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If you’re a fan of the TLC channel, you’ve likely seen Dr. Younan Nowzaradan (AKA Dr. Now) on the hit show “My 600-Lb Life.”
A 79-year-old no-nonsense doctor specializing in vascular and bariatric surgery, Dr. Now has facilitated tremendous weight loss in class III obese patients preparing for bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) with his diet plan, the “Dr. Now diet.”
But is the Dr. Now diet safe and healthy for the average person? (Spoiler alert: probably not!)
This highly restrictive diet is not sustainable and should likely only be used by people preparing for bariatric surgery or those who have a high risk of serious complications from carrying excess weight.
Let’s dive into what the Dr. Now diet is, the pros and cons of it, and what foods to eat or avoid on this diet plan.
What Is the Dr. Now Diet?
Developed by vascular and bariatric surgeon Dr. Nowzaradan, the Dr. Now diet was first used to help obese patients prepare for weight loss surgery.
Although you may think that the point of weight loss surgery is to help people lose weight, most bariatric patients need to lose some weight beforehand to lower the risk of complications and reduce the size of the abdomen and liver problems, making weight loss surgery and recovery more successful.
While there are of course several variations of the classic weight loss diet out there, they are unavoidably connected by at least one main theme: consume fewer calories and establish a healthy diet.
Research on over 480,000 people who had bariatric surgery showed that those who lost weight before the procedure (even as little as under 5% of their body weight during the preoperative weight loss phase) had a reduced risk of death in the 30-day postoperative period.
Specifically, people who lost 0-5%, 5-10%, and 10% or more of their body weight had reductions in postoperative mortality risk by 24%, 31%, and 42%, respectively.
Plus, adhering to weight loss diet plans before bariatric surgery can help show the bariatric surgeon that the patient can make the healthy lifestyle changes necessary for losing weight and keeping it off.
Although weight loss surgery can generate substantial weight loss in the short term, up to 30% of patients regain the weight and fail to achieve successful long-term weight loss.
So, diet plans like that of Dr. Now can help to facilitate this weight loss quickly and help them to keep it off after bariatric surgery.
Essentially, the Dr. Now diet is a strict low-calorie and low-carb eating plan—more details can be found in his book “The Scale Does Not Lie, People Do”—with three overarching principles.
This trio of dietary approaches has the acronym “FAT,” which stands for:
- Frequency: Dr. Now recommends eating two to three meals per day—no snacks or desserts.
- Amount: This refers to your daily calorie intake—he recommends limiting calories to 1,200 or less per day, divided equally between your meals (two 600-calorie meals or three 400-calorie meals).
- Type: The types of foods eaten are also restricted in this meal plan, with most of the allowed foods being low in calories, fat, sugar, and carbohydrates while higher in lean protein or fiber.
Pros and Cons of the Dr. Now Diet
As with most diets, you can expect some upsides and downsides—let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of the Dr. Now diet.
Pros of the Dr. Now Diet
- Emphasizes foods that are lower in sugar and refined carbohydrates and higher in protein and fiber. This helps decrease calorie intake with the smallest loss to overall nutrition.
- Can promote losing weight, especially in people with high BMIs.
Cons of the Dr. Now Diet
- The 1,200-calorie limit is highly restrictive for most people and is therefore not a sustainable weight loss plan.
- Long-term calorie restriction can impede the weight loss process as the body adapts to the very low calorie diet by slowing down your metabolic rate. This makes losing weight (or maintaining weight) more difficult when you increase your calorie intake in the future.
- It restricts high-fat foods, which are not always unhealthy (like olive oil and nuts).
- Two to three meals per day with no snacks, especially when the calorie limit restricts the size of the meals, can increase cravings and ghrelin levels, our primary hunger hormone.
- It is likely too low in micronutrients. One study found that a high-protein, low-carb, 1,200-calorie diet (like the Dr. Now diet) was insufficient in thiamin, vitamin D, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
- It should only be followed under medical supervision.
As you can see, the Dr. Now diet has many more downsides than benefits. Therefore, this drastic of a cut in calorie intake should only be applied in cases of preoperative weight loss surgery for no more than 30 days while under medical supervision.
Foods to Eat on the Dr. Now Diet
It’s recommended to eat foods from multiple food groups that are high in lean protein and fiber and low in calories, fat, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, including:
- Lean protein, such as egg whites, chicken breast, fish, shellfish, turkey, and tofu
- Small amounts of oil or cooking spray for cooking
- All vegetables except for potatoes
- Most fruits except high-sugar ones (watermelon, cantaloupe, banana, and mango)
- Flax seeds and chia seeds
- Non-fat dairy products, like non-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Whole grains in moderation, like whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortillas, or whole wheat pasta
- Non-caloric sweeteners
Foods to Avoid on the Dr. Now Diet
- Sugar, sweeteners, and sugary foods and drinks (soda, juice, sports drinks, candy, desserts, ice cream, honey, syrups)
- Fattier and processed proteins, like bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs, battered and fried meats
- Whole eggs
- High-sugar fruit (watermelon, cantaloupe, banana, and mango)
- High-fat dairy products
- Butter and oil (other than small amounts for cooking)
- Most nuts and seeds, including nut butter, peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and sunflower seeds
- Potatoes and French fries
- Refined carbohydrates, such as crackers, chips, popcorn, rice, white bread, and pasta
Sample Meal Plan on the Dr. Now Diet
Here’s a sample 3-day menu that you might expect to eat on the Dr. Now diet, developed by our Registered Dietitian:
- Day 1:
- Egg white omelet with whites from 4 eggs (or 4oz liquid egg whites), 1 cup fresh chopped spinach, ½ cup mushrooms, and one slice of whole wheat toast
- Spinach salad with 3 cups fresh baby spinach, 4oz grilled salmon, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, ¼ cup sliced red onion, and 2 Tbsp non-fat balsamic vinaigrette
- 2 ounces of whole-wheat spaghetti, ½ cup no-sugar-added marinara sauce, 4 ground turkey meatballs, and ¼ cup non-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
- Day 2:
- 6oz non-fat unsweetened Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with 1 cup of sliced strawberries
- 1 cup of vegetable minestrone soup and side salad (lettuce, tomato, onion, and non-fat, no-sugar dressing of choice)
- 4oz baked fish (cod, tilapia, or another white fish) with roasted asparagus and lemon
- Day 3:
- Protein and fruit smoothie with 1 scoop of unsweetened protein powder, ½ cup frozen berries, 4oz of non-fat yogurt, and 1 cup of non-fat milk
- Open-faced tuna sandwich with one slice of whole wheat bread, 3-4oz canned tuna mixed with 2 Tbsp non-fat Greek yogurt, and ¼ cup diced celery and red onion
- 4oz grilled chicken with ½ cup mashed cauliflower and ½ cup roasted zucchini
Should You Follow the Dr. Now Diet?
Unless you are following a pre-surgery weight loss diet, you likely should not follow the Dr. Now diet, as it’s highly restrictive and too low in calories and nutrients for most adults.
Although it can facilitate rapid weight loss in bariatric cases, it’s not sustainable and should only be followed for about 30 days and under medical supervision.
Dr. Now Diet FAQs
What Foods Are Allowed on the Dr. Now Diet?
On the Dr. Now diet, you can eat high-fiber, low-sugar, and low-fat foods, including:
• Lean protein, such as egg whites, chicken breast, fish, shellfish, turkey, and tofu
• Small amounts of oil or cooking spray for cooking
• All vegetables except for potatoes
• Most fruits except high-sugar ones (watermelon, cantaloupe, banana, and mango)
• Flax seeds and chia seeds
• Non-fat dairy products, like non-fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
•Whole grains in moderation, like whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortillas, or whole wheat pasta
Does Dr. Nowzaradan Have a Weight Loss Book?
Yes, Dr. Nowzaradan has published a weight loss book based on the principles of the Dr. Now diet, titled “The Scale Does Not Lie, People Do.”
Can You Eat Cottage Cheese on the Dr. Now Diet?
Yes, you can eat non-fat dairy on the Dr. Now diet, but it must be non-fat cottage cheese.
How Quickly Will I Lose Weight on 1200 Calories a Day?
You might expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week on a 1,200-calorie diet. However, this is too few calories for most people. If you are preparing for bariatric surgery and are at class II or class III obesity levels, you might expect to lose up to one pound per day on this diet plan. Keep in mind this is not a long-term nor sustainable daily calorie intake—it’s designed to be used for a short period of time under medical supervision.
Is The Dr. Now Diet Healthy?
For most people, the Dr. Now diet is not a healthy style of eating, as it is too low in calories and very restrictive. It can be a healthier style of eating in regards to the foods you choose, but the quantity is the problem. It can also be a good choice for people preparing for bariatric surgery, as it can promote rapid weight loss in people with class II or III obesity. If you aren’t in this category, there are other, more sustainable ways of instilling healthier eating habits and/or reducing your average daily calorie intake.