Set Your Sites on the Mediterranean

Set Your Sites on the Mediterranean

Sorry…I am not going to recommend a great trip to the Mediterranean, although you could certainly consider that, especially after reading this! 

Every year and all the time, people write about diets.  Which one is the best?  Which one is the easiest to follow?  Which one really gets the weight off? 

Diets come and go.  Whatever the diet du jour is, there are usually some testimonials, some “research findings,” and some specific ways to follow along.  Sometimes, you can buy your meals, or you can pay for membership that allows you to go to meetings. 

For example, whatever happened to Atkins and South Beach? They are still around in some form, but they are not in the forefront any more.  Now we have keto, paleo, and intermittent fasting, among other things.   Some have been around for longer, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.  But are any of these any better than another?  The word on the street is that the best one is the one you will follow!  Most of them will get you there if you can hang in with them.   This has been shown in scientific studies. 

But, let’s take the long view.  Diets come and go as science learns more and more about how our bodies work.  Once something is discovered, a diet is cooked up by someone, usually to make money.  You can pretty much guarantee that as time moves on, so will the type of diets that are available. 

Mediterranean Has Stood the Test of Time

Sticking with the long view for a bit longer, consider this:  the way people around the Mediterranean Sea (that would include Spain, France, Italy, and Greece) have eaten for centuries has stood the test of time AND stood up against lots of research. 

While not a silver bullet, there are some distinct advantages to the Mediterranean style of eating.  Because of them, you will find many national and world health organizations recommend it for health and weight loss. 

Here’s something to think about. Millions of people have been eating the Mediterranean way (notice I do not call it a diet) for a long time.  Some obviously follow it more closely (notice I did not say strictly) than others. 

Here’s something else to think about.  No health organization that I am aware of recommends any of the diets du jour.  Ever.  Certain organizations do have their own diets, like the American Diabetes Association.  These organizations address specific conditions that can be helped using specific strategies.  But, to reiterate, many, many organizations concerned with health end up recommending the Mediterranean way of eating. 

Why, you might ask?  What’s so great about it?  And, furthermore, just what is it exactly? 

So, here’s the Cliff notes on this. 

Why It’s Recommended

I won’t go into detail about specific studies, but here’s what they find:

Researchers have noticed that people around the Mediterranean have had various good things going on, like:

  • Reduced cardiovascular and heart disease
  • Better regulation of blood sugar
  • Less inflammation going on in the body
  • Fewer incidence of some cancers
  • Better cognition, memory, attention, and processing speed
  • Lower rates of overweight and obesity

As if that weren’t enough, there are no strict rules and restrictions.  Really? In all fairness, you could say there are “rules,” but as they said in Pirates of the Caribbean, they are more like “guidelines.”  In other words, it’s more of a lifestyle.  And, there is flexibility there.  You can move around in it with ease, and can occasionally goof off and still be OK. 

    So What’s In It?

    I have read time and time again that it is basically food that your grandmother would recognize.  Meaning, whole, unprocessed food with few or no additives. 

    Specifically, the usual suspects are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, herbs, spices, and olive oil.  Protein is mostly fish, but other ones like chicken and turkey are eaten to a lesser extent.  Red meat is eaten rarely, as is butter.  Dairy items like yogurt and cheese are OK, but eaten in moderation.  Moderate amounts of wine and OK.  Notice, it doesn’t include cocktail drinks of any kind. 

    AND (this is one of my favorite parts) it is not just about food!  The Mediterranean style encourages regular physical activity, sharing meals with others, and minimizing stress (there seems to be more and more about stress reduction these days, but that is a topic for another day).

    So there you have it. 

    Where do you go from here? 

    Keep trying!  Just to keep it simple, try these things:

    1. Reduce your consumption of red meat.
    2. Get rid of processed foods whenever you can.   
    3.  Just doing those two things will be huge for you and your health.

    Before we close, here’s a few more thoughts:

    1.  You may be thinking…Italy?  Really?  The home of pizza and pasta?  And, you would be right.  So where does that fit in?  Well, it only sort of does…if the pasta is whole wheat, and the pizza is not the kind you find at Pizza Hut.  I have had pizza in Italy and found it to be light, and topped with fresh vegetables.  Not a slice of pepperoni or a stuffed crust in sight.  So, the whole pizza/pasta thing is tricky, but you can work with it. 
    2. Now that people in these countries are diverting from whole foods to more processed items, they are gaining weight.  Overweight and obesity are climbing in these places in concert with consumption of processed foods.
    3. It’s still about portions.  For example, nuts are recommended, but that doesn’t mean you get a free pass.  They are high in calories, and need to be consumed in moderation. Input is still a big factor, both for health and weight loss.


    © 2023 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.
    Photo Credit: Olga_Gavrilova | iStock

    The End of Try Try Again by Kristen Carter MS

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