How Sweet Potatoes Led to My 90-Pound Weight Loss

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By: , – Jamie Berube, SparkPeople member
7/27/2011 2:00 PM   :  95 comments   :  141,964 Views

Confession: I've eaten a sweet potato almost every day for the past four years.
 
I eat them roasted and dipped in BBQ sauce or baked and topped with cinnamon and maple syrup, to which my husband says: "Syrup on sweet potatoes? You're so weird."
 
Even after two years of marriage he still thinks it's crazy.
 
My mom's sweet potato casserole at Thanksgiving dinner was my favorite. I could easily put away three or four servings. That's how I fell in love with them. The way my mother cooked sweet potato casserole can't be rivaled. Brown sugar and butter, marshmallows and pecans, these are things I believe heaven will be made of. Hopefully paired with sweet potatoes.

Now, I don't only like or eat sweet potatoes, exclusively. I love any type of vegetable.

But it hasn't always been this way.

As a freshman in college, French fries and pizza took precedence over veggies on my dinner plate. I ballooned to 230 pounds, which I disguised with dark, baggy clothes.
 
I waged war against my unhealthy lifestyle the summer before my sophomore year.
 
I started to exercise and eliminate the big 'F's' from my diet: fast food and fried food.  
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the payoff was sweet. Over the course of a year, I dropped 90 pounds.
 
Three years later, and I've kept the pounds off. I owe this to healthy lifestyle habits like exercise and portion control--and eating a sweet potato almost every day, of course.
 
 I used to hate vegetables unless they were drowning in butter or gravy, but as I began to lose weight, I had to learn to make them taste good without the fatty toppings.
 
The first vegetable I experimented with was sweet potatoes.
 
It didn't require any dicing or seasoning, I just popped one in the microwave and when it was done, sliced it open and sprinkled cinnamon over the fluffy orange flesh. I took my first bite and thought, "this needs butter...a lot of butter." I craved the extra fat because that's what my body had been used to eating.
  
If I was going to lose weight, I had to reteach myself how and what to eat which meant gradually weaning myself off of excess fat and sugar.
 
 In return, I began to crave healthy foods like fruits and veggies. (Learn the magical cooking technique that will get you to love veggies--and take the learn to love veggies challenge!)
 
But the produce section at the store can be a scary place for a formerly overweight college kid. The best way for me to make nice with vegetables was to incorporate them into every day, healthy meals, which was tastier and easier than I expected. I gave my go-to comfort foods like pizza and casseroles healthy makeovers by bulking them up with colorful veggies.


I always try to have a bag of spinach on hand for this reason.  I can hardly taste a handful of it blended into a smoothie, cooked into an omelet, or thrown on a sandwich. It's cheap and rich with nutrients.
 
Dishes like quiches, stir-fry, and couscous taste better to me with the addition of extra veggies like asparagus, mushrooms, and onion. A stir-fry gives me room to be creative and toss in veggies I'm not used to cooking, like bean sprouts and water chestnuts.
 
And on busy weeknights, I'll boil a pot of pasta and stir broccoli and peppers in with the tomato sauce, topped off with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. It's an easy, satisfying meal that I can feel good about.
 
I also love to roast vegetables in the oven with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and simple salt and pepper. If I roast a side of string beans or asparagus, I'll serve them with ketchup or BBQ sauce and eat them with my fingers like French fries.

Because I have a big appetite, "bulking" up my meals with yummy veggies ensures I'll be satisfied while still maintaining a healthy weight.  
 
It's crazy to think there was a time in my life when I regularly ate cake and calzones with no regard for nutrition or my weight. If you would have told my past, size 22 self, about who I would become today, I'd have laughed. I never thought I could get healthy and stay healthy. It was a fantasy I never imagined would someday become my reality, but thanks to learning how to cook and love my veggies, it has become my reality.
 
And in some way, I owe it all to my beloved sweet potato, my favorite veggie of them all. I don't care how crazy my husband thinks it is. I love them.

And it's a love affair I hope will never end.
 
About the author: I am a recent transplant to Southern California where I work as a social worker and freelance writer. I married a relentless Chicago Cubs fan and love of my life almost two years ago in Florida, where I grew up, before I became a California girl. I enjoy reading, writing, running, vegetarianism, funfetti cake and Forrest Gump. I truly believe in giving peace a chance.

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Comments

  • 95
    I've read this blog before, and I find it inspiring. If I can eat a potato and still lose life is good! This is doable. One problem - this 'Chicago Cubs' issue. You see I live in Illinois, 10 mins from downtown St. Louis. Go Cards!!

    Thanks for taking the time to write this. I read it when I 'need it.' - 6/11/2014   1:55:48 PM
  • SALVERNAZ
    94
    A sincere thank you for this post!! We are California Sweet Potato Growers and appreciate all the good things you have to say about sweet potatoes!! - 5/6/2014   6:47:37 PM
  • KATHY_PALEO
    93
    Wow sweet potatoes are my grandma's favorite and I really like them a lot. Thanks for the info, now I can ask grandma to make one of her sweet potatoes dessert. Now I can eat them without any fears of gaining weight, as so I have thought they are carbs prior to reading this. - 3/12/2014   4:21:10 AM
  • 92
    IRISH4987 and BELLRETIRED, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Clean Eating magazine or visiting their website. They have 2 week meal plans (organized by season) that are meant for 1 person, and they even have weekly shopping lists for 1. The recipes are either reused later in the week, or are easily freezed. I've done a couple months worth of their plans over the past year and found it really great. It even gives me great ideas for when I'm not following them. - 11/20/2013   10:42:03 AM
  • BELLRETIRED
    91
    Dear Irish4987 I am with you. I have a hard time cooking for one also. Even the recipes for "cooking for two" still have servings for 4, 8 or 10. It is so hard to scale that down especially when they call for an egg. How the heck are you supposed to divide an egg in half? Basically what I do is follow the idea of the recipe not just the ingredients. Sometimes I just omit the egg or I use a spoonful of applesauce. I know that sound crazy, but try it. The egg is really there to bind the other ingredients. You can also try those eggs in the carton. I don't know where you live, but I'm in Ontario Canada and we can buy liquid eggs in a carton (pint size). I watch a cooking show with host Michael Smith. He is wonderful, cute as all get out and he is 6'3". Just a hunk of gorgeous. Anyway his philosophy is cooking without a recipe. He teaches method over ingredients. If you like how it tastes then that is your recipe. But once again I do agree that cooking for 1 or 2 is a BIG challenge. - 10/14/2013   5:11:16 AM
  • IRISH4987
    90
    I need to learn to cook for one but receipes for eight are not for me. I am not good at cutting down a receipe without
    something going arye. Any tips are appreciated. - 9/24/2013   12:29:37 PM
  • 89
    I never used to like sweet potatoes since my mother used to grow them in her own garden and had to be part of our breakfast every morning. But ever since I came to the knowledge of their health benefits, they have now become my companion. I like mine boiled then I eat them with mashed avocados...Yummy!! - 9/11/2013   7:55:55 AM
  • 88
    I guarantee if you ate a stone-roasted japanese sweet potato (ishi yaki imo - 石焼き芋) you could eat them completely unadulterated. They are the sweetest, creamiest, most awesome vegetable i've ever put in my mouth. Japanese sweet potatoes have a purple skin with a very light yellow inside. Probably hard to find stateside, but worth looking up ;) - 12/2/2012   2:59:32 AM
  • 350POUNDS
    87
    I love sweet potates. I've included in my way of healthy eating. I'm down 51lbs and still losing. I started at 350.8 lbs and now weigh 299lbs. My overall goal is 160lbs of fat loss. You can also check out my blog at www.350pounds.net - 8/29/2011   12:01:59 PM
  • 86
    I ate a sweet potato for dinner tonight. My fats for the day were low so I had a pat of butter and 2 tsp of brown sugar. Super Yummy! - 8/28/2011   11:02:10 PM
  • 85
    Loved this article! I, too, love sweet potatoes but am not sure I could eat them every day. I have loved all vegetables since a child and can't understand why others don't. Wonder when and why writer became a vegetarian.
    - 8/28/2011   8:56:53 PM
  • 84
    sweet p's r so healthy and good :D - 8/28/2011   3:06:55 PM
  • 83
    What great ideas! This one's going in my "favorites". - 8/27/2011   7:51:07 PM
  • TERRYGLORIA
    82
    Yum yum for sweet potatoes. Don't forget to eat the skin. It's loaded with nutrients and helps to fill you up. - 8/27/2011   7:24:29 AM
  • 101POODLES
    81
    What a creative way to get your "sweets"..I'm so glad you shared that.. - 8/26/2011   8:50:44 PM
  • 80
    I just finished dinner with a serving of sweet potato fries. They are so good (at a fraction of the calories) and they taste sweet to me, so they satisfy my sweet cravings! Your blog caught my eye! Well said and yummy to eat. Good thing I've already eaten or you'd have made me hungry!! - 8/26/2011   8:32:44 PM
  • 79
    I like mine with a little kick - onion powder and chili powder or ancho powder or cayenne... YUM! When I eat it sweet, I then crave sweets. Gotta go savory for me. - 8/12/2011   4:13:40 PM
  • 78
    Congrats! and Yum! - 8/9/2011   8:46:59 PM
  • 7WORSHIPS
    77
    Wow, thanks for all the great ideas to get more veggies into my daily diet. I really like sweet potatoes too. - 8/9/2011   5:27:07 AM
  • BLACKBEAUTY54
    76
    I love sweet potatoes with cinnamon and butter it is sooooo good. I will eat them more often now that I know it can help me with my weight. - 7/31/2011   9:52:02 PM
  • 75
    I love baked sweet potatoes. I cook them in the microwave for 20 minutes for a meal. I always cook extra so if I need a quick snack. I like them with a dab of
    vegatable spread and lots of cimmamon.
    I am glad to see others enjoy sweet potatoes. - 7/31/2011   7:33:34 PM
  • 74
    Love sweet potatoes, but I never Thought of eating them every day. I may have to do just that to keep my wicked sweet tooth (teeth) at bay.

    Do you have a Trader Joe's? They now have sweet potato tortilla chips. I've been eating my serving size with 2 Tbsp of guacamole dip. Yum, but no where near as good as a sweet potato out of the micro with maple syrup on top. FYI: the chips have sweet potato powder in them. - 7/31/2011   11:48:35 AM
  • 73
    This is a fresh idea for me. My husband has always loved sweet potatoes. Me...good old-fashioned baked potato girl. I'm gonna pick up some sweet potatoes (and yogurt) and try them microwaved. Nice blog entry! - 7/31/2011   6:27:39 AM
  • 72
    I bake them in the microwave put a little I Can't believe its not butter light and cinnamon on them. - 7/30/2011   10:46:00 PM
  • 71
    I microwave mine, mash them a bit and pour a bit of milk and brown sugar on top. Yummy! - 7/30/2011   7:14:18 PM
  • ROWEKAMP4
    70
    I love sweet potatoes I tried eating sweet potato chips and now my whole family likes them - 7/29/2011   10:18:51 PM
  • 69
    I recently discovered I like to eat them raw!! Personally, I hate them cooked so I was pleased to be able to add this valuable vegetable to my food plan. - 7/29/2011   8:04:37 PM
  • 68
    I do not add anything sweet to sweet potatoes. I either have them plain or with a tsp. of spread. - 7/29/2011   1:23:16 PM
  • LINEDANCECINDY
    67
    I got lots of recipes from this blog. I copied them & then pasted on Word so I could print them out. Thank you for getting this one started. - 7/29/2011   11:52:28 AM
  • 66
    My newly discovered favourite is boiled edamame with sea salt. I'm not sure I've ever had a sweet potato. Now I have another new item to add to the grocery list. Thanks. - 7/29/2011   2:48:22 AM
  • CAROLINEAMOON
    65
    yum its the next thing on my list have to try some new way to fix them there are so many ways to fix them. thanks for the reminding. - 7/29/2011   1:19:52 AM
  • MARCIE1455
    64
    Sounds good to me! I plan to pick up some tomorrow! - 7/29/2011   12:09:10 AM
  • SOLLIER
    63
    I ate my first baked sweet potato last Monday. I really enjoyed it and will certainly add it to my veggie list. - 7/28/2011   11:08:28 PM
  • 62
    I am not fond of sweet potatoes, but I know they are so good for us. When I make mashed white potatoes, I cook and mash in a couple of sweet potatoes. the taste is reduced, and I still benefit from the goodness in them. I have tried sweet potato fries, and don't care for them either. - 7/28/2011   9:30:18 PM
  • 61
    mmm...sweet potatoes. I like them in the microwave with some low fat yogurt on top. My family loves them roasted in the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Yum! - 7/28/2011   7:44:39 PM
  • 60
    Great blog, Jamie! I will have to get to the store...exactly what others are saying, I know. Even my sons, who are home for the summer, have decided they like sweet potato fries so I can incorporate those into our family meals-if I bake them in the oven! Thanks so much for sharing. I needed a boost in the veggie department. And, you are certainly quite an inspiration! Keep up the great work! :) - 7/28/2011   6:23:44 PM
  • 59
    Yeah for Sweet Potatoes! We love them too!. - 7/28/2011   5:45:04 PM
  • MKLUCILLE
    58
    Love Sweet Potatoes; I'm glade there is some one else who uses cinnamon on them.
    I also like to bake them with olive oil and italian seasoning, and a small amount of Romano Cheese. YUM
    - 7/28/2011   5:36:59 PM
  • CAITLINCLARK31
    57
    Try making a microwave sweet potato and then mash it with plain greek yogurt and brown sugar. Lots of protein!! - 7/28/2011   12:32:53 PM
  • 56
    Congrats on your weight loss, but even more on your maintenance! That's always been my biggest challenge. I just rediscovered sweet potatoes, quartered, drizzled lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sprinkled with Mrs. Dash's seasoning (I like the Lemon Pepper), wrapped in an aluminum foil 'pouch' and grilled for about 30 min. on medium heat :0) It's the highlight of my grilled feast now as the EVOO 'caramelizes' & combined with the seasoning is a truly amazing addition to my meal! Thanks for your post! - 7/28/2011   11:53:07 AM
  • CYNNANE
    55
    It is great to hear how you understood it was a process, and how one change you made led to another! Great job. - 7/28/2011   11:04:49 AM
  • PSYCHICGAL
    54
    I too am a lover of sweet potatoes. I do not add sweetener. Oganic sweet potatoes are usually sweet enough. Congratulations on your weight loss! - 7/28/2011   10:23:58 AM
  • 53
    I'm right there w you. If I had to live on one food for the rest of my life it wd definitely be sweet potatoes! I've been making a potatoe salad w half white and half sweet potatoes. I add veggies...asparagus, red onion, celery, frozen peas and the dressing is mustard and apple cider vinegar. I'm a vegan so no mayo. I have gotten so many compliments...also try frozen corn and/or black beans. It's def been a huge hit. - 7/28/2011   10:11:29 AM
  • JACKIEPB
    52
    I bake sweet potatoes and put honey on top when I serve. Much more flavor than white potatoes - love 'em! Now, to tackle other veggies... - 7/28/2011   10:04:56 AM
  • 51
    I love sweet potatoes (yams) and I love butter!!! Thank you for writing this... I will be picking up some yams later this morning and teaching myself to love them without butter... I think if you can do it, so can I 8^) - 7/28/2011   9:56:39 AM
  • MEG518
    50
    The healthy food that has helped me is bagged, shredded cole slaw cabbage. I eat at least a cup most every day. Usually I put it in a mini chopper to make it smaller and easier to eat. Then add chopped tomato, onion, mushroom and whatever other veggies I have on hand for a good salad. Dressing is fat free Italian so few calories there as well. If I have precooked chicken, turkey or pork on hand I'll toss that in and have a full meal in a bowl. It takes a while to eat, which is good, so when the bowl is empty I am usually satisfied. I used to eat the cabbage slaw cooked with canned tomatoes, veggies and meat but found it gave me gas so had to stop. I have convinced my husband that raw cabbage is a good thing and he'll have a salad with me once a week or so. If I mix it in with lettuce he's more willing. Congrats to Jamie for her loss and maintanence! She has inspired me to try more recipes with sweet potatoes. Meg - 7/28/2011   9:52:09 AM
  • PRHOWELL
    49
    You make it sound so easy! Congrats on the weight loss. Try putting salsa on yur sweet potato, no calories there either. Maybe there is hope for me yet.lol - 7/28/2011   9:40:46 AM
  • 48
    Sweet potatoes and funfetti cake are where it's at! Congrats on losing all that weight and keeping it off. :-) - 7/28/2011   9:28:02 AM
  • 47
    Congratulations on your weight loss and maintenance! I LOVED this blog. It reminded me that a sweet potato started me on the road to 30+ lb loss (still have more to go but I am well on my way) but I've been neglecting my veggies and especially my sweet potatoes. Time to head to the store and load up! Thanks! - 7/28/2011   8:57:16 AM
  • SHASSYSUE2
    46
    Did you know that Sweet Potatoes are a Super food for a Diabetic? Who would of thought that something "sweet" is good for us?? I like to mash some cooked Sweet Potatoes, and mix in egg beaters, vanilla, soymilk, and splenda. Then mix a packet of instant low sugar maple oatmeal and a little bit of light butter, and cinnamon. Sprinkle it over the top of the sweet potatoe mix, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 min or until top is nice and brown, and filling is cooked. Simply delicious, I even have eaten this for dessert, with a little bit of cool whip lite on the top!!! - 7/28/2011   8:51:55 AM

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