Monday, April 7, 2014

McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss

Back in 1994, Dr. McDougall finally realized that not everyone was losing weight effortlessly on his food program and published the book The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss, affectionately known as MWLP by his followers.

He added a 5-day MWLP program in Santa Rosa, which was well attended.

Michelle Dick added a page to her FatFree web site explaining the difference between the two McDougall programs.

A long-time McDougaller made up a list of MWLP recipes found in all the other McDougall books.

Another forum member started doing a blog with photo essays of her making many of the MWLP recipes. She also took the time to make a list with links to all the MWLP recipes found in the McDougall newsletters up to that point.

In January 2005, he wrote a newsletter article on how to refine the MWLP program for better compliance and results. He mentioned all the big weight loss people at his program would achieve. Well, yeah, people always lose big the first week of a new weight loss diet. 

Many people still weren't losing weight as easily as promised. I even wrote to him with that complaint, and got the same reply back that doctors had been telling me for decades when I complained I would follow a diet exactly as written but still fail to lose or gain - I must be cheating and not following the plan right. After years of encouraging people to fill their plates to the max, even offering a bet in the MWLP book to people saying that they can't eat more than him, he decided that eating so much isn't a good thing.

In the November 2005 newsletter article on Volume Eaters he admitted that for some people, they do need to reduce the total amount of food, even of his beloved of starches, to levels sometimes as low as those given to clients in attendance of the Rice House, many times reducing the calories to under 1000kcal/day. Yeah, that's what I said when I wrote to him, that I don't lose any weight unless I eat under 1000 calories. I was told to stop counting calories. 

Possibly disproving my usual preaching that people following our diet always lose weight and become healthier are a few extraordinary people I call “volume eaters.”  They eat very large amounts of McDougall approved foods, and their weight remains stubbornly fixed at a point too high for excellent health—although they all lost initially after giving up the high-fat, high-calorie Western diet.  I can vividly recall several men and a few woman who exemplify this behavior—and I know there are many more out there (in fact, I am guilty of a tinge of this behavior at times myself—“it takes one to know one”).

and also:

The most successful program for the treatment of people with serious eating disorders is the Kempner Rice Diet.5  This is a diet of rice, fruit, and sugar, plus vitamin and iron supplements, devised by Walter Kempner, MD, of Duke University in the 1940s to treat hypertension. The regular diet consists of about  2,000 calories daily and contains 5 gm or less of fat, about 20 gm of protein, and not more than 150 mg of sodium.  However, the initial diet prescribed for weight loss is even more restricted in calories (400 to 800 per day).

 I had heard from a number of other women who were experiencing the same thing - weight gain while following the MWLP as-written. When I mentioned this fact on the original McDougall forums on VegSource I was banned. Finally, I was vindicated!

In 2006, he let the world know how he and Mary go on an actual calorie-restricted diet he named the "Mary's Mini" for 10 days at a time and outlined this in the June and July issues of the newsletter. (Also told of Mary's history of what appears to be disordered eating, some days eating only a can of tomatoes or some jars of baby food, then went on to defend it by saying the babyfood squash has all the vital nutrients. Enabling much?) 

In 2008 he released another set of lectures on DVD called Dr. McDougall's Money Saving Medical Advice, and the first of those three lectures was The Science Behind the Maximum Weight Loss Program.

In 2011 Dr. McDougall added this short talk to his McDougall's Moments video series:

In April 2011, in a forum post about the buffet table at the seminars, her wrote this:

I have made that same conclusion and have often threatened to reverse the order on the buffet table so that people eat their salad last like I hear they do in Europe.
I teach the Maximum Weight Loss Program (an approach which emphasizes green and yellow vegetables) less enthusiastically than before because people do not do well in short and long term without the starch.
Short term they don't like the food as well, are hungry between meals, and have intestinal distress (gas and pain and upper acid indigestion).
Long term, without satisfaction delivered by starches, compliance falls off.
I believe in a starch-based diet -- green and yellow vegetables and salads are side dished.

In recent years, he's been mentioning in lectures he's given that he no longer pushes the MWLP program because people were turning it from a starch-based program into a green and yellow vegetable based one. You can see that plainly on his forums daily, when certain Star McDougallers encourage people to make their plates 3/4 veggies and only a quarter starch, the complete opposite of Dr. McDougall's teachings. He barely mentions this way of eating in the last book, The Starch Solution, devoting only a page to the principles of it (216) for those with stubborn weight loss and doesn't even refer to it as the MWLP. He no longer offers the MWLP 5-day seminars in Santa Rosa.

Still, for so many of us, weight loss is not possible without it, and many of the female Stars who are on that elite list because of their large amounts of weight loss only achieved it because of the MWLP. As soon as they start to eat foods not on the plan they start to gain. Just as with any weight loss diet, to maintain the loss you have to continue eating the foods that got you there, and in the same amounts. There's no way to eat more and not gain weight. 

There were only 3 times in my life I lost any significant amount of weight. The first time was as a child on 1000 calories a day, exercising almost 2 hours each day. It took 2 years to lose 30 pounds, then 1 month at 1200 calories to regain it all plus another 20. 

The second times was in 2000 when I followed strict MWLP 5 days a week, the regular McDougall program on weekends. Because of recent injuries and degenerative disc disease, I barely exercised. I lost almost 50 pounds in 6 months before the weight started to come back on, even when I started to reduce calories to below 1000kcal/day. I lost 16 pounds the first week, around 5 a week for the next few, then down to 2, one, none, and then started to regain. Before a year was out, most of the weight was back on. My doc blamed lack of exercise and low thyroid. It took over 10 years to find the root cause of all my pains that had prevented me from exercising more effectively, and my thyroid numbers still aren't all that great, but "good enough" according to my docs. 

My most recent weight loss has come after my husband's CABG surgery, when he was barely eating and needed a lot of assistance. During those long days at the hospital without access to decent food so lunch was skipped and it was too late for a decent meal when I got home at night; those busy days at home when I only had time to eat a small amount of food, all contributed to a rapid loss of about 15 pounds. The strict adherence to Dr. McDougall/Dr. Esselstyn food rules have helped release a few more pounds. 

Recent lab work that showed a worsening of some values, such as total cholesterol and triglycerides, is now causing me to move from many of the Esselstyn and McD heart-healthy recipes back into MWLP territory. I suspected I would have to do this back in September when my trigs and LDL shot up a bit from July's numbers, but they continued to be flaky in my March lab tests even though I made some changes. Hummus sandwiches, Rip's Big Bowl breakfasts and all those pasta meals have got to go, as well as large amounts of potatoes and brown rice. I'll be eating more soups and stews, more SNAP meals, more very beany Mary McDougall MWLP recipes. I'll take Chef AJ's advice and have green veggies with every meal, including breakfast. I already add greens to my oatmeal and grits, but now even the grits have got to go.

Dr. McDougall may not be that much into the MWLP program any more, but for many of us, it's the only way to go for weight loss and better lab numbers.


  1. You seem to be one of the few McDougallers who will lay it out like this. I have never tried a strict McDougall way for weight loss - I lost weight with diet change and Weight Watchers - because I never beleived I could eat that much "starch" to satisfaction and lose weight. My experience (more than 10 years) tells me that I must fill up on low calorie foods like vegetables & fruits (including winter squashes and my BMI is around 21-22. I do value Dr. M's advice with regard to health and what to include/exclude from the diet and why.
    Thank you for your honesty. I enjoy your posts.

  2. If you read some of the Stars' personal journals on the forums you'll see at least 2 of them lost all their weight doing strict Eat to Live 6-week plan, meaning only 1 cup of starch a day. Some of the others mention how they have to keep their starch intake - and calories - way low. And some of them have regained weight - one of them regained over 100 pounds then lost it again, 2 of the Stars have both recently reported eating a few off-plan foods during the winter holiday season and regained a few (close to 10, IIRC) pounds and are still struggling to get them back off.

    I wish Dr. McDougall would find some more *women* who have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off for more than a year or 2 using his program, but there doesn't seem to be too many of them around, or at least not hanging around the forums and talking about it. A few who say they lost 20 and under and kept it off 10 years or more still check in now and then, but 50? 100? 150? Where are they? He can't count the Stars who have regained some or all of their weight as true success stories.

    Unfortunately, Dr. Fuhrman's people aren't faring much better. A lot of the old timers on his forums have lost and regained, too, over the years.

    I agree that the health benefits of the programs are great, even without massive amounts of permanent weight loss. But those of us who have difficulty losing weight can't really subsist on the 500 calories of a program like the Rice Diet for the rest of our lives.

  3. your post is really collection of such useful information.we are also dealing in same field. and welcome you to visit our site

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.