Mikey's No-Potato Diet - How I went from obese to normal without pills, artificial sweeteners, or additional exercise.
(c) 2004, Mike Barkley
[last updated 12/05/04 - I use minimal HTML to maximize your download speed]

I am not a nutritionist. I don't recommend less exercise, but am limited by circumstances in what I can do to exercise. I take various vitamin and mineral supplements to make sure I get all that I need. This narrative merely relates my own experiences. For your own weight program consult your physician.

I am male, 5'9, born 1945, with a large frame although somewhat low muscle mass.

I think I have a relatively high metabolism since I shed heat (my hands feel warm to other people) and I'm cold most of the time unless it's well into the 80s (Fahrenheit), so I wear a light sweater when other people are complaining of the heat. This alone may mean that what worked for me may not work to the same degree for you.

I hit my peak of 225 pounds in 1998 and became increasingly dissatisfied with it - I was clumsy (er, clumsier), lethargic, could barely fit behind the steering wheel of my favorite cars, and so on. These notes describe my journey from obese to a normal weight.

When I started I didn't have any particular plan, I just got tired of being fat. I have sung in barbershop quartets since 1995 and had already done other things to improve vocal health: I'd cut down on milk products, and completely eliminated sodas. I drink a lot of water. I dislike the chemical taste and aftertaste of artificial sweeteners so I did not consider them an option. I've never done cigarettes or alchohol. Here's what I did, starting in the summer of 1998.

1. I cut out all potatoes - no more chips, fries, mashed, baked, scalloped, hash browns, or any other.

Over several months, 10 to 15 pounds melted off, Just Like That! Wow! This encouraged me to start looking at other parts of my diet. In retrospect, this may have had as much to do with beginning to watch my consumption as it did with eliminating all that gratuitous starch.

2. I eliminated pasta and pizza.
3. I began preferring poultry to beef, and fish to poultry. I began preferring salads as entrees, nice, big, delicious salads - Chicken Caeser at Red Robin is most memorable.
4. I changed breakfast to a rather thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich (bran or oat bread, Skippy smooth, Smuckers Low-Sugar or Knott's Light). This jolt of protein (and fat) allowed me to cut to two meals a day except when I had an active day, and then I usually found a light sandwich somewhere such as Subway.
5. I changed my evening meal to a large salad (Fresh Express "Veggie Lovers" or Dole "Very Veggie" - about a third of a bag, a big tomato cut up small, a third of a cucumber cut up small, 4 leaves of romaine cut up small, sliced radishes, shredded carrots, julienne beets) with plenty of regular (not low fat) ranch dressing (I needed ranch to keep my tummy settled during the night - but understand, ranch has a Huge amount of calories) and a smaller Marie Callender pot pie (or an Aussie pie until Costco stopped carrying them).
6. A banana during the night.
7. For snacks I'd been munching on Keebler Pecan Sandie cookies, later switched to Triscuit for awhile, but see below.

Through this period my wife's multiple sclerosis worsened requiring me to be closer and closer to home and thus more sedentary. Thus, instead of an exercise program I actually had sort of the inverse. On the other hand, meals I prepare for her have nothing to do with the meals I prepare for me, so I'm free to eat what I want.

Pounds gradually melted off.

All of these changes dropped my weight into the low 180s over about 4 years. I noticed my body becoming more efficient at harvesting nutrition so that the least deviation, such as Thanksgiving dinner, could put on several pounds in a hurry. And pork in any form seems to be deadly in the way it puts weight on me. The 4 pounds or so from the holidays in 2002 stayed on for about a year until I got fed up. From the low of 180 or so I had drifted into the high 180s, still into the "fat" zone on the charts and threatening to condemn me to remaining another statistic in the national problem of obesity. Time to get serious:

8. For snacks, I changed from Triscuit to the following:
a. I began setting out on the kitchen counter a colander of grape tomatoes. When I get the urge to snack, one or two of these seem to do the trick. I really like them. Now that my weight has stabilized I add a colander of seedless grapes, an occasional apple, and containers of unsalted almonds or walnuts.
b. For tummy growlings, especially overnight, I looked at all the labels on breads for fat content and calories, and selected Sara Lee "Classic Wheat" (not the "Lite", which has a chemical after-taste) - one or two slices usually did the trick and allowed me to sleep just fine, and it tastes good to me - that's a slice of bread as a snack food.
9. I began substituting Heinz Weight Watchers "Smart Ones" entrees for the pot pies except on active evenings. Wow! These babies allow me to drop up to a half pound a day.

After 9 months of this last set of changes, I'm right around 170, and find my body very sensitive to extra nutrition. If I'm active I eat more; if I'm not, I cut it back to this level. I'm very pleased with the way my weight has stabilized at the high end of the older "normal" charts, see for instance .

No pills, no artificial sweeteners, actually less exercise, and I dropped 55 pounds as I developed a menu to my taste. I feel good, my blood pressure is great. I still have a minor middle-aged male pot gut, but I'm not worried about it. I'm a bit concerned about kidney stones with the peanut butter and the leafy vegetables, but surprisingly the only problem I've had with them was *before* I changed my eating lifestyle.

Three lessons:
1. You don't have to do this all at once, that is, you don't have to go on a diet. Swap out one type of food at a time until you're happy with the balance and the effects. So what if it takes years?
2. This is not a diet, it's a lifestyle change.
3. There's a huge industry out there devoted to making you fat - fast foods, snack foods, ice cream, soft drinks, beer & booze, barbeques, pasta, donut shops & bakeries, breakfast cereals, candy, potatoes by the ton, and so on, all led by an advance guard of relatives and friends saying "surely you can break your diet just this one time, can't you" ("social eating", like social drinking). I had to learn to "just say no". They leave me alone these days at the pizza parlor when I buy a salad while they're stoking up on cholesterol heart-bombs. And the relatives now include my changed tastes in their dinner preparations. Whew, what a hassle!

As I've read more, I've found that what I came up with seems similar to the National Institutes of Health DASH eating plan although simpler in execution.

I hope this narrative has been helpful. Good luck to you in your efforts to manage your weight.

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--Mike Barkley, 161 N. Sheridan Ave. #1, Manteca, CA 95336 (H) 209/823-4817
No more excuses! - Cure Multiple Sclerosis now!