After 30 weeks on “Starch Solution” having problems and returning to plain old calorie counting – yet again

Previously I had posted here about my first 15 weeks on Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution” and the better results I achieved compared with Dr. David Ludwig’s “Protein Power.”

Unfortunately at week 30 I’ve regained about 1/2 of what I lost those first 15 weeks. I’m still down about 20 lb from when I started 30 weeks ago, but I had been down 40 lb, so I’ve regained half of what I’ve lost.

My blood tests remain good. My blood sugar HbA1c is now in the normal range, and my cholesterol is extremely low. All my blood tests are in the normal range.

But I think my blood sugar will start going up unless I can, yet again, get weight loss under control. I had dropped below 100 kg for a few weeks, and now I’m above it again. For the year I’m down a disappointing 11 lb only. I suppose you could say if my new year’s resolution was to lose weight this year I’ve technically kept that resolution, but still…

And I am still down 46 lb from my high in 2012. So I’ve managed to avoid a complete rebound so far, for the first time ever. So that part is good.

But “Starch Solution” just isn’t working anymore. I need to rethink again.

As I posted in the “Starch Solution” support group on Facebook, I appreciate everyone who gave constructive comments. Different diets work for different people I think. I don’t think there is a universal answer that works for everyone, which is why people everywhere are endlessly debating different kinds of diets.

Multiple people in the Starch Solution support group agree with what I wrote and say they have the same problems I do. So I know it’s not just me.

For now, I think the best way to get back to losing weight is to strictly count and control calories again. Just keep on logging everything in MyFitnessPal, which I’ve been doing for over 1,600 days now, through good and bad days, and really try hard to stick within calorie limits.

I know calorie counting works. And it offers the most variety. However, I also know it’s not sustainable after a couple of years, having done it many times and then rebounded. But to be honest I also feel that while Starch Solution worked at first, it too has turned out, for me, to be yet another diet that isn’t sustainable long term. Some things about that diet are not right, and some things Dr. McDougall, the author of the diet, has said also turned out to be hyperbole at best.

I do recognize that Starch Solution seems to work for some people and am not disputing that. Even low-carb ketogenic and near-ketogenic diets seem to work for some people (though not for me – too high calorie). I imagine even “Protein Power” works for some people, though I gained weight trying that.

The advantage of low calorie diets, where you take into account what you eat, and calories expended in exercise, and log everything, and are very careful to keep calories in balance, is that it always works as long as you can stay on it. And calorie-counting offers the most variety (no particular food is forbidden), and offers a positive, measurable encouragement to do exercise (the more you exercise, the more you can eat and/or the more weight you lose).

The premise with Starch Solution, that the starches would keep you satisfied and control your hunger, only seemed to really work for me for the first 10-15 weeks. And during that time I was also ill for 5 weeks with a bad summer cold and lost my appetite. So I lost an unnatural amount of weight during the illness. Since my first 15 weeks, though, It’s been rough and I just need to try something “different” while trying to figure this out.

So it’s back to “good old” calorie counting for now. And I’m not particularly caring exactly what is in the food I eat as long as it’s low calorie and seems to satisfy me so I don’t overeat. I honestly think everything else – cholesterol, blood sugar, overall health – comes with weight loss. After all, if you are on a low-calorie diet then it’s impossible to eat too much fat, or too much sugar, or really overdo too much of anything unhealthy. Calorie limits create a cap on everything. The fact there might be non-vegan ingredients in food doesn’t, by itself, really matter than much. For example, think of ordinary miso soup. The dashi in miso soup contains some bonito extract. I can’t believe that is going to make the difference between good and bad health.

Calorie counting also makes it easier when on the go, because calories are labeled everywhere, even in many restaurants.

Anyway, here I am going with yet another change of diet. And it’s a diet I’ve been on before too, so while I’m not exactly full-to-the-brim with confidence I am going to try it again.

All I can do is keep trying.


Weight and food logging – keeping at it

I find logging my weight and what I eat helpful. Today is Day 1600 of logging at MyFitnessPal! Not all of it was on Starch Solution. Not of it was being good. And I had a partial rebound in the middle – but not a full rebound! And then I started losing again.
Through good and bad I kept logging and I’m 30 kg = 66 lb less than when I started this journey.
Today at MyFitnessPal

Today at MyFitnessPal

15 Weeks on “Starch Solution” vs 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?” – weight and blood value changes

I have now finished 15 weeks on Dr. John McDougall’s “Starch Solution” and have a new set of weight changes and blood tests to report.

The contrast with Dr. David Ludwig’s “Always Hungry?” low-carb diet could not be more dramatic.

To summarize in one sentence: “Starch Solution” works with weight loss and all important blood values, and “Always Hungry?” does not.

After 15 weeks on “Starch Solution” I’ve now lost exactly 18 kg = 39.6 lb. This is actually up slightly from last week, where I had lost exactly 40 lb, but these things have some fluctuation day-by-day and week-by-week.

Today was also my regular visit to the hospital for blood tests. After 15 weeks on “Starch Solution” I am very impressed.

The way the schedule worked was this. I went on Dr. David Ludwig’s “Always Hungry?” low-carb diet starting 2/8/2016. On that date I also had blood tests. I stayed on that diet for exactly 10 weeks and had blood tests at the end, on 4/18/2016. So I know exactly what happened on Ludwig’s diet, and it wasn’t good, including gaining weight, increased cholesterol, no blood sugar improvement, and never solving my hunger problems.

Between 4/19/2016 and 5/22/2016 I wasn’t on any particular diet. My weight stayed pretty much the same during this period, but I was definitely not vegan/no-oil and I would sometimes overeat. I don’t have any blood test data for those in-between 5 weeks.

On 5/23/2016 – exactly 15 weeks ago – I started Dr. McDougall’s “Starch Solution” diet.

While on the Ludwig low-carb diet I gained weight over 10 weeks and my blood tests were not improved at all. In many ways they got worse.

On Dr. McDougall’s diet I have lost a large amount of weight in 15 weeks and all my blood test values greatly improved.

These are the results of the blood values I’m most concerned with:

(1) HbA1c (blood sugar)

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?”) – 7.9
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – 8.0
9/5 (after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – 6.4

My doctor was amazed at the incredible improvement in my blood sugar values over these last 15 weeks. This is almost in the normal range for HbA1c now, which is 4.7-6.2%.

Also my glucose level (which I usually don’t pay much attention to because it fluctuates more than does HbA1c) went down from 142 mg/dl on “Always Hungry?” to 99 mg/dl on “Starch Solution”, which is well within the normal range of 70-110 mg/dl.


I think this is quite amazing considering my diet is mostly carbs, and I don’t avoid refined carbs all the time (e.g. Dr. McDougall says white rice is ok), and I don’t completely avoid sugar either.

(2) Total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol)

These results were also dramatic. As I mentioned 10 weeks ago, I was surprised by this because I thought, according to recent research, that the cholesterol you eat doesn’t really directly affect blood cholesterol. That obviously is not true in my case at all as you can see from these numbers:

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?”) – Total cholesterol 175, LDL 95
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – Total 177, LDL 101
9/5 (after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – Total 127, LDL 67

That’s a dramatic drop in both total and bad cholesterol, accomplished by giving up animal products.

(3) Triglycerides (TG)

The normal range for this is 30-150 mg/dl.

2/8 (start of “Always Hungry?) – 113
4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – 159, way up
9/5 (after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – 146, slowly came back to the normal range

(4) Weight

4/18 (after 10 weeks on “Always Hungry?”) – gained 1.6 kg = 3.5 lb.
9/5 (after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution”) – lost 18 kg = 39.6 lb.

The weight change is very dramatic. Also it indicates that one diet simply doesn’t work, and the other does.

Everything else is normal. My blood pressure remains fine. Today it was 112 / 67, which is about my usual range.

To summarize what I’m eating, I’m keeping it simple. Lots of baked potatoes, moistened with a bit of soy milk. Salads topped with garbanzo beans or red kidney beans. Brown rice. Sometimes white rice. Some sweet potatoes. Some frozen veggies (corn, peas, carrot mix or a lower starch broccoli, cauliflower and green bean mix), sometimes some soba, sometimes some udon (even though it is refined wheat), sometimes some edamame, sometimes tofu – though Dr. McDougall deprecates that because of fat content. But I find tofu helps when I sometimes don’t have an appetite and am worried that I’m not getting enough protein. I’m not really eating much fruit. Sometimes I will have some watermelon, but mostly I’ve been staying away from fruit. I’m not particularly avoiding sugar though; when I had some throat problems this summer I would suck on honey/lemon drops and things like that, and did not go for the sugarless kind.

My total calorie input has gone down quite a lot compared to “Always Hungry?” because unlike that diet, on “Starch Solution” I really am usually not hungry between meals. At the end of the day, calories do count of course. Starch Solution concentrates on foods which are lower in “caloric density” and that is key to being satisfied and losing weight. For example, the caloric density of potatoes is about 391 calories/lb. There are 506 calories/lb in brown rice – not as good as potatoes, but ok if you’re careful. On the other hand there is 1187 calories/lb in hamburger and 1,655 calories per lb of buttered popcorn. And if you start talking butter or olive oil – forget it.

I’ve continued my exercise, so I am cycling along the nearby river most days.

My next checkup will be on 11/21, so I will report again then!


10 seconds along the Nakagawa at 5:30 pm

I’m still not feeling well, and don’t have my strength back, but I decided I really need to move my body! I can’t let myself get weak by not moving. So when it got a bit cooler I took a bottle of water and forced myself to cycle over to the Nakagawa, just a kilometer away. I didn’t do a full course along the river. Instead I parked my bike by one of the decks and went down by the river and sat for a while. Here’s a 10 second, very quiet video of the river going slowly past. It was peaceful. I stayed until the Katsushika Ward office speakers came on with music telling kids it was time to go home.