Phil McGraw, PhD, the psychologist-television talk show host of "Dr. Phil," wants people to forget about fad diets that require counting calories and monitoring the numbers on the scale.

Instead, in his new book, "The Ultimate Weight Solution: The Seven Keys to Weight Loss Freedom" (Free Press, 2003), McGraw emphasizes behavior-modification strategies as the most effective way to combat people's demons about food and exercise. McGraw draws from empirical research and his 30-plus years of working with obese clients as the basis for his seven steps to controlling emotions, environment and personal habits related to the body and food.

He draws primarily on behavioral psychology methods, such as contingency management, in which people reward themselves if they perform a certain behavior. For example, if they exercise, then they can take a shower.

His seven-step method is similar to the cognitive approaches used by other behavioral psychologists in treating obesity, says psychologist Thomas Wadden, PhD, an obesity and behavior-modification expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

"I think psychologists would find much in the book they agree with," Wadden says. "But they would want to go beyond it in their own practice." He notes that while the book does not provide specific, structured food and exercise curricula, it does provide general weight-loss principles that people can implement on their own.

Debuting at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list the week of Sept. 28, the book had 2.5 million copies in print available for the release alone. Considering its heavy publicity and co-marketing with the "Dr. Phil" show and Katie Couric of the "Today Show" on NBC, it continues to top book-sale charts.

--M. DITTMANN