Andrew Taylor—a 36-year-old teacher, husband, and father from Melbourne, Australia—is currently in his fourth month of a year-long plan to eat nothing but potatoes.
No butter. No onions. No kale. No beef. Just potatoes. Well, and the occasional beer.
That seems like a shocking proposition, probably because somewhere in the dialogue of contemporary nutrition, we forgot that the potato is a vegetable of significant value. The humble spud has become something of a boogeyman, a strawman for angry PTA members demanding to know why their kid is getting a bit too chubby. Perhaps some of that also also goes back to the ongoing "is ketchup a vegetable" school lunch debate of the 1980s, and the ensuing conclusion that dipping fried potatoes in sweetened tomato paste was somehow healthy. But, again, the issue is not the potato itself, but its preparation. Yes, the North American fixation with potatoes typically involves drowning them in boiling hot oil, or mashing them up with cream, butter, and garlic—but just because we choose to make them unhealthy. Doesn't mean they are inherently so.
Undoubtedly, it's our own preconceived notions about potatoes, or more exactly, how potatoes are eaten, that have made Mr. Taylor's endeavours so perplexing.
MUNCHIES spoke with him earlier this week, to hear from the man himself about his tater-only diet.
MUNCHIES: How is it going? Andrew Taylor: I feel amazing. Everything is going real well. It's come together. I've got a lot of energy. I'm sleeping better. I've lost a lot of weight.
How much weight have you lost at this point? Let's see... about 29 kilograms.
How did you choose potato to eat for a year, as opposed to something else? I decided on potatoes because there was the most scientific evidence as well as historic evidence available to back them up. The entire Irish population thrived for centuries on almost only potatoes, before the potato famine. The Dutch did similar. Lastly, there are indigenous people around the world today who are in great health live on almost only potatoes. This combination of evidence and historic events gave me the confidence it could be okay.
Have you had to get more creative with how to cook potatoes? Well, the point of this was to try to beat food addiction. Obviously, a drug or alcohol addict, the best thing they can do is to quit drugs and alcohol entirely, so that's what I wanted to do with food.
Part of it is to keep food boring, and stop making it a way that I can get comfort and emotional support. I'm consciously making it uninteresting because I want to derive enjoyment from other parts of life. My staples are mashed, boiled, and baked potatoes.
You use the phrase food addiction as opposed to overeating—how do you differentiate those things? I think overeating begets food addiction. It makes sense to me that anyone who is overweight does have a food addiction. So, I'm just calling it as I see it. You can't lose weight long term and keep it off unless you deal with the cause of the problem, which is addiction to food, rather than just dealing with the symptoms.
How has your doctor reacted to this? I saw my doctor when I started and it definitely wasn't recommended by him to do it, but when I told him the plan, he was very supportive. He didn't think my health would suffer. It wasn't something that he would prescribe, but he was more than happy to supervise me through it and do my blood testing and checkups and all that.
Are you having to do any additional supplementation with your food? I'm taking a vitamin B-12 supplement and that's it. Everything else is covered in what I'm eating. I'm getting blood test results at the end of this week, so I'll have a better idea. But I feel amazing, and I think that's a good indicator.
What was the hardest food for you to say goodbye to? I don't think that I really had a favourite food to eat; it was just any sort of junk food really. I think that the biggest difference to my health has come from getting rid of fats in general; I'm not eating any fatty foods.
How many kilograms of potatoes are you eating a day? Is it breakfast, lunch, and dinner? It's pretty fluid. I eat as much as I feel like eating, whenever I feel like eating, so there's no structure to it. I don't count calories at all. I don't count how many potatoes I eat.
For the first couple of weeks, I was keeping track of the weight of potatoes, only because I bought them in two-kilogram bags, so I knew how many bags I went through, and at that point it averaged about 3.5 kilos a day, but that may have changed, because I don't track that anymore. These days I've got a sponsor that's providing my potatoes. I get the potatoes in big boxes now and I don't know how much weight I eat.
You have a potato sponsor? I do, yeah. Since around the start of February, I've had all my potatoes provided to me, yeah. It's a local fruit and vegetable shop.
Do you see "Spud Fit" as a brand or lifestyle? Yeah, I don't know. Lots of people have said that, but this is not my aim at all. It was just to deal with my own issues. I'm just sharing my experience with people. I'm just doing my thing. It would be cool if I could make money doing this at the same time, of course, but I'm really not sure how to do that.
Well, there's a big potato industry out there and it's not every day that a guy like you pops up. A few people have said I should write a book or something. But it would have like one sentence: "Eat Potatoes."
Thanks for talking with us.