The fabulous french fry and hash brown diet

Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal started eating fried potatoes earlier this week and has lost five pounds so far.

This is the "magic" of potatoes. You can literally live off them, and some people have and do. Of course, you don't want to, nor do I, but it's a useful tool when you understand what's going on, which is one hell of a lot of things as I'm learning. Let me give you the very basics, though, for review.

--Potato fills you up and it's difficult to eat enough to maintain body weight.

--Eaten plain, it's pretty unpalatable and so even if you can eat enough to maintain body weight, you're going to have to get over that.

--Adding a little fat (1 tsp per medium potato) and spices will make them more palatable, but you will still have a difficult time eating enough.

--They have quality amino acids, meaning you will tend to guard lean muscle (and I supplement with branch chain aminos and liver tablets).

--Calories count, i.e., not eating enough equals weight loss; having sufficient aminos equals fat loss preferentially.

--And as UK Veterinarian Peter has also hypothesized, there may be a cute little trick that helps this along. Now while Peter—as a species agnostic veterinarian—is difficult for mere mortals to understand, things begin to sink in upon 2-3 readings of a post. The gist as this mortal understands: very, very low fat is essential. Pancreatic beta cells require fat to produce the insulin necessary to regulate blood glucose. Ahha! Lets load up on glucose, no or very little fat, and where does that fat to produce the insulin necessary to deal with the glucose have to come from? Your fat ass, that's where.

Yes, as I said, 5 pounds in 3.5 days. It's 1:43pm and I'm still not hungry and have had nothing since the plate I ate last night, recipe to follow. So let's get to the hash browns, just in case you get tired of french fries.


  1. To double the sample size, I know a Tibetan nun who lived for a couple of years off of boiled potatoes in India because she couldn’t afford anything else, and she gained a lot of weight, and was also sick all the time.

  2. No one is losing 5 pounds of fat in 3.5 days. No one. I can lose 5 lbs of water weight over the course of a day pretty easily, though.

    1. You could lose a pound a day but it would HURT. You’d need to run a deficit of about 3500 cal/day. For a 155lb person, that’s about 5 hours of pretty hard cycling (about 15mph). With nothing to eat. At all.

      EDIT: this is to lose 5lbs in 5 days. To lose 5lbs in 3.5days you’d have to ride about 7 hours/day. With nothing to eat. At all.

      1. I lost about 5 lbs in one week but it was from hauling ass up the hundred mile wilderness section of the AT in Maine.  I would not recommend this though based on the amount of foot pain (not to mention immersion foot) I had.

        1. I had similar results on a backpack trip through the Grand Canyon: down fifteen pounds over sixteen days. We were self-supported and carrying all our own food, so there wasn’t much.  Lunch was some jerky and crackers; the “big” meal of the day was half a freeze-dried dinner.  I’m sure some of the loss was water loss, being out in the desert and all, although we camped at the riverside for a lot of the trip, so there was plenty of water and I usually felt fully hydrated. So, roughly the same as you, almost a pound a day. (The Backpack Diet.)

      2. this neglects the so-called basal metabolic rate for the rest of the day, which would be around 1500 cal. so that’s more like two hours of vigorous cycling. it would of course still be a death march and incredibly unhealthy, as any method to lose that much weight per day would be.

          1. 40 miles in 2 hours is usually about the pace of experienced triathaloners on race day… You may have been able to do this daily, but I don’t think most would.

          2. did you do it every day for a week without eating anything?

            edit: to clarify further, yes, if you’re eating a reasonable diet, 2 hours of cycling per day is good exercise. it’s a death march if you’re starving while doing so; your body will start cannibalizing itself.

      1. “Yeah, sounds like simple dehydration to me. Check back in 3.5 months…’

        Nope. Now, quick quiz, smart William Nicholls: do you know how much water it takes to bind 1 gram of glycogen? Further, is a person likely to be dehydrated eating 3-4 pounds of (mostly water) potatoes per day, with an enormous starch load that’s converted to glucose that’s stored as glycogen?

        I chose this because it was the most ignorant of all the comments I’d seen so far.

        1. I chose this because it was the most abrasive of your posts so far.

          Why should we pay attention to you until you’ve at least gone a few weeks on this diet?

        2. Christ, what an asshole.

          3.5 days? Yeah, sounds like a valid test to me!

          “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 fibre.”

          You can literally live off them indeed!

          1. “You can literally live off them indeed!”

            Indeed, and it’s documented, going way back. Check certain PNG populations who live on potatoes. 95% carbohydrate. Not a lot of room there for fat & protein.

            To bad the folks who set the USDA minimum requirements didn’t get the memo.

            Plus, if you had actually taken the time—perish the thought, because I’m strutting—to read the first of the two foundational posts prior to this one Mark linked to, you’d have seen a complete nutritional profile and the supps I already take regularly that leaves me replete.

            Quick quiz, oh so smart strutting dbergen. Let’s say you ave 4 OUNCES of beef liver. How much mixed fruit do you suppose it takes to roughly equivalently approximate the nutritional profile?

            The answer is on my blog, but I’m assuming you have a reasonable answer right off hand. Right?

    1. A group of Highly Fashionable Women I knew in law school all went through a phase bragging about eating a potato a day as some kind of diet.

      I just assumed they were anorexics. They certainly looked it.

        1. Certainly, but I imagined things going downhill fast(er) upon mention of “fungal blight”.

          But when I searched google images for Van Gogh’s “Potato Eaters” the perfect image for this piece came up:

  3. Potato skins are slightly poison even when not green.

    People who live mostly off potatoes always peel them because a large quantity of skins causes “gastric distress”.

    Often the skins are fed to rabbits which provide the people dietary variety and protein.

  4. OK folks, I’m the author of that post. Now I know now much fun it is to come out and strut, I do it myself. OK, fine. But, you are, actually, ignorant, least so fart. Just a couple of things you might be unaware of. I embarked on this primarily because Ray Cronise, former NASA scientist, TED talk guy (google it), has been experimenting in the lab for months (and I happen to be a friend). His blog has a big comment thread on it, which erupted into what is now about 170 pages of forum posts on Mark Sisson’s Mark’s Daily Apple, hundreds of people uniformly losing 1/2-1 pound per day.

    …But never mind. Ignorance is bliss, after all and I too have my own peccadilloes in that regard.

    1. I embarked on this primarily because Ray Cronise, former NASA scientist, TED talk guy (google it), has been experimenting in the lab for months…

      The day that you’re willing to fly in a space capsule designed by an endocrinologist, I’ll take that seriously.

      1. “The day that you’re willing to fly in a space capsule designed by an endocrinologist, I’ll take that seriously.”

        Oh, so clever.

        But as I recall, boingboing has millions of readers. As a “serious” person, and “moderator,” surely you might have known that I would never have a single care in the world what you take seriously.

        Moreover, I think you attempt to elevate yourself and discourage others who might have an interest is pretty lame for a “moderator.”

        BYW, I fly powered, sailplanes and hang gliders. Mostly hang gliders, up to 14,000 MSL, sometimes. The aren’t designed by anyone official. Hundreds of hours, hundreds of flights over 15 years and I’m still around.

        but then again, I don’t automatically clamor to be a spokesman for the lowest common denominator moron, so it always leaves me open to new stuff, even at 52. Let me guess: You are still far closer to that bed wetting thing.

        1. so it always leaves me open to new stuff, even at 52. Let me guess: You are still far closer to that bed wetting thing.

          I’m 55.

          And you’re a former commenter.

          1. It was kind of nice to see that old school “spittle on the monitor” commenting style again, alive and in the wild.

            Its very energetic.

          2. one little thing–it would have been just that much more satisfying with “commenter” in quotes similar to his use of “moderator” in quotes.  but then again i am easily amused.


          3. Fuck. I was all ready to start eating just french fries too. Oh well, I probably would’ve gotten really tired of them without ketchup. Or gone mental.

          4. The heck of it is, this diet might actually work. I was trying to keep an open mind anyway. But Mr. Nikoley’s rhetorical style is what I like to call “anti-arguing.” As in: “I was with you until you started talking.”

          5. It was straight-up trolling. Too bad he didn’t spend a little less time hang-gliding and a little more learning how to conduct a civil discussion.

          6. I’m not sure he is. A commenter. Various strange non-sequitur words and grammatical mistakes that don’t often occur in non-native speakers (fart, ‘I fly powered, ‘) give me the strong impression this guy is a random sentence generator. 

            Or the guy who writes all the spam mail I get. 

          7. I can’t be the only one to see the word “Moderator” in your handle, can I?

            …you don’t pull on Superman’s Cape…

          8. This might seem obnoxious – would you all at BB consider setting up an alternative “death-match” commenting site?

            Y’know, a place for the banished, a collection of the truly dreadful, where we could commentarily duel until the ends of time?  Like climbing into the crystal prison from Superman?

    2. I love when original authors of posts can’t let the posts speak for themselves and find the need to further insult their readers. 

  5. The Washington State Potato Commission director did a 60-day potato-only diet as a promotional stunt a couple years back:

    He lost about 30 lbs. during the ordeal (i wouldn’t refer to it as a diet…)  If i recall, the only other ‘food’ he was allowed during the time was olive oil or similar on the advice of a nutritionist to get essential fatty acids.

  6. I once worked with a guy who would eat nothing but a boiled potato and a raw steak for lunch.  Skinny as a rail.  Never cut his potato or steak with a knife though, always a straight razor, and never with his shirt on.  Best damn oboe player i ever knew…

    Wait, what was I talking about?

  7. I said some time ago I’d stop posting on BB because of unfair comment moderation.  In this case, deleting my post will be quite fair, because I’m going to go ad hominem on the author of the featured piece.  It’s worth it.

    Please, BBers, click around on “Free the Animal”.  Read a few posts, read a few comments by the author.  This is a man I wouldn’t trust to, well, boil me a potato.

    1. I tried it, and what do you know? I found this wtf gem:

      “..For me, there’s nothing more to conclude about America than that it’s an explicitly majority socialist country, now, and that will only grow—everyone clamoring to live at the expense of everyone else….

      Yesterday convinces me that I’m right about dumping this place as soon as I can. I am embarrassed to be an American, and that’s the damn truth.”

      1. Where do these idiots get the idea that they can just say “to hell with the US, I’m going toCountryX” ? Do they not understand that CountryX may well not want to admit a bunch of deranged right-wing nut jobs?

        1. The weirdest thing about hearing right-wingers fleeing the nation is that left-wingers have their pick of the litter from fully socialised eurotopias all the way down to America-lite Canada/Australia, but right-wingers seem to have no CountryX that is less socialist and yet not a war-devastated African nation or an Islamic monarchy.

      1.  Well, I’m not sure whether I’m suggesting that you should disbelieve the message because of the messenger–perhaps more accurately I’m saying “ignore this jerk”, and while I’m not sure whether that falls within the bounds of that particular logical fallacy, in any case it’s not the kind of thing I like to say.  But the specious arguments, confirmation bias, and arguments from authority that Mr. Nikoley seems to engage in, on his own blog and in these comments, make me feel a little better about myself.

  8. I’d rather just exercise… and yes, I appreciate that doesn’t work for everyone.

    I can’t think of much more miserable than having to live on potatoes alone.

    1. I certainly enjoy potatoes enough to live on them but only when I can deep fry them and slather them in delicious gravy and cheese curds. Of course that diet would certainly not be good for weight loss.

  9. Nikoley has added to his linked post, “Mark would not put himself out there on my behalf unless there was something to this.” Mark, do you see yourself as endorsing the idea that there’s “something to this”? If I recall from your elaboration on another memorable BoingBoing nutrition post , you don’t actually endorse these sorts of ideas; you just want to encourage self-experimentation.

    1. Aren’t you listening? He consulted Ray Cronise, former NASA scientist. Fucking NASA, man. Apparently you can google him.

  10. You know, insulting the hell out of your audience might make for good comedy.  But it’s a terrible way to win people over to your way of thinking.  That 47% business didn’t swing a lot of voters over to Mr. Romney’s cause.  Just saying.

  11. I did this once when I really didn’t want to go to the grocery store. I ate a big bag of potatoes over a few days, but also I covered them in mayonnaise and ketchup and sriracha sauces. It was ok. I didn’t notice any change in myself except that I got a bit tired of potatoes.

  12. Lots of flaming here with very little substance. Perhaps potatoes bring out a lizard-brain reaction due to their primitive root nature.

    This comment section would be good anthropology study fodder.

  13. I was a dancer once in a musical production of “Peter Pan.” For three months, all I ate every day was about five cups of coffee, a barrel of fries from McDonalds and a pack Marlboro Reds. I think I lost about fifty pounds. And that was after the muscle gain.

  14. Ugh, Mark, seriously?  Have you not read the offensive, horrible, anti-woman bile Nikoley spews?  Why in the world would you give him a forum here?  

  15. 3# to 4# of potatoes is about 1050 to 1400 cal. that’s not too unreasonable for a weight-loss diet. the rest of it seems to be similar to a part of the shangri-la diet: disassociate fullness from gustatory satisfaction by eating bland things.

    it’s a reasonable strategy i guess, though a protein shake or two probably wouldn’t hurt. but as others have said, losing five pounds in three days while taking 1400 cal. per day is a fluke, unless you’re exercising a whole lot.

  16. Eat anything nonstop and you’ll lose weight, because you’ll be sick to death of it. Anything. Chocolate. Steak. French fries. Ice cream. Eating becomes this thing you have to do to silence the pain in your stomach. You lose out on nutrients (people don’t usually eat just potatoes because they WANT to but because they HAVE to.) You become miserable and lightheaded and headachey all the time. When you start eating again you gorge on everything you’ve been deprived of and gain back all the weight you lost plus more. Not a good way to go.

  17. in wwII my grandfather was saved by potatoes.

    He was Czech, and sent to work in the  Berlin post office  in 1944. One day there was an air raid and everyone left the dormitory where he was staying, except for him – he was making potato dumplings and wasn’t about to leave them because someone would probably eat them by the time he’d come back.

    Turns out the air raid shelter was hit and a number of people were killed.
    After that he always used to say he was saved by the potatoes.

    Regarding that diet, I would have thought the opposite – isn’t it the carbs one should be cutting down? 

  18. I had a huge pile of really mediocre french fries for dinner tonight, with ketchup. Maybe I’d do better with the hash browns because I am not ready for another meal comprised entirely of french fries again any time soon. Not even if they were better than mediocre french fries. Potato pancakes would be nice though. The shredded potato latkes kind, not the leftover mashed potato kind.

  19. They say, that before the Blight, an Irish working man ate up to 14 pounds of potatoes a day, to survive.  Imagine.  

  20. So glad I, for some reason, sensed that I should read this comment thread despite zero interest in the article :D

  21. Potato man has ZERO understanding of the pancreas, insulin, glucagon, and related issues.  Potatoes have a worse glycemic index than sugar. FRIED potatoes (carbs AND fat) are possibly the most unhealthy thing a human can eat.  This potato diet IS perfect if your goal is to get fat and develop Type 2 Diabetes.  Also perfect for idiots.

    1. It reminds me of the Weston A. Price diet*….many people love the sound of it — it’s sort of a Paleo diet on steroids — but as an example one of the main proponents died at 45 of a stroke.  Apparently eating (virtually) nothing but animal protein, mostly in raw form, isn’t really what the body craves.  Just like eating nothing but glucose.

      *as an example, newborns are NOT to nurse, but be fed raw liver instead.  Oh, yes.

      1. Really? I’m not a fan of the diet at all (except the fresh foods part) but I think your info is off.

        The advice to breastfeeding mothers is bizarre and sometimes downright dangerous (they quote a few studies, but so can the person claiming that everyone should live on vegetable oil), but it doesn’t say not to breastfeed. In fact, you should breastfeed no matter what your doctor says and if you don’t like breastfeeding and just want to stop then your child will grow up to be an asthmatic sofa cushion.

        1. That seems to be a very cleaned up version of their diet.  And relatively recent (2000).  Methinks they didn’t like the PR they were getting.

      2. Your info is totally off.  WAPF people are stroooong proponents of breastfeeding.  They only recommend a formula — which may or may not include liver — if for some reason the parents can’t breastfeed (adoption, no milk supply, necessary medications, what have you).

        WAPF is not paleo on steroids.  WAPF is all for eating grains so long as they’re “properly prepared”.  Fallon has been extremely critical of Cordain in the past.  

        Sidenote: I love that WAPF encourages people to discover things like soaking, sprouting, and fermenting.  I dislike that their website still promotes homeopathy, and they seem to have some cray-cray views of vaccines.  If you really want to be critical about the WAPF way of living, there’s plenty to dig into; their breastfeeding views aren’t where to go looking.

  22. When I was young, my mother subscribed to the Reader’s Digest Condensed books.  She had little time for reading but liked to read what was popular.  I remember reading the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous.  My mother had read it first, and when I finished I walked into the kitchen with the book because there was a photo of Bernadette with the story.  In the book, she is wearing her habit, her face looks round and her skirts are voluminous –  she looks fat (and I was just a kid).  I was distressed and confused by the story and the picture, so I asked my mom, ‘How could a woman so poor, be so fat?  Her family was starving!  My mother without missing a beat replied, ‘She probably ate alot of potatoes.’ 

    There are Irish on both sides of my family, most of them hardworking and very poor.  Even the poor and uneducated know that the potato delivers a lot of calories for its weight, and they’ll grow almost anywhere, even if they don’t know why.  If they happen to have a little butter or oil around to go with their potato, better still.  The poor have been depending on the potato (including the Irish, up until the potato blight) for hundreds of years.  They’re poor, not stupid.  I’m pretty confident our ancestors would made the connection between family members getting thinner and a diet of potatoes.   (Is Stephen King of Irish descent?)   Who would have been left to breed?  You need a certain amount of body fat just to remain fertile.  I can imagine metabolic conditions under which some people would lose weight burning up a steady potato diet, but most people do not have that kind of metabolism, at least not much past their teens. 

  23. And, if you eat nothing but twinkies and candy bars you can lose weight. Yes, people, shocking news in dieting. Calories count; eat less of them and you lose weight. 

    Every diet where you restrict the kinds of foods you eat works, because you reduce calories. The problem is, what, this guy is really going to eat only hash browns for the rest of his life, or even the next 3 months. 

    Way to go, you lost weight. Now, keep it off for a little while.

  24. Wow, yeah, reading some more about this guy in

    This guy sounds like an asshole. A real asshole.

    Domination of male over female is simply a biological fact no matter how people dance around the issue. 

    So the girls dress like sluts, dance like sluts, drink like sluts, screw like sluts — and are nevertheless endlessly dismayed that the boys treat them like sluts, like self-maintaining pass-around sex-dolls.

    [The woman is] the ultimate gatekeeper of sex as the penetrated, and to the extent your devotion passes muster, you get to penetrate as much as you like 

    Can we never hear from this guy again?

    1. To be fair the second quote is from his BFF. But yes, Richard Nikoley’s writings are frequently misogynistic and they’d only have to scroll down a few posts to see hateful anti-Muslim bigotry, fat hatred, and demonizations of people for voting, so I have a hard time believing BoingBoing’s editors didn’t know. I did create PaleoDrama in response to Richard’s bullying of me and others. Just like on this thread, he started on me after I dared criticize the shallow pseudo-scientific garbage he peddles. It’s pretty interesting that this post on internet bullying of women would be on the same blog featuring RIchard’s posts

      BTW the person (“MelissaM69”) who is posting in this thread is not me and is one of the many commenters from Richard’s blog who posts hateful sexually harassing comments about me constantly, which Richard won’t delete even though he deletes any that criticize him. I use my official Disqus account for all my posts. 

  25. Sounds like somebody is cranky from eating too many carbs and not enough protein.  I get that way when I’m starving, too.

  26. exercise the correct way, avoid preservatives, sugars, and fried/processed foods, eat the right proportion of carbs, proteins, and fruits/veggies. that’s it. anyone who tells you there is a different way to healthily lose weight is trying to sell you something

  27. as an interesting aside, they solved the diet problem in the 1960s as an exercise in linear programming. which is to say: given that each possible foodstuff costs $x, and provides nutrients in proportions (p_1, p_2, …, p_q), and given that a human being needs nutrients in proportions (n_1, n_2, …, n_q), find the cheapest combination of foods which provides at least that much of each nutrient.

    thus, the optimal (=cheapest) solution for subsistence living was computed and found to be: milk, potatoes, and multivitamin pills.

    of course this makes a lot of assumptions, and totally ignores happiness, &c.

  28. Meaningless anecdote: in college I survived mostly on baked potatoes (2 from the microwave, with some fake spray butter and “potato topping” of bacon bits and spices), and pasta (mostly pasta with alfredo sauce). I rode my bike 2-4 miles a day to avoid purchasing a parking pass onto campus. I was in the best shape of my life.

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