The Mayo Clinic Diet: A weight-loss program for life

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a lifestyle approach to weight loss that can help you maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a long-term weight management program created by a team of weight-loss experts at Mayo Clinic.

The program has been updated and is designed to help you reshape your lifestyle by adopting healthy new habits and breaking unhealthy old ones. The goal is to make simple, pleasurable changes that will result in a healthy weight that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

Why choose the Mayo Clinic Diet?

The purpose of the Mayo Clinic Diet is to help you lose excess weight and find a healthy way of eating that you can sustain for a lifetime.

It focuses on changing your daily routine by adding and breaking habits that can affect your weight. Simple habits, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, not eating while you watch TV, and moving your body for 30 minutes a day, can help you lose weight.

The Mayo Clinic Diet is based on the latest behavior-change science, which will help you find your inner motivation to lose weight, set achievable goals and learn to handle setbacks.

You might choose to follow the Mayo Clinic Diet because you:

  • Want to follow a program that has been developed by medical professionals
  • Are looking for a diet that fits your food preferences
  • Like the idea of being able to eat unlimited vegetables and fruits
  • Seek expert strategies on how to drop unhealthy lifestyle habits and gain healthy ones
  • Want to improve your health, reduce your health risks and feel great
  • Don't want to eliminate food groups or count calories
  • Want a program you can stick with for life, not a fad or quick fix.
  • Are looking for easy-to-follow advice that will inspire you to eat better and move more

Remember to check with your health care provider before starting any weight-loss program, especially if you have any health conditions.

How does it work?

The Mayo Clinic Diet is the official weight-loss program developed by Mayo Clinic experts. It is based on research and clinical experience.

The program focuses on eating delicious healthy foods and increasing physical activity. It emphasizes that the best way to keep weight off for good is to change your lifestyle and adopt new habits that you enjoy and can stick with. This program can be tailored to your own individual needs, health history and preferred eating style.

The Mayo Clinic Diet has two phases:

  • Lose It! This two-week phase is designed to jump-start your weight loss, so you may lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) in a safe and healthy way. In this phase, you focus on lifestyle habits that are associated with weight. You learn how to add five healthy habits, break five unhealthy habits and adopt another five bonus healthy habits. This phase can help you see some quick results — a psychological boost — and start practicing important habits that you'll carry into the next phase of the diet.
  • Live It! This phase is a lifelong approach to health. In this phase, you learn more about food choices, portion sizes, menu planning, physical activity, exercise and sticking to healthy habits. You may continue to see a steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilograms) a week until you reach your goal weight. This phase can also help you maintain your goal weight permanently.

To support your weight-loss journey, the Mayo Clinic Diet also makes available electronic tools, such as a food and exercise journal and a weight tracker, to help you stick with the program.

Focus on choosing healthy foods

The Mayo Clinic Diet makes healthy eating easy by teaching you how to estimate portion sizes and plan meals. The program doesn't require you to be precise about counting calories. Instead, you'll eat tasty foods that will satisfy you and help you lose weight.

Mayo Clinic experts designed the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid to help you eat foods that are filling but low in calories. Each of the food groups in the pyramid emphasizes health-promoting choices. The pyramid encourages you to eat virtually unlimited amounts of vegetables and fruits because of their beneficial effects on both weight and health.

The main message is simple: Eat most of your food from the groups at the base of the pyramid and less from the top — and move more.

Increase your physical activity

The Mayo Clinic Diet provides practical and realistic ideas for including more physical activity and exercise throughout your day — as well as finding a plan that works for you.

The program recommends getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day and even more exercise for further health benefits and weight loss. It provides an exercise plan with easy-to-follow walking and resistance exercises that will help maximize fat loss and boost mental well-being. It also emphasizes moving more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator.

If you've been inactive or you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor or health care provider before starting a new physical activity program. Most people can begin with five- or 10-minute activity sessions and increase the time gradually.

What's a typical daily menu?

The Mayo Clinic Diet provides a choice of five different eating styles at several calorie levels. Whether you would like to follow the Mayo Clinic Diet meal plan, are vegetarian or prefer the Mediterranean eating style, you will find an abundance of recipes and meals that won't leave you hungry.

Here's a look at a typical daily meal plan at the 1,200-calorie-a-day level from the Mediterranean eating plan:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats with berries and pear
  • Lunch: Tuscan white bean soup with pesto drizzle
  • Dinner: Sheet-pan roast chicken with broccolini, onion and tomatoes
  • Snack: 1 cup sliced bell peppers and a banana

What about dessert? You can have sweets but no more than 75 calories a day. For practicality, consider thinking of your sweets calories over the course of a week. Have low-fat frozen yogurt or dark chocolate on Monday, and then hold off on any more sweets for a few days.

What are the results?

The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to help you lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) during the initial two-week phase.

After that, you transition into the second phase, where you continue to lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilograms) a week until you reach your goal weight. By continuing the lifelong habits that you've learned, you can then maintain your goal weight for the rest of your life.

Most people can lose weight on almost any diet plan that restricts calories — at least in the short term. The goal of the Mayo Clinic Diet is to help you keep weight off permanently by making smarter food choices, learning how to manage setbacks and changing your lifestyle.

In general, losing weight by following a healthy, nutritious diet — such as the Mayo Clinic Diet — can reduce your risk of weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

If you already have any of these conditions, they may be improved dramatically if you lose weight, regardless of the diet plan you follow.

In addition, the healthy habits and kinds of foods recommended on the Mayo Clinic Diet — including lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and healthy fats — can further reduce your risk of certain health conditions.

The Mayo Clinic Diet is meant to be positive, practical, sustainable and enjoyable, so you can enjoy a happier, healthier life over the long term.

Are there risks?

The Mayo Clinic Diet is generally safe for most adults. It does encourage unlimited amounts of vegetables and fruits.

For most people, eating lots of fruits and vegetables is a good thing — these foods provide your body with important nutrients and fiber. However, if you aren't used to having fiber in your diet, you may experience minor, temporary changes in digestion, such as intestinal gas, as your body adjusts to this new way of eating.

Also, the natural sugar in fruit does affect your carbohydrate intake — especially if you eat a lot of fruit. This may temporarily raise your blood sugar or certain blood fats. However, this effect is lessened if you are losing weight.

If you have diabetes or any other health conditions or concerns, work with your doctor to adjust the Mayo Clinic Diet for your situation. For example, people with diabetes should aim for more vegetables than fruits, if possible. It's a good idea to snack on vegetables, rather than snacking only on fruit.

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Dec. 21, 2021 See more In-depth