by Scheinberg D

The Basics

In his book "The Ultimate Weight Loss Solution," Phil McGraw, PhD writes about getting to get to the heart of your weight struggles and facing your “personal truth.” The talk-show host and psychologist lists his 7 keys to weight loss. He also helps you set expectations and goals and find out if you are ready for change.

How Might it Work?

Dr. Phil’s plan works on changing the things that affect what you eat. These things are your thinking, actions, and yourself. He says that people who are overweight have lost control and need to get it back. The plan tries to teach control of the feelings that may guide how you eat. It also works to change eating habits and add working out into your day.

What’s Involved?

Dr. Phil's 7 keys to weight loss are:

  • Right thinking—Stop harmful thoughts and believe that you will succeed.
  • Healing feelings—Learn how to break the cycle of eating too much because of feelings or stress.
  • A no-fail environment—Create a setting that makes it hard for you to fail.
  • Mastery over food and impulse eating—Find out why you do not eat well and what you can do to change that.
  • High-response cost, high-yield nutrition—Eat foods that take time to make, eat, and are high in nutrition.
  • Intentional exercise—Make workouts part of your day.
  • Circle of support—The people in your life should support your efforts to lose weight.

This plan does not limit too many foods. You will eat “high-response cost, high-yield nutrition" foods. These are foods that take time to make, cannot be eaten quickly, and are high in nutrition. These foods take a long time to make and eat. They are not good for impulse eating. They help you slow down so that you know when you are full. "Low-response cost, low-yield nutrition” foods are easy to eat, need little or no work to make, and are low in nutritional value.

Some “high-response cost, high-yield nutrition” foods are:

  • 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
  • Nonstarchy veggies
  • Fruit
  • Broth-based soup
  • Nuts and seeds

Some “low-response cost, low-yield nutrition” foods are:

  • 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 deli meats
  • Snack foods
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Potatoes
  • Creamed or candied veggies

Some people do the things they should, but still are not losing weight. He says the first thing to do is go to your doctor for a check up. You may need to have your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and thyroid tested. He says that having too much weight in the belly may be a sign of metabolic syndrome. Extra weight in the hip and thigh may be a sign of a problem with estrogen.

What Does the Research Say?

This book is supported by scientific proof. But there are a few theories that are not backed by science.

Dr. Phil believes that the body mass index (BMI) is not accurate or realistic. He has come up with his own “Body Weight Standards." The ideal BMI weight ranges may not be realistic for some, but it is an accurate way of knowing whether you may get health problems from being overweight and obese.

Dr. Phil also suggests taking supplements to help with weight loss if you are “weight-loss resistant." Data does not back this up.

Are There Any Concerns?

The book talks about the emotional issues around food. It has only one section on nutrition. The section is not fully correct.

It is good to eat foods that take time to make and eat and those that are good for you. But, foods cannot be grouped as good or bad when some of them can be both. Under the plan, whole-wheat pizza is good in that it has whole grains, but bad in that it has high-fat dairy. You can also slowly eat a small amount of dessert and enjoy every bite, making it a cross between a “high-response cost, low-yield nutrition” food.

This plan makes nutrition seem easy. It assumes that people are overweight because they put taste and ease before nutrition, and/or because they are emotional eaters.

Bottom Line

You may be an emotional eater or someone with a lot of built-up negativity. This plan may help. Dr. Phil helps you sort out what is causing your weight problems, set realistic weight loss goals, and make a plan to reach your goals. If you would rather skip the self-help or are just looking for a basic, healthful eating plan, then this plan is not the best match for you.


Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

Weight-Control Information Network 


Dietitians of Canada 

Health Canada 


Diets for weight loss. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: . Updated June 16, 2017. Accessed March 8, 2019.

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

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