The Mayo Clinic Diet: The Last Diet You'll Ever Need?

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ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Many Americans have chosen losing weight as their New Year's resolution and that's a good thing since two-thirds of us are overweight.

Unfortunately, many people choose fad diets that can do more harm than good.

The Last Diet You May Ever Need

This year, the renowned Mayo Clinic has a plan for you that could be the last diet you'll ever need.

Take for example, Don and Jenny Nosbisch. They do almost everything together. For years, their favorite pastime was sitting in front of the TV while enjoying fattening food. That almost cost Don his job as a fireman, because of his bad scores on health screenings.

"They do your height, weight, and they do blood pressure, heart scans and this and that, and it always comes back that you're obese," he recalled. "And I didn't think I was that fat. Of course I was, fatter than I thought, but it's kind of embarrassing. Every year you look at that and it comes back obese."

Then the Nosbischs made a commitment to lose weight together.

Jenny said it really helped to have a partner. "When I wanted to eat something that I shouldn't have eaten," she laughed, "I knew I had to answer to him not just myself."

Together they lost a total of 90 pounds.

List of Habits and Attitudes That Work 

The diet was formulated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the gold standard for medical excellence. After years of scientific and clinical research there, the result is a list of habits and attitudes that really work.

Stephanie Sutherland would not have set foot inside a gym back when she was 50 pounds heavier and ate for comfort. But the Mayo Clinic Diet got her moving in the right direction.

"Rather than a diet with a beginning and an end, it's a life change," she said. Now she's a role model for others wanting to lose weight.

Dr. Donald Hensrud, The Mayo Clinic Diet's editor-in-chief, says the diet was tested on dozens of clinic employees who all lost weight.

"People generally know they need to eat less and exercise more. They don't need us to tell them that," he said. "What they need are strategies, an action plan that they can implement and help them to carry that out."

Diet's Two Phases 

The Mayo Clinic Diet is divided into two phases -- 'Lose It' and 'Live It.'  

Lose It is the first two weeks. It's a jump start, sort of a boot camp, where participants lose six to 10 pounds. The Live It phase is long term and less intense, where participants lose one to two pounds a week.

In the Lose It phase, you add these 5 good habits:

  1. A healthy breakfast
  2.  Daily servings of 4 vegetables and 3 fruits
  3. Whole grains
  4. Healthy fats
  5. 30 minutes of exercise each day

You also break these 5 bad habits:

  1. No sugar except what's naturally in fruit
  2. No snacks except fruits and veggies
  3. No big portions of meat or high fat dairy
  4. No restaurants unless the meal fits the program
  5. No TV while eating, plus you can only watch as much tv as you exercise

"In the Lose It program, what we want people to do is to dive right in," Dr. Hensrud said. "And it's going to be challenging for a while. But once you start seeing results right away, start having more energy, then it builds on itself and it can be easier to sustain over time."

Jenny says some of the habits sound a lot worse than they really are.

"At first I thought that was really going to be hard, no TV without exercise. But in reality, the gym has a TV so if I wanted something to watch, I just got my stuff and went to the gym. So it wasn't that hard," she explained.

The Live It Phase 

Next, in the Live It phase, participants eat according to the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. This consists of lots of fruits and vegetables followed by progressively lesser amounts of whole grains, lean protein and dairy, healthy fats and sweets. The pyramid is based on the concept of "energy density."

"Some foods have a lot of calories in a small volume," Dr. Hensrud explained. "Butter for example, or sugar, has a very large number of calories, not much volume. Other foods are more bulky: They have a lot more volume or weight but not a lot of calories. Fruits and vegetables are in that mode. We recommend all the vegetables and fruits that people want to eat. They can get full before they get in enough calories to gain weight."

Conquering Portion Control 

Another key factor of the Mayo Clinic Diet is that dieters conquer portion control. For instance, a serving of vegetables is the size of a baseball. A fruit serving is the size of a tennis ball. A carbohydrate serving is the size of a hockey puck. A protein or dairy serving size is the same as a deck of cards. A serving of fat is about the size of dice.

"You can't ever look at a plate of food and not know what's on that plate," Sutherland said. "You know, it's like, I know that's actually four servings of rice, because I read that in the book."

The diet also addresses how to overcome weight loss obstacles, such as:

  • What if I travel a lot?
  • What if I'm a late-night snacker?
  • What if I am too busy?
  • What if I don't like vegetables?
  • And other questions dieters may have.

Finally, there are also tools to develop the most important weight loss habit -- a positive attitude. So you can believe 2010 is the year you will lose weight and never gain it back.

*Original broadcast January 6, 2010. 

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Lorie  Johnson

Lorie Johnson

CBN News Medical Reporter

Lorie Johnson reports on the latest information about health and wellness. Since medicine is constantly changing, she makes sure CBN News viewers are up-to-date on what they need to know in order to live a healthy life.  Follow Lorie on Twitter @LorieCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/LorieJohnsonCBN.