Dr. Phil McGraw

With a popular talk show and multiple best-selling self-help books, McGraw has hit the ground running in the weight-loss arena.


The Ultimate Weight Solution: The Seven Keys to Weight-Loss Freedom

With a popular talk show and multiple best-selling self-help books, McGraw has hit the ground running in the weight-loss arena. Hes issued a book, a food guide, a cookbook, and a small line of weight-loss foods. And hes promoted said contributions to the hilt. Will his style of advice hit home with dieters? Its too early to tell. But preliminary reports suggest that theres not much new advice in this weight-loss tome, and McGraws style of coaching is better geared toward emotional eaters than the average dieter.

Dieters who are big Dr. Phil fans will probably be able to sift out useful tips. Unfortunately, McGraws delivery doesnt have the quick, fun patter of his TV show; to the contrary, its repetitive and it sometimes sends mixed messages. On the one hand, the good doctor says not to fixate on portions. But in another section, he calls for precise servings from certain food groups. And all the talk about High-Response Cost/High-Yield foods is a big headache. Why not just say it like it is: whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, lots of fruits and veggies, and healthful unsaturated fats—in moderate amounts, of course.





Basic principles:


No wacky food combos or food exclusions here: Dieters are encouraged to eat a wide variety of whole foods, lean sources of protein, and tiny amounts of fat. The thinking here is that whole-grain carbs, which contain generous amounts of fiber, keep you feeling full; ditto for lean proteins. A moderate approach to eating should also keep your blood sugar on an even keel and your appetite in check. Of course, its not just what goes on your plate that counts, but also what goes on in your head. McGraw devotes much of his book to helping dieters change the way they think about food. Acknowledging ingrained beliefs about body image, challenging negative thoughts, and learning self-discipline are all included in his seven-point plan.

How the diet works:


You write out a plan for what they will eat each day, then stick to it. Its a one-size-fits-all prescription: three servings of protein, two servings of low-fat dairy products, two to three servings of starches, two fruits, four servings of vegetables, and one serving of a healthy fat (nuts, seeds, olive oil). Too complicated? Try this shortcut: Divide your plate into four sections. Fill one section with a protein, another with a starch, and the remaining two sections with vegetables or a vegetable and a fruit.

What you can eat:


High-Response Cost/High-Yield (HRC/HY) foods. Say what? This is Dr. Phil lingo for foods that take longer to eat and are “hunger suppressors.” On the HRC/HY list: whole grains, whole-grain pastas, whole-grain cereals, all fruits, all veggies (except those that are fried or drenched in sauce), eggs, lean meats, legumes, tofu, tempeh, 1% or skim milk, nonfat dairy products, nonfat ice milk, sherbet, and herbal teas. Conversely, McGraw offers a list of Low-Response Cost/Low-Yield foods that sabotage diet efforts, including everything from fast foods to snack foods and desserts to alcohol.

Does the diet take and keep weight off?


Its too soon to tell. But McGraws book provides plenty of stories about patients who have lost weight.

Is the diet healthy?


Sure. Moderation is what healthful eating is all about.

What do the experts say?


“Well, one problem I have with the book is that Dr. Phil makes the assumption that everyone who is overweight has emotional problems or is an emotional eater,” says Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, a professor at Georgia State University. “And I think thats not always the case.” For some people, she says, excess weight is the result of too little exercise, poor food choices, and other factors that dont necessarily have to do with emotions. Renowned weight-control expert John Foreyt, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine, calls the diet sensible. “But theres nothing unique about it. And theres nothing magic about the seven keys to weight-loss freedom. Theyre sensible, if boring, guidelines.” What about McGraws supplement recommendations—green tea extract, soy isoflavones, chromium—for people who have trouble losing weight? “I dont know of any substantial research that shows supplements can reset your metabolism,” Rosenbloom says. “Its always a good idea to take a multivitamin when youre dieting, since restricting intake may cause you to fall short on some nutrients. But theres not enough research to suggest any other supplements. I think its sort of a slippery slope for Dr. Phil to now get into the food-marketing and supplement business,” Rosenbloom says. “He really is not a food-and-nutrition expert. Hes a psychologist.”

Who should consider the diet?


Dieters who eat when theyre stressed, bored, or angry; fans of the talk show. Because McGraws persona comes through loud and clear, dieters who like his style may find the support they need to make healthful changes.

Bottom line:


Theres a lot of good information here about behavior. But the actual diet is a little vague—and not that exciting.
Maureen Callahan, M.S., R.D.
Last Updated: April 17, 2008

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