Potato Hack Redux

potatoesIn April, 2013 I participated in a potato hack for 20 days. It was a simplified, starch based way of eating for 20 days based off the ‘All Hail the Potato Challenge‘ found on the McDougall Forums last March. While I had achieved great health leading up to this challenge, I was looking to use my 20 days in order to “reset myself” and consume those foods that got me to where I am today. Over the last 12 months I feel my diet has improved from where I was this time last year. Yet my eating habits continue to get me in trouble from time to time.

Satiety or the feeling or condition of being full after eating food, is what Dr. John McDougall promotes when it comes to a plant based lifestyle.  Unfortunately, I have found myself eating more and more, especially at dinner time, which results in a “stuffed” feeling. It’s not just a single meal, looking back over a typical day I can identify failures starting without breakfast. These habits have seen my weight increase, lipid panel results increase and have a “blah” sort of feeling all day.

Food choices have improved, thanks in part to Julie Marie at Protective Diet (formerly Plant Purity), which I wrote about last year prior to starting my potato hack. Her recipes, like those from McDougall are meat, dairy and oil free. Yes, this includes chicken and fish, which are both meat. You would be surprised how many times people ask that question. It also include ALL oil. Yes, even those fancy oils that are promoted as “healthy” in your diet. Julie takes eating to a new level removing “nuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners and food additives.”

Now, you might be asking yourself, “What the hell do you eat?” Plenty of good, healthy, natural food that is satiating! I usually try to eat through out the day without a need to count calories or worry about eating too much. When I started following a plant based diet I used Fit Day as a tool to monitor my weight loss, which reinforced the fact my shirts and pants fitting better. Julie makes 123 recipes available for free on Protective Diet (just register for FREE). Prior to this, I was following an “SOS” approach promoted by Chef AJ and Ramses Bravo cutting out the “evil trinity” of sugar, oil and sodium.

Excess sodium intake has never been a problem in the past. Rarely did I pick up a salt shaker to “add flavor” to my meal (unless it was meat) prior to a plant based lifestyle. I understand sodium has been linked with hypertension, “which is an established risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. In addition, excess sodium/salt intake has been associated with stomach cancer, osteoporosis, edema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, headache, angina, left ventricular hypertrophy, arteriosclerosis, and autoimmune problems.” (source)

The real culprits are sugar and food additives, which can be very difficult to cut out, but a diet based on whole foods makes this transition easier. “The warnings about sugar are mere whispers at best. Yet sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine, and Americans are consuming 152 pounds of sugar a year!” (source) For example after giving up dairy, I was introduced to almond milk, which is a great replacement for dairy milk. Yet 1 cup of Blue Diamond Vanilla Flavored Almond Breeze is loaded with 13 grams of sugar as well as a plethora of additives that my body doesn’t need; EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, CALCIUM CARBONATE, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS, SEA SALT, POTASSIUM CITRATE, CARRAGEENAN, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D2, D-ALPHA-TOCOPHEROL.

Additives aren’t easy to spot sometimes, disguised under the title of “natural flavoring” or “spices” under ingredients. Take MSG, “There are more than 25 names for MSG, so sometimes you find it spread out a little, just in case the manufacturer gets “checked out” by anyone other than the FDA. (source) These additives are synthesized by chemists so you desire more in order to get you addicted. “… they want you to only experience the best 1 millionth part of the taste – so you get “addicted” and keep having to go back for more and more, searching continuously for gratification – eating more of that product which in turns fills Big Food Companies pockets.” (source)

Many consumers don’t pay close attention to ingredients and know what these harmful substances can do (More on additives in a future T6F post). Many have been linked to cancer in animal studies, are carcinogenic, tumor causing and others that cause serious health related issues. So why ingest them?

I digress as I have moved away from my original point of having improved my eating habits thanks to Protective Diet. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back and examine those habits and ask yourself “Am I doing everything I can for my health?” I know my diet still had flaws and I cravings that occasionally flair. For me, following a plant based wasn’t good enough.

Recently there have been times where I have consumed food I shouldn’t have for various reasons. Sometimes these “foods” are the best available option, other times I am hungry, without food. For example, white rice is probably the one food I exploit regularly. Within walking distance of Chinatown in Oakland, there are so many Asian restaurants, but most include ingredients or foods that I don’t eat. White rice, is simple, easy and satiating, but not as healthy as brown rice.

As many know, sometimes you don’t need a reason to eat off plan, you do it, forget about it and move on. Stating December 1 I will go 20 days basing my meals around potatoes…again! Mashed, baked, unfried, steamed, covered with cheese, chili, gravy or vegetables. Every meal I eat will contain potatoes in some form or fashion. This will allow me to “reset” myself and start the year off on the right foot.