McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Plan — Lani Muelrath

McDougall Newsletter — Lose A Half Pound Per Day

Lose a Half Pound a Day by Correcting Your Setpoint
Results of the 10-day Live-in McDougall Program

We have collected data on 280 people during the past 2� years (since
moving to our new location in Santa Rosa, California) and the results
show that overweight and obesity are cured most effectively with major
changes in the composition of the diet � no gimmicks and no hunger �
with unlimited quantities of delicious foods.
who eat as much as they want of lasagna, mu shu Chinese vegetables and
rice, Tex-Mex Casserole, Bean Burritos, and highly flavorful soups with
breads lose, effortlessly, on average, a half a pound of excess body
weight daily (with very little daily exercise). 

Those scoffing at 3.5 pounds of weight loss in 7 days, please consider
this means 14 pounds in a month, and 84 pounds in half a year � a very
reasonable amount to lose by eating delicious foods.  And the weight
loss continues until you reach your ideal body weight because you have
finally tuned your metabolic processes of homeostasis to your new,
desired setpoint. 

Weight Loss at the
McDougall Live-in Program*, Santa Rosa, California
(Figures are presented as averages and pounds �
kilograms in parenthesis)



Initial Wt.

Final Wt.

Loss in 7 Days

Total 280 58.5 191.8 (87.2) 188.3 (85.6) 3.5 (1.6)




214.9 (97.7)

211.0 (95.9)

3.9 (1.8)




178.5 (81.2)

175.3 (79.7)

3.2 (1.5) 

These figures include everyone who
completed the program � including those who gained weight because they
started underweight, and those who gained �water weight� from
discontinuing diuretic blood pressure pills.

*Information is available at

Homeostasis and Your

is the process by which your body maintains itself in a stable
.  Maintenance of this equilibrium within the body is
accomplished by internal mechanisms, such as regulations of appetite,
physical activity levels, energy expenditure, and hormones.  This stable
condition has also been described as your biological setpoint
Ideally this setpoint would result in you being trim, active, and
healthy. When it comes to body weight, however, over 2/3 of the
population have their setpoint set too high.  They are maintaining a
stable condition, through homeostasis, that is undesirable � both for
appearance and health.  Trapped by this setpoint, every attempt at
dieting ends in failure.

Maintaining Your

The concept of setpoint has been established by experiments that force
people to temporarily change the amount they eat.1,2  When
people are asked to diet (eat fewer calories), they lose weight, but
once they return to unrestricted eating, they regain back to their usual
weight (back to their biologic setpoint).  The same occurs when people
are forced to eat more than usual � they gain weight, but when allowed
to eat without restrictions, they return to their usual weight (setpoint).  
Based on these observations you will feel out of control, because
regardless of how hard you try to �eat less� you will eventually end up
back at your fixed, predetermined, body weight.  The concept of setpoint
has also helped people overcome guilt caused by failing to lose weight �
after all, it is really not their fault � their body is established at
an un-moveable setpoint.

Adjustments for

Your body always makes the best adjustment possible in order to survive
and maintain a steady state (homeostasis), especially under adverse
conditions.  For example, stress yourself with cigarette smoking and
appropriate changes result, such as mucous production and coughing, in
order to eliminate toxic pollutants from the lungs and an increase
in enzymatic activities to detoxify the poisons that enter the
bloodstream.  These adaptions remain until the stress from the smoke is
removed � then the body readjusts to the new (and healthier) condition.

When your body is nourished with very rich foods, adaptions are made. 
Diets high in fats force the body to a new, but stable state, where the
excess energy is stored in the abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.  This
adaption might be desirable for people experiencing periods of famine �
that extra stored fat would allow them to survive during food scarcity. 
However, in our society where food is always abundant, this new setpoint
forced by excess fat calories is detrimental.

Diet Composition Moves

Your setpoint is determined by the composition of your diet � in other
words, the portions of the macronutrients � the fats, carbohydrates,
proteins, dietary fibers, and water.  Dietary fats (including vegetable
oils) are the primary force for moving the setpoint higher (toward
obesity).3-5  Fat�s powerful effects occur because it is very
calorie dense (9 calories/gram); fat offers little satisfaction for the
hunger drive, and the body effortlessly stores fat.  Higher amounts of
carbohydrate lower the setpoint because carbohydrate is less calorie
dense (4 calories/gram), carbohydrate is very satisfying to the
appetite, and excess is easily burned off, rather than stored.  The
amounts of protein, fiber, and water in the foods have only minor
influences on your setpoint.

Diet Composition Sets
the Setpoint


Desirable Setpoint


















Main Foods

Green {amp}amp; Yellow


Meats, Dairy,

Free Oils*

*Free-oils are like olive oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, etc.

The McDougall Program
Establishes an Ideal Setpoint

Your goal is to establish a trim, active, and healthy stable condition (setpoint). 
A natural, low-fat, plant-food-based diet � a diet of unprocessed
starches with green and yellow vegetables and fruits � is the correct
diet for the human body � and allows you to look, feel and function your
best.6  If you are now overweight, the McDougall diet and
moderate exercise will change your stable state (setpoint) from one of
being too fat, to one of being trim.  

The setpoint also acts to cause people who are underweight to gain on
the McDougall Program.  Two �starved appearing� women attended our Santa
Rosa Live-in Program recently.  Their frail condition was caused by a
self-imposed diet focused mostly on very low-calorie green and yellow
vegetables with very few starchy vegetables (rice, breads, potatoes,
etc.).  As a result, they achieved a state of homeostasis characterized
by being underweight.  This is an expected adaption which
allows an
improved chance for survival during times of food scarcity � underweight
people live on fewer calories. 

When the composition of their diet was changed during the live-in
program to one based on higher calorie starches (rather than very
low-calorie green and yellow vegetables) their setpoints changed
appropriately. After seven days of consuming this new diet, they had
each gained 6 pounds.  The exact same buffet of delicious foods caused
weight loss in our overweight participants.  Therefore, whatever you
weigh right now, the principle of setpoint is so fundamental that
changing the composition of your diet always works for you � you can
count on it, without ever counting a calorie again.

Next month I will discuss refinements you can make in order to fine-tune
your setpoint. 

Billions of People Prove Setpoint Works for Everyone

You are not
alone.  The right food choices to maintain an ideal stable state
(setpoint) have been made by most of the people who have ever
walked on this planet.  Even now, 60% of the world�s population
consumes foods with a composition that causes them to have a
trim setpoint.  Notice that everyone is thin and looking young �
even the shopkeepers, teachers, homemakers, weavers, and
government officials; people who exercise very little.  Examples
of populations of trim people living on starch-based diets

People from the
Middle East eating platefuls of chickpeas and rice.

Africans with
diets of beans and grains.

The people in
living on potato-based diets.

New Guinea
mountain people with 90% of their diet from sweet potatoes.

The farmers in
central Mexico living on corn tortillas, beans, and rice. 

Asians from
to Thailand thriving on rice-based diets.

You need only
look at the United States, Western Europe, or any other place
where a high-fat diet and fat people have become the norm, to
observe the effects rich foods have on setpoint.


1)  Tremblay A. 
Dietary fat and body weight set point.  Nutr Rev. 2004
Jul;62(7 Pt 2):S75-7.

2)  Keesey RE,
Hirvonen MD. 
Body weight set-points: determination and adjustment.
J Nutr. 1997 Sep;127(9):1875S-1883S.

3)  Astrup A, Astrup
A, Buemann B, Flint A, Raben A. 
Low-fat diets and energy balance: how does the evidence stand
in 2002?  Proc Nutr Soc. 2002 May;61(2):299-309.

4)  Peters JC. 
Dietary fat and body weight control.  Lipids. 2003

5)  Schrauwen P,
Westerterp KR. 
The role of high-fat diets and physical activity in the
regulation of body weight.  Br J Nutr. 2000 Oct;84(4):417-27.

6)  Hays NP,
Starling RD, Liu X, Sullivan DH, Trappe TA, Fluckey JD, Evans WJ. 
Effects of an ad
libitum low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet on body weight, body
composition, and fat distribution in older men and women: a randomized
controlled trial.
Arch Intern Med. 2004 Jan 26;164(2):210-7.

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Thank God I found this book. I was having a hard time losing just one pound in a month, despite having over 100 pounds to lose. Over the past 2 months, I have lost 16 by eating mostly potatoes, some air-popped popcorn, a bit of brown rice, a bit of fruit, a bit of nonstarchy vegetables, and fat-free condiments (like ketchup, mustards, bbq sauce)! While the Starch Solution is great for health and weight maintenance and weight loss for some, others of us (especially older women and those with insulin-resistance, like me) have an extremely hard time losing weight. In this book, Dr. McDougall explains why and presents a very simple, very cheap, and completely satisfying plan for losing weight. The good thing is that this is a temporary plan and when you want to maintain you can go on the far more allowing Starch Solution, which includes things like whole grain flours, pasta, and occasionally small amounts of fat like avocados and nuts. I’ve started following Maximum Weight Loss strictly 4 days a week, and then for 3 days (the weekend), I eat whatever I want (all vegan) without going too crazy, and I’m still able to lose weight! It’s truly a miracle! I also aim to get at least 8000 steps a day, since Dr. McDougall recommends exercise to tame the appetite. Exercise definitely tames mine (well, basic movement like walking does). I eat WAY less on days when I get a lot of walking in. It’s also been crucial for me to eat only when I’m hungry. If that means not eating breakfast or not eating lunch until 2:30 PM, then so be it. And of course, I eat enough to satisfy my appetite. You know you’ve found the correct diet when you don’t have to count calories OR go hungry EVER.

I also have to say this way of eating gave me my life back. I’ve felt dead from chronic fatigue and major depression for a long time now, despite working on healthy habits more diligently than ever in my life for over a year. I got super strict for 10 days — just potatoes (with salt and fat-free condiments), a couple pieces of fruit, and a bit of vegetables for breakfast (oil-free hash browns), lunch, and dinner. All of the sudden I had energy again, and I could BREATHE and SLEEP well again. My nails also got super strong (they were weak and breaking a lot recently, which was not a good sign, since I’ve always had nice, long nails), and my digestion was perfect (which is a feat for someone with a slow metabolism/hypothyroidism). I wholeheartedly jumped into Dr. McDougall’s exact instructions. Without all the fat in my bloodstream, my blood was able to get into the tiniest capillaries (too much fat in the blood gums it up and makes it hard for it to get everywhere in the body) and wake me back up again. I’m sure the fat globules started clearing out of my mitochondria (a characteristic of insulin resistance/Type 2 diabetes — see Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs for an amazing discussion about this) as well.

Dr. McDougall is the real deal. He’s been helping thousands of people reverse most chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, MS, arthritis, heart disease, chronic pain, etc. for almost forty years now. Nothing has changed about his program in all those years; it’s because it is not a fad but the natural human diet, as we are what he calls starchivores. Definitely read The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good! for more information, as it is a life-changing and eye-opening book.

I have at least another 100 pounds to go, and I plan to get there eating pounds and pounds of horror of horrors, the white potato!! CARBS, OMG!

I have to mention this way of eating has liberated me from the drudgery of cooking and grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is a breeze now. I just throw a ton of potatoes and other produce in the cart, pick up some condiments, and visit the freezer aisle — shopping for the week done. Meal planning unnecessary. AND my grocery bill has been cut in half, something I’ve never been able to do before. I’m still not sick of potatoes after two months. I had faith that I wouldn’t since there was a study done a long time ago where they fed a man and a woman nothing but potatoes and a bit of oil so they didn’t lose too much weight for six straight months. At the end of the study, they still weren’t sick of potatoes. Also, the Irish in the past and some Peruvians have lived almost exclusively off potatoes. Most people love white potatoes, but if you don’t, you can certainly eat sweet potatoes, corn, brown rice, other whole grains, or winter squashes as your primary calorie source. You can mix them up too; I just go with one for the simplicity and because potatoes are the one and only food I both enjoy and fills me up completely.

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The McDougall Maximum Weight Loss Plan

John McDougall, M.D.

The McDougall Maximum Weight Loss (MWL) plan is for those who find they need or want to optimize for most rapid results. This doesn’t make it “better”, simply a strategy AND a good way to get things going when make the switch to starch, plants, low fat fat loss.

For those who don’t and are curious about content of the MWL book, here is a great overview and key points of this book. Keep in mind this is not the requirement for all McDougall style eating, just the barest to the bone of the principles for, well, MWL!

Pushing Your Set Point to the Limits
The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss

The set point theory is rock solid – so accept the fact that you are stuck in your present body size and shape. Look around – don’t the body shapes of your friends and relatives remain about the same year after year? Mr.

Jones, working behind the counter at the post office, has been rotund since the day you met him 20 years ago. Your Aunt Millie maintains her same full form – with a few fleeting changes due to one fad diet or another.

Fortunately, there are ways out of this ambush.

You have three basic choices:

You could eat less everyday. But that doesn’t work because it hurts too much to be hungry all the time. Proving the accepted statement, “Diets Don’t Work.”

You could start an intense exercise program. People become marathon or triathlon runners –
losing weigh by dedicating 2 hours or more a day to strenuous exercise. And they keep the weight off as long as they are able to endure this brutal routine. Painful!

Change the composition of your foods. Quickly learn to enjoy delicious healthy meals – no pain, all gain (I mean, weight loss). Last month’s newsletter discussed this basic concept in detail: Eat like an Asian (rice-based diet) – look like an Asian (trim, young and active). Otherwise, continue eating like an American, and continue to…

From my viewpoint there is only one obvious choice in order to become trim and healthy for a lifetime. Hopefully, by now that is your viewpoint, too.

How Well Does the “Regular” McDougall Program Work?

We have collected weight loss data on nearly 300 people who have attended our basic McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and found that with unrestricted eating (buffet tables of delicious healthy foods, three meals a day, and snacks all day long), the average weight loss is a half a pound a day – 3.

This is a highly desirable rate of weight loss. Most experts say you should set your weight loss goals at no more than 2 pounds a week. Don’t worry about the extra pound and a half weekly loss you get with our program.

Three and a half pounds per week is not too fast because our recommendation is for you to change to a natural and normal behavior: to eat delicious foods to the full satisfaction of your healthy appetite.

How Well Does the Maximum Weight Loss Program Work?

This past month (January 14 to 23, 2005) we held our first 10-day live-in program based upon the principles of Maximum Weight Loss – designed by Mary and John McDougall almost 20 years ago to help people lose weight faster and easier, and to maintain that new size.

Thousands of people have successfully followed this program at home. Some implement the rules strictly, all of the time, and others simply use the more limiting program for short periods to lose a few stubborn pounds, returning to the “regular” McDougall Program for most of the year.

(The most significant difference, as you will soon learn, is that the “regular” program uses whole grain flour products, like breads, bagels, and muffins, and more fruits, juices and other simple sugars.)

The average weight loss achieved in this first ever Maximum Weight Loss Live-in Program held at our clinic in Santa Rosa, California was slightly over 4.5 pounds in 7 days – in other words, about one pound more than is lost in the usual program for the week.

(That’s 52 extra well-deserved pounds in a year from that extra effort.) Our guests never suffered a moment of hunger and they thoroughly enjoyed the tastes of the meals we served to them. That was obvious;

they ate 2, 3, 4 and more servings at each meal. Most importantly, they loved the results – easy weight loss, relief of headaches and arthritis, and dramatic reductions in blood sugars, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. They got their lives back – all by eating delicious foods.

Refinements for Maximum Weight Loss

Here Are the Measures Taken to Emphasize Weight Loss:

Thrive on Unrefined Starch:

Starches are low in calories (calorie dilute), low in fat (the fat you eat is the fat you wear) and high in carbohydrate (which satisfies the hunger drive). Most importantly, there are sufficient calories in starches to meet your needs for energy and to satisfy your powerful hunger drive.

Some starches, like squash and potatoes, are lower in calories than others (like grains), and these are very good for rapid weight loss. Starches like beans, peas, and lentils slow the emptying of the stomach, keeping you feeling satisfied longer, and thereby encouraging lasting weight loss, and providing an emotionally rewarding dining experience.

Program Protocol: At the Maximum Weight Loss Program (at our clinic) we served at least one entrée every meal as a low-calorie unrefined starch. Popular dishes were Shepherd’s Pie (found in the April 2002 newsletter), Spicy Yam Stew (December 2004), Vegetable Bean Enchiladas (The Quick and Easy Cookbook) and Mexican Meal (June 2003).

Practical Tips for Home Compliance: You need to find one starch-based dish that you enjoy for each meal (this can be the same starch for every meal – like potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

If you fail to make this choice, and instead focus on mostly green and yellow vegetables, you will become ravenously hungry, out of control, and soon off your new nutritional program – and there you will be, fat again.

Don’t overlook this essential component of each meal because you may have heard some nonsense like “starches are fattening.” Remember that all successful populations living on healthy diets have had starchy plant foods as their main sources of calories (Japanese – rice, Peruvians – potatoes, Papua New Guinea Islanders – sweet potatoes, rural Mexicans – corn and beans, etc.

) There are many unrefined starch dishes in all of our books and in the recipe section of each newsletter. You will find the “Quick and Easy Cookbook” especially supportive for those beginning the program – but all of more than 2000 published recipes from various sources are helpful.

Avoid Refined Foods and Flours:

Those interested in the utmost efficiency for weight loss should eat their starches in an unprocessed and unrefined condition. In practical terms, this means you minimize your intake of flour products.

Flours are more rapidly absorbed than are the whole grains, causing a greater rise in insulin levels. The reason for this is that when you cut a kernel (corn) or a grain (wheat-berry) into a thousand pieces with the steel blade of a grinder;

you dramatically increase the surface area for absorption through the intestinal wall – rapid, more complete absorption means more insulin produced. Insulin’s job is to push fat into fat cells (adipose tissue) where it is stored as the “metabolic dollar” for the day when no food is available – but for almost no one in Western societies does that ever occur.

Program Protocol: Except for a few offerings of whole corn tortillas, we eliminated all breads, pastas, bagels, and other flour products. This was an easy adjustment for program guests.

Why did we allow corn tortillas, and not bread and bagels? You can effortlessly eat a half a loaf of bread in one short sitting. That could be over 600 calories downed without a guilty thought – after all it is made of “all natural, whole wheat flour, without butter.

Practical Tips for Home Compliance: Most of you will still easily lose weight and become healthy if you include some flour products – even whole grain breads – in your diet – but, don’t over-consume them.

Eat Green and Yellow Vegetables:

Typically “popular diets” recommend that you eat large amounts of green and yellow vegetables, which are very low in calories, thus filling your stomach with low energy bulk (they are high in nutrients, however).

I suggest about one-third of the meal should be from these low-calorie vegetables for accelerating weight loss. If you are desperate, then you may push that amount to one-half of your plate (measured roughly by your eye).

However, be careful that you do not eat so many of these low-calorie vegetable foods that your meals are no longer enjoyable and satisfying for your hunger drive. You need the starchy selections for sustaining satisfaction.

No population of people has ever lived on a diet based on low-calorie green and yellow vegetables. All successful societies have centered their diets on starches (rice, potatoes, beans, corn, etc.) – and you must do the same for long-term victory.

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