I really like Dr. Phil, so I wanted to like his new book on weight loss. And I do like some of it, however, there’s a big problem with the chapter on what to eat. Dr. Phil proposes exactly the same eating plan for everyone. This will NOT work!
His plan may include too many calories for some people, mostly small-framed people. I was actually eating a very similar amount of food at one time, watching my fat intake carefully, eating plenty of fiber, and my weight wouldn’t budge. When I joined Weight Watchers, I learned that I was eating too much (for someone my size) to lose weight. After following their suggestions, I eventually lost 40 pounds and have maintained a healthy weight for almost 5 years.
Dr. Phil’s plan also actually provides too few calories for many people to be successful. Sound impossible? Let me explain.
Your body needs a certain number of calories to sustain normal functions like pumping blood, breathing, and digesting food (called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR.) This need actually depends on your current weight. The heavier you are, the more calories your body needs just to function, even at rest. There are several websites to visit for a BMR calculator and more information on this subject. You also burn calories during exercise; your adjusted caloric needs including your activity level is called the AMR (active metabolic rate). Some of the sites you’ll find will calculate both your BMR and AMR, so keep looking if you don’t see AMR on the first one you hit. As you lose weight, your BMR and AMR will drop.
We all know that if we eat too much, we gain weight. We also all know that if we eat way too little, we can starve to death. But somewhere in between, we can lose weight healthfully. Our bodies are smart enough to know where that range is and to protect us if we eat too little. (It also tries to protect us from eating too much. That’s what feeling uncomfortably stuffed is all about!) If you eat a little below your AMR, you can lose weight healthfully. If you eat farther below, your body will protect you by reducing your BMR (and AMR) to conserve energy, and you’ll stop losing weight. Eat too far below, and you’ll start losing again-but you’re starving yourself.
What does this mean? You must eat enough to lose weight healthfully! If you eat too few calories, you’ll likely either get stuck on a plateau, or you’ll lose weight too fast with potential health consequences. A healthy rate of weight loss is no more than 2 pounds per week average, after the first 2-3 weeks on a plan. A good recommendation for healthy weight loss is to eat 500 calories under your AMR (not below your BMR!) and to remember to recalculate your needs as you lose weight (recalculate after every 25 pounds lost, if you get stuck and are not losing, or if you increase your activity significantly).
Dr. Phil doesn’t provide different plans based on your starting weight and activity level, and he is against counting calories (or exchanges or Points.) But without knowing your approximate AMR and calculating the calories (or exchanges or Points) in a food plan, it’s impossible to know how much food to eat to start out. And without recalculating your AMR as you lose and adjusting your food plan accordingly, it’s difficult to keep losing weight at the proper rate. He makes no mention of changing your food plan until you reach your final goal. But people who have a significant amount to lose will need to adjust their calorie intake several times before reaching goal.
One size does NOT fit all! Frankly I am quite surprised nobody told him this before he published! If you are serious about losing weight healthfully, either calculate this for yourself or join a program (like Weight Watchers) where they teach you how much to eat without restricting your food choices. With just a little information about yourself and your body, you can do this RIGHT.