Should I Do Starch Solution or Maximum Weight Loss?

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A common question when people first discover a starch-based way of eating and Dr. McDougall is “Should I do The Starch Solution or the Maximum Weight Loss approach?”

The Starch Solution

The Starch Solution is a starch-based approach to eating meaning the bulk of your calories should come from starches – potatoes, beans, rice, lentils, oats, corn, pasta, unrefined flours (for bread, pasta). The rest is provided by non-starchy vegetables (eg. broccoli, kale, cauliflower, spinach) and fruit (1-4 fruit per day). There are no animal products (beef, chicken, fish, dairy) or oil. Nuts should be minimized, and refined flours should be eliminated. Salt can be used to taste on your plate but should be avoided in the cooking process as much as possible. A little sugar is allowed such as on oatmeal. Dr. McDougall wants the food to be palatable so that people will eat it.

Maximum Weight Loss

The Maximum Weight Loss plan goes further in elimination all nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut and flours. This means technically no nut milks, bread or pasta. No juices or dried fruits (see guidelines at link below). A little sugar is allowed. Non-starchy vegetables should make up to 50% of the plate. The concept here is to eliminate foods that are higher in calorie density. You also want to restrict variety as that can lead to overeating. Here is a summary of the rules for maximum weight loss.

My Advice

My advice is to start with The Starch Solution. It’s already quite a change from the standard American diet. Do it with 100% compliance until you are plateauing for at least 1 month. Then you can consider being a little more strict. I find that the vast majority of people are not 100% compliant (they will go to restaurants and have some oil, or eat snack foods and soy ice creams/chocolate that can be high in fat). A lot of people want to cut back on the starches as soon as they have trouble losing fat, but I’ve found the problem is usually coming from other sources (hidden fats/oils, snacks, restaurants, social gatherings, etc).

Why Do People Consider the Maximum Weight Loss program?

The main reason people want to consider Maximum Weight Loss instead of the regular program is that they want faster results. I totally get that. But what usually happens is people are very motivated at first, get very restrictive with their diet and then they can’t sustain it so they go back to their usual eating habits and the weight returns. What I do is ask myself ‘Will, do you want to never eat this food again?’. Like bread, pizza, peanut butter. And the answer is usually ‘No!’. So I try to do things that I can sustain for a lifetime. You could temporarily restrict a food (like pizza) but it increases the risk that you will really go off the rails and never come back. So I opt for a moderate, sustainable approach that I can stick to for a lifetime (it’s been over 2 years now so that’s a good sign).

Going from a standard American diet of meat, dairy and oil to The Starch Solution is already quite a big change as you won’t be eating those products anymore. I personally have been doing The Starch Solution for over 2 years and I wanted to be patient and give the program enough time to work it’s magic before considering changing anything. I’m happy to say that it has worked very well with a slow and steady weight loss over time. I still eat pizza, tacos, bread and other things that help keep me happy and with a full belly. There were ups and downs and plateaus but I had faith that it would work if I adhered 100% and that’s exactly what happened over time (at least 1 year to reach a lean weight).

Sometimes people have issues with certain foods like gluten so they will naturally feel better eating a diet closer to maximum weight loss and avoiding flours that are in pastas and breads. Another reason is if you have serious health issues (heart disease, diabetes, etc) you may want to be stricter in your diet by avoiding nuts and refined sugars/flours.

Possible uses for Maximum Weight Loss program

If you’ve been doing really well on The Starch Solution but have reached a plateau for a few months you could consider trying some of the principles in the Maximum Weight Loss program such as eliminating nuts and/or eliminating flours (eg bread, pizza). Or if you get off track and need a reboot to reset your taste buds it could be a way to get there. Or if you have the serious health issues I mentioned above. But remember as soon as you add these back in you will probably return to the weight you were when you were eating them. Here’s a McDougall article on maximum weight loss you might find interesting and if you want extra help there’s a Maximum Weight Loss Facebook group.

Ultimately it’s your decision and I just wanted to let you know about the possible risks of getting too restrictive. What do you think is the best way to go? Post your thoughts below in the comment section.

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