Mayo Clinic Health Library

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

Updated: 10-11-2011

The Mayo Clinic Diet is a weight loss and lifestyle program designed by Mayo Clinic health experts. The Mayo Clinic Diet is a lifelong approach to help you improve your health and maintain a healthy weight. The Mayo Clinic Diet uses the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid as a guide to making smart-eating choices and encouraging daily activity.

Purpose

The purpose of the Mayo Clinic Diet is to help you lose excess weight and to find a way of eating that you can enjoy for a lifetime. The Mayo Clinic Diet aims to teach you how to choose healthy foods and portions and to develop healthy lifestyle habits so that you can maintain a healthy weight for life. The Mayo Clinic Diet says that making healthy changes in diet and exercise can reduce your risk of weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

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

  • Enjoy the types and amounts of food featured in the diet
  • Want to improve your overall eating habits
  • Want to learn how to drop unhealthy lifestyle habits and gain healthy ones
  • Want to improve your health and reduce your health risks by eating the recommended foods
  • Are looking for a diet program you can maintain for life
  • Want to follow a diet that has been developed by medical professionals

Check with your doctor or health care provider before starting any weight-loss diet, especially if you have any health conditions.

Diet details

The Mayo Clinic Diet is the official diet developed by Mayo Clinic, based on research and clinical experience and detailed in the book of the same name, published in 2010. You might have tried what you thought was a Mayo Clinic diet — something you saw on the Internet or that was passed along by friends — but it was probably bogus. The true Mayo Clinic Diet says that successful, long-term weight control needs to focus on your overall health, not just what you eat. It also emphasizes that the best way to manage weight long-term requires changing your lifestyle and adopting new health habits. The Mayo Clinic Diet can be tailored to your own individual needs and situations — it isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.

The Mayo Clinic Diet has two main parts:

  • Lose It! This is a two-week phase that allows you to jump-start your weight loss, losing as much as 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) in a healthy way. In this phase, you focus on lifestyle habits. You learn how to add five healthy habits, break five unhealthy habits and adopt another five bonus healthy habits. This phase also includes getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity or exercise every day.
  • Live It! This phase is a lifelong approach to diet and health. In this phase, you learn more about food choices, portion sizes, menu planning and sticking to healthy habits. You continue steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week until you reach your goal weight. By continuing the healthy lifestyle habits you adopted, you can maintain your goal weight permanently. In this phase, you also learn how to set a goal weight and how to develop long-term healthy-eating patterns. Regular physical activity remains a central part of this phase.

Follow the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid
The basis for the Mayo Clinic Diet is the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. The pyramid illustrates the importance of balance between exercise and eating healthy foods.

Eat healthy foods and portions
The base of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid focuses on generous amounts of healthy foods that contain a small number of calories in a large volume of food, particularly fruits and vegetables. Healthy choices in moderate amounts make up the rest of the pyramid, which encourages selecting whole-grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein such as legumes, fish and low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. The Mayo Clinic Diet teaches you how to estimate portion sizes and plan meals. The Mayo Clinic Diet doesn't focus on counting calories, nor does it require you to eliminate certain foods.

Increase your physical activity
The Mayo Clinic Diet promotes regular physical activity and exercise, as well as healthy eating. When you're active, your body uses energy (calories) to work, helping to burn the calories you take in. 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.

The Mayo Clinic Diet recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise every day, and even more exercise for further health benefits. Moderately intense activity or exercise should increase your heart and breathing rates and possibly lead to a light sweat. Brisk walking and yardwork that entails near constant motion are examples of moderately intense activity.

Typical menu for the Mayo Clinic Diet
The Mayo Clinic Diet provides several calorie levels. Here's a look at a 1,200 calorie-a-day menu that follows the Mayo Clinic Diet plan:

  • Breakfast. A fruit yogurt parfait (1 cup fat-free yogurt mixed with 1 serving fruit).
  • Lunch. 1 serving tuna and pasta salad (combine 1 can water-packed tuna, 4 cups cooked shell pasta, 2 cups diced carrots and zucchini, and 4 tablespoons low-calorie mayonnaise — serves 4); 1 small orange.
  • Dinner. One-third of a 12-inch crust cheese pizza; green salad (2 cups lettuce with 1/2 cup sliced tomatoes, red onions and mushrooms); 2 tablespoons fat-free salad dressing.
  • Snack. 1 small apple, sliced.

You can include a calorie-free beverage with each meal.

Results

Weight loss
The Mayo Clinic Diet says that you can lose 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) during the initial two-week Lose It! phase. It says you can lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week during the lifelong Live It! maintenance phase until you reach your goal weight. Most people can lose weight on almost any diet plan that restricts calories and what you can eat — at least in the short term. The Mayo Clinic Diet says it helps you lose weight permanently by encouraging you to make smarter food and portion choices, exercising, and developing healthy lifestyle habits, such as not eating while you watch television.

Other health benefits
The Mayo Clinic Diet says that its eating plan may help improve your overall health by reducing risk factors associated with excess weight and obesity. If you lose weight following the Mayo Clinic Diet or any healthy, nutritious diet, you may reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, for example. If you already have any of these conditions, they may be improved if you lose weight, regardless of the diet plan you follow. Also, following a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish and healthy fats - the kinds of foods recommended on the Mayo Clinic Diet — may further reduce your risk of certain health conditions.

Risks

The Mayo Clinic Diet is generally safe for most adults to follow. The Mayo Clinic Diet does encourage unlimited amounts of vegetables and fruit. For most people, eating lots of fruits and vegetables won't cause any issues. However, if you aren't used to eating lots of fruits and vegetables, you may experience minor, temporary digestive upset as your body adjusts to this new way of eating.

Also, eating lots of fruits can temporarily raise your blood sugar or certain blood fats. So if you have diabetes or any other health conditions or concerns, talk to your doctor before starting the Mayo Clinic Diet.