Is the Mayr Method healthy?
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. Most popular healthy diets that are touted for weight loss—from Paleo to Mediterranean and vegetarian—share many of the same basic principles. All involve eating whole foods (as opposed to packaged and processed) and filling your plate with quality sources of protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamin-, mineral-, and fiber-rich vegetables. (Again, we’re talking about the ones that fall somewhere on the healthy spectrum, not unhealthy fad diets like, ahem, the Grapefruit Diet. However, each proposes a slightly different path that leads to fulfilling those principles. In this column, we’ll be breaking them down for you one by one so you can figure out which (if any!) is right for you. We’ll quickly explain the facts and then provide quick, actionable tips on how to follow the diet as part of a Nutritious Life.
What is the Mayr Method?
You may be hearing of this eating plan for the first time, but it’s actually based on the 100-year old Mayr Cure created by Austrian physician Dr. Franz Xaver Mayr, who believed people are poisoning their guts with the foods they eat. Today, this diet is typically practiced by staying at the luxury wellness clinic VivaMayr resort in Austria or by taking the less expensive route and following the principles and plan provided in The Viva Mayr Diet book.
The main premise of the Mayr Method is that good health starts with a healthy gut, so the diet seeks to improve digestion through alkaline foods, mindful eating, and other behavior changes.
What You Eat
Visitors to the VivaMayr clinic receive a personalized eating plan after an initial consultation with their doctors, but everyone’s diet emphasizes alkaline foods (aka less acidic foods) like fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fish.
A key component of the Mayr Method includes chewing every bite of food between forty to sixty times. So food like spelt bread (or other hard gluten-free varieties) is a daily staple intended to help you practice more chewing.
What You Don’t Eat
The Mayr Method discourages consuming coffee, alcohol, sugar, gluten, and dairy (specifically cow’s milk). However, how you eat is equally as important as what you eat in this diet, so behaviors like snacking, eating more later in the day, consuming raw foods after 4pm, drinking with meals, eating too much, or scrolling on your phone during mealtime are also off-limits.
Also, if you’re trying this at home, authors Dr. Harald Stossier and Helena Frith Powell, recommend you start with mild fasting.
Pros and Cons
We know gut health is important and science is just scratching the surface on how it may influence everything from our mood to our weight. Nurturing the gut with lots of whole foods and more mindful eating practices is definitely a smart move. In addition, the Mayr Method’s emphasis on slowing down and savoring our meals, eating when relaxed, and tuning into your fullness cues can be effective strategies to help with digestion and making healthier food choices.
However, while alkaline foods certainly have health benefits, your body already does a great job of regulating pH on its own, so you don’t necessarily need to follow an alkaline diet to reap those benefits.
The Mayr Method also discourages drinking during meals because it dilutes digestive enzymes, but research has shown that water during meals can help curb weight gain by preventing overeating. By stopping for sips, you’re slowing down the speed at which you eat, causing you to eat less overall. Plus, it’s nice to help wash down your food. Similarly, other practices like no raw foods after 4:00 p.m. or snacking between meals may be unnecessarily restrictive.
Not to mention, you’ll need to spend a pretty penny at the VivaMayr resort to experience the true Mayr Method.
The Bottom Line
The Mayr Method has some merits—appreciating the importance of gut health, consuming mostly whole foods, and eating more mindfully. We are on board with all of that! But, while these are worthwhile practices to incorporate into your daily life, we aren’t sold on the plan as a whole.
For one, we are big proponents of snacking—for most people. In fact, numerous studies have shown that eating every few hours stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you from making less healthy choices later on because you’re starving.
Plus, the food restrictions within this plan may not be sustainable for long-term success. Your better bet is to add whole foods into your diet, practice mindfulness, and make time for self-care.