What is it and how does it work

Mayo Clinic introduced the diet in 2010 that became a New York Times bestseller and has been a popular weight loss option ever since. In December 2021, the Mayo Clinic launched a revamped version of this diet that includes a digital platform and an app so you can track your habits, food, exercise, progress toward your goals, and more.

“This is a way to take a tried-and-true program that has been around for a while and introduce it to more people in a digital-friendly way,” Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, told TODAY.

How does the Mayo Clinic Diet work?

The Mayo Clinic Diet focuses on building new healthy habits and breaking old, less healthy ones. You start with a fast-starting two-week “Lose It” phase where you add five habits, break five, and tackle five additional habits if you so choose. This phase is designed to stimulate weight loss. “The more habits you change, the more weight you will lose,” Dr. Hensrud said.

These habits can be things like eating breakfast, eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting out added sugar, not eating while watching TV or just watching TV for the whole time of the day you are active.

After the first two weeks, you move into the “Live It” phase, focusing on permanent diet and lifestyle changes that you can maintain for the long term. The initial program runs for 12 weeks, with the option to continue as long as you want support. It’s based on the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Weight Pyramid, where vegetables and fruits dominate the diet.

“It provides evidence-based advice,” Dr. Hensrud said. “It’s not easy, but it’s practical, realistic and fun enough to be sustainable. It will not only help people manage their weight but improve their health in the process.”

What does the research say about the Mayo Clinic diet?

Dr. Hensrud said the changes to your habits encouraged by the diet are evidence-based and have some support for weight management. Eating more plant foods — which the diet encourages — is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Tracking or self-monitoring behaviors can also enhance weight management. This is because they keep you in touch with what you do and what works for you. For example, keeping track of what you eat can show you if you’re eating enough fruits and vegetables, or if your portion sizes are too big. “Multiple studies have shown that these tools are useful in helping people manage their weight,” Samantha Cassetti, a registered dietitian based in New York City and co-author of Sugar Shock, told TODAY. “These are all things that make you feel better emotionally and physically.”

Is the Mayo Clinic Diet a Good Choice for You?

“This diet focuses on promoting healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and it also focuses on helping you form healthy habits,” Cassetti said. “She has a lot for it.”

The two-week “Lose It” phase may feel restrictive, but it may also induce weight loss. “It’s a short enough time to see some success and start making long-term lifestyle changes,” Dr. Hensrud said. While the “lose it” phase is not sustainable in the long term, it can give people confidence. In the beginning, when people start to change their habits, they are intimidated. Once they get into it and see that they are losing weight, they get stronger. “They are in it for the long term,” he said.

So, if you want to push yourself for a couple of weeks to see some progress, this diet might be a good option for you. “There is a good chance that you will lose weight because your eating habits have changed so dramatically, and that can be a trigger for you to move on to the next stage, where you can see what works for you in the long run,” Cassetti said.

This diet can be challenging if it is a complete overhaul of your eating habits. “It’s okay to feel that your health behavior is a bit exaggerated,” Cassetti said. “But it still needs to feel like it fits your lifestyle.”

And if the diet triggers any disruptive eating habits, you may want to find a different approach.

You’ll pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per month for the plan, depending on how long you sign up. There is also a book based on an earlier version of the program.

What do you eat on the Mayo Clinic diet?

The original Mayo Clinic diet focused on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, and included less meat, cheese and eggs.

You can also select variations that focus on these diets:

  • Higher Protein Balances protein across your meals to help control your appetite.
  • The healthy keto, high-fat, low-carb diet highlights olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
  • Vegetarian, includes eggs and dairy products as well as protein from beans and soybeans.
  • Mediterranean, which is vegetarian and includes fish and some meat.

On a normal day, you can eat:

  • breakfast: Breakfast burrito with cheese.
  • lunch: Italian bread chicken salad.
  • Dinner: Skewers of salmon teriyaki and vegetables.
  • Snack: fruits and vegetables.

The Mayo Clinic Diet is similar to:

  • The Mediterranean Diet, which also focuses on whole plant foods.
  • The DASH diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, which aims to reduce or control high blood pressure.
  • The MIND diet, which combines the Mediterranean and DASH diets to help promote brain health.
  • The flexible diet, which is a primarily vegetarian diet that includes some meat.
  • The Blue Zone Diet, a plant-focused diet modeled on the food choices of the world’s longest living people.

Is the Mayo Clinic Diet effective in the long term?

The “Live It” phase of the Mayo Clinic Diet includes a healthy diet and lifestyle changes that you can maintain for life.

Talk with your doctor before starting the Mayo Clinic Diet or any other diet — your doctor or registered dietitian can recommend the best eating plan for you, based on your health needs.

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