From Couch Potato Food Addict to Spud Fit

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From Couch Potato Food Addict to Spud Fit

By Brian Whitney 11/24/16

Spud Fit founder Andrew Taylor on how he beat his food addiction through . . . . potatoes.

Image: 
Potato Head
A potato a day . . .

When Andrew Taylor of Melbourne, Australia, started doing Spud Fit, he had no idea it would get any attention at all. He just wanted to change his relationship with food, get healthy, lose weight and become less depressed. 

As a self described food addict, he was constantly consumed with the thought of food, and felt that things were well on their way to getting worse. He knew that his situation was different than someone who was a drug addict or an alcoholic—with enough help they could just quit using, but how was he to quit eating? So he decided to pick a really bland food and eat it all year long.

Little did he know that this decision would make him famous—well sort of, anyway. There have been numerous articles written about him from media all over the world. At first the news stories were about this nutty guy from Australia eating potatoes for a year, but things have changed a bit as of late. Why? Well because it appears to be working. After more than a half year in, Andrew is much happier, has lost a ton of weight, and is still going strong. He even offers coaching now and has started a Spud Fit challenge called Spudtember.

Is eating all potatoes all the time going to be sweeping the nation soon? Zoe Martin, a nutritionist for Discount Supplements, thinks not. “If a person were to live entirely off of potatoes, then initially they would likely notice weight loss right away. This is because the average 100g potato only has 93 calories in it, so even if you were to eat, say, 2kg a day (bear in mind how much that is) you would still be eating under 2,000 calories, which is under the national guidelines for caloric intake for both females and males. Although potatoes do contain all three macro nutrients (3g protein, 1g fats and 21 carbs per 100g), and a healthy dose of fiber and vitamin C, they’re lacking in important micronutrients and vitamins that are essential for recovery, growth and general well-being.”

Andrew doesn’t care about these kinds of opinions, not much anyway. To find out what he does care about and how Spud Fit is going now, I sat down with him for an interview.

When you started this journey you described yourself as a food addict. What was your relationship like with food then as opposed to now?

In the past I've spent so much of my day obsessing over food. I'd worry a lot about what my next meal would be and whether or not I'd be able to get through it without binging. I worried a lot about my weight, I felt totally helpless and out of control. Food really dominated my mind and therefore my life. I spent so much time and energy on thinking about how I could eat better, coming up with plans, talking myself into eating well, and then beating myself up and berating myself when I repeatedly failed to live up to my own expectations. Eating well and being thin and healthy seems so straightforward and simple, which made it all the more frustrating for me. It made me feel so weak and feebleminded that I just couldn't control what I was putting in my mouth. I knew that what I was doing was no good for me but I kept on doing it anyway. It was the definition of a vicious cycle.

These days I see food totally differently. This Spud Fit Challenge has really allowed me to take some time off from thinking about and obsessing over food. My brain space has been freed up to deal with other things in life that are far more important than getting a momentary cheap high from junk food. Potatoes are extremely healthy but they are also quite boring, there's no excitement in eating a big plate of boiled potatoes which means I've had to re-train my brain to get enjoyment, comfort and emotional support from other areas in life. My relationship with food has completely turned around to the point where I now see food as fuel. Food is no longer something I look to for enjoyment, it's just something I need to put in my body to help it function at its best and to help me to be the best person I can be. People often ask me what my first meal of 2017 will be, and I honestly couldn't care less, there really are no flavors that I'm interested in. As long as that first meal is something super healthy and clean then I'll be very happy with it, and I think that's a good indication of how far I've come.

Have you been surprised at all by the response? It seems that more and more people are not only cheering you on, but are trying the diet themselves.

Yes, I've been totally shocked and surprised the whole way through this year. When I started, I really thought there could be nothing more boring than a bloke eating potatoes for a year. I had no idea how much interest this would generate! It really has been a whirlwind of TV, radio and various other media interviews, as well as thousands and thousands of emails from people wanting help and advice. This Spud Fit Challenge has really taken on a life of its own, it's become something far bigger than me and has ended up helping a whole lot of people to improve their relationships with food and regain their health in the process. It's been a really wild ride!

Let's talk potatoes, are you totally sick of them yet? What do you do to keep it fresh?

The strangest thing of all is that I'm not sick of potatoes. At the beginning of the year, I really thought this would be a huge battle of mental toughness to get through the year without eating anything else. But since the end of week two, it really hasn't been that hard at all. I've worked hard at developing a mindset where I'm accepting of the position I'm in and I've surrendered fully to the process. In terms of cooking, I really do keep it very boring—95% of my meals are either mashed, boiled or baked potatoes. Occasionally I do mix it up and make some potato waffles, but that's about as far as things go for me in the kitchen. I prefer to keep things interesting by doing other enjoyable things. I spend more time playing with my boy or being with my wife and I spend more time exercising, reading, listening to music and of course answering the piles of emails I get every day and interacting with people on social media.

What do you say now to the dietitians and nutritionists that said this was a bad idea?

I was never in this to prove anybody wrong or to make a point of any kind, this was all about an experiment to try and deal with my own food issues. Having said that, I have been quite frustrated at times by so called "experts" offering their opinions on this when they've clearly got no idea what they're talking about. It's quite scary to me that people in positions of power and influence in the health industry can be so ignorant and misleading about what's healthy and what's not. The number of times I've heard these people claim that potatoes have no protein or no fiber or no vitamin C or any number of other things is really quite frightening. We are supposed to be able to trust these people to give us the right information to help us make informed choices, and when talking about my challenge this year they've consistently failed to do their jobs. It takes less than a minute to use a phone to look up the nutrient content of potatoes, I don't know why they can't do that. I've lost all respect for the Dietitians Association of Australia over the course of this year.

Have you given any thought to going beyond the initial year? Any fear that the old addictive habits will take hold again if you stopped?

I have no doubt that I could continue on with potatoes and be healthy indefinitely, but I don't have any desire to do so. I feel like the job I set out to do—change my relationship with food—was completed months ago. So for now I'm really only continuing to the end of the year because it's a challenge I set for myself and I want to complete it. Only time will tell if old habits come back and I put all the weight back on. Nobody can say for sure what will happen because this hasn't been done before. What I can say is that I feel very confident that when I make the switch to a whole foods plant based diet on January 1st, I'll be able to stick to it and continue to thrive. I now look at food in a totally different way to what I ever have in my life, I feel liberated and ready to move on to the next challenge. It's also nice to know that I'll forever have a spud safety net if I need it.

Can you tell us a bit about Spudtember?

Over the course of the year I've answered thousands and thousands of emails from people looking for help and advice to do the same thing I've done. Somehow I've touched a nerve and every day the emails come pouring in from people who relate to my experience and relationship with food. In a conversation with my wife, she suggested that I should set something up to make it easy for people to get on board and come along for the ride. Spudtember was born out of that conversation and so far it's been a great success! Hundreds of people have joined up to take part in a guided, month long Spud Fit Challenge. I've written a short e-book that all the members get, which includes mental exercises that I've come up with and some recipes too. I've also done some live webinars in the group... I'm most excited that some of my closest family members and friends have joined in. For more info check out www.spudfit.com/spudtember.

Did you ever think this would catch on like it has? Where do you go from here with it? It has kind of taken on a life of its own at this point.

I had no idea it would get as big as it has and I had no intention of using what I've learned to help other people either. I do have a unique set of experiences behind me now though, and I'm absolutely loving the chance to pass on what I've learned to other people. Where I go from here with it is anyone's guess really. If you'd told me at the beginning of the year that this would all be happening now I'd have thought you were crazy, so I'm not even going to attempt to predict what will happen next! All I know is that I want to put as much time and effort as I can into sharing what I've learned and hopefully helping more people turn their lives around like I have.

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