Who is Dr. Nowzaradan?
Dr. Younan Nowzaradan is a surgeon in Houston, Texas specializing in bariatric surgery, although he also performs general and vascular surgery, as well. A practicing surgeon for three decades, he rose to fame as the physician who consults with and performs all of the procedures on patients in the popular TLC show, My 600-Lb Life. He works with super-morbidly obese patients (typically defined as being over 600 pounds) by providing strict diet and exercise plans in conjunction with surgical procedures to help them lose weight.
Dr. Now (as he’s often called) was an early-adopter and proponent of laparoscopic surgical methods. He believed laparoscopic techniques could be adapted to fit multiple different surgical procedures — including bariatric surgery.
Education and Background:
- Born in Iran in 1944
- Received his Medical Degree from University of Tehran (Iran) in 1970
- Completed his Medical Orientation Program at St. Louis University (St Louis, Missouri in 1971)
- Completed his Surgical Internship at St. John Hospital in Detroit, Michigan
- Completed his Surgical Residency at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee
- Completed a Cardiovascular Fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, Texas
Current Specialties and Locations:
- Specializes in laparoscopic roux-en Y gastric bypass, laparoscopic surgery on patients 600 pounds and above, the lap band system, vertical sleeve gastrectomy, surgery to revise previous weight loss surgeries, and post-gastric bypass surgery to remove excess skin.
- Practices at First Street Hospital, Doctors Hospital at Tidwell, Renaissance Hospital, Surgery Specialty Hospital (formerly known as Vista Medical Center), and University General Hospital.
Dr. Nowzaradan’s Book – Last Chance to Live
Dr. Nowzaradan’s book Last Chance to Live draws from his career spanning four decades, during which he has treated thousands of people struggling with morbid obesity. In it, he discusses the effects excess weight has on the body and the surgical procedures he performs in order to help people lose it. While he doesn’t give specifics on what to eat, he does discuss his views on macronutrient levels in order to lose weight most effectively.
Dr. Nowzaradan’s Pre-Bariatric Surgery Diet Plan
Many people have searched far and wide for the official 1200-calorie diet plan Dr. Now recommends on My 600-Lb Life, only to be disappointed. The main reason for this is that each individual who appears on the show (or sees him as a private patient) has a custom diet plan written specifically for them. To learn more about his diet and to determine if is right for you please visit our more recent post on this topic.
Based on what past patients have shared from their experiences, Dr. Now’s pre-surgery diet plan varies between 800 and 1200 calories per day. Each person’s pre- and post-surgical diet plan would depend on multiple factors, including their:
- Pre-surgery weight;
- Goal weight;
- Current diet;
- Gender; and
- Other medical issues that require certain dietary restrictions.
Dr. Nowzaradan’s pre-surgery diet is designed to help people to lose a lot of weight quickly, which is why the calorie limitations are so severe. Additionally, consuming fewer calories means eating much smaller portions (an issue Americans tend to struggle with, anyway) — something patients will have to get used to because their post-surgical stomach will be much smaller.
Dr. Now’s expectations are so staunch that multiple patients on My 600-Lb Life express concern that Dr. Now won’t perform the surgery if they haven’t lost enough weight — and their fears are not misplaced. Dr. Nowzaradan is a no-nonsense kind of person and he’ll tell you in very frank terms that he doesn’t feel you’re a good candidate for a procedure, or that you’re not taking the risks seriously enough.
The Importance of Pre-Surgery Weight Loss
Performing surgery on a person weighing 600 pounds or more is very dangerous, as evidenced by the few surgeons who will actually do it. Any amount of weight you can lose beforehand will increase the chance you’ll survive the procedure itself. However, Dr. Now has another major reason for requiring his patients to lose weight ahead of time: to test their dedication.
Weight loss surgery isn’t magic. You will not leave the operating room hundreds of pounds lighter. While you may lose a certain amount of weight very quickly afterward, you’ll have a long way to go before getting down to a healthy weight, and in order to do so, you’ll have to put in a lot of work.
So before Dr. Nowzaradan risks his reputation (and your life) by performing surgery, he wants to know you’re committed to living a healthy lifestyle. People who are serious about changing their lives and lose enough weight to reduce their surgical risk will get the procedure. Those who aren’t serious, won’t. And of course, if you can’t commit to losing pre-surgery weight, what would lead him to believe you can commit to living a healthier lifestyle post-surgery?
While it’s difficult to obtain an actual copy of Dr. Nowzaradan’s 1200-calorie pre-bariatric surgery diet, we can look at his guidelines and make some determinations from there. There are two main components to Dr. Now’s diet plan:
- Small portions
- Real, whole foods
While many Americans rely on pre-packaged foods, they’re not always the “healthiest” option. They’re typically filled with preservatives — whether chemical or salt-based. Of course, neither type is “good” for you. Therefore, Dr. Now’s weight loss philosophy is based around the idea that people eat real foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats), rather than junk food that comes in bags.
Within that framework, Dr. Now recommends a high protein, very low carb diet, especially prior to surgery (remember that the point is to lose a lot of weight quickly, which low carbs will help you do) — however, he does not intend for his patients to go full-on keto.
The keto diet involves a very high fat, very low carb diet, but because fats oftentimes contain high amounts of calories, this diet plan is rarely considered low-calorie (and keto doesn’t require you to count calories at all). Dr. Now’s pre-surgery diet recommendations are specifically low-calorie.
Furthermore, doctors have conflicting opinions on the keto diet. While many people have found success on keto diet plans, it’s unknown what the long-term effects are of eating such a high fat diet, and it’s certainly not recommended for super-morbidly obese patients who are already at a higher risk for heart disease.
Weight Loss Tips
As a way of keeping your caloric intake down, Dr. Now typically recommends avoiding snacks between meals. Another major factor is that eliminating snacking also helps your liver do its job properly.
Some research has suggested that eating frequent meals is actually one of the habits contributing to obesity. According to researchers in the Netherlands, a “hypercaloric diet with frequent meals increases intrahepatic triglyceride content (IHTG) and fat around the waist.” (IHTG is thought to be strongly associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.)
Again, a major component of Dr. Now’s 1200-calorie diet plan is keeping your carbs to a minimum, including fruit. This typically means eating a proper protein portion (3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards) with a generous serving of vegetables.
Of course, 1200 calories is far less than most people are accustomed to eating in a day, especially considering the FDA bases its recommendations on a 2000-calorie diet (which is more than what most people need). What helps people get through a 1200-calorie diet is typically the high amounts of protein and fiber, which help you feel fuller, longer — that, and a copious amount of water.
Dr. Now’s Do-Not-Eat List
Perhaps just as important as what you are allowed to eat on Dr. Now’s 1200-calorie diet plan is what you’re not allowed to eat. Some of the foods on this list (which is probably not comprehensive) are no-brainers, but others may surprise you:
- Sugar (artificial sweeteners should also be avoided)
- Candy, or any other dessert-type treat (pie, cake, brownies, cookies, frozen yogurt, ice cream, donuts, etc)
- Fruit with high sugar content (watermelon, cantaloupe, mangoes, grapes, cherries, pears, figs, bananas)
- Jellies and Jams
- Dried or candied fruit
- Chips (even the baked kind)
- Potatoes (in any form — baked, mashed, fried, tots, chips, etc)
- Starchy vegetables (beans, peas)
- Popcorn (even without butter)
- Nuts (including their butters)
- Rice (both white and brown)
- Pasta (both white and brown)
- Cereal (even oatmeal is debated upon — some say Dr. Now is fine with small portions of oatmeal, while others claim he prefers his My 600-lb Life patients to skip it)
- Bread should be restricted to whole grain, in one-ounce portions, and early in the day, if possible
- Meal supplements and shakes
- Sports beverages
- Energy beverages
Below is a general diet plan recommended by Dr. Nowzaradan. This does not take into account how much you weigh, or if you are trying to lose weight or just maintain it.
Before you embark upon your own rapid weight loss journey, remember that extreme and rapid weight loss will affect your life in areas other than just your waistline. When your body releases fat rapidly through the weight loss process it also releases other things stored in those cells, such as heavy metals and other toxins. This, in and of itself, is a good thing.
Dr. Nowzaradan 1200-Calorie Diet Sample Menu
Dr. Nowzaradan’s official 1200-calorie diet plan isn’t available online, however we can make some assumptions based on what we know about his diet philosophy and what patients from My 600-Lb Life have shared online about their custom diet plans. Here is a sample menu for a 1200-calorie low-carb, low fat, high protein diet:
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white (cannot be fried) – 105 calories
- 2 oz turkey sausage (cooked in water, or microwaved) – 130 calories
- 1 slice of whole wheat toast – 80 calories
- 0.5 low-fat cottage cheese – 90 calories
- Unlimited: black coffee, water, or unsweetened tea
MEAL TOTAL: 405 calories
- 1 can of tuna in water – 200 calories
- 1 Tbsp light mayo – 50 calories
- 2 cups spinach – 40 calories
- 2 carrots – 60 calories
- Unlimited: water, unsweetened tea
MEAL TOTAL: 350
- 3 oz grilled chicken – 130 calories
- 2 cups steamed broccoli – 100 calories
- 1 oz low-fat cheddar cheese – 50 calories
- Unlimited: water, unsweetened tea
MEAL TOTAL: 280
- 2 oz turkey breast slices – 75 calories
- 1 slice of low-fat swiss cheese – 60 calories
MEAL TOTAL: 135
DAILY TOTAL: 1170
This page was originally published December 21, 2017, but has been updated to reflect new information.