The 20/20 Diet by Dr. Phil McGraw

The 20/20 diet book by Dr. Phil is a brief but easy to follow motivational and eating/exercise plan with the goal of health and weight loss. Although the diet is surprisingly restrictive (just 20 foods), it is smartly tailored to be easy to follow and with a small time commitment. As befitting a book by a psychologist and not a dietician or doctor, the wording is accessible, down-to-earth, and tailored to help prevent failure.

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The book breaks down as follows:

Part 1: Fundamentals of the diet (intro, what makes this diet different, a diet that defies your logic).

Part 2: Prepping for success (getting out of your own way, set the right goal, extinguish your fake hunger, stock up on your 20/20 foods).

Part 3: The three phases of the 20/20 diet (phase 1: the 5 day boost, phase 2: the 5-day sustain, phase 3: the 20 day attain).

Part 4: your body’s capacity for change (the 30 second burn burst exercise program, when your body won’t follow your mind: are you resistant to weight loss?).

Part 5: Protecting your weight loss for a lifetime (maintaining your success: the management phase, your return to health, conclusion: the new you.

Grocery lists, phase 3 meals, the management phase foods and portions.

The diet revolves around 20 key foods that are used in a variety of ways but have specific health benefits or synergy (e.g., either make the stomach feel fuller or help burn fat faster). The efficacy of the diet is likely going to come down to how many of the foods you really don’t like; since the recipes revolve around interchanging those key ingredients, it may be more difficult to follow the recipes if you don’t like even 1-2 items (I’m not a fan of yogurt, for example, so that knocks out a chunk of recipes). Substitution ideas are given (even for special conditions/needs such as vegan or lactose intolerant) but it may just come down to learning to like new foods.

The 20 key ingredients are very common – again, this isn’t a diet set up for failure by being difficult in any way. Shopping, preparing, following – it’s all extremely easy for nearly all lifestyles. Because it has both a short term (5 day) middle term (30 days) and then lifetime goals, it is also something that can be done in increments and doesn’t get old fast.

While the diet is interesting and easy, it’s definitely Dr. Phil’s motivational writing in the beginning that make the book worthwhile. He’s done his homework and really studied the many reasons why diets fail. Couple that with his trademark down-to-earth and incisive approach to problems (“And how is that working out for you?”) and he does take away a lot of traps dieters fall into with the weight loss roller coaster.

The book is mercifully brief – you don’t have to commit a lifetime to reading through a lot of rhetoric. I found the kindle version to be difficult to follow because of the lack of formatting – I do recommend the physical version of the book for that reason.

In all, this is one of the best ‘everyman’ diet books out there right now; using logic and examples/experience to get right to the heart of obesity and controlling it. The plan itself may be very limiting but that’s what I think most people need in order to get started and have something they can really stick to and get results.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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