Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Loss Solution


Self-improvement guru and psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw spent eight years counseling people who were up to 300 pounds overweight.  Those experiences created the foundation for his best-selling book The Ultimate Weight Solution:  The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom.  In the book, he outlines his “seven keys to weight loss freedom.”


You can achieve long-term weight loss by addressing the potentially toxic and negative behaviors that originally contributed to past weight gain.  This can be accomplished by following Dr. Phil’s “seven keys to weight loss freedom,” which also incorporates a  low-calorie diet plan and intense exercise.


Weight gain is largely the result of negative and toxic psychological and behavioral factors.  McGraw believes individuals have the ability to change those behaviors, and provides a program that combines positive thought and a strong circle of support, with well-balanced and healthy eating, and regular exercise.  Once someone is able to change the behaviors and actions that led them down the weight gain road, McGraw says weight loss is sure to follow.

Program Overview

McGraw’s approach is not a diet plan per se, but more of a long-term approach that advocates several key components. 

Those include:

1.    Right Thinking – learning how to eliminate self-defeating thoughts, patterns, and behaviors, and then embracing the idea that success is possible.

2.    Healing Feeling – advocates the idea to stop self-medicating with food, if dealing with emotional issues or stress.  Learn how to make choices that will allow you to stop the cycle of emotional eating.

3.    No-Fail Environment – create an environment around you that does not encourage binge eating, or makes it easy for you to grab food at every turn.

4.    Mastery Over Food and Impulse Eating –Simply put, do not allow food to master you.  You need to master food.

5.    High-Response Cost, High Yield Foods – McGraw promotes eating foods that are high in fiber, nutritious, and filling.  

6.    Intentional Exercise – McGraw points out that exercise is a way for people to gain control over their bodies.  He points out that people who have learned to manage their weight effectively and stay fit exercise as a matter of habit.

7.    Circle of Support – weight loss is not a DIY deal.  To be successful, you need to build nurturing relationship will people who share your views, and reaffirm your goals of changing your life for the better.


As mentioned, an actual diet plan is not the focus of Dr. Phil’s approach.  It is but one small component.  However, this is not to suggest it is not an important one.  Dr. Phil advocates eating what he refers to as High-Response Cost, High Yield Foods.  These are foods, which require a great deal of preparation, cannot be eaten quickly, and are not convenient.  High-yield foods include colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, fish, lean meats, legumes, tofu, non-fat milk products, soy products, soups, herbal teas, and water.

Dr. Phil finds the occasional meal replacement beverage or bar as a “grab and go” food to be acceptable.  He says they can keep busy, tired, or overcommitted people from straying from the plan.  He, however, stresses these products should not be relied on heavily, as they cannot substitute a balanced meal.

Plan Strengths

The Dr. Phil approach, in general, advocates building a foundation of good eating habits.  Many nutritionist support Dr. Phil’s approach to eating and point out that it is in line with national guidelines.  It supports a low-calorie diet and offers up several good exercise tips.

The approach also gets kudos for using a cognitive behavioral approach to weight loss.  It addresses the psychological and behavioral aspects of weight gain and provides a game plan for modifying those behaviors so that participants can move toward life-long weight loss.

Plan Weaknesses

The approach is neither new nor groundbreaking.  Most people who are serious about losing weight will be familiar with the concepts presented.  Another criticism, which is leveled at the meal plans, is that they tend to be high in cholesterol and lacking in some important vitamins and minerals.  Using meal replacement shakes and bars further compounds the problem and is therefore discouraged by some nutritionists.  Overall, the meal approach advocated by Dr. Phil is generally a low-calorie-eating plan.  However, when combined with intense exercise could potentially lead to certain problems such as fatigue and weakness.

The book claims to base its findings on “quality research found in the psychological and medical literature … from the most current research.”  However, the American Dietetic Association, takes issue with this, asserting that more than half of the book’s references (34 out of 66 books and articles) were five years old or more and that sources such as Time.com, Psychology Today, and Associated Press Wire Service Report did not qualify as peer-reviewed journals and reliable current references.  


Very few people would argue with Dr. Phil’s premise that behavior modification and cognitive restructuring combined with a sound healthy diet and exercise program would not lead to long-term, healthy weight management. This is pretty much a no-brainer.  While his approach to weight loss includes eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, getting plenty of regular exercises, and modifying destructive behaviors, it is really nothing new having been advocated by weight loss specialists for years.  

For some people, affecting long-term behavior change may prove difficult without the guidance and expertise of qualified professionals.  Sure, a supportive circle of friends can make a huge difference when working toward achieving your weight loss goals, but unless some of those friends have “technical expertise” in terms of getting to the root of specific behavioral or cognitive issues such as emotional eating or binging, you may not be able to successfully overcome those issues.   

With that said, Dr. Phil should at least receive kudos for providing a realistic approach to weight loss.  An approach that hammers home the reality that weight loss is not an overnight thing.  It takes time, effort, and diligence on the part of anyone wanting to effect life-long change.  An approach we can all support.

The information provided here is for educational or informational purposes only.  Dave DePew does not endorse any of the programs/services reviewed here. Before starting a new exercise regime or weight loss plan, talk with your doctor.

Additional Resources

Dr. Phil’s  Ultimate Weight Loss Solution, www.drphil.com

Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Solution by Katherine Lee, Every Day Health http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/dr-phils-solution.aspx

Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Solution, Reviewed by Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, LMHC

American Dietetic Association, http://www.eatright.org/Media/content.aspx?id=6442451343