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Overview

In his book, The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution , Phil McGraw, PhD, focuses on the importance of getting to the heart of your weight struggles and confronting your “personal truth.” The talk-show host and psychologist outlines what he believes are the seven keys to permanent weight loss. In addition, he helps you set realistic expectations and goals and assess your readiness for change.

How Is This Diet Supposed to Work?

Dr. Phil’s plan focuses on changing everything that affects what you eat—your thinking, your behavior, and ultimately, yourself. He believes that if you are overweight you are out of control, and you need to regain control. His plan focuses on taking control of emotional issues that may affect your eating behavior, changing your eating habits, and prioritizing exercise.

What’s Involved?

According to Dr. Phil, there are seven keys to permanent weight loss. These keys are:

  • Right thinking—Eliminate self-defeating thought patterns and believe that you will succeed.
  • Healing feelings—Learn how to break the cycle of overeating in response to emotions and stress.
  • A no-fail environment—Create an environment in which it is virtually impossible for you to fail at weight control.
  • Mastery over food and impulse eating—Identify the cause of self-destructive habits and behaviors and replace them with new behaviors.
  • High-response cost, high-yield nutrition—Eat mostly foods that take time to prepare, ingest, and are high in nutritional value.
  • Intentional exercise—Make regular exercise a priority in your life.
  • Circle of support—Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your weight loss efforts.

This weight loss plan does not make too many restrictions on what you can eat, but rather emphasizes eating a diet that consists mostly of “high-response cost, high-yield nutrition” foods. These are foods that take time to prepare and/or are difficult to eat quickly, and are also high in nutritional value. Because these foods generally take a long time to prepare and eat, they go against impulse eating and help you slow down so that you recognize when you are full. In contrast, “low-response cost, low-yield nutrition” foods are easy to eat, require little or no preparation, and are low in nutritional value.

  • Examples of “high-response cost, high-yield nutrition” foods include:
    • Baked or broiled fish
    • Baked or roasted chicken breast
    • Broiled or grilled lean meat
    • Beans
    • Soy burgers
    • Eggs
    • Low-fat dairy
    • Whole grain breads and cereals
    • Whole-wheat pasta
    • Brown rice
    • Non-starchy vegetables
    • Fruit
    • Broth-based soup
    • Nuts and seeds
  • Examples of “low-response cost, low-yield nutrition” foods include:
    • Baked goods
    • White-flour based breads
    • Desserts
    • High-fat dairy products
    • Butter
    • Margarine
    • Fast food
    • Fried fish and shellfish
    • Sugar-sweetened fruit juices
    • White pasta
    • White rice
    • High-fat cuts of meat
    • Most luncheon meats
    • Snack foods
    • Candy
    • Chocolate
    • Potatoes
    • Creamed or candied vegetables

Dr. Phil’s plan also includes information for people who are “weight-loss resistant,” meaning that they are doing everything they are supposed to be, but still aren’t losing weight. If you find yourself in this predicament, he recommends first going for a thorough medical evaluation to make sure that everything is as it should be (eg, having your doctor check your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and thyroid function). He notes that excess weight in the midsection may be an indicator of metabolic syndrome . Extra weight in the hip and thigh area, on the other hand, may be an indicator of estrogen imbalance.

What Does the Research Say?

Much of the nutrition information presented in this book is supported by scientific evidence. However, there are a few theories that are not backed by science.

For one, Dr. Phil believes that the current gold standard for determining overweight and obesity , the body mass index (BMI), is inaccurate and unrealistic. He has, therefore, come up with his own “Body Weight Standards” system. While the ideal BMI weight ranges may be unrealistic for some, it is an accurate way of predicting your likelihood of developing diseases related to being overweight and obese.

Additionally, Dr. Phil suggests taking supplements to help with weight loss efforts if you find yourself in the “weight-loss resistant” category. However, there is no strong evidence that suggests supplements can help with weight loss efforts or redistribute body fat.

Are There Any Concerns With This Diet?

While there is a lot of focus on the psychological issues surrounding food, the book itself only devotes one section to nutrition. Moreover, the nutrition information isn’t completely accurate.

The concept of eating mostly foods that take time to prepare and eat and offer high nutritional value is a good one. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to classify foods as good or bad when some of them clearly overlap. According to Dr. Phil’s criteria, whole-wheat pizza for instance, is good in the sense that it provides whole grains, but bad in the sense that it contains high-fat dairy. Additionally, it is possible to slowly eat a small amount of dessert and savor every bite, making it a cross between his two groups, a “high-response cost, low-yield nutrition” food.

Overall, this plan oversimplifies nutrition and assumes that people are overweight because they tend to put taste and convenience ahead of nutrition, and/or because they are emotional eaters.

Bottom Line

If you are an emotional eater or someone with a lot of built-up negativity, than this may be a plan for you. Dr. Phil helps you sort out what is causing your weight problems, set realistic weight loss goals, and create a plan for achieving your goals. But if you would rather skip the self-help focus, or are simply looking for a straight-forward, healthful eating plan, then this plan is not the best match for you.

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

    http://www.eatright.org

  • Weight-Control Information Network

    http://win.niddk.nih.gov

  • Dietitians of Canada

    http://www.dietitians.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • Book review: Dr. Phil’s ultimate weight loss solution. American Dietetic Association website. Available at: http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442451343. Accessed May 8, 2014.

  • McGraw P. The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution. New York, NY: The Free Press; 2003.