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Dr. Phil Talks The Talk On Controlling Weight

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Dr. Phil's weapon of choice against fat is the mind.

He believes many overweight people won't succeed at controlling their weight until they change the way they think about themselves.

''What I've found about chronically overweight people is they don't believe they can ever be different,'' says Phil McGraw, 53, a psychologist, best-selling author and host of the popular daytime TV talk show Dr. Phil.

''They have had so many failure experiences. They look at someone who is an ideal body weight, and they don't believe they can ever be there.''

Until they change that dialogue they have going in their head, they'll never succeed at weight loss, no matter how many diets they go on, he says.

He calls this ''right thinking.'' It's one of his key suggestions in The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom (Free Press, $26), which is out today.

McGraw's self-help book has quizzes, charts, exercise programs and practical advice for changing behaviors: altering emotions, the environment and food choices.

With this latest effort, McGraw will be vying for a slice of the huge weight-loss business. Consumers spend roughly $39.8 billion each year on diet soft drinks, weight-loss programs, health clubs, medications, diet books and other products, according to Marketdata Enterprises in Tampa.

Practices what he preaches

At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, McGraw follows his own prescriptions for healthy living. He runs five nine-minute miles every morning on an elliptical exercise machine, lifts weights daily and plays tennis every afternoon, he says.

''My weight doesn't vary. I have to be careful I eat enough. I don't eat as much beef as I used to because I got tired of it. I eat a lot of chicken and fish. I really love vegetables, and I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I haven't had a bite of sugar since the day before Thanksgiving in 2001.''

His wife, Robin, who he says is ''fit as a fiddle,'' won't touch the stuff. ''You couldn't hold her down and get her to eat sugar.''

McGraw knows all too well the cost of obesity. His father, Joe McGraw, also a psychologist, died in 1995 of a heart attack after struggling for years with weight-related heart disease. And two members of McGraw's extended family weigh 500 pounds.

For eight years in his career he worked with overweight patients, some of whom were 300 pounds overweight. He says in the book that more than 80% of his patients not only lost their excess weight, but they kept it off ---- a claim that some obesity researchers are bound to challenge. Those results aren't based on any official scientific study, he says, but a long-term tracking of his patients.

To pull the book together, McGraw says, he got help from several experts, including a psychologist whom he greatly admires and a nutritionist whom he thanks in the book for her ''tireless work on content, organization, flow and writing.'' They thoroughly reviewed the weight-loss research, which backed up some of his own observations and theories, he says.

All about how you live

You can't be overweight unless you have a lifestyle that supports that, he says. You have to have eating patterns that support that, a pantry that leads you to be overweight, and clothes that allow you to be overweight.

People want quick fixes, but that's not what works, he says. ''We are a hedonistic society, and people want what they want right now. They want fast results. But if you are going to get the weight off and kept it off, my experience has told me and the research shows that this is about really changing your lifestyle.''

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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