For the last two weeks (November 6th-November 19th) I ate only potatoes.
Let me be more specific:
Monday, November 6th through Tuesday, November 7th I straight-up ate only potatoes.
Then come Wednesday morning, as I–in the usual disheveled fashion–was bolting out the backdoor to go teach at the middle school, my hand, possessed of it’s own accord and obviously on it’s own nutritional scheduling, shot into the large blue bowl of Kit-Kats and Twix that my roommates had left-over from Halloween.
I stared in horror at the little phalanges as they ripped the corner of the red little wrapper; as the ‘-Kats, now entirely vulnerable, suddenly disappeared down my gullet.
I barely even tasted the chocolate, barely even tapped into the explosive crunch. It was gone too quickly.
As I drove to school and rested in my seething disappointment at the lack of discipline (because it was in actuality my fault of this occurrence and not the dealings of Alien Hand Syndrome), I vehemently declared that:
This will NOT happen again.
And it didn’t: no more Kit-Kats. No more chocolate. No more anything that wasn’t a potato.
Until about twelve hours later.
I crafted my little dinner beauties: one medium sweet potato and three red potatoes, roasted good-and-proper in the kiln. I allowed myself dressings of minimal caloric content–the goal was to derive, much like with the bananas, more than 95% of my caloric ingestion from potatoes–so I dipped the crispy wedges into ketchup and low-calorie Dijon mustard.
I chased this down with a mug of matcha tea, and life was good and grand and grandiose in fact.
Eating only bananas was difficult; eventually I just wanted something hot and salty and the bananas were delivering neither.
With potatoes, one could mash them, boil them (stick ‘em in a stew even) and get both the salty and the hot. I appreciated that. There were quite a few chilly autumnal nights during that stretch of two weeks; the potatoes made a fireplace at the center of my frigid body.
The problem that I did not entirely foresee was how much more effort it would take to only eat potatoes over the effort levels of eating only bananas.
With the ‘nans, one could just grab a fistful and run out the door.
With the ‘toes, one must prepare them before chowing down. I know there are those of you who simply skin the potatoes and eat them raw, but this was something I did stoop to.
Even with just microwaving them you find yourself oscillating impatiently around the kitchen for seven minutes.
Most of the nights I would bake them in batches so as to have cooked spuds on hand for the next day. But I went through more per day than I expected, and my stashes were depleted once more by the end of each night.
So on Wednesday night I gulped down the potatoes and matcha tea.
I waited for the meal to reach satiety.
Instead, my little stomach huskily bellowed, “Feed me, Josie!” in it’s best Audrey II impression.
It was an unacceptable time for me to be consciously dormant, so I was rendered unable to distract myself from this bellow. The problem was that if I wanted to adhere to my physiological promptings–and the potato diet was not about denying myself food–it would take another thirty minutes.
And Audrey II was hungry!
So, repeating my gesture from twelve hours before, I sneaked into the kitchen like the real Cat Woman, clambered into the pantry, and withdrew the bag of granola. And I ate it: mercilessly.
I experienced the same waves of disappointment washing over me as soon as I closed the empty bag.
This will NOT happen again, I told myself firmly.
I baked some more potatoes in preparation for the next day, even more potatoes than before so that I would have no excuses the next time I was hungry.
And it didn’t happen: no more granola. No more chocolate. No more anything that wasn’t a potato.
Until about twenty-six hours later.
My cravings for salty and hot from the banana-only food plan were substituted with a craving for quick and sweet. Even sprinkling cinnamon and chili powder on my sweet potatoes did nothing to stem this overwhelming urge to dive into a industrial-sized bin of white sugar and have a personal party.
So this time I found myself sneakily crunching into an apple.
Oh an apple! you exclaim to yourself, how naive and innocent!
Yes, this was my justification too. The point was, however, that it wasn’t a potato.
The next evening featured some peanut butter. And hot chocolate. Not part of the plan.Disappointment! Waves!
The weekend came and I carted myself off to my homeland in the north for quality family-time and trail running. After Long Run #1 on Saturday morning, my father made some truly capital roasted purple potatoes in the cast-iron for my consumption.
They were amazing; he used a combination of hemp oil and fresh basil. I didn’t allow for the use of oil with my potatoes previously, as the oil would throw a significant damper on my “95%-calories-from-potatoes” intention. But this was an exception, because he had gone out of his way to craft them for me.
Well, it turns out that this wasn’t the only exception.
My excuse this time?
It’s the weekend….and I’m with my family…and we are together making this wonderful, healthy (completely vegan) dinner. I’ll call this monstrosity of a potato-diet off for the weekend then be SUPER disciplined next week.
Yeah, uh, that is where successful diets go to die.
Monday and Tuesday of the second week went swimmingly. I was motivated more than ever before, I was armed with more than just russet and sweet potatoes, I had baked an insurmountable mountain of potatoes to be ready for the week ahead.
I ate a lunch of leftover purple potatoes that were rather…too purple. The “too-purple-it’s-green” kind of too purple. It left me curled up on the bathroom floor vomiting intermittently as I reminisced on a conversation a pal I had one time about potatoes being from the nightshade family.
It was grand.
I called off the diet and for dinner ate–with zero misgivings–five bananas and a scoop of peanut butter.
So I failed. Not a polite failing, not a gentle hand-wave kind of failing. But a fall-on-your-face-and-vomit-repeatedly kind of failing.
My intention was to eat only potatoes for two straight weeks, and I did not do this.
I would do all of it again.
And probably will.
I’ve learned a lot about myself these past two weeks: like how easily I slip into feeling disappointed with myself over failures. For not accepting misgivings and mistakes very well. What it is that I crave the most when you take away other stimuli.
My mindset improved again concerning food, much as it did after my banana diet ended. Every item of food was an art form, a craft. I am completely at ease with just eating one food for a meal–five bananas; four apples; granola–and that frees me from meal planning.
The stoic philosopher Seneca wrote to his good pal Lucilius that one should,
set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: ‘is this the condition that I feared?’
It is precisely in times of immunity from care that the soul should toughen itself beforehand for occasions of greater stress, and it is while Fortune is kind that it should fortify itself against her violence.
In days of peace the soldier performs maneuvers, throws up earthworks with no enemy in sight, and wearies himself by gratuitous toil, in order that he may be equal to unavoidable toil. If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.
To the Stoic, everything is an opportunity. Death of a loved one; lack of discipline; when your help goes underappreciated. In the normal sense of things these are “obstacles”, and the Stoic turns every such obstacle into an opportunity.
I am going to keep practicing misfortune. When I fail, I am going to use my failure to my benefit.
Progress is not achieved by luck or accident, but by working on yourself daily.(Epictetus)