My last post was an overview of the Mediterranean-way of eating. Today, I would like to add another dimension – healthy weight loss the Mediterranean way.
I mentioned the studies that have supported the diet’s ability to reduce heart disease and cancer and improve longevity – important points, for sure, and hopefully enough to encourage people to change their eating habits.
However, the American public in general seems to be more inclined to change their diet if they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, losing weight is one of the strongest motivating factors for adopting a new diet. This is not always the case, but often, it is.
In that light, I thought it wise to let you know how the Mediterranean Diet fares in the weight loss category. Let’s take a closer look…
Fats and Weight Loss
The Mediterranean Diet is quite different than many popular diets. It does not involve counting calories, cutting carbs, or cutting fats. In fact, the diet includes fats – with lots of olive oil.
Since fat contains 9 calories per gram, I understand why it may be a concern. For those reasons many people think that it is not a good choice for weight loss. In fact, the question must be asked: How can a diet that includes fats possibly contribute to weight loss?
Simple! The fats on the Mediterranean Diet are primarily olive oil and canola oil (healthy fats) that contain lots of nutrients and keep you feeling fuller – longer. And, there are other factors.
The diet as a whole gives your body real food (close to nature) that provides the necessary nutrients. As a result, you actually get to feel full and the cravings will diminish – both of which help with weight loss.
Another fact you may not know is that many nutrients actually enhance weight loss. For example, Vitamin B Complex from veggies, cheese, legumes, CoQ10 from the meats and fish, plus the generous use of garlic – all improve metabolism.
Weight Loss – YES
This is a diet that helps you to eat healthier. When that is your focus, you are keeping your body well-fed and energized and weight loss comes naturally.
The meals that can be prepared with the foods on this diet are delicious and the lifestyle is practical. It is a diet you will enjoy so that staying with it is not such a challenge. However, diet (any diet) alone is never the formula for weight loss. It is a critical component, but should be accompanied by adequate rest and regular exercise.
If you take care of your health through diet, exercise and rest – weight loss can be a natural benefit. Give it a try.
Reaching high levels of professional and financial success at any cost has been the modern-day Mecca to multitudes of business men and women for several decades.
Unfortunately, the attainment of such an all-consuming goal has not produced the peace and happiness that was expected. There was a dark side to success.
Fairly recently, the question of balance and its impact on mental health and happiness has taken center stage in many circles of psychological research. Dozens of studies have been conducted and published on the subject as companies and individuals alike have noticed that their chaotic lifestyle has not produced the happiness they hoped to achieve. The cost has greatly outweighed the benefits.
The majority of these studies agree on one thing – there is potential for incredible benefits from living a balanced life filled with interesting and varied experiences rather than living with an all-consuming focus on career.
The studies also included some important findings about the effects of stress. Stress is not always detrimental to health and happiness. In fact, a bit of stress here and there is actually healthy, for both plants and animals – it stimulates growth and development. It depends on the source of the stress, how relentles it is, and how it is managed.
The danger comes when relentless stress pounds the mind and body and the individuals accept it as the norm. They cope with it the best they can; but allow no time for recovery from the depletion of resources.
Professional burnout from chronic stress debilitates the individual to the point that s/he can no longer function effectively on a personal or professional level.
“Burnout is one of those road hazards in life that high-achievers really should be keeping a close eye out for, but sadly – often because of their “I can do everything” personalities, they rarely see it coming.”
The individual may suffer with any or all of the following:
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Cynicism, anger, detachment
Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Bouts of anxiety and depression
Professional burnout does not happen overnight. It comes on slowly, overtime, making it difficult to recognize. There are warnings signs, but there are rarely recognized until it is too late.
The human body thrives on moderation. In spite of that being a fairly well-known fact, there are huge numbers of people who gravitate toward extreme lifestyles. They tend to be adrenalin junkies with a need for more and greater challenges.
It may be a psychological compulsion to escape the sea of sameness that drives them to seek everything in unhealthy proportions. But, whatever the cause, there is an endless list of good reasons to avoid the rat race and live a life of moderation on all fronts.
The Pressure Starts Early
A close look at America’s higher education system is good case study for what is happening. As knowledge increases, and job requirements become more demanding, the amount of curriculum required to graduate from college goes up, while the time allotted for completion of tasks goes down.
This places students under incredible amounts of stress. If you are a recent graduate or have a child in college you are probably aware that symptoms of chronic stress are everywhere – poor eating habits, lack of sleep, chronic anxiety and depression, poor quality of work, and a decreasing appreciation for study.
As a nation, America, has created such high expectations and placed such high stakes on a single four-year period of life that the pressure is almost unbearable. Even the students with the highest scholastic standings begin to dread the moment they have to open a text book.
High schools are not much better. Even the elementary schools are intense. Kindergarteners and First Graders have homework! Is it any wonder than many children hate school?
The problem is simple. When you put too much emphasis on a single focus, and create too much pressure around it, eventually even pleasurable activities become drudgery. The joy of the activity itself is smothered by the stress connected to it.
A good illustration of this is that many artists decide to keep their art as a hobby or recreation, rather than pursuing it as a profession. They realize that if their livelihood depended on their art, the pressure would dampen the fun, and joy of creating would lose its magic.
In America the one aspect of life where this principle is most blatantly violated is work/life balance. American professionals push themselves beyond reason their entire lives with the goal of retiring early and enjoying life more. Unfortunately, they often get the early retirement in the form of an unexpected permanent vacation because they literally work themselves to death.
Today, even a “typical work week” is extreme – more often than not it is 60 to 90 hours rather than 40.
A Series of Unhealthy Extremes
In order to cope with the unrelenting pressures, people turn to energy drinks, alcohol, ice cream, cheesecake, and other comfort foods and activities to dim or wipe out the memories of everything that happened during the past week – or that they have to face in the coming week.
Life becomes a series of unhealthy extremes – each one throwing everything else more and more out of balance.
The Solution is Simple
Simple – yes! But, not necessarily easy to incorporate when you have been on the fast track for years. It is called BALANCE!
Limit the number of hours you work each week – cut it down to at least 50, but 40 would be better. Disconnect from your electronic leash at the end of the day and on the weekend.
After a busy day at work, make it a practice to enjoy a nice dinner with family or friends. Plan time in your schedule in the evenings or on the weekend to do something you really enjoy – painting, hiking, swimming, basketball, reading, going to the movies – anything that is FUN and takes your mind from the pressures and responsibilities of work.
When you take the time for self-care on the weekend, going back to work on Monday morning will be much easier. You will have decompressed and regenerated enough that you will be able to handle work stress and the occasional crisis with grace and dignity – and let it go when it is over.
Daily and weekly rest and relaxation stabilizes you emotionally and psychologically. It is a much wiser strategy than working nights and weekends 95% of the year so that you can take one extended annual vacation.
Developing a nice balance of work, rest, and fun throughout the week increases overall satisfaction with life.
Balance and Moderation in all Things
The human body and mind were not meant to handle excess.
Balance and moderation can be applied universally in life, whether it is eating, sleeping, exercise, entertainment, socializing, study, or work. For example, the body does not do well when you starve it for three days and then binge eat for three hours.
The secret of good health and peace of mind is striving to find balance in every facet of your life.
Be sure there is time in your schedule to purchase fresh, healthy foods, to prepare tasty meals and allow plenty of time to enjoy them. Eat regular nutritious meals every day to provide the necessary fuel for your miraculous body to function at the highest level.
Regular exercise in moderation is also a key factor to mental and physical health, as is regular social interaction, regular eustress (a good form of stress that can actually increase our performance at a task and your general happiness and sense of well-being), regular sleep habits for adequate rest, and regular relaxation.
The word “regular” comes from the root “to regulate” which means to keep things in their proper proportions. But, even regulation can become extreme. If you obsess over counting calories, timing your exercise to the second, and stress when you only get seven hours and twenty minutes of sleep, you need to loosen up a bit.
It is not uncommon for people to go from an extremely chaotic lifestyle to an extremely regimented one. Flexibility is critical to a balanced life. Being able to go with the flow is important.
There will be days – even an occasional week when things get out of balance. That is to be expected. It is perfectly OK, as long as you do not allow it to become the “norm” again and slip back into a permanent pattern of imbalance.
Other Possible Dangers
When making the shift from a chaotic, extremely hectic life to a more normal pace, there are some common pitfalls to avoid. One in particular is going to the opposite extreme and taking the stance that life is to be “lived fully.” That you should stop taking life so seriously and do whatever makes you happy – whenever you choose to do it – no matter what anyone else thinks.
This approach also carries with it the potential of great dissatisfaction. Meaning and direction in life, both personally and professionally, are powerful factors that contribute to health, happiness, and fulfillment.
If you remove the meaning from your work, then you remove the reason to work at all. It is the same with life. In fact, many of the happiest people claim that their source of joy comes from finding a deeper meaning to the everyday aspects of living.
The lesson to be learned from all this is that extremes of any kind are dangerous.
Recognize your physical and emotional instincts and live a lifestyle that accommodates them, but does not make you a slave to them.
Moderation and balance are the keys to a peaceful, joyful life.
To live a happy, healthy, balanced life, you must learn to focus your energy on well-being. Self-care on all levels should be an integral part of your lifestyle.
There is an abundance of information available about the benefits of eating well and exercising regularly to sustain a healthy mind and body. In fact, I write about both regularly. But today I want to move in a little different direction.
In addition to those two very basic and critical activities, there are a number of other things you can to improve your mental health and overall well-being. By incorporating them into your daily life, you will be better able to manage most challenges – including struggles with self-doubt, anxiety, and mild depression.
Practices that Focus Your Energy on Well-being
Accept Your Feelings
Stuffing or ignoring your emotions is more damaging than it is helpful. Everyone has emotions. They are a natural part of being human. Bottling them up may seem like a good solution in the moment, but when you do it all the time, you are potentially creating a time bomb that will eventually explode.
Unfortunately, you are hurting yourself as you hold them in and you run the risk of hurting those you love when the eruption finally occurs.
Rather than acknowledging what you are feeling and allowing yourself to experience emotions, you may medicate, rationalize, blame, bury, deny, smother, drink, or stuff them (pretend they don’t exist). Emotions have become the enemy and many people will do anything to avoid them – especially the big three: fear, anger and sadness.
It takes a lot of mental, physical and emotional energy to avoiding your feelings and creates high levels of stress and anxiety.
Don’t stuff your emotions!
Let yourself laugh, cry, scream, yell, or pound something (preferably a pillow, grass, sand – not the wall or someone else). Do whatever you need to do, probably in private is the best choice. But, if emotions erupt in public, excuse yourself and let it rip. This is nature’s way of releasing stress. Don’t beat yourself up afterward!
You must find a safe and sane way to release your emotions (this applies to both men and women). When you continually stuff them, you are endangering your own health and possibly the well-being of others around you.
Stuffed emotions eventually come out – either in the form of a physical illness, a mental break down, or incredible explosions of anger on anyone who happens to be around – including your children, other loved ones, colleagues, and innocent bystanders.
Don’t set up yourself, your family, or friends for these unintended consequences. Consciously begin to let down your guard and experience your feelings – recognize and acknowledge your emotions. Only then will you be able to manage them in a healthy way and relieve the stress that stuffing them is creating.
Be a Risk Taker
Routine and structure are good things. They keep us on track and make life work. However if you are a rule follower to a fault and never do anything spontaneous or out-of-the ordinary, you are missing some interesting adventures that make life more enjoyable.
Don’t let yourself become so regimented and predictable that you may even bore yourself. Life is meant to be lived. When you are not stretching and doing new things – taking risks on a regular basis, you are not growing as a person. Taking risks – even calculated ones can be exciting, rewarding and are definitely good for your mental well-being
Challenge yourself. Make a point of taking some kind of risk every day. They don’t have to be big risks.
If you are shy – make a point of talking to someone new. Learn a new language, take dance or voice lessons or join Toastmasters and learn to speak in public; and other things – like being more trusting or being more assertive. The goal is to push yourself out of your comfort zone regularly.
Take Responsibility for the Life You Have
Too often people spend their entire life blaming others for the life they are living. Everyone has their own experiences – good, bad and in-between. Those experiences definitely impact the way we view life – but they did not have to cripple us.
If you allow yourself to live in the past, continuously suffering for what you have lost or for what others have “done to you,” you will never be able to completely embrace the joys of life that are available to you. They will be lost in the fog of anger and self-pity.
The only way to truly enjoy life is to take responsibility for what you can control and for what you are creating right now – in the present moment. You are what you think about and you have the life that you create by your thoughts and your actions. Take responsibility for that; and start enjoying it.
The past is gone, the future has not yet arrived – all you have is the present, so learn to live in the moment and make it count.
Avoid just coasting through life, being totally unaware of what you are doing – never taking the time to look inside and to assess your behaviors.
Which of your behaviors are serving you and which are not? What factors are driving the behaviors that are not serving you? What is your prevalent attitude about life? What are your thought patterns? Are they helpful and uplifting – or negative and destructive?
What realities about your life are you denying? Bad habits? Self-defeating behaviors? Are you resisting change that would greatly benefit the way you feel?
You do not have to take it on all at once, but a little honest introspection daily – possibly at the end of each day – could work wonders in creating a greater sense of self and well-being.
Laugh Out Loud a Lot
It is time to start laughing – out loud – a lot! Many people take themselves far too seriously. This seems to be a particularly big problem for highly-intelligent people. And, typically a problem that develops as people grow into adulthood. It doesn’t generally afflict children.
Kids laugh about 200 times a day and adults, only 15 times a day at most. Let yourself laugh openly and freely as children do when they are reveling in life.
Read funny books; develop friendships with people who make you laugh; play games with your kids or grandkids; go to funny movies. In other words – have more fun!
Laughter is our way of communicating joy. Researchers have found that when people are joyful, there is a sense of well-being that when sustained, contributes to longevity.
Let the laughter flow openly and freely the way a young child laughs. It will be infectious and others will laugh with you.
Laughter not only provides wonderful psychological benefits, it also has many physical benefits, as well such as improving circulation, boosting the immune system, reducing stress, and normalizing blood pressure.
Finding joyful moments and making time for laughter can make a huge difference in the way you feel and the way you live your life.
My simple prescription for you is to laugh unconditionally every day. It is free – it is fun – there are no adverse side effects – and it will help keep you young (at least young at heart).
Focusing on Your Well-being Is not Difficult
Improving your well-being does not have to be as difficult or complex as you may imagine. By using the five tips here, you can easily discover that you feel better, you are less stressed, and that you are able to enjoy life more.
I am not telling you to ignore the importance of eating well, regular exercise and getting adequate rest. I am telling you to recognize that there is much more to a person’s overall well-being than those basic components.
A high-level of self-awarenes (how you act and how you feel) can impact your well-being in significant ways.
The frenetic lifestyle that many people live today is very harmful. Rushing here and there, being constantly on call, balancing multiple layers of responsibility may give you a sense of accomplishment – even make you feel important, but it takes a huge toll on every aspect of life.
When you constantly push yourself to take on more and more challenges, it is easy to lose sight of why you wanted to be successful in the first place. For many, the reason was to be able to spend less time working and enjoy life more. A frenetic, high-pressure lifestyle creates exactly the opposite.
There is a very dark side to constantly pushing yourself to produce more and more. Unfortunately, it creeps up on you and becomes a serious case of self-negligence.
When you are busy and driven every minute of every day and well into the evening, it is easy to neglect important things in life that keep you healthy, happy, and create quality of life. A continual stream of urgent tasks that must be completed will overshadow the not-so-urgent, but important activities that make life worth living.
It is not just physical well-being that is neglected – mental and emotional well-being also suffer when there is no time for self-care.
Areas of Neglect
When your daily schedule is crammed to overflowing one of the first areas of neglect is your diet. Eating regular, nutritious meals become a thing of the past. You are not only too busy to sleep or even take a deep breath now and then, there is no time to prepare decent meals
Convenience foods, frozen dinners, take out and fast foods become the norm. It is a steady diet of additive filled, sugar and fat-filled dishes, loaded with empty calories that provide minimal nutrition and damage the body. It is impossible to sustain any level of good health on such a diet.
When you burn the candle at both ends, there is a good chance you will pay the price of poor health. Inadequate rest carries both short- and long-term consequences.
Short-term lack of sleep can affect moods, cognitive ability, memory, judgment and increase the risk of accidents and injury.
Long-term, chronic sleep deprivation can set you on the path to serious health problems such cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even early death.
In addition to endangering your own health, you may also be endangering others because of the toll it takes on your perception and judgement. In the work place it results in inefficiency, decreased productivity, and dangerous mistakes that can cause accidents. And, of course, driving while exhausted can be deadly.
Far too many people are overweight in the United States and obesity is on the rise. Many are calling it an epidemic of the 21st Century. This is primarily the result of poor diet and lack of exercise, which are the result of busy, hectic, work-focused lifestyles.
Regular exercise is a critical factor in maintaining good health. That will never change. When it is a missing piece, sustainable good health is nearly impossible. Even if you take the time to eat well – if you live a completely sedentary life, you are putting your health in jeopardy.
Lack of exercise is as deadly as smoking. Physical inactivity has been declared the culprit in the rising death rates from coronary disease, type 2 diabetes, plus breast and colon cancer.
You should never be too busy to exercise!
Busy people forget to have fun (re-create themselves). If you ask a very busy professional what s/he does for fun, the answer may be anything from a blank stare to a quick, “Who has time for fun?”
This may not seem serious at first glance; but, never having time for fun and relaxation can have serious negative impact on mental and emotional stability. They are just as important to good health as nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
Hobbies, play, relaxation techniques, and simple fun activities have therapeutic and regenerative effects on both physical and mental health.
Studies show that people with anger management issues or who struggle with anxiety and/or depression can often trace the cause back to a lack of joy in life that is found in fun and relaxing activities with friends and family.
Regardless of your profession – doctor, chef, mechanic, professional athlete, or garbage man – you need time to unwind and enjoy yourself
Without fun and relaxation as a significant part of your lifestyle, you are setting yourself up for problems related to chronic stress.
Stress is a killer! It leads to obesity, heart attacks, high blood pressure, chronic headaches, depression, and temporary personality disorders, etc. It can also destroy relationships, break up families, and decrease the desire to continue living. There is no aspect of life that is free from the necrotic touch of chronic stress.
Dreams No Longer Matter
Another serious danger of a frenetic lifestyle is that you can eventually reach a point where dreams no longer matter, which can alter the course of your life.
Life-long dreams – the catalyst to your ambition – the ideals that pulled you into the future may dim and eventually disappear completely from your consciousness.
After years of life-draining work, the dream can be forgotten and replaced by the time-consuming, demanding career that takes everything you have to give.
No one intentionally gives up on achieving their dreams, but the intense focus of a person’s mind, life, and soul around the means to the end eventually becomes the end in itself, leaving no room for the original dreams to exist.
When a person places all his time, talent, and energy on something long enough, that “something” begins to absorb the entire mind and becomes the central focus of his life. It is the only thing that his mind is capable of comprehending – and possibly the only that he is capable of wanting.
He loses his healthy zest for life, and he has nothing but obligations, responsibilities, and productivity goals – with no end point in sight. Life is about the work and nothing more.
Living in a constant rush of cortisol and adrenaline, a person loses the ability to enjoy friends, family, hobbies and life – hopes and dreams for the future no longer exist.
Instead of enjoying life, one merely tries to beat it.
Don’t Let Life Lose Its Meaning
Living every day filled with hectic, intense activity and constant stress creates an existence of a meaningless chain of milestones that lead nowhere.
You must take the time to stop! Disconnect! Breathe!
You must remember that life exists outside of work. Without the little moments of love, joy, laughter, and even struggles, life is meaningless.
Setting goals and milestones can be great as long as you don’t forget why you set them. There were reasons – don’t lose sight of those.
On the other hand, everyone has crazy days or weeks now and then – that is part of life in the world today. But notice, I said “now and then” not all the time. SLOW DOWN and LIVE!
You may be unaware that there are a few medical conditions that cause weight gain. They are rare, but, if you have faithfully stayed with a low-calorie diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, low in fats and sugary, processed foods – plus 30 minutes of daily exercise for several weeks and are not losing weight, you should ask your doctor to help you figure out why.
It would also be helpful to keep an honest food journal for about 12 weeks to take with you to the doctor to prove that you are eating correctly (and not overeating). The main reason to do this is because of the tendency in the medical community to disbelieve an overweight person when they say they are not overeating. A daily journal will support your request, and you can validly demand to be tested for conditions that could be preventing weight loss.
Below are a few issues that could be a problem:
Adrenal Fatigue– Adrenal fatigue can develop because of a steady diet of the wrong kinds of foods over an extended period of time. The danger foods are: caffeine, white sugar, and processed chemically-enhanced foods. Stress can also cause adrenal fatigue by increasing the level of Cortisol in your bloodstream. Steps to alleviate this problem are 1) Remove the danger foods from your diet. 2) Add organic, fresh whole foods. 3) Find ways to reduce (or at least manage) stress.
Depression – No one knows for sure which comes first – depression or weight gain. But, it is a well-known fact that weight gain and depression usually go hand-in-hand. If you struggle with both problems, it is important to do some serious introspection and find out if you are using food as a drug to numb your feelings. If you are, it would be wise to seek professional help in finding healthier alternatives to deal with the problems in your life (other than food).
Genetics— There are a number of genes associated with obesity and physical disorders that are tied to obesity. Two of them are Bardet-Bedl Syndrome and Prader-Willi Syndrome. If a child is morbidly obese, parents should check into genetic counseling. Even though it is rare for genetics to be the root of the problem, it should not be overlooked if everything else has been tried.
Medications– There are a number of meds that can cause people to gain weight: steroids, blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, corticosteroids, hormonal birth control, and seizure meds are among the ones that can be problematic. There have been cases when people have gained over a100 lbs with the wrong medication. When a patient is placed on a new medication and begins to gain weight (especially 20+ pounds), the doctor should try an alternative drug if at all possible.
Thyroid Problems – The thyroid gland is located on the right side of your neck and secretes hormones related to metabolism. If you have faithfully stayed with a low-calorie diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, low in fats and sugary, processed foods – plus 30 minutes of daily exercise for several weeks and are not losing weight, one test that you should ask your doctor to run is your thyroid function. Hypothyroidism means the gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone and the problem can be solved by taking medication. The challenge is to find a doctor who knows how to test the thyroid properly.