Here’s what our nutritionist thinks about the Dubrow Diet.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
November 12, 2018
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The Dubrow Diet hit the market last month and is already listed on Amazon’s Best Sellers list. But unless you’re a fan of Bravo reality TV, you may not be familiar with Heather Dubrow, a former Real Housewives of Orange County star, and her husband Dr. Terry Dubrow a prominent plastic surgeon who stars on the show Botched. Is there any substance to the reality TV couple’s eating approach? Keep reading for my latest diet review on the trending book.

What Is the Dubrow Diet?

The Dubrow Diet: Interval Eating to Lose Weight and Feel Ageless was created by Dr. Terry and Heather Dubrow and is an intermittent fasting plan that says it targets metabolism to train the body to burn fat. The book is narrated primarily by Heather, who shares her tips for maintaining her camera-ready physique while still enjoying food and alcohol.

On The Dubrow Diet, there’s no counting calories or macronutrients. Instead, the book advocates keeping things simple by focusing on three aspects of eating: WHEN, WHAT and HOW MUCH. “When” refers to the importance of maintaining a fast for 12 to 16 hours each day. “What” and “how much” refer to the type and amount of foods eaten outside of one’s fasting window.

The Dubrows’ plan is unique from most other intermittent fasting approaches in that it suggests that following the plan will not only cause weight loss, but will also “activate the anti-aging ability found in your cells” due to a process of cell turnover called autophagy. In fact, the couple goes as far as to suggest that the long-term effects of autophagy are similar to plastic surgery—but without any downtime—and insinuate that plays a role in how they maintain their appearances.

What Can You Eat on the Dubrow Diet?

The Dubrow Diet combines intermittent fasting with a lower-carb eating approach that emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. The eating plan is divided into three phases that differ based on fasting window length and what’s eaten when not fasting. Here’s a quick glimpse at what the Dubrows advise for each phase.

Phase 1: "Red Carpet Ready"

This phase should be followed for 2 to 5 days, and it specifies a 16-hour fast with an 8-hour “refuel” window. Recommended food includes 6 to 12 oz. lean protein, 1 to 2 healthy fat servings, ½ oz nut or seeds, 1 dairy (or non-dairy) serving, 1 ½ to 3 cups non-starchy vegetables, 1 small fruit serving, and ½ cup complex carb. In this phase, you can drink water, coffee, tea, and any “zero-calorie” drink, but no alcohol. You may also enjoy a savory treat (options include seaweed salad, air-popped popcorn, pickles or beef or turkey jerky).

Phase 2: "Summer Is Coming"

Dieters follow Phase 2 until they meet their goal weight. In this phase, fasting time ranges from 12 to 16 hours each day (depending on desired speed of weight loss.) Dieters eat the same foods as in Phase 1, but with slightly more healthy fats and some more complex carbs. Plus, alcohol is allowed in moderation.

Phase 3: "Look Hot While Living Like a Human"

On the Dubrow Diet, Phase 3 should be followed indefinitely to maintain weight loss and to continue autophagy process of anti-aging and disease prevention benefits. Dieters complete a 12-hour fast, five days a week, with two 16-hour fast days. The food is the same as in Phases 1 and 2, with the option of a cheat meal.

Positives and Potential Health Benefits of The Dubrow Diet

Emphasis on whole, minimally processed foods

One positive aspect of The Dubrow Diet is that the eating plan emphasizes whole, minimally processed foods. Less processed foods are not only are more nutrient-dense choices, but also usually contain less additives like extra sugar, fat, sodium, and colorings. Heather also places a special emphasis on non-starchy vegetables—particularly green ones. This is good encouragement since most people don’t meet their daily vegetable recommendations.

No counting of calories or macronutrients

Not only are calories a poor measure of food quality, but it’s become apparent that there’s more to weight loss than calories in/calories out. While many now like to count macronutrients like carbs or fat, the book points out that this also makes eating and enjoying food “overly complex” and requires constant math. Instead, The Dubrow Diet focuses on food quality and portion size—not calories or anything requiring constant tabulation. The book also places some emphasis on intuitive eating.

Downside and Health Concerns of The Dubrow Diet

Nutritional Profile and Rate of Weight Loss

I am on board with the types of foods that the diet suggests, but my concern centers around the daily total amounts. I tried the Dubrow Diet for two days (one for each "phase"), and I’ve documented my macros below. Not only do the calories barely meet my needs (and this is before factoring in exercise), but both days provide less than 50% of needs for calcium, potassium, Vitamin C, beta carotene, and iron. While the eating plan has potential, servings need to be increased for several food groups to meet energy and nutrient needs.

  • Phase 1 Sample Day: 912 cal, 94g pro, 63g carb, 13g fiber, 34g fat.
  • Phase 2 Sample Day: 1100 cal, 95g pro, 83g carb, 16g fiber, 34g fat.

Questionable Science

With Terry being a physician and Heather being a semi-celebrity with a thin, youthful appearance, it’s easy to assume that they must know what they’re talking about. However, there are several ideas and suggestions in the book that have limited research to support them. One is the concept of autophagy, an exciting new area of research that shows lots of promise, but one we know very little about (especially when it comes to using autophagy for health or appearance purposes). Yet, the Dubrows suggest that autophagy will provide anti-aging effects comparable to plastic surgery.

Other health advice such as choosing fresh, green vegetables since they contain chlorophyll which “has been shown in studies to help reduce body weight” also has limited scientific backing. My concern is that the book makes big promises that appear to be based more on the Dubrows’ personal beliefs, rather than concrete science.

Emphasis on Physical Appearance

The most shocking aspect of The Dubrow Diet didn’t have to do with the book’s nutrition or food choices, but rather the emphasis placed on appearance. Heather’s guidance often seemed geared toward being “bikini-ready” and achieving superficial results rather than overall health and lifestyle changes. Here’s a sample of what I’m referring to:

“We’ve called this phase Summer is Coming—because there really isn’t anything more motivating than the looming threat of having to put on a bikini.”

“So fresh and so green will make me so lean.”

“Phase 3: Look Hot While Living Like a Human”

“Coffee is an anorectic, which means it suppresses appetite. If you feel hungry, sip on some tea or coffee.”

What’s the Verdict?

The Dubrow Diet is an intermittent fasting plan that focuses on a whole foods, lower carb approach. However, as written, the The Dubrow Diet attempts to combine fasting with a low- to very-low calorie diet—something that isn’t  healthy or sustainable long-term.

Most health benefits seen from fasting approaches are due to eating within a defined time range—not significantly reduced calories. My other concern is the book’s focus on superficial results. There are many health benefits one can gain from eating less processed foods, eating more vegetables, and, for some individuals, intermittent fasting—all of which have nothing to do with looking good in a bikini. Considering today’s environment and push towards body acceptance and self-care, I was taken back by the wording and focus of this book.

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