Is the 20/20 Diet Worth the Hype?

After last year, just hearing “20/20” might have you running for the hills! But, the 20/20 Diet is actually a four-phase diet that focuses on weight loss invented by TV’s “Dr. Phil.” Today, we’re taking a closer look at the 20/20 Diet to see if it’s worth the buzz around it.

The diet focuses on the concept of 20 “power foods” that are supposedly hard for your body to process. The list is almonds, apples, coconut oil, cod, chickpeas, dried plums, eggs, green tea, leafy greens, lentils, mustard, olive oil, peanut butter, pistachios, prunes, raisins, rye, tofu, whey powder and yogurt. There is no scientific proof that these foods take more energy for your body to break down.

The diet is restrictive and rigid. You can eat only the 20 foods on the list as four meals a day, four hours apart in the first five-day phase. In the second five-day phase, you can add in other foods — like chicken and blueberries — but each meal must contain two of the 20 foods. In the third 20-day phase, each meal has to have a power food, and you can have two splurges of any food you want a week as long as it’s under 100 calories. If you haven’t reached your goal weight by the end of the 20 days, you revert to phase one. If you have attained your goal weight, you enter the never-ending maintenance phase of sticking to the diet and following a fit lifestyle.

Dr. Phil wrote a book on the diet, but instructions can be found online. It must be noted that Dr. Phil has a doctorate in psychology, not medicine. He does not have a nutritional background. When you are setting out to follow a new diet course, it’s best to speak to a doctor or nutritionist who knows you and your medical history.

Healthline gave the diet a score of 2.88 out of 5. They broke it down over several components. Its lowest score was a 2 for its lack of solid evidence. Its highest score was a 3.5 for nutritional quality; the twenty foods it tells you to eat are nutritious, beneficial foods. The most significant problem with it is how restrictive the first two phases are and how it can cause you to have an unhealthy relationship with food. It has weird rules that can lead you to focus far too much on your meals.

Healthline points out that while Dr. Phil claims you are losing weight because these foods need your body to work harder to break them down, that’s probably not why people see results. People might be losing weight; it might work. The reason is most likely because this restrictive diet has you sticking to satiating whole foods. You’re eating smaller amounts of more filling foods. And the diet has an exercise component that also helps people lose weight.    

After reviewing the diet, registered dietitian Maryann Jacobsen, “In general this plan is fine for people with weight-related health conditions… But there are some red flags. According to an analysis done by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, his plan may be high in cholesterol and inadequate in certain nutrients like iron, potassium and magnesium. Check with your doctor before starting any weight loss plan, especially if you’re taking medications — they may need to be altered as you lose weight.”

All in all, the 20 foods can all play roles in a healthy balanced diet. However, the 20/20 diet might not be best for you. We’re not going to completely write it off. It’s far from the worst diet we’ve ever reviewed. However, it’s certainly something you should discuss with a doctor before trying.

Banner image: Diana Polekhina via Unsplash
June 02, 2021
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