Dr. Phil recently published a book called The 20/20 Diet: Turn Your Weight Loss Vision Into Reality that includes 20 foods specifically chosen because of their thermogenic qualities, general nutrition, plus their synergistic nature when eaten together to help regulate blood sugar, burn fat, and generally help you become the super human person you know you are inside. (Uh, he doesn’t claim that, by the way, that was me.)
I highly recommend the book, and this post is in no way designed to replace it, but rather as a quick guide and intro to some of the basic concepts. I won’t be addressing the psychological or emotional stuff, as only Dr. Phil can do that, so if you would like to get the whole story in it’s unadulterated form, click here. Otherwise, here’s a brief overview of some of the principles that I think apply most to my customers and visitors to this website.
The reasoning behind The 20/20 Diet
Food should be used only for nutrition, not for emotional needs such as psychological, social, financial, romantic, etc. It shouldn’t be used to celebrate, or as a companion, or for entertainment, or comfort, as people who eat out of stress or emotion are 13.38 times more likely to be overweight or obese.
The book discusses “right thinking” to get your mind and behavior right in order to get your body right, and it claims to overcome the “rebellion triggers” that make you break a diet (the “ugly truths”) – hunger, cravings, feelings of restriction, impracticality and expense, boredom, temptations, inconsistent results and plateaus. The 20 key foods on this diet are said to help increase your body’s thermogenesis (related to your metabolism), help you feel fuller, and have a “time-release” effect so you feel full for longer after eating them.
The main purpose of food is nutrition. Dr. Phil reminds us that food is not intended for psychological fixes, celebrations, or romance, or as a companion. It’s not for entertainment, or comfort. We should also avoid eating because of stress or emotion.
In the book, he stresses correcting bad thinking patterns (he calls it “right thinking) and he also talks about rebellion… and how we become our own worst enemy and rebel even against our own best intentions at times when it comes to food.
The basis premises you will learn in the book are:
- Eat mostly from a power list of foods that are specifically chosen because they are high in nutrition, keep you feeling full, and some have thermogenic properties.
- Eat 4 meals per day, mixing proteins, produce, fats and carbs in each meal.
- Once or twice per week you can cheat (he calls is splurge), but this has to be done sensibly (see below)
- Avoid (except when splurging, of course): processed food, non-whole grains, sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, full-fat dairy, and alcohol.
Here’s why he recommends the 20 core foods as the basis of your diet:
-Some have thermogenic qualities.
-Some have time release. They keep you full longer, in combination, they really work well together.
-Keeps blood sugar in balance. Dr. Phil is diabetic, so he specifically designed this to deal with blood sugar issues.
-Fights mind hunger, and habit hunger.
So here’s the 20 foods:
These ones have thermogenic qualities, which help with weight loss:
- Coconut oil (virgin recommended)
- Green Tea
- Mustard (yellow or Dijon)
- Olive oil, extra virgin
- The rest of the 20:
- Almonds, unsalted raw or dry roasted
- Chickpeas / garbanzo beans
- Dried plums / prunes
- Greens – spinach, kale, field greens, etc.
- Peanut butter
- Pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
- Yogurt (nonfat, nothing added), especially Greek yogurt
- Whey Protein
My only argument with his list is the non fat yogurt, which is, by definition, processed. If anything, I prefer a real, full fat yogurt to non-fat. When I was doing competitive triathlon, my diet was 60% fat, 20% protein, and 20% carbs… utilizing fat for fuel. Of course, I was also working out 10 hours a week and competing once a month, so that’s a unique lifestyle. Still, I believe a lot of evidence points to fat not being the devil we have been told, but rather, healthy fats are an excellent source of fuel, good for blood sugar levels etc. That being said, let’s jump into the rest…
- If you have food allergies, there is a substation list here for potential problem foods:
- Peanut butter
- Substitute almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin butters
- Walnuts or almonds
- Substitute unsalted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
- Rye, for gluten intolerance, gluten allergy, or if you have celiac disease
- Substitute gluten-free whole-grain bread instead of regular rye bread
- Dairy – if you are intolerant or allergic to dairy, including Greek yogurt
- Substitute plant-based yogurt or milk, such as almond yogurt or rice milk
- Whey protein
- Substitute with powders made of brown rice, hemp seed, or pea protein
- Substitute with another protein source such as tofu or mashed chickpeas
- Fish – if you have an allergy to fish
- Substitute with chicken breast or other lean protein sources
- Substitute with eggs or a lean protein source such as chicken breast or chickpeas
My only note on this is that Tofu should ALWAYS be substituted under any and all circumstances 😉
A sensible splurge is what most of simply call cheating. The book allows for this, under the following conditions:
-Don’t splurge more than once or twice a week.
-Don’t splurge more than 100 calories. Examples include 4 ounces of wine, 14 potato chips, 2 cookies, 1 ounce of dark chocolate, 2 bite size chocolate bars, etc.
-He recommends a 30 second assessment before splurging at all, asking these questions:
- Is there an emotional reason why I want this splurge (sadness, stress, or boredom) and if so, is there another way I can address the emotion without turning to food?
- Is it enough just knowing that a splurge is allowed and available to me, so I can skip it this time?
- Would a glass of regular or sparkling water or a cup of tea help this desire pass?
- Can I distract myself from this desire for a splurge by doing another activity (take a bath, go on a short walk, etc.)?
- Try not to splurge, and work on your self control. Yes, I realize self control isn’t very fun, but over time he contends you will get better and better at avoiding splurges if you do the 30 second assessment.
- No splurge unless you have already worked out, or will be working out that day.
Foods to avoid (unless splurging)
- Processed foods
- Fast food
- White flour, non-wholegrain starches
- Sugars (with few exceptions, like one teaspoon in a single cup of coffee per day)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Salty foods
- Red meat
- Full-fat dairy
- Fatty foods except those listed as acceptable to eat
- Water – aim to drink 16 ounces of water with each meal (8 cups total)
- green tea
- Coffee, but only if you absolutely have to. Limit 1 teaspoon sugar.
On water, the whole “8 cups a day” thing is another small disagreement I have with the good Doc. I mean, are we really believing that a 350 pound football player needs the same amount of water as a 100 pound retired
woman? 8 ounces is way to arbitrary, rather, drink half your body weight in ounces, every day. So, our 350 pound man needs 175 ounces of water, our 100 pound retiree needs 50 ounces. Then, if you exercise drink while exercising, but don’t count that towards your total, fair enough?
- Lemon juice
- Italian herb seasoning (salt free)
- pepper (black pepper, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper)
- vegetable broth (low sodium)
- vinegar (balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar)
And on the pepper (my own little note here again) there is a HUGE difference between black pepper, red pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is, in my humble but correct opinion, a super food and I eat it every day. I put it on eggs (I know that sounds weird, but try it before you mock me), and on any and all other foods that need a little hot spice. It’s delicious, and very healthy.
So, that’s my review and recommendation on Dr. Phil’s 20/ 20 diet book. I really like the tone of it, I like that it doesn’t over sell itself, while providing very sensible, and “followable” advice and guidance. No hype, no outrageous promises, just good old fashioned advice on nutrition and health generally. But, as mentioned above, don’t make the mistake of thinking this short blog post is a replacement to the book, its definitely not, I recommend you buy it here.
If you are a customer of ours who is in maintenance phase, and looking for a long term diet you can commit to, this is highly recommended. I believe just stocking your fridge and cupboards with these 20 foods so they are always available would be a great, simple start. But, read the book, it’s current, it’s compelling, and for a lot of people it could really be a solution to a long term sustainable way of thinking and eating.
And, make sure and leave your comments below!