How Sweet Potatoes Led to My 90-Pound Weight Loss


By: , – Jamie Berube, SparkPeople member
  :  105 comments   :  339,748 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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    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
    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
    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
    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
    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 - 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
    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
  • 45
    Yay sweetp potatoes!! :) Good job on all your hard work!! - 7/28/2011   8:18:46 AM
  • 44
    Great blog!! I really enjoyed reading it and agree with you 100%! Go veggies and Sweet potatoes rule! Congrats on your awesome weight loss.. - 7/28/2011   8:14:21 AM
  • FELICIA1963
    Way to go - sweet potatoes ARE fantastic and delicious! - 7/28/2011   7:47:52 AM
    Good for you 90 lbs! Way to go. I too love a sweet potato ANY way they are fixed. Though I do try to keep them smiple as they are naturally good! - 7/28/2011   7:14:01 AM
  • 41
    Another sweet potato lover here and am so happy that they are now easier to get here in Germany. Just made a big batch of Enchilada Soup (spark recipe) that uses sweet potatoes as a base. Very yummy, but I agree that the best way is just baked with a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of cinnamon. - 7/28/2011   4:57:58 AM
  • 40
    I love sweet potatoes, too. And I cook them in the microwave - where I do almost all my cooking - I'm big on steamed vegetables from the micro.

    But I never thought to put either cinnamon or maple syrup on them! (Usually use I Can't Believe it's not Butter), I'm looking forward to trying your ideas! Thanks so much for sharing! - 7/28/2011   2:46:24 AM
  • 39
    Since sweet potatoes are already sweet I either eat them without anything or add some cinnamon on top if I am at home. - 7/28/2011   1:53:33 AM
  • 38
    Try them boiled with white potatoes (both with their skins on) and then mashed with sandwhich tuna, a little tomato paste and some basil, then fry them in minimal oil. Finish with tomato sauce/ketchup ........ yummm! - 7/28/2011   1:06:19 AM
  • 37
    I have Insulin Resistance/Metabolic Syndrome, so I have to stay away from carbs.
    Glad u lost the 90#. - 7/27/2011   11:55:01 PM
  • 36
    I like my sweet potatoes baked or microwaved with cinnamon and nutmeg only, sometimes alittle olive oil when I need some moisture. I am a vegetable lover already. Congrats. on your weight loss. - 7/27/2011   11:16:48 PM
    So glad to see so many people who love sweet potatoes as much as I do! Thanks for taking the time to read my blog :) - 7/27/2011   10:32:09 PM
  • 34
    Awesome, I eat a sweet potato pretty much every day, too! I'm a runner and apparently they're for refueling the body after a run. But even if they aren't, who cares? They're delicious! :) - 7/27/2011   10:06:40 PM
  • 33
    I love them too and keep them on hand. I got some great ideas for new ways to eat them here. Congrats on your success. - 7/27/2011   9:39:54 PM
    I eat a lot of sweet potatoes myself almost every day with my veggies....less meat for me these days!! - 7/27/2011   9:14:28 PM
  • 31
    Excellent. I could eat a sweet potato every day as well. - 7/27/2011   9:13:50 PM
  • 30
    Great post! I also really enjoy veggies and I love when an article reminds me of a healthy habit (in this case, using veggies to bulk up a meal with a lot of nutrients)! - 7/27/2011   9:05:40 PM
  • 29
    Thank you for sharing - I am going to give this a try because I, too, love sweet potatoes (they can be addictive)! - 7/27/2011   8:25:56 PM
  • 28
    Fantastic ideas!!! Thanks for sharing them with us!!! - 7/27/2011   8:15:46 PM
  • 27
    Maple syrup on sweet potatoes is not weird. I get the frozen sweet potato fries at the grocery store, bake a single portion in the toaster oven, and drizzle a little maple syrup and tiny dash of salt. I love it! - 7/27/2011   7:51:47 PM
  • 26
    I wish I could get my family to eat sweet potatoes. I love spicy-oven 'fries.' - 7/27/2011   7:48:47 PM
  • 25
    Ohhhhh I absolutely love sweet potatoes .... usually keep one or two on hand when I want something different ... think I'm going to make sure I have one a day. Also going to use some of your other ideas for the use of veggies. THANK YOU - 7/27/2011   7:45:01 PM
  • 24
    LOVED this blog. Great ideas! Thanks! - 7/27/2011   7:38:16 PM
  • 23
    Hmm, this reminds me. I need to go buy some sweet potatoes. ♥ - 7/27/2011   7:38:15 PM
  • 22
    This blog caught my eye. I love sweet potatoes!!! I too could eat one everyday. I think it's time to rethink my diet. I like your idea of bulking up on veggies. I'm on my way to check out your private blog. - 7/27/2011   7:29:13 PM
  • ACTIVE_AT_60
    Sweet potatoes are great. I even use them as a pre-long distance ride/run - 7/27/2011   7:26:09 PM
    They are yum. I prefer them to white potatoe - 7/27/2011   7:24:57 PM
  • 19
    Wonderful food, I love them. - 7/27/2011   6:13:21 PM
    I love sweet potatoes too. - 7/27/2011   6:11:41 PM
  • 17
    Does your husband affectionately call you Sweet Patata?

    Great story. I will be buying a sweet potato today! - 7/27/2011   5:53:44 PM
  • 16
    I love every single thing you said. Thank you. - 7/27/2011   5:45:05 PM
  • 15
    I love them with garlic salt. - 7/27/2011   5:16:37 PM
    Thank you all for the fantastic feedback! It's encouraging to read your kind thoughts and comments. Check out my personal blog here: - 7/27/2011   5:11:24 PM
    Congratualtions on your weight loss. Enjoyed the article. Love the sweet potatoes, I have heard some call them yams. - 7/27/2011   4:52:53 PM
  • 12
    Try them with a little lemon and a dash of cayenne! If you mash them up and add baby onions, this is fantastic! - 7/27/2011   4:28:24 PM
  • 11
    Me, I prefer yams, but same idea! They are my candy. - 7/27/2011   4:20:29 PM
  • 10
    I love vegetables and fruits. I now actually do crave them. But I still do not like sweet potatoes; just never have. - 7/27/2011   4:01:24 PM
  • 9
    I love sweet potatoes too. However, I love to bake them in the oven, peel them and put some 'buttery-type' spread on top with a sprinkle of salt (you get a sweet and salty taste). Since I know that sweet potatoes are really good for you (lots of vitamins and potassium) I have to learn to train myself to enjoy them with other 'toppings'. The cinnamon sounds good! - 7/27/2011   3:55:26 PM
  • AMARIS79
    Absolutely wonderful! I am just beginning to like sweet potatoes over regular hubby always eats them with cinnamon too and I thought it was funny but now I've got to give a try :) I love my veggies, I've always loved to eat them but ever since I started grilling them I can safely say they're my favourite meal! I am confident they'll help me to reach my goal. The very best thing that has ever happened to me food-wise is Portobello mushrooms though..I eat them every day. I bake them in the oven with a little shredded cheese on the top, garlic and dijon mustard. Fantastic! I could never get bored with them.
    Anyway, great blog!! I will try it for sure! Congrats on your weight loss!! Awesome journey :) - 7/27/2011   3:42:26 PM
  • 7
    I can totally relate to the "this needs..." notion. I thought at first of LOTS of butter too (because everythings better with butter, right?) but decided to let the spud stand on its own. Now I appreciate its light and fluffy texture solo most of the time... and enjoy every bite! - 7/27/2011   3:20:10 PM
  • 6
    Oh how I love sweet potatoes! I eat them at least 5x's a week with cinnamon and a 1/2 tbs of butter..yes butter (not margarine..yuck) - 7/27/2011   3:02:42 PM

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