The Mayo Clinic diet was developed by Donald Hensrud, MD, medical editor of The Mayo Clinic Diet book. As the medical director for the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition, Hensrud wanted to develop and popularize a scientifically sound approach to weight loss and long-term weight management. The Mayo Clinic Diet has been branded “a weight loss program for life” because it focuses on helping people make lifestyle changes that will result in healthy and sustainable weight loss. It encourages eating according to the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid, increasing physical activity, and setting realistic goals. Calorie recommendations range from 1200 to 1800, depending on your sex, starting weight, and overall health goals. It is backed by the Mayo Clinic, so it also has strong clinical research to support its efficacy. Instead of eating already-prepared meals or drastically cutting out food groups, you’ll learn strategies to help you adopt healthier eating patterns and behaviors.
The diet has two phases. The first, the Lose It! Phase, lasts for two weeks. During this time you’ll use the Habit Tracker to help kick start your weight loss journey. The goal is to lose 6 to 10 pounds by adopting five healthy habits (like adding a healthy breakfast) and breaking five unhealthy habits (for example, removing added sugars and refraining from eating while watching TV). They say that it takes 2 weeks to develop a new habit and the Habit Tracker will help you stay motivated and focused on your goals during this time period. The second phase is the Live It! Phase. During this phase you will develop the tools needed to adopt a sustainable eating pattern for life. This includes learning how eat a nutritionally balanced diet, how to meal plan, how to stick to appropriate portion sizes, and easy ways to increase your physical activity. The goal is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week until you reach your goal weight. In both phases, exercise is also considered a priority.
There has been limited research done specifically on the Mayo Clinic Diet. The only formal review of the Mayo Clinic Diet was a 2008 pilot program conducted in-house by Mayo Clinic. During this program, 53 obese employees of Mayo Clinic enrolled in the program and their weight loss results were recorded. Participants lost an average of 8 pounds in the first two weeks (with everyone losing at least 4 pounds within the first two weeks). Despite the lack of third party research on the effectiveness of the Mayo Clinic Diet, it still holds credibility since it was developed by physicians based on what the medical community believes is a balanced, healthy, and sustainable approach to weight loss and health. Furthermore, research has indicated that a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables has been shown to facilitate weight loss and decrease risk for a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The following is a sample diet plan for the Lose It! Phase. It comes out to be about 1200 calories (the recommendation for women during this phase). The recommendation for men during this phase is slightly higher at 1600 calories.
No food is completely forbidden in the Live It! Phase, making this diet easier to stick to and more enjoyable than other, more restrictive, diets. This also means that the diet can easily be modified to accommodate special dietary needs or preferences. Because the diet emphasizes nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods that tend to be high in fiber or water content, like fruits and veggies, you should feel full enough even though you’re eating fewer calories than you’re used to. This diet is also one of the most affordable options. The book is only $18 from Amazon, and online membership, which gives you access to a wide variety of online resources, is only $4 a week.
The goal of losing 6-10 pounds within the first two weeks may be overly ambitious for some, and unattainable for individuals who have less weight to lose. Failure with this lofty weight goal could potentially be discouraging, especially if one follows the meal and exercise plan as directed. No personal meetings also means that there is less accountability so it will be 100% up to you to stick with your new eating and exercise plan. Additionally, because the diet emphasize whole foods, you’ll probably need to do more cooking and rely less on packaged snacks. The cost of whole unprocessed foods might also be a bit higher than convenience foods, but because you can pick your own recipes, you can plan them around cheaper seasonal fruits and veggies.
A careful review of the Mayo Clinic Diet demonstrates that its strength lies in the fact that it’s backed by sound principles, it’s super affordable, and easily customizable. Additionally, its primary focus is on establishing healthy habits for life. This means that the weight will come off and stay off more easily.
One of the healthy habits you will be establishing on the Mayo Clinic Diet is to limit sweets and other junk foods. If you have a sugar addiction, avoiding these foods could be particularly challenging. MealEnders can help ease the transition from consuming a lot of sweets and junk food to consuming a whole foods diet that’s limited in added sugars. If cravings hit or if you habitually find yourself reaching for a not-so-healthy snack, pop a MealEnder in your mouth instead.
Another big part of the Mayo Clinic diet is learning portion control. If you feel compelled to reach for seconds after a meal, treat yourself to a MealEnder instead.