Well, another year has rolled by and it's almost time to start up those new year's resolutions again. If you're like me—and millions of other people—your resolution might have something to do with dieting or exercise.
My personal resolution is to start exercising regularly. In light of this, it seemed like an apropos time to review The Mayo Clinic Diet. I'm going to tell you straight off that I am reading this book and trying to apply its principles to my life, but thus far I have not actually "done" the diet. However, based on what I know about diet and nutrition, the ideas the diet puts forth are very sound.
First of all, this weight loss plan is put forth by the Mayo Clinic, whose weight-loss experts, including Donald Hensrud, M.D., wrote the book. This isn't a fad diet.
The plan starts with a two-week kick-start period, which they say will help dieters lose 6-10 pounds in two weeks. This period is followed by a second phase, which is designed to have dieters lose 1-2 pounds a week until they reach their goal.
I have to tell you, when I started reading this book, I got really inspired. I was going to do the first two-week phase and happily report to you that I lost ten pounds. Here's what happened instead: I rushed into starting when I wasn't really prepared (which the book specifically warns against). We didn't have any healthy food in the house (the initial phase has you focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and no excess sugar) and we'd lost the magnetic key to our treadmill so my plans to go running on the treadmill got derailed. (I did do an alternative exercise instead.)
Excuses, yes. I plan on trying it out again when I am more prepared. But I do have what I think is a very valid criticism. The first phase asks you to add 5 habits (eat breakfast, eat whole grains...), drop 5 habits (don't watch TV while you're eating, don't eat sugar...), and do 5 bonus habits (keep diet records, write your daily goals...). That's a lot of behaviors to alter all at once. I guess the trick is to treat the diet like a job for two weeks, but it's still a lot to change all at once.
After the first two weeks, you're supposed to stick with those habits, but in a less strict manner. Phase 2 is based on the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid.
There were aspects of the diet that I really like. Most importantly, I love that they have you eat real food. In fact, that's one of their 5 bonus habits. If you get on this diet and get into the habit of eating the way they suggest, you will come out the other side with a fresh, healthy way of eating.
I also liked some of their habits. One of them is that you shouldn't eat while you're watching TV (and that you should only spend as much time watching TV as you spend exercising). While I'm not overly fond of that second part—although I do admire the principle—that first suggestion is excellent. I eat most of my calories, and definitely the least nutritious calories, at night in front of the TV. The diet also wants you to write out a goal each day and to write down your food intake and exercise done. It's been shown that people who write down what they eat lose more weight, so this is great advice. And there is more where that comes from.
The Mayo Clinic Diet book is gorgeous and has a ton of information in it, including some very practical tips. I think it is a great resource to have. You can chart your progress and write your goals, food diary, etc. in a notebook, or you can supplement the book with The Mayo Clinic Diet Journal, which has everything all laid out so you can easily keep track of what you need to do and what you've accomplished. I actually really liked the journal.
So here's my bottom line: I think The Mayo Clinic Diet is a really solid, reasonable weight loss plan. I believe that if you were to follow it, you would lose weight. And compared to other weight loss programs and support groups, this one will only cost you the price of the book. I think the problem is that it might be hard to stick with it. But I don't think that problem is specific to this diet.
If you are looking for a smart, basic, healthy diet plan, the Mayo Clinic Diet is definitely worth a look. I plan to implement some of the principles even if I don't end up sticking with the diet proper. Let's face it. Losing weight is hard. This diet doesn't make it easy. But it doesn't make it harder than any other diet. And it does make it realistic and it makes it healthy.
Good luck to you on your diet journey. May all your resolutions come true. I hope that mine do too.
Honesty Clause: I received a review copy of the Mayo Clinic Diet and the Mayo Clinic Diet Journal. List price for the book is $25.99 and $14.99 for the journal.