June 16, 2024

The aim of the Mayo Clinic Diet is to help you lose weight and find a way of life that you can enjoy forever. The program aims to arm you with the healthy habits you need to reach your weight loss goals, without a need to implement extreme or unachievable lifestyle changes. In fact, a review of various diets published in September 2018 in Healthcare found that the key to successfully losing weight is approaching a healthy eating plan “without severe restrictions or nutritional exaggerations.”

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So if you want to lose weight and keep it off, try these five tips backed by Mayo Clinic experts.

1. Never Eat While Watching TV

You get home from work, make dinner, and watch a few episodes of The Crown while enjoying your meal. Sounds harmless enough, but this routine could actually cause you to gain weight — as was the case in one study of 1,155 Australian participants published in 2017 in BMC Public Health. The results of the study suggested that watching TV for at least two hours a day was associated with increased weight gain. One possible reason: While you’re stationary, there’s a good chance you’re sipping or nibbling thoughtlessly.

That’s why the makers of the Mayo Clinic Diet recommend establishing a rule of no TV or “screen time” (that includes smartphones, tablets, and computers!) while eating. You’ll focus on your food more and be less likely to overeat. Another rule they recommend: Only spend as much time watching TV as you do exercising. In other words, if you go for a 30-minute walk, you can have half an hour of TV time. This will help get you off the couch and moving more.

2. Eat ‘Real Food’ Most of the Time

Chances are you’ve heard the buzz surrounding the movement to eat more whole foods. And Mayo Clinic experts agree: Eating whole food — think fresh fruit, veggies, lean meat, and whole grain — is wise. On the other hand, limit processed fare. That includes frozen meals, packaged snacks, and fast food, all of which tends to have fewer nutrients than whole food, and more added fat, sugar, calories, and salt.

These unhealthy additions can spell disaster for your weight loss efforts: One study of 172 countries from 1995 to 2010, published in 2018 in Global Health, found that an increase in imports of sugar and processed foods was correlated with an increased body mass index (BMI) across the countries studied. Another study of nearly 20,000 participants found that a higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was linked with a higher risk of all-cause mortality; the study took place over 15 years, and the results were published in May 2019 in the BMJ. The authors defined ultra-processed foods as those that are primarily manufactured from artificial ingredients — not whole foods. Examples include candy, cookies, soda, bottled fruit juice, potato chips, and instant noodles.

Mayo Clinic experts therefore recommend limiting processed foods and filling your diet with as many fresh foods as possible. “I was very pleasantly surprised to learn how to cook healthy foods and realize that adding spices to flavor healthier foods helps them satisfy me more than the sugar- and carb-loaded diet I used to crave,” says Jan, a 55-year-old who lost 81 pounds on the Mayo Clinic Diet. If you do use prepared food products, choose items with the fewest number of ingredients and check the Nutrition Facts label to make sure the product isn’t loaded with excess sugar, salt, fat, and calories.

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3. Set Realistic Goals You Can Commit to Right Now

When most people start a weight loss program, they set what Mayo Clinic experts call “outcome goals”: those that focus on an end result like, “I want to weigh 125 pounds” or “I want to lose 30 pounds.”

While specific weight loss goals can be helpful, they’re not as effective as “performance goals,” or those that focus on a process or action such as “I will walk 30 minutes each day” or “I will eat four servings of vegetables each day,” say the Mayo Clinic experts.

For weight loss, performance goals are crucial because they provide the steps necessary to achieve your outcome goal, they say. As you set your weight loss goal (say, dropping 10 pounds), think about what actions will get you there and write them down in a notebook. Whether it’s “eat breakfast every morning” or “take the stairs instead of the elevator,” performance goals like these will help set you up for diet success.

“As you learn more about what works for you, and as you start seeing progress, you’ll have even more motivation to set goals that both challenge you and fit realistically with your unique life,” notes Kristin Vickers Douglas, PhD, a professor and clinical health psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

4. Stop Dining Out So Much

Eating out is convenient, but it’s also associated with weight gain. The sights and smells at a restaurant, deli counter, bakery, or food court may entice you to purchase high-calorie menu items, sometimes when you’re not even hungry.

That’s why Mayo Clinic experts suggest that you avoid dining at restaurants while you’re trying to lose weight. It may sound daunting at first, but with some smart planning, you really can eat more meals from home — and reap the benefits of doing so. In a study of 40,554 French adults, published in February 2017 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, participants who self-reported planning meals “at least occasionally” were less likely to be obese and more likely to be eating a healthy diet.

An easy way to get started is to plan all your meals for the week (including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) on Sunday, or whatever day works best for you, note the Mayo Clinic experts. Planning your meals each week your meals each week instead of each day can better keep you on track.

“Your ability to control portions and plan meals will make or break your weight loss efforts,” says Sara Wolf, RD, clinical nutrition manager at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Cook recipes that yield more than one portion so you’ll have leftovers to eat for lunch, and prep healthy snacks in advance. For example, slice fruits and veggies, and parcel out portions of nuts, popcorn, and other healthy bites. That way, you’ll have something healthy to reach for the next time a snack attack hits.

When you do eat out, make healthier choices, Wolf says: Pick broth-based or tomato-based soups instead of creamed soups and chowders, choose entrees that feature vegetables or fish, and try to skip dessert (if you just can’t resist, choose a fruit-based treat).

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5. Engage in More Activity, More Often

You already know that exercise is crucial when it comes to losing weight. But what kind of workout is best for you? According to Mayo Clinic experts, the best exercise is the one you’ll actually do — and it doesn’t have to involve long hours at the gym. Any activity is good activity: Walking to the store, weeding the garden, and cleaning the house all count.

“I started doing squats while waiting for my dogs to eat and taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” says Hilary, who at age 40 lost 77 pounds. In fact, some activities you already love may burn more calories than you think. For example, per the Mayo Clinic, just one hour of leisurely biking burns 292 calories and one hour of dancing burns 219 calories (both are based on a 160-pound person).

Make it your mission to do whatever you can to simply get moving daily — it truly does add up!

Additional reporting by Laura McArdle.


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