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Dr. Nowzaradan — more commonly known as Dr. Now — is the direct, brutally honest weight loss surgeon on the popular TLC show, “My 600-lb Life.”

If you’re a fan of the show like me, you know that Dr. Now prescribes a 1,000–1,200 calorie diet plan — referred to as the Dr. Now diet — for his patients before performing weight loss surgery.

The diet is intended to help patients lose weight fast so they can qualify for weight loss surgery, and also prove to Dr. Now that they can develop healthy habits to maintain the weight loss long-term.

However, if you’re looking to lose weight, you may wonder whether the Dr. Now diet can work for you.

This article explains whether the Dr. Now diet is safe and effective for fat loss and provides a sample 3-day Dr. Now diet plan.

Dr. Now diet

What is the Dr. Now diet?

The Dr. Now diet is a low-calorie, high-protein diet.

The diet limits calories to 1,000–1,200 per day but in some instances, Dr. Now prescribes a medically-supervised 800-calorie diet.

For reference, a 2,000-calorie diet is considered adequate to meet most people’s calorie and nutrient needs.

The 1,000-1,200 calories are split evenly across three meals and one small bedtime protein snack.

Each meal contains 20–25 calories, representing about 30% of the total calories allowed.

Research has shown that Increasing protein on a low-calorie diet helps minimize muscle loss, increase metabolism, and control appetite (1).

The rest of the calories come mainly from vegetables — both starchy and non-starchy — and a small amount of fat.

The diet also requires that you drink at least six, 8-ounce cups of water daily.

Sugar-free drinks like Crystal Light, Zero Sugar Kool-Aid, flavored water, or unsweetened, decaf tea and coffee count towards this daily water goal.

Foods to eat and avoid on the diet

The Dr. Now diet emphasizes foods that are low in calories but high in protein and fiber.

Foods to eat

Here are foods allowed on the Dr. Now diet plan:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, spinach, squash, and zucchini
  • Starchy vegetables: beans, peas, and squash
  • Grains: whole-grain bread and oatmeal
  • Lean proteins: chicken without the skin, turkey, tuna canned in water, pork loin or chops, and lean cuts of beef like sirloin and tenderloin
  • Dairy: Greek yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cottage cheese
  • Fats and oils: small amounts of butter, canola oil, margarine, and olive oil
  • Beverages: water, decaf coffee and tea, and other calorie-free drinks, except diet soda

Foods to avoid

The Dr. Now diet plan restricts these foods:

  • Fruits: all fruits and fruit juice
  • Starchy vegetables: corn, sweet potatoes, and white potatoes
  • Grains and grain products: breakfast cereals, rice, tortillas, and pasta
  • Fatty proteins: fatty cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, and dark chicken meat and poultry skin
  • Dairy: 1%, 2%, or whole-fat milk, flavored yogurts, ice cream or other dairy desserts
  • Highly processed foods: biscuits, cakes, chips, fast food, pizza, potato chips, trail mix, etc.
  • Beverages: alcohol, energy drinks, sports drinks, soda, and other beverages that contain calories

3-day sample meal plan

Portions sizes are important to keep under the 1,200 calorie limit.

For each meal, the Dr. Now diet generally includes:

  • 2–3 ounces of protein
  • 1/2 cup of starchy vegetables
  • 1/2 cup of nonstarchy vegetables
  • 1 serving of fat (5 grams)

Extra protein is also allowed for breakfast in the form of skim milk, and 1 ounce of protein is allowed for a nighttime snack.

For proteins, stick with dry heat cooking methods like broiling, grilling, or baking.

Here’s a 3-day sample Dr. Now diet meal plan:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs, one slice of whole-grain bread with 1 tbsp of margarine, and 1 cup of skim milk
  • Lunch: 3 ounces of baked chicken and 1/2 cup of steamed green peas and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli with 1 tbsp of margarine
  • Dinner: salad containing 3 ounces of canned tuna packed in water, 1/2 cup of white beans, and 1/2 cup of arugula, dressed with 2 tbsp of a balsamic vinaigrette
  • Snack: 1 medium pickle spear rolled in 1 oz of turkey deli meat with 1 tbsp of cream cheese

Day 2

  • Breakfast: 3 turkey sausage links, 1/2 cup oatmeal with cinnamon, and 1 cup of skim milk
  • Lunch: 3 ounces of pork loin, 1/2 cup of roasted butternut squash, and 1/2 cup of cauliflower
  • Dinner: 3 ounces of grilled chicken, 1/2 cup of lima beans, and asparagus spears sauteed with 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Snack: 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

Day 3

  • Breakfast: 6 ounces of Greek yogurt, one slice of whole-grain toast with 1 tbsp of margarine, and 1 cup of skim milk
  • Lunch: 3 ounces of ground beef with 1 cup of green peas and carrots
  • Dinner: 3 ounces of tilapia and 1 cup of roasted broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, and mushrooms drizzled in 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • Snack: 1 medium pickle spear rolled in 1 oz of ham deli meat with 1 tbsp of cream cheese

Benefits

The main benefit of the Dr. Now diet is that it’s very effective for fast weight loss.

However, there isn’t anything special about the diet for weight loss perse, other than it’s low in calories.

Keep in mind that weight loss only occurs when you consume fewer calories than you need to support normal bodily functions and any physical activity.

The greater the calorie deficit, the more weight you will lose over a shorter period.

The patients to whom Dr. Now prescribes his diet plan may need anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day just to maintain their weight.

As you can imagine, putting the patients on a 1,000-1,200 calorie diet will result in rapid weight loss due to the large calorie deficit.

But even if the number of calories you need to maintain your weight is not as high as the patients on “My 600-lb. Life,” the 1,000-1,200 calories that the diet allows is well below most people’s calorie needs.

Downsides

While effective for rapid weight loss, the Dr. Now diet has several downsides.

The main disadvantage is that it can be difficult to follow long-term due to the diet’s rigidity and potential side effects.

So even though the diet is effective for weight loss, if you can’t follow the diet for very long, it’s useless.

Common side effects associated with a low-calorie diet like Dr. Now’s include:

  • constant hunger
  • low energy
  • low sex drive
  • irritability
  • poor sleep quality
  • constipation
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • hair thinning
  • amenorrhea
  • cold intolerance

Although these side effects are minor, they can significantly interfere with your work or school performance as well as your relationships with family and friends.

The Dr. Now diet is also likely lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, vitamin D, calcium, thiamin, and potassium (2).

While short-term nutrient shortfalls are unlikely to pose any immediate health risks, following the diet for several weeks to months could lead to health problems.

The bottom line

The Dr. Nowzaradan diet, or Dr. Now diet, is a 1,000-1,200 calorie diet designed to promote rapid weight loss in patients before undergoing weight loss surgery.

While effective for weight loss, the diet can be extremely difficult to follow long-term due to its rigidity and potential side effects like low energy, poor sex drive, and irritability.

A better alternative to weight loss is to gradually develop healthy lifestyle behaviors that you can maintain long-term, such as increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, prioritizing sleep, and staying physically active.

If you’re still interested in the Dr. Now diet, can learn more about it in his book.


Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD, LN
Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD, LN

Gavin Van De Walle holds a master's degree in human nutrition and bioenergetics. He is a registered dietitian who aims to arm the public with evidence-based nutrition recommendations so they can make their own educated and informed health decisions.