What would happen if you ate nothing but potatoes for a year?

Believe it or not, today’s guest did just that. He’s a former junior Australian champion marathon kayaker, and also a high school P.E. teacher who embarked upon a quest to overcome food addiction, anxiety, and depression by eating only potatoes for an entire year.

At first, I was not sure what to think about all of this. But trust me, there is a lot of wisdom that today’s guest has for you.

One thing that comes up for a lot of folks is the trouble they have with moderation. If you have a whole chocolate bar, can you eat just one square?  If you feel like you eat that one slice of pizza or a few chips and then you have to eat the whole bag, then definitely pay attention to this episode.

You don’t have to eat only potatoes for a year. It’s really not about the potatoes, but listen to what he has to say. If you’ve ever struggled with cravings, moderation, or food addiction, this episode is definitely for you.

On this show with Andrew Taylor, we’re chatting about:

  • Overcoming food addiction
  • How to practice moderation, especially if you’re someone who can’t practice moderation normally
  • Why we don’t need to be afraid of carbs
  • Why potatoes are actually surprisingly nutritious
  • And tons more…

Let’s go hang out with Andrew.

Andrew Taylor: How to Conquer Food Addiction

Abel: Andrew Taylor’s story went viral when the 36-year-old Aussie dad had embarked upon a quest to eat only potatoes for an entire year.

Armed with a degree in Applied Science in Human Movement and a fascination with all things nutrition-related, the former high school Physical Education and health teacher now coaches others through food addiction.

And we were actually, somehow, introduced by one of my old friends from high school. So, Andrew, thanks so much for being here, man.

Thank you very much for having me. It’s always nice to be on a show that I’ve been a fan of. It doesn’t happen that often because I don’t listen to many podcasts, but I have listened to yours, so it’s cool to be on.

Abel: Thanks! That is really cool. And you’re a first for me as well in terms of like, you’re in your car, not only in your car, but across the world right now, which is pretty radical. And you’re at the beach. Obviously, it’s a beautiful, beautiful view.

Yah, I just set up a tripod that’s attached to my steering wheel, but I can take you off and there you go. There’s the beach.

Abel: There you go. You’re making me jealous.

I live in a very small, two-bedroom apartment and it’s 7:00 AM in Australia at the moment, so it’s not too early to be up. But it’s too early to be up and doing this at home and waking up the rest of my family. So yeah, I’m out here.

Abel: Well, it’s so great. And you look like a totally normal high energy, vibrant guy, but take us back a little bit in time for folks who might not be aware of your story. It wasn’t always quite like this.

Yeah. Well, nearly three years ago now, before I started what I call my Spud Fit Challenge, that year of eating only potatoes, life was very, very different for me.

I was clinically depressed, clinically anxious and I was just in a really, really low point in my life. I felt very hopeless and out of control.

I was in the bottom of a deep, dark pit and it felt like there was just no way out. And that’s where I was going to be living for the rest of my life.

The idea for this whole thing came to me, and I started researching to see if it would be a safe idea. I had no idea how my life would change just in a matter of months.

Abel: Reading through your book, there were a few lines that really struck me. One, you said that you were crying almost every day, but you didn’t feel emotion. I thought that was fascinating.

Yeah, it was confusing to me at the time. In hindsight, I was depressed for a couple of years before I was diagnosed, and it was weird because it wasn’t like I was constantly feeling sad.

My idea of depression was someone that was just constantly walking around feeling miserable all the time.

I wasn’t this happy sort of upbeat kinda guy that I am now, and I did have moments where I was just feeling miserable and stuff, but my overriding emotional state was total indifference to life.

I think most people wouldn’t have picked up on my depression because I would still laugh at people’s jokes, and whatever, but I wasn’t laughing because I was happy and felt like I’m having a great time.

I was just picking up on social cues and okay, now’s the time when I’m supposed to laugh, so I better laugh just so that I’m fitting in with what’s going on rather than laughing because I’m enjoying myself. You know that sort of thing.

Pretty much every day there was at least one point where I would feel like, “I’m going to cry now.”

There’s some tears coming and I would go and find a private spot, usually the toilet or the bathroom, a spot where I could be on my own and I would cry for a bit. And then I would go back and go about my day again.

And I was like, “Why is this happening? I don’t understand why I’m crying all the time. I’m not sad. What’s going on here?”

It didn’t make sense to me.

In hindsight it makes sense, but at the time it was just confusing.

Abel: Just a few weeks ago I remember reading a definition of what it feels like to be depressed and I thought it was so interesting. It basically said, it’s an inability to see freshness in life, inability to see the vibrancy of life.

And I was like, “Wow. In a sentence, I get that a lot more than feeling sad all the time.”

That’s not what it is. It’s more just like, “This is it? This is all there is?” And feeling nothing.

But at the same time, you were an athlete and then you started putting on a bunch of weight and kind of lost that identity and the ability to do the things that you used to do, right?

I can’t remember what your weight was at its highest, but you literally were a different person, right?

Well, I was a lake level kayaking champion. I’ve won Australian championships and I still hold a couple of records.

20 years later after I’ve set them, I still hold a couple of records in Australia.

So yeah, I was a high-level athlete, and I always had weight problems, even as an athlete. I was always 5 to 10 pounds overweight, which is not much, but as an athlete, that’s a lot.

And I really think that was probably the difference between me being one of the best in Australia to being maybe one of the best in the world.

Obviously, there’s no way to know. I can’t turn back time and change things, but I feel like that was the difference and I could just never quite get on top of that last 5 to 10 pounds.

At my height, I was training four to six hours a day and then I stopped being so competitive and I toned it down to about two hours a day, which is a lot for most people, but for me, it meant that I started putting on weight, because I was eating the same way as I did before.

And then I started putting on weight, not heaps, but I was getting more overweight. And then basically when my first boy was born—he’s now five years old— I basically just stopped training altogether.

As most parents can relate, there was no sleep happening and there was no time to do anything else. And even if I did have time, I was just too tired because I wasn’t sleeping.

I wasn’t very good at eating healthy, there was no training happening, there was no sleep happening, and the little motivation that I had to try to eat well, that was gone.

So, I was just eating junk all the time, not training, and then my weight really ballooned, and I got up to 336 pounds.

Abel: Wow.

Which is 152 kilos. We use kilos in Australia. But yeah, I got big.

Abel: You were an extremely talented athlete and then all of a sudden, like you said, you started not getting sleep and then you started ballooning a bit. How does that downward trend keep going down and why do you think that is?

Well, it’s weird that I never really lost my identity as an athlete. It’s really strange. I still felt like I was an elite athlete.

I still walked around telling myself that I was an athlete even though I was the furthest thing from an athlete that you could be.

I just never accepted the fact that I was not an athlete. I don’t think of myself as an athlete anymore, and part of my transformation is that I accepted that and I’m working on becoming an athlete again.

But yeah, at the time, I was a 336-pound man who still thought of himself as an athlete for some strange reason.

I did still like moving my body and I still liked exercising. There’s a whole different range of factors, but I think one of them was that I probably could have found the time to do 15 – 30 minutes of exercise a day.

But to me, it didn’t feel like a training session unless I did 2 – 3 hours of it, you know?

Abel: I totally get that.

And it felt like, as an athlete who’s used to training hard and long, it was like, “Well, if I’m not going to go and do what I call a proper training session, then what’s the point?”

So, I was sort of deluded in that way. Like, if I can’t be extremely fit then there’s no point being fit at all.

Even though I hadn’t been extremely fit for a long time, it was just this delusion that I was maintaining in my mind. I didn’t accept reality, I guess.

Abel: As you mentioned, because you were struggling with what you realized was addiction, right? And that’s kind of the nature of it.

At the beginning, you don’t realize that it’s a problem. You don’t even want to admit that it is and you’re kind of in this state of denial.

So what was it that allowed you to break through that?

How to Break Through Food-Addiction Denial

Well it’s sort of a big story that led to that realization, but I had no idea about addiction. It’s something that had never crossed my mind.

Basically I went out one day, it was a beautiful day much like today here in Melbourne, and I was walking by the water with my son. He was two at the time.

And basically one of those episodes where I was crying just came to me while we were out for a walk.

And for the first time, I did that in public where people could see me. I basically ended up sitting down on the side of the path with my two-year-old son, wiping tears away. Strangers were walking past, and my little boy was telling me to not be sad.

That was a really intense moment for me because I realized that my two-year-old boy is here doing more to look after me than I am doing for myself. And that shouldn’t be the way it should be.

And then I realized as well that I’ve been a teacher for a long time, and I was thinking about basically every time I’d ever had the parent-teacher nights, things always click and I always realized that this kid is the same as their parent.

It’s always the same. As much as kids try to be different from their parents, and they are different in lots of ways, the essence, at their core, the kids are a lot like their parents. It’s always the same.

I’ve seen it year after year after year, through thousands of students.

I thought, “Oh no, my boy is going to end up like me. No matter how hard I try to be a good dad, and I was putting everything into trying to be a good dad. No matter how hard I try, he’s going to end up like me.”

And the last thing I wanted for him was to just be this fat, depressed, hopeless person. I just couldn’t think of anything worse that I wanted for my boy.

So I thought, “This has to change. I’ve got to do something about it.”

At that point, I tried talking to lots of different psychologists, and I tried lots of different methods of dealing with my depression and nothing was working for me.

I basically had given up on the depression side of things, so I thought maybe I can try to lose weight again.

And I had tried hundreds of times to lose weight, as well.

And I thought, “Well, I have no idea what to do about the depression, but I’ll try to lose weight and maybe instead of my boy growing up to be fat and depressed, he can just be depressed.”

At least it’s something.

So, I did a month of really good training and eating all those green smoothies, salads, all this good stuff, and exercising every day. And after a month, I did really well and I decided to reward myself with one slice of pizza for dinner.

And one slice of pizza turned into a whole family sized pizza plus ice cream plus soft drink.

I told myself all these stories about how I would go back to healthy living the next day, which never happened.

I didn’t get up and do my training, I didn’t have my green smoothie and salad and all of that.

The next day I was really beating myself up about this binge that I’d had and how I was hopeless and how I was an idiot, and all this self-defeating kind of talk.

And at one point, I went to the fridge, grabbed a beer and when I got back to the couch and cracked open the beer, it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. That all my life I had been treating food the same way that an alcoholic would treat this beer that was in my hand.

That was a really big moment.

And I was like, “Wow, I’m a food addict.”

That was like, “That’s my problem. I’m a food addict. I’m not just a fat guy who needs to just eat differently. I need to treat my addiction.”

So then, I started thinking about addiction.

And I figured with alcoholics, it’s not easy but it’s simple, if you know what I mean. All they have to do is just not drink. There’s one thing to do, they just don’t drink alcohol. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s a simple idea, if you know what I mean.

And I thought, “So, if an alcoholic should quit alcohol, a heroin addict should quit heroin, every other addiction I could think of. There’s a lot behind it, but the simple idea is, you just quit.”

And I thought, “Isn’t it a shame that a food addict can’t quit food.”

And then I thought, “well, maybe I can get as close as possible.”

I wondered how close I could get to quitting food. @SpudFit Click To Tweet

I wonder if there’s just one food I could eat while quitting everything else and thereby getting as close as possible to treating food addiction with abstinence, in the same way as every other addiction.

So that’s where I mentioned earlier that the research started.

I did a lot of research, hours and hours every day for about six weeks, before I settled on potatoes being the perfect choice for doing this experiment. And yeah, the rest is history.

Abel: I think it’s worth diving into the specifics, too, because you had rules on how you were able to do it and it wasn’t just a gimmick.

I think even when I saw it the first time, I’m just like, “Is this a gimmick or is this for real?”

And I think once I really looked into how you were doing it, I liked it more and more. So tell us about how it looked every day, and the little things you allowed yourself.

Well basically, my first thought of this was that I would do it for a couple of months, and the idea would be that it was strictly potatoes only, and nothing else.

But that block of research that I did finished three days before new year’s day, and then the idea came to my head that, “Hey, if I’m starting the 1st of January, maybe I should just go to the 1st of January, and just do the whole year.”

That sounded like a good idea, but it also sounded crazy hard and something that I would never be able to do since I’ve never been able to stick to any diet before.

And because it sounded just so insanely hard to me, I thought, “I’ll just make it a little bit easier by allowing myself a little bit of flavor.”

So, it was only potatoes, but I allowed myself some dried herbs and spices from time to time, or maybe some tomato sauce or ketchup, you call it in the US. Maybe some barbecue sauce or something like that. But I keep all that stuff very, very minimal.

It was just using that stuff enough to give it a little bit of flavor so that I wouldn’t go totally insane, basically, doing this for a whole year.

Three quarters of my meals were just plain with no flavoring, and then I’ll add a little bit of flavoring every now and then. That was rule number two.

Rule number one was to get medical supervision. I did this with the supervision of a doctor.

I think that’s important for your listeners to note. I didn’t expect that there would be any problems.

I did my research and I was 100% confident that everything would go well, but I also thought this is unusual. I better just get that insurance policy and make sure that I knew what was going on with my health. So I got regular medical checkups, blood tests, all of that.

That was rule number one. Rule number two was eat as much as I feel like whenever I feel like it and with those occasional flavorings.

So there was no calorie restriction. It was not about losing weight.

This was definitely not a weight loss attempt for me. @SpudFit Click To Tweet

It was purely about that food addiction. And if it was just about quitting other foods, then as long as I wasn’t eating other food, then there was no problem with the volume that I was eating.

I could eat as much as I want of those potatoes. And that would’ve still meant that I had quit everything else. So, that was my only focus.

Rule number three was to eat as much as I feel like whenever I feel like it. And that was it. Very, very simple.

So yeah, I kept it simple and really tried to mimic the abstinence model that an alcoholic would use, as much as possible.

That was what I was basing everything on. If an alcoholic gets through a day and they have not drunk alcohol, it’s a success. That’s the only measure. And I wanted it to be the same for me.

If I get through the day and all I’ve eaten is potatoes—success.

It wasn’t not about weight loss. It’s not about anything other than just following this abstinence model and see where it leads me.

Abel: Yah, and it’s not even about potatoes.

Exactly, it’s not. I understand that people might think it’s a gimmick at first, just some weird guy doing something silly for 15 minutes of fame. I get that.

I have probably seen lots of people doing important things for very good reasons and jump to the conclusion that it’s 15 minutes of fame sort of silly gimmick kind of thing.

And I get that people will think it’s all about potatoes, all about weight loss. That’s what gets attention, and that’s what the media wanted to focus on at the time.

So, I understand, but it was not about weight loss. It was not about potatoes. It was about treating my addiction.

The weight loss is obviously a very welcomed side effect.

I’m very happy that I lost the weight. But that happened as a result of dealing with my food addiction, not as a result of trying to lose weight.

Abel: Right. And I think that’s really important to keep in mind. This is a weird question, but how much weight did you lose and kind of ignore? Or how quickly did it happen?

It happened really quickly. There was no media coverage in the beginning. I was just doing it on my own.

And the only reason it got media coverage was because I was doing a video diary and I didn’t have room to store all the videos, so I put them on YouTube thinking no one would watch them and I could go back and watch them later.

Abel: That’s great.

And nobody did watch them. In the first month, I had like 50 total views across all of my videos for the month and that was fine by me.

I didn’t care about people watching it, but then someone from the media found it and it blew up.

But in that first month, I lost 10 kilos with no… I was going to say with no effort, but it wasn’t with no effort.

Eating only potatoes was a hard thing to do.

The effort wasn’t directed at weight loss, it was directed at dealing with my own issues around eating only potatoes and that sort of thing.

Abel: And you were still eating as much as you wanted to, volume-wise?

Yeah, I was eating quite a lot. I was eating three and a half to four kilos a day. What would that be in pounds? That would be like 8 – 9 pounds of potatoes per day.

Abel: Wow.

It was around 3000 calories, give or take.

Abel: I didn’t even think about that, but you could literally look at what you’re eating every day or every week as a sack of potatoes.

Did you take pictures of all the potatoes?

Yeah, I wasn’t tracking how much I was eating, or anything.

People always ask me, “How much should I eat exactly? How many calories? How many…”

I wasn’t tracking it on purpose, but I knew each week how many kilos I’d bought. So it was easy to go, “Well, this week I’ve bought this much.”

I can divide it by the days and that’s how much I’ve eaten. So that was the only way I knew how much I was eating. But I was just eating as much as I felt like, and that was what it turned out to be.

Abel: That’s interesting. It makes me wonder really what it would have been like to live a hundred or a couple hundred years ago.

There were a few years when volcanoes went off, and we didn’t get as much sun and there were famines in the 1800s. And so obviously they didn’t have grocery stores back in history.

Most likely people probably would be eating nothing but potatoes for months and months and months on end when things weren’t working out and crops failed.

The only difference perhaps is that they probably couldn’t eat as much as they wanted to.

I guess I hadn’t thought about that point that you’ve just made. But yeah, there would have been months where people ate only potatoes.

The thing I talk about with this is the Irish diet is the best example of it. Where the Irish didn’t live on only potatoes, but very close to it.

They lived on a diet for a couple of centuries where potatoes made up around 90% to 95% of their calories, and probably supplemented with a little bit of milk or butter, or things like that.

But yeah, they got everything they needed and their population grew, which populations don’t grow unless the population is healthy.

And they were noted at the time as being physically bigger and more attractive than their English counterparts.

Abel: Is that right?

Yah. Their neighbors just across the border were not eating the same diet and they were smaller and not as healthy.

So yah, there are examples, that’s one example, but there are other examples of large groups of people eating close to nothing but potatoes.

And even to this day, sweet potatoes, which were part of my diet, there’s a Papua New Guinean highlander tribe which, who eat almost only potatoes year-round, and they sacrifice a pig once a year. And apart from that they ate only sweet potatoes.

Abel: Wow.

And yah, there’s lots of examples of people thriving, not just surviving but thriving with potatoes and sweet potatoes as their sole food source.

There are other examples of tribes or groups of people around the world and situations like you described as well where we can do fine on one type of food.

Abel: We can also do terribly on the same food if we do things to it. You weren’t eating french fries, I imagine, right?

Oh, no, no. That would have been a problem. I wasn’t eating any kind of oils.

That was one of the rules of “What can I eat.”

So I could include those flavorings that I mentioned, but definitely no oils.

I didn’t have any oils. And I didn’t top my potatoes with cheese and sour cream and all that kind of junk that people typically put on potatoes.

I think from a health point of view, what you don’t eat is just as important as what you do. That was a big factor.

What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do. @SpudFit Click To Tweet

Abel: That’s why it may seem weird at first to talk about what you’re doing or what you’ve done as being so great on this show, for example, because to some degree it seems contrary to a lot of the things that I talk about or teach.

But in fact, I think I have so much more in common with your philosophy and what you’ve done than what a standard American diet is, or standard western diet is.

It’s exactly to your point. So much of health is about what you’re not doing that everyone else is doing and kinda taking for granted.

So, once you can really focus on simplifying and putting your shields up to the things that are hurting you, I think you’re more than halfway there. You have to get rid of that junk.

Exactly, and I think you and I are going to disagree on a lot of things about diet, about what’s healthy and what’s not.

But it’s important that we don’t just go, “Abel James is an idiot,” or “That Spud Fit guy is an idiot because he says this.”

We are going to agree on a lot more than we’re going to disagree on, and why not? We can talk about those things and disagree on some small parts, but whatever.

The biggest thing about diet is in avoiding the processed crap, and we can definitely both agree on that. You leave that out and it’s going to make drastic, dramatic improvements in your health.

And you know all that processed crap that most people survive on? That is the stuff that’s causing most of your problems, and we can agree on that.

The last little 10% to 20% is stuff that maybe we disagree on, but so what? Get the rest of it right first and then we can worry about the last little bit.

Abel: Exactly. Well, the interesting thing is that the health industry especially is built on that little 5%, 10% or even 1% or whatever. All those differences, right?

Yah.

Abel: Which is so silly. Because I’m not sure the exact number is, but I think it’s similar in Australia where you are, you know about 70%-75% of people are overweight right now.

We can agree about that. You can just look around and see that, right?

And so, most people are eating in a way that is not working for them and so you kind of need to identify the things that aren’t serving people and then simplify from there I think.

Yah, definitely. Australia is a lot like in America in the obesity rates and health rates. Very, very similar.

The population didn’t get fat and sick from eating plain potatoes, and they didn’t get fat and sick from following The Wild Diet either.

They got fat and sick from eating fast food, junk, and all this processed crap. Most of the stuff that you see in the supermarket. That’s the problem.

They didn’t get fat and sick from sticking to the produce section of the supermarket, which is where you and I would go.

Most people don’t do that, and that’s a problem.

Abel: And just thinking about potatoes in general, especially when you include sweet potatoes in that mix, there really isn’t much better of a starch that’s available when you break it down and look at it.

It’s like fiber, water, a little bit of sugar in the sweet potatoes or in the regular potatoes, not much. And then a whole bunch of different nutrients, especially in the skin. And they’re extremely filling.

I can’t remember where I found this, but I remember talking to Richard Nikoley a few years ago, who is also a blogger.

He came on my show and he was talking about eating, I don’t think it was only potatoes, but it was mostly potatoes, for a long time to see how much money he could save, to see if he could make some good soups that he liked and all of that.

And he was just raving about eating well on $10 a week. He called it “The pauper’s diet” and most of it was potatoes.

And he said he lost weight, his health seemed to improve and in a lot of ways he was trying to model the diet that was 100-200 years old. I thought that was so cool.

Because you look back in time and hardly anyone struggled with weight problems. You look to now, and almost everyone does.

So, perhaps we shouldn’t be looking forward for the next silver bullet, or the next new diet and that’s going to save everyone.

Perhaps we should look back a bit and maybe re-integrate some of those things that they were doing, maybe out of necessity back then, that allowed them to thrive.

Not that everyone was thriving back then, of course. But focus on the things that allowed our ancestors to thrive.

Potatoes are super nutritious. As long as you eat enough calories and you’re not restricting yourself. When I’m coaching people, I say, don’t restrict your calories.

Don’t make this about weight loss, because if you’re making it about weight loss, then you’re restricting calories.

You’re not eating enough and if you’re not eating enough, then you’re not going to get enough of the nutrients you need from potatoes.

They are a great source of everything and potatoes have really got everything we need.

They’re really amazing. They’re absolutely a health food. And I can concur with your friend, Richard. For the first month I was spending less than five Australian dollars a day, which is probably about three US dollars per day on potatoes.

So it was a pretty cheap diet.

And actually, I was lucky. The media story broke at the end of the first month, and from then on I was sponsored with free potatoes by a local potato guy.

Abel: That’s awesome.

So for the rest of the year, I didn’t actually even pay for my food. So that was a cheap year for me.

How To Dodge Addictive Foods

Abel: Alright, so let’s talk about how you transferred back to, I guess, regular eating? How did you transfer back after that year to not being addicted to food anymore, yet starting again?

My number one thing was, I basically spent the year avoiding addictive foods.

There are a lot of foods around that are addictive. @SpudFit Click To Tweet

And by addictive I mean there are a lot of foods that we eat, which when you eat them they will trigger pleasure centers in your brain.

Abel: Right.

You’ll get what I call a food-gasm. So basically, all the foods that would trigger that reaction, trigger the dopamine production in your brain, I still don’t eat those.

So I haven’t eaten chocolate in three years. I haven’t eaten cake. I don’t touch any of that.

These days, I eat what’s called a whole food plant-based diet, so I eat a lot of beans, whole grains, vegetables, and potatoes.

Potatoes probably still make up two-thirds to three-quarters of what I eat.

Abel: Really?

Yah. I still love potatoes. Actually, yesterday was a very potato day. I had three meals yesterday, and all three of them were potatoes with baked beans.

That was it. So I can eat very, very simply. That’s not every day. I have a lot of potatoes and baked beans at home, so I was just eating them.

But yah, I ate a little bit of fruit. Basically I don’t eat any processed foods, no processed sugar, I don’t eat any oils, and I don’t eat any animal products; which is the bit that you and I would disagree on.

But yah, my diet is unprocessed whole-plant foods, and basically that simple.

The diet is known as a whole food plant-based diet. I call it whole food potato-based.

Abel: I like that. Now, what’s the mix between sweet potatoes and potatoes? And what about squash and stuff like that? Do you just throw that in there too?

Yah. I eat all of that sort of stuff.

Abel: You must know all the varieties of potatoes at this point.

I do, and I have tried them all, but mostly I just get whatever’s cheapest.

But as far as during the year that I did it, I was eating mostly white potatoes.

Maybe I would have one meal every couple of days that would be sweet potatoes, but most of what I ate was white. Normal white potatoes.

I love sweet potatoes. As far as my potato breakdown, more of what I eat is white potatoes than sweet potatoes.

But there’s no particular reason for that, it’s just that I prefer it. And if people want to get more sweet potatoes that’s totally fine too.

There’s no reason to eat one way or the other. They’re both equally great.

Abel: I’m a big sweet potato fan.

Yah. They’re fantastic.

Abel: But you’re not using oils. So that’s something that’s also quite unique as far as guests I’ve had on the show. So I’d love to have you explain a little bit about why.

Okay. Well they’re a highly processed food like sugar is. I compare oil to sugar.

So if you take a sugar cane and you strip it of all the fiber, the water content, you take the protein and the carbohydrate out of it, and you take nearly all of the minerals and vitamins out of it, you’re left with pure sugar.

And everyone agrees that that’s a highly processed food. It’s not an intact food.

And then you go the other way. You take a perfectly good olive, you strip it of the fiber and the water content and you take away the protein and the carbohydrate and most of the vitamins and minerals, and then you’re left with pure fat. And it’s highly processed.

To me it makes sense that it’s on a par with sugar. It’s like they’re basically both highly processed foods that are highly calorically dense.

There’s a lot of calories in sugar and there’s a lot of calories in oil.

And they also both trigger that pleasure center in the brain that I was talking about that triggers an addictive response.

So yah, I avoid it for those reasons. And there are also studies about oil contributing to heart disease and things like that.

But the main reason for me is that I’m avoiding addictive foods, and oil is one of those foods that triggers pleasure centers in your brain that makes you want to eat more and more.

Abel: Are there any fruits or veggies or foods that would seem like they wouldn’t be addictive, that do come from nature, that you avoid for those reasons?

Well, yah. Avocado is one that I don’t eat.

Abel: Oh, really?

Yah. I don’t eat avocado. I’m wary of it. And peanut butter, things like that.

I do give peanut butter to my son on toast, and I make sure it’s a high quality. It’s just peanuts blended into a paste, it’s not full of sugar and all this other stuff.

You can get good peanut butter, and you can get highly processed peanut butter with all theses additives.

But even that, if I make him a piece of toast and have a bite, then I think, “Oh no, I shouldn’t have done that because now I want to eat seven pieces of toast.”

So, yah. The high fatty-content foods. The natural foods like nuts and avocado and coconut, things like that. The foods with high fat content are things that I’m wary of because of my behavior when I have some of those sorts of things.

And most of the time I don’t have it at all, but every now and then I’ll have a little taste and think, “Yah, just be careful with this.”

Abel: Well, because what you’re really trying to avoid is that one pizza turning into eating the whole pie-type scenario, right? With all foods.

Exactly. A piece of something with avocado on it is fine.

And let’s be honest, a slice of pizza once a month is going to be fine. If I was able to stick to that once a month, like I tried to have one slice of pizza. That’s not going to ruin your health.

If you have one slice of pizza in a month, that’s almost nothing.

But like you said, when it becomes a whole pizza and it becomes something you repeat every day, that’s when it’s a problem. And so that’s why, personally, I can’t do it.

I don’t know how your relationship is with food, but I wouldn’t go and say, “You can’t ever have a slice of pizza or an ice cream or whatever.”

Because I don’t know how that’s going to affect your behavior tomorrow, and the next day and the next day; whether it’s going to become something you do every day.

But for me personally, and for many other food addicts out there, it’s a bad idea to even flirt with it once a month.

Because an alcoholic could go for a month without drinking beer, and then have one beer and it quickly becomes full-blown alcoholism.

This idea of everything in moderation, nobody applies that to a alcoholic or a heroin addict or whatever.

You’d be crazy if you tried to tell an alcoholic to drink alcohol in moderation. It’s a silly idea. But that’s the idea that I’m applying to food, as well.

And there are people that can do moderation. Of course there are. There are many of them, and I’m not one. So that’s the way I look at it.

Abel: I think it’s worth saying that I can moderate. Which is interesting, because it comes out sometimes, like when I’m eating together with other people. I can eat one or two pieces of chocolate, but I see that other people cannot. And I think that’s so interesting.

That’s why I think it’s beautiful that we don’t necessarily agree exactly about how we do everything. Because we have different psychology and different baggage and different things that we’ve been through, and different bodies, too.

And I think it’s really important for people who are listening on the other end to know that it’s not about finding one solution.

It’s about looking at all these different things, and hopefully trying one that maybe fits with you. That fits with how you see the world, how you live your life, and compliments your own health.

As long as you’re getting back in touch with your own common sense, I think we’re winning.

Definitely. My wife is like you. She can eat one or two squares of chocolate.

And there is chocolate in our fridge. On the top shelf of the door of our fridge, that’s where the chocolate goes, and I just leave it there. But it’s always there.

And in the past I couldn’t have left it there. I would have eaten it all.

So my wife would have bought chocolate for herself, eaten one or two squares, and I would have eaten the rest of the block. And then she would have had to go and buy more for herself, and the cycle repeats.

But these days I just don’t touch it. I never touch chocolate.

The only time I’ve even touched chocolate in the last three years was when I got it all out of that shelf to take a photo for Instagram so that I could explain to people that it’s there.

And she’s an alien and can do that, and I can’t. And I’ve just got to accept that reality that I’m not a moderation guy.

A big part of the battle is just accepting the reality of the situation and learning to deal with it, rather than trying to fight that reality.

If you’re not someone who can do moderation, then stop trying to do moderation. You’re fighting a losing battle.

Abel: This probably translates across the pond, but I know for me and a lot of my male friends growing up, we had to get over something in adulthood. For some reason it’s like, the more you eat publicly the more of a man you are, right?

It’s like, “You’ve got a healthy man appetite. You’re a big man.”

There’s this thing that’s coached into us somehow by culture that I know I had to get over.

It’s like, “Oh, am I eating to try to be a bigger man?”

It’s a really silly question to ask, but sometimes you realize that that’s exactly what’s happening. Especially for athletes.

It’s like, “The bigger appetite you have the stronger you’re going to be, the faster you’re going to be.” It’s not right, but it’s something that a lot of us have to deal with.

I’d love to get your perspective on that in just the few minutes that we have left.

That’s a really good point, and not something I’ve thought about. So thanks for bringing that up.

But yah, back in my athlete days we’d go to, let’s say the Australian Championships. That takes a few days.

There’s races and stuff, and then at the end of it there’s a big party. We all get together, have a party, and all the presentations happen, and there’s a smorgasbord on. And it is like a competition between athletes to see who can pile their plate the biggest and who can fit in the most.

And me and my friends would go to an all you can eat restaurant and literally have a competition to see who could eat the most. It’s crazy.

It is nuts to think that somehow you’re a bigger man if you can eat more. Yah, thanks for bringing that up. That’s a really interesting thought, and definitely something I can relate to, as well.

And yah, I still do it a lot. I’m 6’5 and I’m a big-built guy, and I still do it a lot. But I definitely don’t compete with anyone anymore. And I definitely don’t eat as much as I used to. For sure.

Where to Find Andrew Taylor

Abel: Right on. Well I’m happy to hear that. So we’re just about out of time, but before we go Andrew, please tell folks where they can find your book and what you’re working on now.

Well, you can find me at spudfit.com. And my latest book is called Spud Fit: A Whole Food Potato-Based Guide to Eating and Living. And it’s all about, basically, potato-based recipes.

Not potatoes only, just lots of recipes that have potatoes in them.

Abel: The recipes look good.

Yah. There’s over 100 recipes from over 90 different friends that I asked to contribute. I’m very, very proud of the book.

And it also contains a lot of advice from myself about all the things we’ve been talking about today. And so my contribution was a lot of writing.

And I got a lot of friends to make the recipes because they’re all much better cooks than I am.

And yah, right now I’m just working on trying to develop my coaching, and try to help more people overcome this food addiction problem that I’ve learned a lot about it in the last couple of years.

And I’m a teacher as well, so those skills translate into helping other people to deal with these issues. So that’s my main focus.

And in what little time I have left over I’m trying to become an athlete again. We’ll see how that goes.

Abel: You got this.

Maybe with two kids now I’ve got to accept that I’m not going to be the athlete that I was, but I can be something approaching that I hope. So we’ll see.

Abel: I know you will. Well Andrew, I’m so glad we were introduced. I would love to have you on the show again in some time just to catch up with you and see how you’re doing. Because I think your perspective is so very much needed now.

There are a lot of people struggling with food addiction who don’t even realize it. So thanks for doing what you do.

No worries. Thanks for having me on. It’s been fun.

And like I said, you’ve made me think about things in different ways than I have before, so that’s always good.

And thanks for doing what you’re doing, promoting this healthy eating message. And it’s sorely needed, so keep up the good work.

Abel: Right on. Thanks man.

Cheers.

You can also find Andrew on Twitter and Instagram @spudfit.

Before You Go…

Here’s a review for The Wild Diet that came in from H. Daiszler, who says:

Thank you Abel for publishing this book. As an RN in the western medical community, I can’t tell you enough how much this information is needed to be spread. You did so in an honest and factual way that was enjoyable to listen to and easy to understand.

Society’s understanding of nutrition is so clouded by the media and large corporation marketing that it’s deceiving even the medical community, and its having a hard time sorting it out.

I have listened to your podcast for awhile now and love how honest you are and that you are not corrupted by the bottom line. Your integrity is what brought me to read this book and become better for myself and family. I’ve learned so much through people like you and some of the folks you bring on your show.

I’m not a crier. But the first time I read this, honestly, it made me cry a little bit. My mom, of course, is a nurse practitioner, herbalist and author, so for me, I’ve kind of been in that world for a while.

My mom has always straddled the western medical community that she was educated by and often has to work in, as well as the alternative healing community, because those can be very different things.

So to your point, I really do my best to bridge the gap and hopefully make it accessible to folks who are on the more professional side of things, like you are. So thank you for listening, and I’m really glad that it’s working for you.

Now, if you took your health into your own hands, if you’re feeling better, shedding fat, feel like you have a bit more energy than you did before, I’d love to hear about it.

Or even if things are going poorly, let me know about that and we’ll see if we can help you out.

The easiest way to get in touch, is just to sign up for my newsletter and reply to the email that I’ll send to you. I try to read every single one of those emails. I always love hearing from you guys, and I try to respond to as many as I can.

If you’re curious—this is something that you may have caught wind of—when Alyson and I moved up to the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado, we were without internet for about 8 months. No WiFi, no ethernet. And so we had to get pretty clever with how we worked everything out.

But the good news is, while we were off the grid, we were also travelling and learning how to produce virtual reality and 360 videos. We’ve literally made hundreds of virtual reality music videos and nature videos.

If you haven’t tried VR yet, especially seeing some of the outdoor wilderness stuff in augmented reality with your phone, or even better with the goggles like Oculus or Vive, then check it out. It is pretty cool.

Since there are 360 VR videos, you can actually look around the entire room, by moving your phone or tablet around, or clicking and dragging with your mouse, depending on where you’re watching it or if you’re wearing the goggles. It really does feel like you’re there in a totally unique and crazy way. So hopefully, some of these videos will put a smile on your face, or get you grooving around a little bit.

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