This Ideal Protein diet review is an opinion piece.
It’s been quite a while since I reviewed the Ideal Protein program, but the response to my review has been overwhelming to say the least.
I’ve gotten hate mail, compliments, and even a few clients coming to me because they couldn’t bear to be on this program any longer. Really, a mixed bag – but as with everything I write, I enjoy knowing the people are reading my stuff and reacting…even if the reaction isn’t always positive! It’s making them think, and that’s the point.
There’s two reasons for my redo of this review: a pharmacy in my neighbourhood started selling the program, which put it into my mind once again. Also, a reader and former IP salesperson approached me and gave me some seriously shady information about the company.
I wanted to see if anything had changed with the company or program since my 2016 review, so I started by going to their website.
What is the Ideal Protein Program?
The first thing I noticed is that the program has the same lame logo of a woman’s lean figure. Pffft. As if ‘skinny’ equals ‘healthy’. Very 90’s.
The Ideal Protein program is divided into four phases.
Phase One of the Ideal Protein Program
The first phase is what IP basically calls a ketogenic diet, and you’re on this phase for as long as it takes you to lose 100% of your weight goal. During this phase, you’ll eat three IP foods (prepackaged meals) a day, plus an additional 8oz protein at dinner, and vegetables (some unlimited, some not, depending on the type).
Foods that are not allowed include dairy, nuts, root vegetables, carbs like pasta, fruit, and sweets. The first two phases appear to be well under 1000 calories a day, which is essentially a starvation diet. The true ketogenic diet is NOT a starvation diet.
Ideal Protein Meals
Let’s chat about the pre-packaged IP foods.
I went down to check out the IP food selection at the pharmacy near me.
I found this disgusting looking chicken patty mix with zero chicken and a whole lot of ultra refined ingredients.
I also found these meal replacement bars with a ton of ultra-refined starches, 5 different sweeteners including 3 sugars, and palm kernel oil.
And this mac and cheese. Again, ultra-processed x 10000. It also looks disgusting.
Don’t get me wrong: we all eat ultra-processed foods sometimes, which is fine.
But selling a diet based on them while trying to convince people that what they’re eating is ‘healthy’ is NOT FINE. This is dehydrated astronaut food.
Phase Two of the Ideal Protein Program
The second phase is 14 days long and almost the same as phase one, but with an additional 8oz of protein at lunch and only two IP foods. You’re allowed one ‘restricted’ IP food per day, like some cheese curls or a bar.
Phase Three of the Ideal Protein Program
Phase three is also 14 days long. You’ll cut the IP foods down to once a day and increases the 8oz of protein to three times. It also introduces fruit, fat, and carbs into the breakfast meal.
According to Ideal Protein, “Reintroducing carbs at breakfast is said to help restart your pancreas’s production of insulin and train it to produce the right amount.”
This is a bizarre claim that doesn’t have any backing in research or in physiology.
In fact, it’s completely NUTS. If we could restart our pancreas’ production of insulin, DIABETES WOULDN’T EXIST.
Phase Four of the Ideal Protein Program
Phase four is a 12-month period with ‘ongoing support’ to help you maintain your weight loss. By ‘ongoing support’, IP generally means an office person weighing you on a regular basis.
Some of the most crazy instructions for this phase include the separation of carbohydrates and fats: ‘Carbohydrates and Fats should be separated. Like two troublesome students, a teacher must put them at opposite ends of the classroom. Individually they may be good, but together they can be trouble.’
And: ‘It’s wrong to think that if you have carbohydrates for lunch, you’ll be able to burn them throughout the afternoon and that if you have complex carbohydrates for dinner, your body might store them. It’s not that simple. Your body doesn’t use up your lunch during the afternoon. It must digest your lunch, convert it and assimilate it before it can use it for energy.’
Whoever wrote this garbage clearly slept through physiology class.
It’s completely FALSE!!
Ideal Protein Supplements
IP also mandates taking up to 17 pills a day – multivitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, potassium, and magnesium – all ‘Ideal Protein’ brand. Also required: 1/4 teaspoon of salt per day, and yes – Ideal Protein has its own ‘Ideal Salt’.
All these supplements cost money – so does the food and the program itself.
Altogether, the program is around $350 a month.
This is a great time to mention that the research studies provided by Ideal Protein to ‘support the science’ behind their diet…actually don’t mention their diet at all.
These studies talk about the impact of weight loss on a variety of diseases and conditions, but we know all of this. What I’d like to see are peer reviewed studies with solid methodology showing how many IP clients lose weight and keep it off for over a year, 5 years, and beyond.
The site contains plenty of testimonials from doctors, which at first glance may be comforting to the layperson. Don’t let it be.
Trust me when I tell you that there are plenty of doctors who are willing to sell trash like this to their patients without a second thought. Because $$.
There’s a very sad trend of physicians using their MD credential to sell complete fakery like the Plant Paradox, Grain Brain, detoxes (and anything else Mark Hyman sells), Wheat Belly…I could go on. Despite these diets not being based in accurate science, these guys are laughing all the way to the bank because people see ‘MD’ and they think ‘trustworthy’. Nope.
I also see a lot of doctors putting patients on diets that are very restrictive, without even a thought to how it will impact that person’s life and how difficult it will be for them to sustain that way of eating and any weight loss they have. ‘Just eat no carbs!’ like it’s the easiest thing ever is something dietitians hear doctors telling patients all. the. time. It’s insane.
Don’t forget that doctors and pharmacist and whoever else runs this program has huge financial incentive to promote it.
That’s where my anonymous reader (anonymous to you, not to me) comes in.
Ideal Protein Program Whistleblower
This person was an IP distributor and is a healthcare professional with their own practice. They even worked for IP for a while.
Keeping in mind that I can’t guarantee the accuracy of their account, this is what they told me about the financial incentives for offering the program:
After being required by IP to inflate cost (of the food and products) by 100% or more, the $$$ is theirs. After purchasing 300 boxes for 13.50/box they sell it to patients at $30/box, walking away with almost $5000 (this doesn’t include their coaching fee, vitamin sales or the fact that doctors have all these CPT codes for insurance companies for an additional kickback) definitely shady. Thought you may find it interesting.
Yikes. My lawyer tells me that this doesn’t qualify by law as a ‘kickback’, but it’s definitely untransparent as hell.
They went on to say, “They have replaced many of the original “restricted items” for unrestricted versions meaning they get more “chewy astronaut food” during the day which actually slows their weight loss keeping them on the program longer.”
Another source I had from my first IP review told me that pharmacies can get around the conflict of interest by selling the program, the food and the supplements as part of the overall pharmacy sales and then counting the money as part of the total pharmacy profit. Just like if they sold, like, 750 more boxes of hair dye that particular month or something. That’s how it’s done without triggering COI complaints.
I think this is actually what bothers me the most about Ideal Protein: that your neighbourhood healthcare professional can use it as an incentivized revenue stream, which creates a clear conflict of interest. How is this even allowed?!
The Ideal Protein Diet, In Short:
Ideal Protein’s food is ultra-processed being sold as ‘healthy’. I’m fairly certain you can find better options for prepared meals in the grocery store. Also: a granola bar isn’t a meal.
This diet makes some very inaccurate claims about how the human body works, probably because the people selling Ideal Protein don’t think you’re going to fact check them. Doesn’t that make you mad?
The phases/food combining stuff is BS. This diet is ultra low calorie, which is what causes weight loss. It also makes it hard to sustain, which means you’ll keep coming back for more…Ideal Protein! It’s like insurance for them.
Ideal protein is like a bad diet nightmare: Weight goals are arbitrary and unreliable. Talking about how you must ‘refrain from cheating’ already says that if you’re not successful, it’s your fault, not Ideal Protein’s. The logo intimates that the ‘right’ body type is ‘skinny’. It’s all so bad.
Any time a diet needs you to take supplements to replace the nutrients you aren’t consuming (but should be), it’s a RED FLAG. A HUGE ONE.
Healthcare professionals should never be receiving money from selling stuff to clients who trust them to be impartial. It’s shady and wrong and unethical and unprofessional.
Ideal Protein says it’s about finding pleasure in eating, but nothing could be further from the truth. It doesn’t teach you how to eat properly or how to appreciate and love food: it only teaches ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘cheat’ and punishment and restriction. Even on Phase 4. Horrible.
And just an aside, for every piece of hate mail I’ve gotten from IP followers defending the program, I’ve gotten another piece of mail from former IP dieters, saying how badly the diet messed them up. Their relationship with food, yo-yo dieting, their anxiety levels around food…all of it.
Ideal Protein. Don’t even go there.
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