs or fat-free sweet chili or barbecue sauce. If he made mashed potatoes, he only added oil-free soy milk.
He drank mostly water, with the occasional beer thrown in (proof that no man can resist a great brew). Because his diet completely lacked meat, he supplemented with a B12 vitamin.
He also didn’t restrict the amount he consumed. Instead, Taylor ate as many potatoes as he needed to satisfy his hunger. For the first month, he didn’t work out at all and still dropped 22 pounds, but then he added 90 minutes of exercise to his routine every day.
The potato diet sounds absolutely crazy, but for Taylor, who weighed in at 334 pounds when his experiment began, it led to noticeable results. The Australian native dropped 117 pounds after one year of the “Spud Fit Challenge.”
To be fair, potatoes pack lots of nutritional perks when prepared properly. They’re a great source of fiber and healthy carbs, which can help keep you feeling full, especially if you boil them, says obesity specialist Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., author of The Fat Loss Prescription. Potatoes are also rich in potassium and vitamin C. And certain kinds, like sweet potatoes, are also loaded with vitamin A.
But is there something special about the spuds that can make the pounds melt away? Not exactly.
Taylor’s experiment doesn’t prove that a bucket of spuds is the key to weight loss. Any diet that puts you in a caloric deficit will help you lose weight, says Dr. Nadolsky. So yes, you could eat just Twinkies, or pizza (like this guy), or pretty much anything else, and you could drop pounds if you are burning more calories than you are taking in. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy, though.
Is the Potato Diet Safe?
To make sure he was doing everything safely, Taylor regularly checked in with a doctor and a registered dietician throughout his challenge. Throughout his journey, he noticed certain improvements in his health along with his weight loss. “I had high cholesterol but now it’s low, my blood pressure has dropped and my sugar level has dropped,” he told The Independent.
But that’s not exactly surprising, since losing weight typically improves lots of health markers that put you at risk for heart disease. It’s also very possible that the nutrients in potatoes helped play a part in that, says Dr. Nadolsky.
Following the potato diet may not harm you for the short-term, but when you look at the big picture, eating nothing but potatoes means you’re consuming very small amounts of fat and protein, he explains, which can be detrimental over a prolonged period of time and can even put you at risk for deficiency. This can tank your energy levels, weaken your immune system, make you feel hungry, and mess with your concentration.
Plus, since potatoes just aren’t a great source of protein—coming in at just 4 grams per medium-sized potato, according to the USDA—not eating enough of the nutrient can make your muscles deteriorate, says Dr. Nadolsky. This means you’ll lose a lot of your definition, even if you drop pounds, he says.
Plus, muscle is important for your metabolic health and helps you function properly as you get older—things like walking up the stairs and even carrying your groceries get a lot harder when your muscles get weaker.
Should You Try the Potato Diet For Weight Loss?
“I personally would not recommend it,” says Dr. Nadolsky. “It’s very restrictive. A vegan diet is very restrictive and a ketogenic diet is very restrictive, but a potato diet is one of the most restrictive diets you could ever do.”
Now, for Taylor, it worked. And to be fair, he says he feels great. “I feel amazing and incredible! I’m sleeping better, I no longer have joint pain from old football injuries, I’m full of energy, I have better mental clarity and focus,” he writes on his site.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t experience any negative side effects—like constant fatigue or hunger—especially because the diet itself would be very
Could you try the potato diet to lose weight? Yes, but you really don’t have to go to those extremes, he says.
Try optimizing a diet full of various whole, nutrient-dense foods instead, he recommends. If you’re trying to lose weight, at least 30 percent of your diet should be coming from lean protein, like chicken or fish, he says. If you want to throw potatoes in there as your carb, feel free, but aim to eat a wide variety of vegetables you love. Healthy fats like avocado can also be satiating, and are even good for your heart, according to the American Heart Association.
Bottom line? Potatoes can absolutely supplement a healthy diet, which can help you lose weight—but eating nothing but spuds is unnecessarily restrictive, says Dr. Nadolsky. For some people, this can become an issue, especially if you quit and feel tempted to binge on not-so-healthy options.
“Make your food boring and your life interesting” sounds easy, but for a lot of people “there does come a point where we all like to enjoy food, it’s a very social part of our lives,” says Dr. Nadolsky.
Taylor even notes himself that different things work for different people, so “do your own research and make educated decisions,” he says on his site. “Don’t just do things because you saw some weird bloke on the Internet doing it!”
Read more: Great health benefits of eating salads