Everything you need to know about the Mayo Clinic diet

Just like clothes go in and out of fashion, different diet trends (even items considered the best diets for weight loss) usually don’t stick around forever. However, doctors and nutritionists can agree that developing and sticking to healthy habits is key to staying fit and keeping unwanted extra weight off long-term. The , a program that adheres to this notion, was developed by medical professionals based on scientific research, so you can trust that this program is based on science, and not just before and after shots.

Another unique aspect of the Mayo Clinic diet is that the healthy habits formed are based on behavioral changes, not calorie restriction. This means that instead of developing feelings of deprivation and exclusion in your meals, the focus is rather on inclusion, and this positive mindset tends to set people up for better success with following the diet long-term.

We’ve asked nutrition experts to break down what the Mayo Clinic diet is and how to follow it. If you’re interested in trying a diet that is backed by medical professionals, read on to learn how you might benefit from this one.

What is the Mayo Clinic diet?

The Mayo Clinic diet was created by weight management practitioners at the Mayo Clinic and was designed as a lifestyle change program to promote gradual and sustained weight loss, says , spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and member of . “One of the key components of the diet is that it focuses on behavior changes like not eating while watching television or increasing how many fruits and vegetables you eat in a day to help you lose weight and keep it off,” she adds.

The diet itself seems pretty straight-forward, says , registered dietitian nutritionist & certified yoga teacher in New York City. “This diet was developed by weight-loss experts at the mayo clinic, which gives it more credibility than other diets out there.”

It’s not a diet about deprivation or exclusion but it is a diet of inclusion, says Gans. “It encourages eating foods from all food groups, making healthier decisions within, making your own meals, and exercising.” She emphasizes that this diet plan is not rigid, but about creating healthy habits.

What are the different phases of the diet?

The Mayo Clinic diet is broken down into two main phases.

Phase 1: Lose it!

Phase one is called “Lose it!” and lasts for 2-weeks, says Prest. “People following this plan focus on swapping five unhealthy habits for healthier habits and also add on five additional healthy behaviors.” She adds that some people may find that they lose 6 or more pounds during these first two weeks.

Again, these are habits, not calories, to focus on, says Gans. She explains that some of the unhealthy habits that they want you to kick include:

  • Avoid eating added sugar

  • No snacking beside fruits and vegetables

  • Not too much meat or full-fat dairy

  • No drinking alcohol

  • No eating in front of the TV

  • No eating out

On the other hand, some healthy habits they want diet participants to develop include:

  • Eating a healthy breakfast

  • Eating 4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

  • Eat plenty of whole grains and healthy fats, like olive oil

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day, which can include walking

Phase 2: Live it!

Phase two is called “Live it!” and this is where the focus is on permanent lifestyle changes, says Prest. “People learn about better food choices in the right portions, increasing physical activity, and how to keep those healthy habits going long-term.” She adds that people should expect to lose weight more gradually in this phase.

Anything that happens in the first phase carries over to the second phase, says Gans. “Phase 2 is about keeping up with habits formed in phase 1 with looser expectations: you might have to eat out and it’s not the end of the world.” Along with this, Gans explains that people on this diet should normalize snacking changes and calorie fluctuations day to day, and not to set as rigid of expectations as they did in phase 1.

How can you best follow the diet guidelines?

Find some support from friends and/or family as this will be a change in your usual routine, says Prest. “Go slow with the changes…While the first phase focuses on 10 behavior changes, this may be too overwhelming, and focusing on one or two may be easier for making those changes stick.”

While the information about the diet is readily available online, in print, and through a subscription-based mobile application, some people may want one on one support from a health professional like a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in weight management, says Prest. You can find a nutrition expert at .

Focus on what you want to do more of, focus on the positives, says Gans. “This diet encourages fruit and vegetable intake, hopefully that means you might indirectly be eating less food that has too many calories,” she explains, so diet participants should continue to focus on the healthy habits they have formed, as opposed to their unhealthy habits that they have left behind.

“No one says no carbs, they only encourage you to eat higher fiber carbs (whole grains) which could also aid satiety and help you feel more full,” adds Gans. “All these foods [encouraged by the Mayo Clinic diet] provide fiber and help us feel full.”

What are the potential benefits and risks of the diet?

The biggest benefit of the Mayo Clinic Diet is that it’s about making healthy behavior changes rather than counting calories or macros, says Prest. “One of the reasons why diets do not work is that once people stop restricting certain foods and resume pre-diet behaviors the weight creeps back up.”

For this plan, Prest explains that the focus is really on sustaining behavior change for health. However, she says to keep in mind that consuming more fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes will mean more fiber which may cause some gas and discomfort. “So, make sure you are drinking enough fluids and slowly increase those fiber-rich foods.”

With any diet, if a person starts out too drastically, it can backfire, says Gans. “Once we say ‘avoid’, it sets people up for feelings of deprivation of which they want to then rebel against.”

With that being said, Gans says that she would choose to change the language to ensure that diet participants understand that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. For one, Phase 1 doesn’t have to be interpreted as “lose it” but rather “limit”. “No added sugar can mean less added sugar,” she adds.

Above all else, Gans advises diet participants to be patient and try your best to approach it as a lifestyle change. “With any diet, there is no failure. Be compassionate with yourself. If you fall off the wagon, you can easily get back on.”

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