If I Could Be Your Doctor,
I Would Love to Tell You How To Lose Excess Weight Effortlessly, Painlessly, and Permanently

John McDougall, M.D.


Dr. John & Mary McDougall

1. You need to believe that the only thing that matters is the composition of the foods on your plate. Do not focus on anything else. Don’t think about how much you eat. Don’t think about exercise. It does not matter if you are a nice person, or if you go to church, or if your classmates picked on you in high school. It’s the food. All you have to do to permanently change your life–I sincerely mean this; to lose excess weight and regain your lost health–is to change the makeup of the meals you put into your mouth.

2. You can learn the truth about permanent weight loss by simply opening your eyes. Look around the world. Who are the millions of people who look trim, healthy and young–who have the physical shape that you want? Did you pick Japanese, Thai, Peruvians, and rural Mexicans? Did you also notice that all of these people follow diets based on starches: rice, potatoes, beans, and corn? They eat very little meat, dairy, and processed foods. They also avoid the diseases that are common to us. Change your meals to these comfort foods and solve your health and weight problems. Make this simple observation and you will never be fooled by fad diets again.

3a. The more you eat, the thinner and healthier you will become. You have tried low-calorie diets in the past. Most of these kinds of diets are based on restricting how much you eat. Do you remember the agonizing pains from hunger? How could you expect your will power to win out? Each successive time you tried portion-controlled, calorie-restricted diets you did worse than with previous attempts. The pain of hunger is a powerful teacher.

Can you appreciate the differences between the basic components of these two dishes? If so, then you know the secret to great health.

3b. Rather than semi-starvation, during your most desperate times you ate all you could stomach of meat, cheese, and eggs (a la Atkins). You became ill with ketosis, lost your appetite and some weight. Being sick is unpleasant, so you had to cease this foolishness and you regained your lost weight. Now you worry about the possible long-term consequences of eating all that fat and cholesterol–cancer, heart disease, hemorrhoids, etc.

4. If you have tried to follow a plant-food based diet in the past and got off track, don’t be discouraged. Pleasure, too, is a powerful teacher, like hunger. Likely, you remember this experience as a time when you felt your best, you lost weight effortlessly, and you were never hungry. Your body was healing and your future was promising. Now is the time to give a diet based on starches another chance–and you will do better than you did the last time–you will follow this enlightened path more faithfully–and you will become stronger, trimmer, and handsomer as the months and years pass. To accelerate your weight loss, increase the quantity of green and yellow vegetables in your diet. But, don’t overdo the low-calorie cauliflower and peapods. Starch must remain your source of clean, appetite-satisfying calories. Focus on whole grains; not refined flours, like those found in bagels and pretzels, and white breads and white pastas.

5. Your goal should be to find a few meals that you really enjoy and are willing to fix over and over again. Mary has published more than 2500 recipes. Your goal is to find one dish you like for breakfast, one for lunch and two or three for dinner. When someone asks: “what’s for dinner?” You say, “Bean burritos, minestrone soup and bread, black bean chili, or pasta and marinara sauce.” Think starch-centered meals.

6. The fat you eat is the fat you wear. You can expect that the fats from animal foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, and cheese; as well as, those found in large amounts in some plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados and olives, will be effortlessly moved into and stored in your body fat. The most harmful sources of fat are concentrated animal forms, such as lard and butter, and those extracted from plants, such as olive, corn, safflower, and flaxseed oils. When mixed into soups, stews, and bakery products they seem to disappear–only to reappear around your waistline.

7. Under usual living situations carbohydrates do not turn into body fat. Rather than being stored, excess carbohydrate calories are burned off as body heat, eliminated through the lungs and skin. Only by consuming very large amounts of refined flours and simple sugars will the body resort to converting carbohydrate into fat, a process called de novo lipogenesis. Fructose, often present as high fructose corn syrup and found in sodas and candies, is an exception in that this one form of simple carbohydrate is easily converted into body fat. Otherwise, think: “Carbohydrates found in rice, potatoes, broccoli and bananas will keep me thin and healthy–just like they do for people living in Asia and Peru.”

8. Alcohol does not turn into fat. Friends who brag about their “beer belly” are mistaken. This is really “a pizza-cheese and potato chip-fat belly.” Excess alcohol calories are burned off as heat, not stored. Serious alcoholics are underweight. However, moderate drinking contributes to being overweight by providing readily-usable, alcohol-derived calories–the body burns alcohol and leaves fat stored in your buttocks. Plus, alcohol reduces self-control causing you to be unable “to eat just one” of anything.

9. Exercise helps but it cannot compensate for oil- and sugar-filled foods. First, manage every morsel that passes your lips, and then, start burning a few more calories with exercise. Find something you love to do so that this valuable time is long-awaited. I windsurf every time the wind blows, and I walk my grandson, Ben, in his backpack several times a week. I call these activities pure pleasure–not exercise. Isn’t there something you love doing? Tennis, walking, bicycling, etc.?

10. Eating out is a major downfall for most people–do not make restaurants your chief cook. Even though you ask the waiter for “no added-oil,” you will more often than not be served a meal glistening with grease. If you do have to eat out, keep it simple, like baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole beans and rice. Or pick one fine dining establishment and challenge the chef to make you an oil-free creation of unrefined whole starches, vegetables, and fruits.