Book Review - The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss


At this point, I have read a fair amount of books on the whole foods plant-based diet, including John A. McDougall's most famous book, The Starch Solution. I've also read books written by T. Colin Campbell, Chef AJ, High Carb Hannah, Rip Esselstyn, and Douglas N. Graham. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to learn a whole lot of new information from The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss, especially since The Starch Solution is typically heralded as McDougall's best book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was completely wrong—this book has a lot to offer, even for the most nutritionally-educated among us!

Starting out in the beginning of the book, McDougall makes it clear that this is not an all-or-nothing program. Obviously, the more strictly one adheres to the program's advice, the more weight will be lost. But since change is a process and takes a considerable amount of time, he advises that we pat ourselves on our backs for every healthy choice we make, and use our lapses as learning experiences. I especially liked his dedication at the beginning of the book: "To those who suffer needlessly in order to look great." I can definitely relate to that sentiment!

McDougall assures the reader that "The desire to appreciate your body and make it beautiful is one of the most natural and wonderful urges in life." However, "even more fundamental is the urge to eat, which, after all, keeps us alive." These natural instincts may seem to be at odds with one another, but McDougall asserts that they can work together to produce a beautiful-looking body at a healthy weight. In his opinion, the cultural view that they are in opposition with one another is simply a delusion that happens to also be self-destructive. Without the strong desire to eat, we might give up food for some other activity, which would result in malnourishment and possibly even death by starvation. The strength of our hunger drive is necessary for our survival as individuals as well as the survival of our species. Hunger has driven many people to perform great acts of courage as well as also ghastly acts of barbarism. In other words— the hungrier we become, the more likely we are to lose control of our actions. It's time to stop blaming overweight and obese people for their hunger drives, because hunger is completely normal and necessary for survival.

Contrary to popular belief, our bodies mainly crave carbohydrates, not fat or protein. In fact, the secret to satiation is carbohydrate consumption. And that doesn't apply just to full-grown adults—it includes children as well! McDougall states, "Even in childhood, the nutrient our bodies need more than any other is carbohydrate. Adults need approximately 35 times more carbohydrates for energy than we need protein for growth, and 800 times more carbohydrate than fat." McDougall goes into great detail in Chapter Three about the benefits of carbohydrates on our health. The rest of the book covers several various topics, including how the fat you eat is the fat you wear, the importance of fiber (which is only found in plants) in the diet, the role that insulin plays in promoting obesity, what constitutes the "Maximum Weight Loss Program", the physiological reasons that women lose weight slower than men, the (small) role that exercise plays in weight loss, the effects that alcohol and coffee have on weight (and overall health), how sleep deprivation can be beneficial, and shopping and food preparation. The book ends with a lot of tasty recipes for people who need some meal planning inspiration.

Overall, this is one of the best books on the whole foods plant-based diet that I have read, if not the absolute best. I would definitely recommend reading this over McDougall's The Starch Solution, even though I would recommend reading that one as well. The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss goes into more detail and may be a better fit for people who are specifically looking for information to help them lose weight. I definitely recommend reading this one if you get a chance. It's relatively old (originally published in 1994), so it may even be available at your local library for free!

5/5 stars. 334 pages.