The Starch Solution for Sustainable Weight Loss and Optimal Health

I have been studying and working toward my Starch Solution Certification from Dr. McDougall. I am happy to report that I made an A+ on the 273-question exam, and I am now certified!

Libby Rome with McDougall Starch Solution Certificate

The Starch Solution is a diet plan that helps people lose weight and optimize their health. It is a Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet, similar to Engine 2, Nutritarian, and Mastering Diabetes diets. Its focus is on satiability and long-term maintainability via starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, rice, corn, peas, beans, pasta, and other grains and legumes.

The diet encourages eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, and it discourages the consumption of meat, dairy, and other processed foods, such as oil and junk food. Technically, this diet is Vegan. However, a Vegan diet also includes fake meats and other junk food (see Why I Don’t Call Myself a Vegan).

Certified Starch Solution Nutritionist

The Starch Solution is based on the fact that the trimmest, healthiest people in the world and throughout history (those who live the longest, and are typically free of most Western diseases) have primarily eaten a starch-based diet. People who eat the rich Western diet (like the standard American diet) tend to be overweight, and they have a high rate of diseases, such as heart disease, strokes, Type 2 diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, and cancer. A whole food, plant-based diet can prevent or reverse the symptoms of these diseases.

My Weight Loss Success (So Far!)

During my travels last year, including 28 days on all-you-can eat cruises, I gained 20 pounds in just 6 months. All my clothes became tight, my blood pressure was alarmingly high, and I became upset with myself for allowing the sudden weight gain to happen. Thankfully, I turned over a new leaf starting January 20, 2020. Since following the Starch Solution for only 7 weeks, I have already lost that 20 pounds – averaging a loss of 2.5 pounds per week! Best of all, I have enjoyed every meal and have never felt hungry. Most of that time I was traveling and living in hotels, but I didn’t let that deter me from eating healthfully.

Now my clothes fit again (as a minimalist, they must!), I feel healthy, energetic, and happy, and my blood pressure is improving. My goal is to live medicine-free (except for insulin and FOOD!) for as long as possible. I also feel confident that I’ll continue to slim down until I get to an ideal healthy weight. Hooray for carbohydrates! You can follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see the meals I’m eating. I love sharing my yummy recipes. I’ll share more details about my weight loss journey in a future blog post.

My Diabetes Success

When I was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 3 years ago, my doctors and diabetic friends and family recommended that I eat a low carb diet (such as Atkins, Paleo, and Keto). However, I struggled with sustainability, weight management, and insulin resistance. This year I finally realized that a whole foods high carbohydrate, low fat diet enables me to have significantly more control over my blood sugar, and has reduced my insulin needs by over 50%! At a Type 1 diabetes conference last week, I met another person who follows this diet. He was on a panel of speakers who manage their diabetes well. His impressive blood sugar average (A1C) is 4.9 – generally the same as a non-diabetic! You can follow him on Instagram: Ironmans_and_Insulin.

This way of eating is also touted in the NY Times Bestseller, Mastering Diabetes, written by 2 PhD’s who inspirationally thrive with Type 1 diabetes. By the way, the Mastering Diabetes program also encourages Intermittent Fasting and regular activity, which are also quite helpful. I generally restrict my eating to 10am-6pm (see How Circadian Rhythm Affects Blood Sugars), I take walks after most meals, and I do a bit of resistance training 3 days/week.

Why No Processed Foods

Real Food vs. Fake Food

I know that there are numerous opinions, due to conflicting information, about which diet is the most ideal, and people tend to get very passionate about their way of eating. What most doctors, dieticians, and nutritionists can at least agree on is that “clean eating” is healthiest. In other words, we should stick to REAL food (also known as whole food) and avoid FAKE (processed) food products. I generally shop only on the sides of the grocery stores, where the fresh produce is.

Low Carb snacks
Low Carb Junk Food

Low carb processed food products are being promoted for weight loss and diabetes management. These products are often loaded with fat and unhealthy chemicals, and they are calorie-dense rather than nutrient-dense.

They are also addictive, making people increasingly long for more fatty, salty, and artificially sweet foods. Sadly, they are only hurting our health and our waistlines in the long-run.

Why No Meat

Dunkin’s New “Snackin’ Bacon’

Whether or not we should consume meat and dairy is often contentious. I have read cases where a clean-eating low carb or Keto (very low carb) diet has been effective in reversing the symptoms of diseases like Type 2 diabetes and epilepsy. However, most people following low carb diets are prone to yo-yo dieting, and continue to be overweight and sick. Low carb diets encourage protein overload, and those who eat an American diet already consume significantly more than the USDA and other global recommendations. Excess protein can cause kidney stones, osteoporosis, and the #1 cause of death: heart disease. Major studies (that have not been sponsored by the meat industry) have also shown that meat causes cancer. For example, see the warning from the World Health Organization. Plants have all the protein, fat, and amino acids that humans need to thrive. Yet the myth that carbs will make us fat, and that we instead need more protein, is pervasive.

Nope, Not Even Fish

There is also a myth that humans must eat fish (or take supplements) so that they get their omega fatty acids. However, plant-based sources of omega’s, such as flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and spinach, provide all we need. Of the omega-3s fatty acids, only α-linolenic acid (ALA) is described as “essential”. The other omega-3’s, DHA and EPA, are synthesized by the body from ALA. ALA is primarily present in plant-based sources. Omega-6 fatty acids are arachidonic and linoleic acid. Only linoleic acid is essential, and its sources include vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. Omega-9 fatty acids are considered non-essential and can be produced by our own body. The only reason fish have these omega fatty acids is because they eat the plants that have them. Major peer-reviewed studies have shown there’s no significant impact between getting your omega’s from plants versus fish. (See an example in the Journal of Nutrition.) Why not skip the potential mercury poisoning, and eat the plants directly?

Why No Dairy

Do you feel the need to ask “Where do you get your calcium?” I get a sufficient amount from plants! The dairy industry has made big efforts over the past several decades to spread myths about the benefits of cow’s milk, but dairy actually does a body more harm than good. For example, see the recent Consumer Reports study Dairy Milk Could Increase Risk of Breast Cancer. It’s also a myth that calcium prevents osteoporosis; on the contrary, dairy consumption has shown to increase bone deterioration (e.g., see British Medical Journal: Bone health in children). Instead, exercise and Vitamin D are what humans need to help strengthen bones. I can provide many other studies to support the notion that cow’s milk is only meant for baby cows; let me know in the Comments section if you’d like for me to share more.

It’s Even Ideal for the World’s Top Athletic Champions!

The world’s best athletes are also realizing that a whole food, plant-based diet is most ideal for endurance and performance. To learn more, I highly recommend watching “The Game Changers,” available on Netflix, iTunes, and YouTube. Here’s the trailer:

Instead of fearing carbs, I hope more people will embrace eating REAL carbs, which promotes satiability, weight loss or maintenance, and optimal health. Let’s end the era of yo-yo dieting, obesity, and poor health! Let me know in the Comments section below if you have any questions, or if you would like to learn more about a particular topic.

Disclaimer:  Although this blog post references materials from Dr. John McDougall, his books and website, the content is presented entirely independent of the McDougall Program. Check with your healthcare provider before changing your diet or medications. 
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