The Mayo Clinic Diet is a diet developed at the renowned Mayo Clinic by preventative health specialists, nutritionists, weight management specialists, health psychologists and more. It is based on the original Mayo Clinic Diet Manual which was originally published in 1949 and recently updated in 2017 as The Mayo Clinic Diet.
Unlike many fad diets, the Mayo Clinic Diet is meant to promote long-term weight loss. Based on studies and clinical experience, the diet is a behavioural change intervention. Its premise is that the best way for you to lose weight and keep it off for good is to change your lifestyle and adopt new, healthy behaviours. As with most balanced approaches to weight loss it focuses on eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity.
You can follow the DIY (do it yourself) form of this diet in that you can follow this diet from the comfort of your home without accessing digital groups or going to physical groups or meetings.
However, if you choose this route, you may want to buy the book, “The Mayo Clinic Diet” as you may find the resources available on the Mayo Clinic website too sparse. The Mayo Clinic Diet book has detailed advice on important behaviour changes that will help you lose weight, 4 weeks of daily menus, recipes and tips to overcome challenges. Its companion book, the Mayo Clinic Diet Journal, will help you plan, keep track of and review your progress. It contains easy-to-use forms that help you keep track of your daily food intake and exercise. It also contains food lists and tips to keep you motivated.
If you do not want to follow the DIY route, there are a number of options to follow such as:
The premise of the Mayo Clinic Diet is behaviour change. The focus is on changing your daily routine by adding behaviours that will help you lose weight and keep it off for good, whilst eliminating behaviours that will sidetrack your weight loss/weight loss maintenance. It also emphasizes key parts of behaviour change such as finding your internal motivation for losing weight, setting goals that are achievable, and learning how to handle setbacks.
There are 2 phases of the Mayo Clinic Diet. These are:
This phase lasts 2 weeks and is meant to turbo-charge your weight loss so that you can lose up to 6 to 10 pounds in a healthy and safe manner. This phase focuses on changing behaviours that contribute to weight gain. In this phase, you will add 5 healthy habits that promote weight loss, break 5 unhealthy habits that contribute to weight gain, and add an extra 5 healthy habits.
Specifically, the 5 healthy habits you will learn to adopt are: consuming whole grains, focusing on healthier fats, eating a minimum of 4 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, consuming a healthy breakfast, and exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes daily. The unhealthy habits you will eliminate are: eating foods or drinks that have added sugar, eating too much meat and full-fat dairy, eating in front of the television, and eating out if your meal does not meet the Mayo Clinic Diet guidelines.
In this phase, you learn more about food choices, food portions, planning menus, exercise and maintaining healthy habits. Unlike the Lose It! Phase in which you are not allowed added sugars, in this phase you are allowed up 75 calories of sweets a day.
You can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week until you achieve your goal weight. Once you reach your goal weight, this phase will then enable you to maintain your weight loss.
Other features of the Mayo Clinic Diet are:
The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid:
At the base of the pyramid are fruits and vegetables, then the next level up are whole grains. Higher up on the pyramid are lean sources of protein and low-fat dairy. Still higher up on the pyramid are heart-healthy fats, and at the very top of the pyramid are sweets.
Based on your caloric requirement for weight loss, you want the majority of your calories to come from fruits and vegetables, and progressively less of your calories to come from in ascending order whole grains, lean sources of protein/low fat dairy, heart-healthy fats, and sweets. By eating this way, you are eating more foods that contain less calories. This in turn, helps you feel full on less calories. It also helps you get more vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (health-promoting nutrients) at the same time.
Increasing your physical activity:
Physical activity is a key component of the Mayo Clinic Diet. It recommends getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day, plus even more exercise for extra health benefits and weight loss.
The Mayo Clinic Diet can be personalized in a number of ways including:
Suits various dietary needs and restrictions
With its focus on whole foods plus aiming for a higher daily consumption fruits and vegetables, rather than other food groups, the diet naturally suits vegans, a group that other diets may marginalize. Vegans can then choose plant-based sources of protein and “dairy” such as lentils, and fortified soy and almond milk. They can also choose whole-grains and healthy fats as other non-vegan populations would choose.
The diet also suits omnivores and vegetarians as they can make their protein and dairy sources accordingly. The diet can also be adapted to diabetics as they can choose more vegetables rather than fruit from the base of the pyramid.
Suits various health goals
Whether your goal is to lose weight, maintain weight, exercise more or simply have a healthier lifestyle, the Mayo Diet can be used to accomplish your goals as the plan encourages adopting healthy habits and eliminating unhealthy habits that can hamper your goals, whatever they may be.
Gives you the option to work one on one with a personal coach
If you desire the extra support, guidance and accountability that working with a personal coach entails, you can enroll in the multi-day Mayo Clinic Diet Experience of your choice.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is intended to help you lose up to 6 to 10 pounds during the 2 week Lose It! Phase. Thereafter, you should continue to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week until you reach your goal weight. Then, by continuing the behaviours you learnt on the Mayo Clinic Diet, you should then be able to maintain your weight loss for the rest of your life.
There are success stories attesting to the fact that the Mayo Clinic Diet works. However, what do the studies say? Unfortunately, given that the diet is relatively new, there are no published peer-reviewed studies on the effectiveness of the Mayo Clinic Diet. However, this does not necessarily mean that the diet cannot be evaluated for its effectiveness on weight loss and health promotion.
For instance, participants taking part in the multi-day Mayo Clinic Diet Experience, an experience in which participants receive one full year of coaching and support, have lost on average 9% of their body weight. How does this compare to randomized control studies evaluating the effectiveness of Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers (the only 2 commercial weight loss programs that have been shown to be effective in studies)?
Studies have shown that participants on Jenny Craig lost on average 7 to 11% of their initial weight, while participants on Weight Watchers lost on average 5 to 6% of their initial weight. So, it appears that at least, for people who choose to take part in the multi-day Mayo Clinic Diet Experience, the results are at least better than those for Weight Watchers, and comparable to those for Jenny Craig.
What components of the Mayo Clinic Diet make it feasible for weight loss? Several! A 2014 systematic review published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism found that for significant, safe weight loss, a caloric deficit was necessary which was commonly achieved by reducing fat intake. In addition, physical activity was a part of 88% of successful weight loss interventions, and “behaviour training was part of 92% of successful interventions!” The Mayo Clinic Diet with its focus on reducing fat intake, emphasis on physical activity and reliance on behaviour change encompasses these core aspects of successfully losing weight.
Additionally, according to research, the macronutrient composition of the Mayo Clinic Diet make it amenable for maintenance of weight loss. A 2012 systematic review published in the Food & Nutrition Research Journal found that the more fibre-rich foods and dairy-rich products you consume, the less weight you gain. In addition, it also found that the less you consume of refined grains, meat, and sugar-rich foods and drinks, the less weight you gain. The Mayo Clinic Diet with its focus on fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and its restriction on the amount of meat, refined grains and sugar-added foods and drinks contains many of the components that may make weight maintenance possible.
Is the Mayo Clinic Diet beneficial for your diet? Likely! The diet is based on many health-promoting habits that can result in good health. For instance, it recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, plus even more daily exercise for additional health benefits. According to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Comprehensive Physiology, physical activity not only reduce your risks of obesity and type 2 diabetes, but also reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis and other health conditions.