An Insider's View of the 12-Day McDougall Program

Updated December 8, 2020

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Penny, a member of the McDougall Online Discussion Board, recently attended the 12-Day McDougall Program and shared her experience when asked:

“How did the 12-day online program go? I’m curious as to how it is formatted. Are there specific times you log on to watch lectures? Do you get to “meet” other participants? I was planning on attending the 3-day in September, which was obviously cancelled. I’d love to do a program, but might wait until I can get away again (I really need the vacation! Love these kids, but I am overdue for a break).”

Penny’s response:
“The 12-day online program was very well done, and I got a lot out of it. I think it’s just as beneficial, if not more so, than the in-person 10-day program. For an introvert like me, it’s better.

  • Every day started with a brief check-in with your Support Specialist. This is a McDougall team member who meets with you in a confidential online setting, one-on-one, to record your blood pressure and (on designated days) weight, and to answer any questions you might have. As a program “veteran,” I probably didn’t have as many questions as is usual, and my Support Specialist went out of her way to make sure I was getting what I needed out of the program.
  • Next was a 45-minute Zoom chat with Dr. McDougall and Mary, moderated by Heather McDougall. Everybody got to ask questions, either directly via camera and microphone or through a typed chat box, and the McDougalls would answer and interact with the group. It was great to see them “up close and personal.”

  • Next was the morning lecture, also done via Zoom. Lectures lasted up to 2 hours, depending on how long the Q and A session at the end went. The presenters were the regular list of McDougall experts: Dr. McDougall, Jeff Novick, Dr. Doug Lisle, Dr. Anthony Lim — plus a fitness expert and one presentation by a Star McDougaller. Some of the lectures were old standards but refreshed with new material, others were things I hadn’t heard before. I still learned new things, even from topics I’d heard 10 times before! And Jeff did a great cooking demo of his SNAP meals, from his own kitchen. 

  • There was a break in the afternoon, where participants could either work through a huge library of written and pre-recorded material that the team had put together, interact on a discussion board similar to this one (but easier to post pictures on — of course, there was lots of food!), or just do regular life for a while.

  • Later in the afternoon was another Zoom chat, usually Jeff and Heather answering nuts-and-bolts, practical questions about how to make the program work. Again, I picked up a lot of useful information. Participants who chose to be on camera for Zoom (about 3/4 of them did — I didn’t) often brought dinner to this chat and shared what they were having.

  • Finally, the second lecture of the day, followed by Q and A.

  • Each participant met three times during the program with Dr. Lim in a confidential setting. We had to submit an extensive intake form on medical history, food, sleep patterns, whether family and doctors were on board with us, etc. — plus blood work — so Dr. Lim had plenty to work with on each of us! He was very willing to work with me on some of the nagging medical issues I still have. Plus (and this is the main reason I wanted to do the program), we all become “patients for life” of the McDougall team, just like participants of the 10-day live-in program did. So if I ever want to book a consultation with Dr. Lim or a nutrition consult with Jeff in the future (at a very reasonable cost), I can.

In terms of people getting to “meet” each other, there was some interaction between participants, but of course not as much as there would have been in-person. For me, this was fine, and some people went out of their way to interact while others stayed in the background. You were given your choice, whatever was most comfortable for you.

Yes, you logged on at scheduled times for everything, but all the chats and lectures were recorded so that if you had to miss something, you could catch up. The recordings stayed posted until about a week after the program ended, so you could re-watch anything if you wanted. There was a free afternoon in the middle of the program, where people could take a break — I think this was a good idea!

The last night was “graduation,” and everybody told how the program had gone for them. Lots of great results, much praise for Dr. McDougall and the team — a nice way to finish. Dr. Lim also sent each participant a letter summarizing the work that had been done, medical results and recommendations for the future.

There is also ongoing care. Once a month Zoom chats for a year. Regular check-ins with your Support Specialist. Email access to the team. They really want to help people be successful.

I’m not sure it would be the same as an in-person program in terms of getting away from the kids! And of course, you have to cook for yourself rather than having a McDougall buffet prepared for you every day. (This isn’t a bad thing. People can practice doing the program in their own homes and ask questions/get support as they go. There’s no transition phase, when you leave the program and have to go back to the “real world.”). But I found that I could pretty much isolate myself when I needed to be online. It was a little strange for me to concentrate so intensely on my program when so much of it had become automatic, but Dr. McDougall told me that my experience would be far different from that of a new person, and maybe even more valuable. I think he was right.”