I’m not one for fad diets. As someone who is always looking into nutrition for the answer to feeling great and (hopefully) also sporting a six pack, a “diet” is not what I would suggest. It’s more about your lifestyle – our bodies all respond differently, but individual factors aside, I’m comfortable making the sweeping statement that everyone should eat a variety of mostly whole foods from good sources. This world we live in has an abundance of choice. We should take advantage of that. This doesn’t mean you have to eat only organic vegetables (or only meat, a la the Carnivore diet), or you can’t enjoy a slice of cake or other treat once in a while. Balance is important.
So then my friend told me about the “Potato Hack,” I immediately responded with derision. That’s stupid. I hardly ever ate potatoes in my normal diet. Eating just potatoes seemed foolish and unhealthy, akin to the Cajun lemonade juice diet that was all the rage a few years ago.
Then I did the research, and shockingly, it was intriguing enough to me that I actually decided to try it for a few days. All in the name of science, of course.
The thing is, I had been dealing with a multitude of issues lately, likely stemming from stress over the past few weeks. I had poor sleep, horrible gut health, fatigue, and acne breakouts. I thought it might actually do some good for me to experiment with something new. Especially interesting was the hack’s claim of resetting your gut was enough to win me over.
A few points I want to make:
Here are the basic rules: Eat ONLY potatoes for a period of 3-5 days. No fat/oils are allowed (it’s not a French fry diet), no ketchup or condiments, and only minimal seasoning.
I bought 13 pounds of potatoes for the diet, consisting of a mix of organic red, yellow and russet potatoes. The first day was a Sunday, and I fasted until about 2 p.m. Then, I cut a couple of the potatoes in half and boiled them in water with a pinch of salt. This was my very first all-potato meal. Strange, but all in all not bad. I only had a small plate and got hungry a half hour later.
I tried baking some russet potato “fries” without any fat. They turned out okay but they stuck to the wax paper I used to cook them on. I tried a second batch with a wee smidge of grassfed butter to oil the paper and it worked better. Dinner was served – two potatoes’ worth. This meal was extra unsatisfying because my husband chose to sit next to me eating a Five Guys cheeseburger and REAL fries for his own meal. Cruel.
About an hour later, I had intense craving for anything other than potatoes. This feeling subsided but it was a nice reminder that this was not going to be an easy couple of days.
For breakfast, I grated a russet potato and made hash browns in a non-stick pan with no oil. I was afraid these were going to stick, but surprisingly they did not and turned out crisp and golden. I ate them with salt and pepper and wished I had time to make more.
I brought a container of the leftover boiled potatoes to eat for lunch at work. I ate them in two batches but felt a dearth of energy around mid-afternoon. I wanted to work out, but could only bring myself to walk on the elliptical for 25 minutes. I really hated the feeling of lethargy and weakness.
By dinner, potatoes were the last thing I wanted to eat. I tried to save myself some effort by pulsing a potato in my Vitamix to make more hash browns, but the chunks were inconsistent and started to stick to the pan. Overall not very satisfying. I oven roasted a few more potatoes for dinner. The word potato was starting to annoy me. Later, I went to the fridge and took out a container of boiled potatoes for a snack, and my husband asked if I was giving up already. I looked down and realized I had accidentally (subconsciously?) taken out a container of leftover spaghetti instead. Oops.
I slept great and woke up feeling a lot more energetic than the past two days. Amazing! I smooshed a couple of boiled potatoes into flat rounds to pan-fry (without oil) for breakfast. Honestly not bad. My gut was feeling a whole lot better too.
I took the rest of my boiled potatoes to work. They did NOT look appetizing at all. I practically smothered them in seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, Cajun seasoning), something that you’re not supposed to do on this diet to discourage overeating. I figured this was okay because at this point, I did not actually want to eat any of it. The seasoning was just there to get them down my throat.
I was amazed at the amount of energy I had after being in a caloric deficit for three days eating only…ugh…potatoes.
I felt like I had more headspace though, because I was no longer thinking about my next meal. I realized I dedicated a lot of time to thinking about food. Maybe I had a problem and it was being solved by ugh…potatoes.
I had planned to push through on this diet for four days, but remembered we had made plans to eat dinner out with a friend on Day Four. Perfect excuse to end my self-imposed torture.
So then by the end of this day, I was thinking about what I would do to break my potato-only fast. I figured my healing gut would freak out if I suddenly introduced a lot of at and meat to the equation, as much as I really wanted a nice, juicy ribeye. I decided to presoak a bowl of oats in almond milk for oatmeal the next morning. Just the thought of it was exciting.
HALLELUJAH! I did not want to see another potato for a while. I still had a great night of sleep and tons of energy. I pretty much ran out of bed to go make my bowl of oatmeal, plain with a dash of cinnamon. Yum, best oatmeal ever.
For lunch, I made myself some white rice and a heaping bowl of steamed veggies. Again, best veggies ever.
I was shocked at the amount of energy I had and the positive effects on my sleep and gut health. I actually lost about a pound a half as well, which is significant for me but also not significant enough to warrant much thought. I could definitely see how someone with some weight loss goals would find some success with this diet.
However, I would not do this diet for more than a few days. A human needs more variety, not to mention more vitamins than potatoes can provide. It’s arduous psychologically, which I’d say has a negative effect on your overall health too. Plus, I estimate that the 9 pounds of potatoes I consumed constituted a pretty big caloric deficit. There was no way I would be able to build muscle, let alone work out the way I wanted to, on such a diet.
All in all, it was a fun experiment. The body is constantly surprising, which is much of the reason why health and fitness is such a passion for me. Even a dumb-sounding diet can have some positive effects – just don’t do it for a year like this dude, okay? You definitely won't have the energy to workout before work every day.
Grace Young is a certified personal trainer, and you can follow her fitness journey on her website, Young Health and Fitness.