The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid: A Way To Live Your Life

Usually it happens in the spring. Mayo Clinic phone operators are deluged with calls about the so-called Mayo Clinic Diet. In fact there is no Mayo Clinic Diet, it's a myth that started in the 1940s, spread across the country, and around the world. Though there are different versions of the myth, all of them seem to take a "one-size-fits-all" approach.
As Mayo Clinic Registered Dietitian Jennifer Nelson writes in her article, "Mayo Clinic Diet: Does it Exist?", the different versions "push grapefruit or eggs or meat and promise to peel off pounds magically." Nelson says this promise of dramatic weight loss is a sure sign of hoax. Mayo Clinic hasn't endorsed any of these diets, so if you're looking for quick weight loss you may be groaning now.
Stop groaning and start cheering. There is no Mayo Clinic Diet, but there is The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. It's the first pyramid to "encourage weght loss, weight maintenance, and long term health," according to the article, "New Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid Helps You Lose Weight and Keep it Off!"
Donald Hensrud, MD, Editor in Chief of "Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight," describes the pyramid as an approach to permanent weight management. Putting it simply, the pyramid is a healthy choice, a way to live your life. The triangular shape of the pyramid is important, Mayo says, and you may see it by going to and using the search words "Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid."
Click on the pyramid to enlarge it and you'll see how foods stack up. Fruits and vegetables - the foods you eat most - form the base of the pyramid. Carbohydrates (whole grains, pasta, bread, rice, cereals) also help to form the base. Protein and dairy come next. Fats, which you eat in limited amounts, are towards the top of the pyramid. Sweets are at the very top.
How do you use The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid? You select foods from all groups. With the help of a physician and dietitian you find out your starting calorie level. Then you find out how many servings from each food group to eat a day. (It's a lot of food.) You eat normal servings of food (not supersized servings), and record your progress on a Daily Dining Record.
What are your daily servings? You may eat unlimited vegetables, a good thing because veggies are filling. Mayo Clinic recommends a minimum of three fruits per day and you may eat unlimited amounts. You may eat 4-8 servings of whole grains (pasta, bread, rice, cereals). You may eat 3-7 servings of beans, fish, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. You may eat 3-5 servings of fats (olive oil, nuts, canola oil, and avocados). And you may eat up to 75 calories (just a sweet taste) of candy and other processed sugars.
One of the keys to keeping a healthy weight, according to Mayo Clinic, is be aware of the "energy density" of foods. Energy density is the number of calories per serving. High fat foods often have high energy density - lots of calories in a small amount of food. In order to reach your healthy weight and keep it, Mayo Clinic recommends eating lots of vegetables and fruits - foods with low enegy density.
Daily physical activity is the center of The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid. Eating right and daily physical activity are a "winning combination," according to "Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight." The chapter on physical activity distinguishes between between physical activity and physical exercise. Physical exercise is planned and structured, the chapter says, whereas physical activity starts the minute you get out of bed.
"Any physical activity is good activity," Mayo Clinic says, and you need to keep moving.
In the introduction to "Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight" Dr. Donald Hensrud says most Americans need to slim down. You can slim down and still enjoy your food. "One of my goals it to make people realize that healthy food can be delicious food," says Hensrud. You'll find delicious recipes in the healthy weight book and more recipes, including Grilled Pear and Watercress Salad, in "The New Mayo Clinic Cook Book."
The Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid is a choice you make for yourself, a way to live life and prolong life. Get with it!
Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson.
Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. An active community volunteer, Hodgson is a member of Mayo Clinic's Action on Obesity Task Force. Her 24th book, "Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief," written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from A five-star review of the book is also posted on Amazon.