Caloric density and weight loss – Starch Solution first week results

I finished week 1 on Starch Solution and am pleased to report a 7.5 lb weight loss – with no feelings of hunger between meals. On to week 2! Of course I am realistic and don’t expect this rate of loss every week. I realize that the first week on any diet is usually the best.

Some people were asking what I have been eating. I’m not really much of a cook, so I’m eating simple. For example, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, microwave packages of brown rice, frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, carrots), salads (cucumber, tomatoes), some legumes mixed in the salad (50 g packages of garbanzo beans or red kidney beans), sometimes non-starchy frozen mixed vegetables, a bit of soy milk to moisten the potatoes, sometimes some salsa on the potatoes. Yesterday I needed to be out during lunch so I got some soba noodles and edamame at the nearby 7/11. Things like that that.

It’s practically what can be called a “comfort food” diet in that sense. You definitely don’t feel deprived. Not only that, it’s incredibly inexpensive eating this way.

What I also wanted to talk about is an interesting article and chart about “calorie densities” here –

I’m used to calorie counts, of course, but the new information for me was:

  1. Apparently there is a lot of research which has shown that on a day-to-day basis, people generally eat a similar amount of food, by weight (rather than by volume – which surprised me). Therefore, choosing foods with a lower calorie density allows us to consume our usual amount of food (or more) while reducing our caloric intake.
  2. On the calorie density scale (calories/lb), fruits and vegetables are the lowest (60-195) , followed by the starches, which I’ve been eating a lot of, including potatoes, yams and rice (320-630) and legumes (310-780). Pasta fits in here as well, but I haven’t eaten any yet, unless you count the soba I had yesterday. Breads are higher up on the scale (920-1,360) because they are less dense (more air, less water), so this is one reason why it’s easy to eat too many calories of those. Even higher up are things which are mostly air, such as popcorn (1,480-1,760). One serving of air-popped popcorn is not a huge number of calories. But it’s also not very filling, which is why you keep going back for more. Nuts and seeds are way higher up (2,400-3,200). Oils and other pure fats are at the top (4,000). The chart was for vegans, but I checked other sources and see that for seafood, lean poultry and lean red meat the calorie densities are higher than potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes and corn, but in generally the same range as legumes (400-870).

You can see the chart on the link above.

As the article says, it appears that people can eat freely of foods that are 300 calories per pound or less and not gain weight. People can consume relatively large portions of foods that are between 300 and 800 calories per pound and still lose or maintain their weight, depending on their individual activity levels and metabolism.

This probably accounts for why I was able to lose so much this first week.

Anyway, this starch-centric vegan approach has really been a revelation to me. It’s really a diet combination/approach I had not tried before, and seems to fill in some missing pieces for me in the ways I’ve always thought about calories, satiety, hunger control and weight loss. If you aren’t vegan, I think you can still fit in an approach which is conscious of caloric density. But this approach seems easiest for me.

Trying another diet – the Starch Solution

It’s worth looking at Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution.” You can find groups on Facebook, and also his book on Amazon.

It’s completely the opposite of Dr. David Ludwig’s “Always Hungry?” in that (1) It’s starch-centric and (2) it actually does seem to work – at least so far.

By that I mean even though I just started it this week it completely controls my hunger. And even though I’m just in my 5th day so far I’ve already lost 3.0 kg (6.6 lb). That is certainly a motivation to continue.

It’s quite interesting. A vegan + non-oil approach I never tried before. After all this time it’s hard finding a diet approach I never tried before!

I realize everybody is different, and low-carb may work for some people. I also realize, living in Japan, that the diet here has been rice-centric for thousands of years and the obesity rate is just a small fraction of what it is in the U.S. How can I ignore that?

So I’m going to try this for a while. It might be worth looking at if you are not succeeding in losing weight with “Always Hungry?” or other low-carb or strict calorie-counting solutions. There are also interesting chapters in the book on the benefits of such a diet not only for obesity and heart disease, but also for all manner of health problems, including immune disorders.

The diet is quite simple to follow. I’ve been concentrating on starches like sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, starchy vegetables (corn, peas, carrots) and some other non-starchy vegetables, like tomato and cucumber salads, with some legumes sometimes thrown in. It’s not a “strict” diet, in that he is very reasonable about such things as white rice (brown rice is better, white rice is ok if that’s what you have) and even sugars. In other words, it’s easy to prepare meals – especially for somebody like me who is not “handy” in the kitchen. He even likes Sizzler’s!

There is a very friendly support group (not run by me) here:

Dr. McDougall himself is quite approachable, and answers email quickly.

Anyway, another day another diet. I hope this one works out and turns into a permanent solution. It’s certainly a good start. And frankly, I feel better being back to vegan. Not just for me and my health, but also for environmental reasons.




Interesting article on why it is metabolically hard to keep weight off after a big weight loss

Unfortunately Dr. Ludwig, who is quoted in this article, also misses the point with his book “Always hungry?”

I tried his lower carb, macronutrient balanced approach for nearly 12 weeks, gained a small amount of weight, my blood sugar HbA1c went slightly up, and there was no improvement at all with regards to hunger control.

The problem is, that calories count whether you count them or not. And also whether we like it or not. As someone who has lost and regained very large amounts of weight multiple times in my life it remains a dilemma I can’t find a solution to.

You can read the full article here.