Some final thoughts on John McDougall’s “The Starch Solution” diet

The post  below was removed from the Facebook “McDougall’s Starch Solution Group”. I’m surprised, because there were many supportive, informative comments in response to my post.  The comments were useful, and no arguments were taking place. Many people are going through the same problems I experienced, and it seems short-sighted to try to cover that up.

Because the post was removed, I have left the group and am continuing my search for a workable diet. There were useful suggestions after my post and I did want to read them again. The messages about Chef AJ were particularly interesting. I hope the original poster gets back to me by private message so I can get more information. In the meanwhile, here is the which was deleted from the group.

 


At this point I may get kicked out of the group, or asked to leave, but please give me one last chance to explain what I think is the problem. I mean it with sincerity and good intentions.

After much back and forth with The Starch Solution since last May, during which time I lost 40 lb and then gained it back, I have come to feel that the real “starch solution” is to eat less starches.

People have come back at me saying things like, “The MWL (Maximum Weight Loss) diet recommends reducing starches to 50% instead of 70%.”

Yes, that’s true. The MWL program does recommend less starches. But this isn’t the MWL group. We are talking about SS here in this group, right?

Or people will point out that Dr. McDougall says things like, “For more rapid weight loss you can reduce starches” and he then also refers to the MWL diet.

My problem with that is that McDougall never out-and-out admits that The Starch Solution simply does not work for some people – perhaps many people from posts I’ve seen here.

I think he shouldn’t say, “for more rapid weight loss” try MWL. I think he should say, “This diet may not work for many people because the starch ratio is too high and for some people you may not be able to lose weight AT ALL unless you reduce your starch portions to 50% or even less, like with the MWL diet.”

In other words, it’s not a matter of trying to achieve “more rapid” weight loss by reducing starches, it’s really a matter of trying to achieve any weight loss at all!

Of course another thing to consider is that a reduced starch diet like that is basically a plain old vegan, non-fat, non-nuts diet like many other doctors, including Ornish Heart-Disease-Reverse and Esselstyn propose.

I realize some people have achieved great success on Starch Solution. The Potato Strong guy seems to be doing really great.

All I’m saying is that The Starch Solution is not a universal answer and that Dr. McDougall’s 70% starch solution is too high for many people and I wish he would just admit that. Throwing in passages to the MWL diet while talking about SS and somehow mixing them up and saying they’re all the same thing seems off to me. It’s feels like “bait and switch to sell the SS book, frankly.

I do think vegan, non-oil dieting is probably healthiest. But I really do think that as far as weight loss goes, making most of your diet starch-based hurts weight loss for many people. I know it does for me.

So attack away. I’m just being honest here, as best I can.

Can’t seem to find the right long-term diet

I’m still lost about what to do about my own obesity and high blood sugar. Last year, for 12 weeks, I tried “Protein Power” and gained weight, and then “Always Hungry?” for 12 weeks. My HbA1c, which was 8.0 ticked up slightly to 8.1 and I gained some weight.
Then I went on McDougall’s “Starch Solution” for 15 weeks. I lost 40 lb, and my HbA1c dropped to 6.1. My doctor was thrilled, as was I.
For me, it seems HbA1c always is related to weight. If I lose weight my blood sugar goes down. If I gain weight it goes up. On the low-carb diets, even with mindful eating, my caloric intake tends to be higher. A tablespoon of oil here, a tablespoon of oil there – it adds up.

On “Starch Solution” my total cholesterol ended up at 122, and LDL at 67. On “Protein Power” it remained in the normal range, but started creeping up.

The problem, though, is that after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution” the high glycemic carbs seemed to trigger “hunger spikes” in me. And as much as I tried “mindful eating” I just got cravings after eating carbs – even “whole foods” like brown rice and potatoes. I’ve since regained 30 of the 40 lbs I lost.

I now sort of think the reason I lost so much weight was the 5 weeks during my “Starch Soluton” diet where I got a really bad summer cold and lost my appetite in a way I never had before. I had to add protein drinks just to get up to 800 calories/day. After I got better my appetite rebounded, as did my weight.

For the last week I tried recommitting myself to “Starch Solution” and tried my best to observe “mindful eating” – eating only when I was truly hungry. I’ve been really good, according to plan. Yes, I’ve had some white rice instead of brown rice. But Dr. McDougall says that’s ok.

While my total caloric intake was less than on a low carb diet, doing it this way I found I was eating 2200 – 2300 calories day. I neither gained nor lost weight.

So I’m not sure what to do exactly. All diets which actually result in weight loss (I’m currently about 110 kg) require long term deprivation it seems.

I think one thing all diets seem to agree on, be they low carb or low fat, is that processed sugar is very unhelpful. Though McDougall isn’t a fanatic about that either.

I’d really like to at least get under 100 kg again, like I was after 15 weeks on “Starch Solution.” While still technically “obese” it is vastly more comfortable than my current weight. But the high glycemic carbs now (including whole foods like brown rice and potatoes) just seem to be hunger triggers for more these days. So I’m sort of stuck.

And loading up on non-starchy vegetable well, I’ve been there done that. It’s not satiating either. And it’s not “Starch Solution” and it leads to separate digestive issues.

So I’m still searching.

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.

 

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!