In this installment of our interview series, I'm talking with Andrew Taylor- the Aussie dad who has decided to live on nothing but potatoes for an entire year.
Please note: this interview should not be considered as advice or as a recommendation that people eat a potato-only diet. Andrew is undertaking this challenge for personal reasons and under professional medical supervision.
In this installment of our interview series, I’m talking with Andrew Taylor, who I previously interviewed as part of our ‘Plant-Based Parent’ series in 2014. Over the past 7 months, Andrew has undergone quite a remarkable health transformation, thanks to a year-long undertaking he’s termed ‘Spud Fit’. Crazy as it may sound to some, Andrew has decided that for the entirety of 2016 he will eat nothing but potatoes (both sweet and white), in order to tackle and ultimately combat his battle with food addiction. I wanted to talk to Andrew about his motivation for taking on such an enormous challenge, and how the first 7 months of his spud-exclusive diet have gone.
Hi Andrew! Thank you for joining us once again for our interview series. For the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with Spud Fit, could you tell us a little about what you’re doing this year, and your motivation for doing it?
This year I’m doing the Spud Fit Challenge. I came up with this one day when I was sitting on the couch contemplating my battles with overeating and weight gain. I noticed that my eating habits were a lot like the habits of an alcoholic; I would eat well for a month or two, and right when I thought things were under control I would slip up. The day would eventually come when I would tell myself “I have everything under control, just one piece of chocolate cake won’t hurt”, but that was always the top of a slippery slope back to my old, destructive eating habits. It struck me how similar this behaviour was to that of an alcoholic who could go a few months without a beer, before telling himself that one drink wouldn't hurt. Of course, everyone agrees that it’s best if an alcoholic simply quits alcohol and never drinks again. I wondered, "why don’t we apply that same logic to a food addiction?" Obviously we can’t quit food entirely, but I wondered what would happen if I could find one single food that I could eat that would keep me healthy and allow me to quit all other foods for a period of time. I did a lot of research over the course of six weeks and settled on potatoes. Then the Spud Fit Challenge was born!
That’s a really interesting approach to addressing your issues with food. How did your friends and family members react to this decision?
Everyone has been really supportive and happy for me to do my thing. No problems at all, lots of questions and curiosity, but mostly just love and support. They understand that my relationship with food has been troubled and they’re happy for me to do whatever I feel I need to do to try and solve this problem. Everyone, especially my wife, has been really great actually!
In addition to support from friends and family, you’ve received an enormous amount of media attention over the past 7 months. Was this something that you expected? Do you think it’s been helpful?
No, that’s been totally unexpected! I really thought I was doing something exceedingly boring when I started. Initially I just had a YouTube channel where I was vlogging, and after about a month it all exploded and went viral around the world. I’ve been on TV and radio in more countries than I can remember, as well as print media, websites, podcasts and even interviews with other YouTube channels. The funny thing is that I wouldn’t have even had a YouTube channel in the beginning if my wife didn’t push that idea on me! The media side of things has certainly been fun, and I’ve really enjoyed it, but I don’t think it’s actually helped me with getting through the challenge. If anything I think it’s been a distraction, albeit a welcome distraction!
Some of these articles and media presentations have speculated on the health implications of your challenge. In the last 7 months, have you experienced any improvements with regards to your health and wellbeing?
Where do I start?! I’ve seen big improvements across the board in my blood tests, everything is right where it needs to be. I’m sleeping better, I have better mental clarity and focus. For the past 10 years I’ve had joint pain from old football injuries and that’s totally gone. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety at the beginning of last year and that's not giving me trouble any more either. I have abundant energy these days, and as a result, I’ve gotten back into fitness training. Oh yeah, and so far I’ve lost 44kgs!
Wow- that’s quite a feat Andrew! Congratulations. I imagine that for a lot of people, the idea of eating just one food would seem boring or monotonous. How do you combat this? Do you use lots of different methods to prepare your spuds?
Actually, I haven’t really gotten bored at all- that’s the strangest part about all this. After 7 months of only potatoes, I’m still enjoying them! I keep it fairly boring on purpose because the whole point of this idea of “quitting food” was to take a break from thinking about food all the time. I wanted food to become a mere source of fuel to power my days, rather than being a source of comfort and emotional support. I thought that if I wasn’t able to get these things from food, then I’d learn to get them from other areas of life. This year has allowed me to have some space in my brain, free from the constant nagging I used to get from food, and I think that’s because I’ve made an effort to keep food boring! 95% of my meals are either boiled, baked or mashed potatoes. I do occasionally make potato waffles too, and I also use some herbs, spices and fat-free sauces just to avoid going totally insane with boredom.
Fair enough! What do you think are some of the most common misconceptions people have about potatoes? How do you think that “Spud Fit” is challenging these ideas?
There are a lot of misconceptions about potatoes! People think they make you fat, they have no protein, and are deficient in a whole heap of vitamins and minerals. Basically, people seem to think potatoes are just empty calories that are best avoided unless you want to get diabetes and die! Changing the way others think about food certainly wasn’t part of my plan in the beginning, but I’m so happy to be helping to challenge the status quo. I think a lot of people have become open to the idea that potatoes are a real health food, that carbs don’t make you fat, and that we don’t need to eat excessive amounts of protein to be fit and healthy.
Speaking of being fit, you’ve mentioned in your posts and videos that you have become more active, and are getting stronger too. What does your current exercise regimen involve?
I’m currently doing 1-2 hours of training most days. At the moment it’s mostly endurance training through running or riding, with some bodyweight strength training thrown in too. For a couple of months I was going to the gym and lifting heavy weights. I did get stronger during that time, but in the end I couldn’t stand the music they played there, so I got back outside and I’m enjoying that more.
I can definitely understand your position on the music- so it's great that you can get outdoors! One final question I wanted to ask- do you have any goals for the coming 5 months? And what about next year, when the 366 days of potato-only eating are over?
The only goal I’ve had from the start of the year is simply to get through the year eating only potatoes and see what happens. That goal hasn’t changed. Next year when the Spud Fit Challenge is over I plan on transitioning to a whole food plant based diet. This is a diet I’ve tried to follow in the past because I think it is the healthiest way to eat, I just haven’t been able to make it stick because of my issues with food addiction. My mindset and relationship with food is totally different now to what it’s previously been in my life, so I feel like I’ll be successful at it this time. Only time will tell though so we’ll just have to wait and see…
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Andrew for taking part in our interview series! If you’d like to follow Andrew’s progress, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow Spud Fit on Facebook.
This interview is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical or dietary advice. You should always seek advice from your physician, dietitian, or other qualified health provider before changing your diet.