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A no-nonsense approach to losing weight and getting fit

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The Mayo Clinic enjoys a top-notch reputation as a purveyor of state-of-the-art health information. Their health-related websites are among the best available. Now they’re stepping into the weight-loss world with a set of books designed to help you lose up to 10 pounds in two weeks, and then continue to lose or maintain your weight.

A cheery color scheme and bold graphics make The Mayo Clinic Diet — Eat well. Enjoy life. Lose Weight. an appealing choice among the myriad of weight-loss schemes and plans on the bookshelf. And who could argue with a relatively quick weight-loss in the “Lose it!” phase of six to 10 pounds in two weeks, especially when most of the medical world advocates a paltry two pounds a week?

The plan doesn’t feature anything dieters haven’t heard before — basically eat less and move more. But where the book succeeds is in its no-nonsense, rapid start-up. You don’t have to wade through pages of scientific evidence, ponder why your relationship with your mom made you voraciously hungry throughout your childhood, or examine your connection to food.     Instead, Chapter 1 is titled “Ready, set, go” and the simple plan is for you to pick a start date, and then “Simply jump right in.” The plan has few specifics save the following: You are to add five habits:

  1. Eat a healthy breakfast,
  2. Eat fruits and vegetables — as many as you want,
  3. Eat whole grains,
  4. Eat healthy fats, and
  5. Move! For 30 minutes a day.

Sounds great! Of course, they’ve saved the bad news for the next chapter. Five habits to break:

  1. No TV while eating… and only as much TV time as you spend exercising,
  2. No Sugar,
  3. No snacks except fruits and vegetables,
  4. Moderate meat (the size of a deck of cards) and low fat dairy, and
  5. No eating at restaurants.

Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch and ouch.

And then there are the five “bonus” habits, which are like extra-credit — they include tracking your food intake and writing your daily goals. The goal is to achieve at least 10 of the 15 habits every day.

All of this is made easier if you purchase the companion Mayo Clinic Diet Journal to guide and help you track each day your progress each day. A few recipes are sprinkled around in the book and journal, but neither book contains specific food or exercise “prescriptions,” just the 10 basic habits and five bonus habits.

The authors recognize dieting is, at its core, mostly a mind game. Thus, there are encouraging, straightforward tips on nearly every page on how to train your brain to accept new habits and help you overcome temptations: “If you’re unhappy with how your weight makes you look, take a photo of yourself, keep it with you at all times, and look at it when you are facing a challenge. Tell yourself, ‘I’m making progress and I’m not going back!’”

After your two-week, boot-camp style plan, there is a pause for reflection on what went well, what didn’t and a chance to develop your long-term plan — the “Live It” phase — which is designed to keep you losing weight if you need to, or to maintain your preferred weight.

Here you’ll find lots more highly readable, easily digested information on everything from basic nutrition information to calculating your BMI. Especially persuasive is the “Guide to Weight Loss Barriers” which lists nearly every whiny excuse for not losing weight — they look even more pathetic in stark type on the white page — from “I don’t have time to make healthy meals,” to my personal favorite, “I don’t like to exercise when it is cold, rainy or hot.” They’re having none of it — make a salad, eat a whole grain roll, get a stationary bike, go walk at the mall. In short, stop complaining.

For some, this no-nonsense, somewhat authoritarian and rather simplistic approach may be a turn-off. Others may appreciate the “it is what it is” style — you have the power to create weight loss and weight management habits, like “I don’t eat sugar” or “I exercise 30 minutes a day” — that will permanently change your relationship with food and exercise. Eventually, the authors contend, these habits become so ingrained in your psyche that you no longer have to focus on them, and maintaining a healthy weight is just another habit.

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