Mayo Clinic Diet class focuses on lifestyle changes

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Vivian Clark was 58 years old when she suffered a heart attack, seemingly out of the blue.

Her cardiologist told her she needed to get her weight under control.

So when she received a brochure in the mail for Anne Arundel Medical Center’s (AAMC’s) class on the Mayo Clinic Diet, she was intrigued.

The Mayo Clinic Diet focuses on behavioral changes that can lead to long-term weight loss.

Vivian, a Bowie resident, liked the diet’s strategic approach. So she signed up for last January’s 12-week workshop.

She’s lost 12 pounds since then, a result of making wiser food choices and spending more time preparing meals.

Vivian says she now wakes up in the morning and thinks about her intentions for the day, including what she’s going to eat.

“You owe it to yourself to understand the motivations for why you eat,” Vivian says. “Are you hungry? Are you anxious? Are you depressed? A lot of us mindlessly eat.”

She says AAMC nutritionist and registered dietitian Ann Caldwell helped her think about those things by focusing on how she eats, not just what she eats.

Lifestyle shift

“It really is a head shift,” Ann says. “What choices am I making every day to drive my health in the right direction?”

Ann says these choices are a primary focus of the class, which AAMC has offered since 2013. Each class averages around 25 students.

The class takes a true commitment, Ann says. During the first class, students take a readiness assessment to determine if it’s the right time for them to make these changes. If it’s not, and they decide not to return for a second class, they’ll get a refund.

“It really is about lifestyle,” Ann adds.

Vivian says she and her husband now make it a point to focus on dinner, rather than being distracted by the TV or their phones.

Vivian’s also learned a lot about food itself, including how to read labels to determine exactly what she’s putting into her body. Students took a tour of Giant, where they learned how to select healthy products, from fruits and vegetables to grains and meat.

With the help of exercise therapist Carol Frazer, Vivian says her mindset toward exercising also shifted from if she’s going to work out that day, to how she’s going to work out.

Moderation is key

And although her husband didn’t take the class with her, Vivian says he’s been able to benefit, as well.

They now spend a lot more time and money in the produce section of the grocery store, focusing on eating a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. A typical meal for the couple these days includes salmon with roasted vegetables, or stuffed peppers with quinoa, black beans and a small portion of Italian sausage.

Vivian also keeps healthy snacks, such as oranges or boiled eggs, around so she’s not tempted to snack on junk food.

But she does still treat herself – just in moderation. She recently made a pan of brownies, but it took her and her husband 10 days to finish them off.

“You can’t deprive yourself,” she says.

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