My Effortless Weightloss Story: A Quick Runthrough

This is Part I in a series on easy weightloss without any need for will power.

The Origin: listening to the dark corners of the internet

Losing weight is supposed to be really hard and require a lot of willpower according to conventional wisdom. It turns out that it was actually really easy for me to go from a BMI of above 29 (30 is officially obese) to below 25 (normal is 18 to 25) in 3½ months. And knowing what I know now, I think I could easily do it again in a 1½ month.

I’m not someone who ever tried dieting before. Dieting sounded like a lot of effort and willpower for very uncertain results. Not a good use of my very limited willpower. This belief changed after reading Slime Mold Time Mold’s results of their potato diet experiment[1].

They asked the participants in their experiment to eat only potatoes for 4 weeks to see if they would lose weight. There was no way I was going to eat only potatoes for 4 weeks, so I didn’t enrol in their experiment. After reading the blogpost about their results, two things surprised me which motivated me to go on this journey.

The first surprise was that is wasn’t necessary to eat only potatoes. Slime Mold Time Mold had been very gentle with their guinea pigs, and they told them “it’s ok if you cheat and don’t eat potatoes, just tell us when you cheat”. It turned out that even people who cheated almost every day, eating something other than potatoes, ended up losing a lot of weight and there wasn’t even that clear of a trend between weightloss and number of cheat days (see Figure 1). So a strict eat-only-potatoes-diet which is something I would never do, didn’t seem to be necessary.

Figure 1: Weightloss of participants as a function of the number of days (out of a total of 28) where they cheated (i.e. ate other things than potatoes). Source.

The second surprise was that people’s weight seemed to go down linearly, not attaining a plateau, at least for the 4 weeks of the experiment. I was expecting diminishing returns as people started to lose weight, that further weightloss would slow down but their data didn’t seem to indicate any slowdown. I was super curious to find out how long such a linear weightloss could go for. As we will see later, linear weightloss went on for me for a surprisingly long time.

Figure 2: Weightloss as a function of time on the potato diet. The blue line is those who completed the whole 28 days of the trial while the red line is those who dropped out before the end. Source.

Somehow, before starting my experiment, more wisdom from some dark and seemingly unreliable corner of the interwebz came to my attention, the following tweet by some Mickey Shaughnessy: https://​​​​MickeyShaughnes/​​status/​​1548044785516130304 . The tweet claims that the cause of obesity might be related to the potassium:sodium ratio in the diet. That earlier diets had a very high potassium to sodium diet in comparison to the modern euro-north-american diet. That maybe the potato diet works because potatoes are very high in potassium.

This is a super interesting hypothesis, that it’s all about the potassium sodium ratio. This is also something that would be interesting and relatively easy to investigate. So we will try to investigate that a bit in this blogpost series.

So of course, at the time I didn’t check the source of this tweeted statement, I just went with whatever was written by an unknown person on the internet. But now that I’m writing this blogpost, I thought it might be nice to check a bit.

It turns out that Mickey Shaughnessy had the idea of it being related to the K:Na (potassium to sodium) ratio because of the Slime Mold Time Mold blogpost about Li (Lithium) having an effect on obesity and both sodium and potassium being very similar chemically to Li (the same column in the periodic table) and playing an important role at the cellular level (K, Na, ion pumps/​transport)[2]. Mickey Shaughnessy then prompted ChatGPT with this idea and got the tweeted outputs. So there is no actual research backing up the tweets.

I tried to find things in scientific literature on the subject of K:Na ratio and weightloss. It’s messy and I plan to talk about it more in a following post where I try to analyse whether all the weightloss is entirely due to potassium.

The Start: getting equipped

Before starting, I needed 3 things: a scale to weight myself, a spreadsheet to keep my data, and lastly, to investigate the potassium hypothesis, I had the idea of getting potassium salt (KCl).

For the scale, I just popped into hardware store and got the first scale which I found, a Starfrit . It’s a very bad scale with very bad accuracy. I do not recommend. But surprisingly, as I will mention in more detail in future blogposts, even that bad scale was able to get me good insight.

The Potato Phase: so linear for so long

Figure 3: My BMI from the start of my lazy potato diet (i.e. replacing one meal a day with just potatoes) until the Christmas holidays (roughly 4.5 months). On two occasions, my weight plateaued for 2-3 weeks and I though it wouldn’t go down anymore, but in the end it did. The linear regression model fits a 0.03 points of BMI loss per day.

Figure 3 is the plot of my BMI for the first 4 months or so. The rising trend at the end is the Christmas holiday season. As you can see, there are a few plateaus (circled) but generally speaking, my weight just kept decreasing almost linearly until I fell below a BMI of 25.

This was extremely surprising for me. I had always thought that losing weight was supposed to very difficult and require a lot of will power and effort. This was nothing of the sort, it was the easiest thing ever. It only required me eating exactly as I used to before but replacing one meal per day with a meal of “just” potatoes (on average, I only did it when it was convenient for me, some days I took two meals of potatoes if it was convenient, others none if it didn’t fit my plans, I still ate three meals a day, the other two meals being exactly the same type of meals I used to eat before the start of this experiment) which I salted with, on average, 2 mL of KCl (I took on average 2mL of KCl per day, sometimes with potatoes, sometimes with something else, some days I took no potatoes but still had KCl some days I had potatoes but no KCl). I also allowed myself to put butter, and spices, and hot sauce, and anything else I wished to add flavour. The only thing I tried not to add to my potatoes is NaCl (normal table salt).

It has now been roughly 7 months since I first reached a BMI of below 25 and my BMI is currently 24.3 and has been oscillating between 24 and 25 ever since I quickly relost my Christmas weight gains.

The Drug Discovery

After many months of the lazy potato diet, I went back through my spreadsheet to see which days had the biggest weight loss and if they had something in common. I did indeed find something: drugs. Psychedelics more specifically, like LSD or magic mushrooms. After I made a model to determine the effects of different things, my model predicts that taking a full dose of psychedelics makes me lose roughly an extra 200 to 500 grams that day[3]. Unfortunately, getting high on psychedelics everyday is not really a viable option for weight loss. But thankfully so many other simple things also work.

The Christmas Rebound and Finding Chocolate

Over the Christmas holidays, my daily diet went all holiday-season-y with huge meals and many snacks all the time and lots of alcohol, and I did not continue the lazy potato diet during that time. As you can see from the graph, the weight gain was rapid and dramatic. And interestingly, it was also pretty linear.

One day, on which I had eaten particularly large quantities of food and on which both my intuitive model and mathematical model predicted that I should have gained close to 1kg of weight, I actually slightly lost a bit weight. This was a true outlier point of low probability.

So I started thinking of what could have caused this anomaly. What did I do, or what did I consume that could have cancelled my huge meals of the day? The only thing I could I think of was a hot chocolate drink I had had that day. That might sound like an absurd proposition, but I’m not talking about a commercial hot chocolate packing 900 calories with barely and real cacao in it, it was a hot chocolate made from 100% pure baking cacao powder, milk, and just enough sugar for it to be slightly sweet.

Cacao helping with weightloss would still be rather surprising. So to verify this intuition I looked back at my notes to see if other days where I had had cacao recently I had gained less weight than I should have. I could do this because for most days I took a few imprecise notes on what I had consumed that day. I found 2-3 days in the last month or two where I had had cacao (and noted it down). And indeed, on those days, my weight ended up being less than my linear regression model would have otherwise predicted.

So I had some observational data suggesting cacao might help with weight loss, getting some experimental data would be the logical next step.

Chocolate: the magical weigthloss potion

Figure 4: In blue the lazy potato diet. In red the Christmas holiday season diet. In yellow, post holiday season returning to the lazy potato diet but also adding a cup of hot cacao per day.

Having gained 1 BMI point over the roughly 2 weeks of the Christmas holidays, I was eager to lose that weight again. And now I had something new I could try: chocolate! So after the holidays, I went on a new diet: I continued taking roughly one meal of potatoes per day, but to that I added at least one hot cacao per day. To do this I bought dark baking chocolate (100% cacao) with a high concentration of potassium (just in case it was the potassium). I made my hot cacao by melting ~36g of dark chocolate (containing roughly 750 mg of K) in roughly one cup (250ml) of milk (containing roughly 350 mg of K) and sweetening it to taste.

Within a week, I lost 1.2 points of BMI, more than I had gained during the holidays! I lost weight 4 times as fast as what I had been losing prior to the holidays! Chocolate and potatoes, a truly magical and surprising weightloss formula.

Mission Accomplished, Let’s Randomize

At this point I had achieved my target BMI of ~24.7. But having discovered that non only potatoes could help with weight loss, I felt like experimenting some more to see if I could find other things which would work. So I went on an approximately 5 week long randomization experiment where for each day I would “flip a (simulated) coin” (with a certain probability) to determine whether I could consume a particular thing.

Obvious candidates to try were other foods with a high potassium to calorie ratio. Foods I included with a high K:Calorie ratio were tomato soup (tomatoes have a lot of potassium), fried vegetable mix with veggies with a higher K:calorie ratio than potatoes (that ended being a mix of eggplants, carrots, and mushrooms), bananas.

Another obvious thing to try were things I could find in my local drug store which were touted as helping with weight loss. I ended up choosing three things: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) pills, hydroxycitric acid (HCA) pills, and apple vinegar (instead of buying the expensive pills at the drug store I directly bought liquid vinegar at the grocery store).

I also randomize things which I was already taking, i.e., potato meals and KCl salt.

On the days which randomly assigned one of those things, I would consume at least one portion of them. And at the end of the 5 weeks I checked to see if my model thought that they contributed to weight loss.

Kidney Beans: the new potatoes

At the end of the 5 weeks, some of those things seemed to help, while with others it was not clear if they did anything, and with some they even seemed to make me gain weight.

One of the foods which seemed particularly promising were the red or black kidney beans.

During the period which I did the randomization, I gained weight slightly, so I decided to then do a 2 week period of 1 meal per day of kidney beans to see if they were truly as good as potatoes. And they were. Probably even better. At the end of those two weeks I reached my lowest weight of a BMI since the whole start of this experiment.

Change in Mood, Energy, or Focus?

Some people have reported higher energy levels or being able to focus better (less ADHD, more mania-ish states) when going on the potato diet. So some people have asked me whether I noticed my energy level, or focus, or mood change in any way. I actually kept track of my energy levels in anticipation of this. For me, absolutely nothing changed in terms of my energy levels, mood, or focus. Absolutely no noticeable change.

Did I Keep the Weight Off?

Yes. One of the most common question I get from people online is did I keep the weight off. The answer is yes. And I’m not even following the lazy potato diet anymore. While doing this experimentation, I learned what things I could add to diet (like potatoes, red kidney beans and hot cacao) that made me lose weight. So I just kind of naturally added some of those to my diet (and also minimized my intake of NaCl) and my weight has been pretty stable for months now without me actively trying to do anything. I’m not even weighing myself every day anymore.

Here is a plot.

Figure 5: My BMI from start of lazy potato diet until now. After the rapid decrease with the hot cocao, I started doing some more experimentations until some time in February, that is why the points are a bit wild. Then I stopped paying conscious attention to my diet until a few weeks ago, and now I’m experimenting some more for data for later posts. The red line is my target weight.

What to Expect in the Rest of this Series

Amongst the things I plan to cover in this series are

  • My amazement at how effective a simple linear model can be even with very noisy data.

  • A detailed look at the effect size on weight loss of all the different things I tried and whether I think the effect is significant or not for all the things.

  • My thought and a model of how I think the lipostat works following this self-experimentation as well as how that could easily explain the “obesity epidemic”.

  • An investigation as to whether it is actually just the potassium content of the different foods which explains their weight loss effect.

  • Do the things in drug stores which claim to help with weight loss actually work?

  • Maybe, if I get there, looking at the causal mechanism of action of the foods that work. Do they restrict hunger? Do they increase base metabolic rate? Do they make the digestive tube intake fewer calories?

  • Questions still left open.

  1. ^

    This is an experiment which they conducted after doing a whole series on the obesity epidemic which I has read with interest. If you read their series on the obesity epidemic, please read Natalia Mendonca’s good criticism of it because they were not always intellectually honest in their claims.

  2. ^

    With this logic, one might also expect H+ ions to play a role, i.e. acidity, this might be why they sell apple vinegar concentrate as slimming pills in the drug store. I’m not planning to look at acidity in this series apart from a very cursory glance at the effect of 50ml of apple vinegar per day (not concentrate pills, actual liquid vinegar). The research on whether apple vinegar really helps with weight loss is inconclusive: https://​​​​32170375/​​ ).

  3. ^

    A full dose of psychedelics clearly had a big weight loss effect on my, but microdosing didn’t have any visible effect, I was curious about that and tested that too.