Why choose the Mediterranean Diet? The answer is quite simple. You eat lots of fruits and vegetables with olive oil and feta cheese, plus red wine, hard cheese, salads, garlic, nuts and seeds, plus lots of fish. What can be better than that?
If you are unfamiliar with this diet, it may seem completely counter-intuitive when you think about dieting for weight loss.
Of course, eating fruits, vegetables and lots of salad, even fish makes sense; but how can adding fats (even healthy fats) and wine help you lose weight? Also, when you read about the diet, there are no restrictions in quantities of food that you can eat. Strange . . . right?
Let’s take a closer look to see exactly how this diet works.
Unlike most of the popular (or fad) diets that are rampant on the Internet and through all types of media, the Mediterranean Diet was not created to sell a book or to make the author famous.
It is simply a natural diet eaten by people who live in Mediterranean countries. That alone makes it far more appealing than an extreme fad diet created by some unknown doctor, nutritionist, or health “expert” with specific (sometimes unusual) recommendations or restrictions that most of them include.
I love this quote from the NIH (National Institute of Health), “Mediterranean tradition offers a cuisine rich in colours, aromas and memories, which support the taste and the spirit of those who live in harmony with nature.”
Unfortunately, for some time, there were many who did not consider this a healthy diet primarily because of the olive oil and the wine, which are major components of the diet. It wasn’t until some of the “experts” began studying statistics regarding the health of people who lived in the regions where the diet originated.
They quickly found the population had longer lifespans and a much lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes and cancer!
The Science behind the Phenomenon
What is really going on? It is not so strange when you take a close look. First – people in the Mediterranean enjoy eating more than most Western cultures like the U.S. and the U.K.
Sadly, the Western cultures see preparation of meals and the necessity of eating are seen as more of an inconvenience than something to enjoy. The majority of us eat to live – to fuel our bodies, nothing more.
We eat quickly with no thought about what we are eating – much of it extremely unhealthy. We eat large quantities of junk food like Big Gulps, candy, cookies, potato chips . . . anything that can be purchased, opened, and gobbled, or chugged down.
It is no wonder so many people have serious health problems and that as a society we are on the verge of a pandemic of obesity
Delicious, Nutritious Food
In direct contrast to the way many Americans eat, the people of the Mediterranean region enjoy eating. They take the time to create and savour delicious dishes made from fresh fruits, vegetables, lots of fish and delicious cheese – cooked or topped with olive oil (not butter) and served with whole grain bread and red wine. That sounds like a great way to live!
It spite of what we have heard for years, fats are not bad for us. In fact, our bodies need some fat and healthy fats are good for us. When they are eaten with fruits and vegetables they actually help absorb the nutrients more easily.
When people embrace the Mediterranean way of eating, they learn to eat natural foods that strengthen and nourish their bodies – and – they learn to truly appreciate what they are eating. More time is taken to prepare and serve the food and it is eaten with much greater relish – all of which has a huge impact on health and well-being.
To me, it sounds like something everyone should incorporate into their lifestyle! I challenge you to give it a try very soon. You have nothing to lose (except weight) and everything to gain
This is a follow up to a previous post from a few days ago in which I talked about the dreaded dieter’s plateau – the point in the dieting process that always appears no matter how much you do not want it to. You are moving along great, the pounds are coming off, you feel confident that you will reach your goal and suddenly the scale seems to be broken – it doesn’t change from day to day. It is maddening! You start to think if things don’t change soon, you will go backwards and gain all you have lost. What can you do?
First – recognize that hitting a plateau is part of the process. Instead of letting it get you down and knocking you off track, look at it as an opportunity to clear your head, intensify your focus and develop a strategy to move forward toward your goal.
Below are eight things you can do to re-light the spark that ignited your determination in the beginning and get across the plateau to higher ground.
Check your ultimate goal – is it realistic and healthy?
When you are stalled it is critical to consider your ultimate goal carefully. Ask these questions: 1) Is the weight you are planning to reach realistic? 2) Is your expected rate of weight loss reasonable and healthy? 3) Are you going about it the right way? Whatever the answers, don’t let them discourage you or be a reason for quitting. Simply make the necessary adjustments to keep you moving forward.
Hopefully you have chosen a healthy, nutritionally-rich weight-loss program. If so, you should be losing one to two pounds per week. Also, remember that everyone’s body is different, with its own ideal weight and size. An easy trap to fall into is the desire to look like your friend, a model, or a celebrity.
Comparisons are dangerous and goals that are based on such comparisons are faulty. Your body knows your ideal weight, so listen and pay attention to what feels right. A good marker can be set by using a Body Mass Index Calculator to find your ideal weight. (Be sure to read the information to understand how it works.)
The ideal weight range is wide enough that you can figure out which end of the range should be your goal. As I get older I tend to feel better a little on the heavier side. Be sure to factor in age and your current health. Remember that healthy weight is a lifestyle – not a diet!
Switch to eating high-protein/low-carbs for a while
You must eat enough protein – even on a diet – to maintain your lean muscle mass. When you cut your protein down too low, you will lose weight, but it will come from both your fat and muscle tissue, which is not healthy.
In order to preserve muscle tissue during a weight loss regimen, men need 150 grams of protein per day, and women need 100 grams. If you made a mistake in the beginning and have already lost some muscle tissue, you should seriously consider adjusting your diet to include more protein in order to sustain your muscle tissue and jump-start your diet again.
Every diet or weight loss program must include the necessary nutrients to preserve your body’s muscles. If you have chosen one that does not do that, make the necessary changes NOW.
Incorporate aerobic exercise and resistance training into your routine
A great way to boost metabolism is to make aerobic exercise a regular activity. For people under 35, a 30-minute brisk walk – three to four times a week will do wonders. Over 35 or terribly out of shape because of prolonged lack of exercise, you should start with 10 to 15 minutes two or three times a week and build up slowly.
Another great exercise choice is weight training with free weights or machines, if you are up to it. It is an excellent way to increase your metabolism almost overnight – as much as 5% to 10%. Workouts several times a week will increase muscle mass, which burns more calories faster. Studies have shown that a solid weight training workout can boost your metabolism for as long as 21 hours after.
Look for hidden carbs that may be stalling your progress
Stay alert and pay attention to what you are eating. When your weight loss slows to a standstill (hits a plateau), check for hidden carbohydrates that may be piggy-backing unnoticed into your diet. For example – sugar can be found in very unlikely places, especially condiments such as salad dressing, ketchup, teriyaki sauce, BBQ sauce, etc.
Processed foods such as gravies and sauces that are found on frozen veggies must be avoided – they often contain sugar, milk solids and cornstarch. AND, watch out for low-fat foods. Yes, they take out the fat, but they add a lot of sugar and sugar products as flavor enhancers.
If you can’t immediately identify the culprits, put on your detective hat. . . for a couple of days make a list of everything you eat and drink, and read labels. Then, each night study the list and find the hidden carbs that may be keeping you stuck. Once you know what they are, you can stop eating them and break through the plateau.
Stop eating refined and processed food
Eliminate all refined foods from your diet – especially refined sugar and grains. In case you don’t know, this includes all white rice and all white flour products such as white bread, pastries, pasta and crackers.
The second group is anything that contains refined sugar – even small amounts. This group includes soda pop, sugar-coated breakfast cereals, pop-tarts, cookies, cake and most desserts.
This is probably the simplest step, but for many people one of the hardest. However, if you can take the step, chances are you will experience a huge dieting breakthrough that will not only jump start your diet again, you will have more energy and feel better than you have in a long time.
Stay away from caffeinated drinks and diet sodas
The jury is still out on these but, there are enough studies that support the ill effects of both caffeine and diet drinks for people who are trying to lose weight that it isn’t worth the risk.
According to a report from researchers at Purdue University, drinking diet soda may not only be as bad for your health as the regular stuff, but it may be causing you to pack on the pounds.
Drinking just one can of diet soda per day is “enough to significantly increase the risk for health problems such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease.”
The report explains that diet soda and artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking that it is consuming real food and sugar even though it isn’t, which could lead to metabolic confusion and over-consumption. Diet soda should not be considered a “healthy” alternative to regular soda – learn to drink water instead.
According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, caffeine affects cravings for food because it raises the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol raises heart rate and blood pressure and tells your body to increase its energy stores. Cravings are always a challenge when dieting, so don’t add to the problem by drinking caffeinated drinks. One last thought on caffeine . . . . avoid completely the energy drinks which are very bad for your overall health on many levels.
Be sure you eat enough
How much and how often are you eating? When you cut back on either, or both, quantity and frequency, it can negatively impact the way your body functions and easily create the weight loss plateau. There is a lot of evidence that eating small amounts, frequently can satisfy your hunger and produce better results than if you were to eat the same number of calories in three whole meals space evenly throughout the day.
When hunger pangs hit, munch on healthy, low-calorie, crunchy snacks such as sliced carrots, celery, jicama, green peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers. Eat as much as you want – no hidden culprits will be found. You can also treat yourself to a few raw almonds a couple of times during the day for a slightly sweet, healthy snack.
Stay completely hydrated
Water is an important component of any diet. You must stay hydrated with a continual replenishment of water. Dehydration can actually slow down your weight loss. Become one of those people who always have a bottle of water in their hands or sitting next to them as they work. Hydration not only helps the body burn fat efficiently, it also helps control your hunger.
A high-quality aloe concentrate added to your water can be an excellent aid in keeping your digestive tract working at its best. Also consider taking a probiotic supplement to assist in maintaining healthy intestinal flora.
Keep Your eye on the prize – stay motivated
If you are like most of us, once you decide to begin a serious weight-loss program and commit yourself to the process, there is a sense of right-mindedness and excitement about the end result; and, the excitement mounts as the pounds began to fall off, one-by-one. Keep that feeling alive in your mind and tap into it whenever doubt and discouragement start to creep in.
Remember what helped you make the decision to start losing weight. Think about your primary motivation and see if it still works, or if you need to find a stronger motivation. Then, keep reminders in critical places such as your master bathroom mirror and/or the refrigerator.
A picture of you looking great is often helpful – maybe a before and after from years past – maybe a favorite dress or new suit, or the perfect swimsuit for your summer vacation that you can’t wait to wear.
We all have our hot points – for me it is simply the way I feel when I a slim that motivates me the most. What is yours? I know you have one (or two). Find it and keep it clearly in your mind’s eye – or physically where you can see it every day.
Most important of all – don’t forget – THE PLATEAU IS TEMPORARY. Don’t let it defeat you.
The world of diet and exercise is continually adding new possibilities from which you can choose. Choose wisely!
A new study published in the International Journal of Obesity shows that one reason people tend to gain back the weight they lost comes from the tendency to overeat when a diet ends resulting in a malfunction of the stomach’s “full” signal. The stomach quickly adapts to receiving more food than necessary and the “full” signals are not sent. The result is continued over-indulgence and of course, weight gain.
There is no question that a healthy diet is critical for good health. The impact of a healthy diet shows up both internally and externally. Not only do you feel better, have more energy and reduce your risk of illness (including some types of cancer) – you also look better for a longer period of time because eating right slows the aging process
What you eat also affects your emotional health – especially depression. Studies have shown that diets made up of primarily vegetables, fruits, lean meats, low-fat dairy and coffee help lessen the effects of depression.
2014 Trends for Increased Fitness
If you do nothing more than change your diet to a healthy one, you will be moving in the right direction and will begin to feel better fairly quickly, once your body adjusts to the change.
However, if you want to be completely healthy – and fit – exercise must be part of your lifestyle. Even if you continue to carry a few extra pounds, exercise is important. In fact, you can be fit in spite of some extra weight.
Your focus should always be on maintaining overall good health – which includes cardiovascular, organ, and muscle health. Weight loss is primarily connected to what you eat and can be enhanced by an exercise program (although it is not necessarily a must); but . . . you cannot be fit without exercise.
To be fit AND healthy, you must begin with the foundation of eating a healthy diet. Meal planning is key! Some individuals fall into the trap of thinking that if they exercise for “X” number of hours several days a week that they can eat anything they want and still lose weight. That is faulty thinking.
The most effective path to fitness is to establish a healthy diet (eat well) and begin to think about exercise differently. You must focus on being healthy and getting in shape – not on weight loss. Since we have already discussed the healthy diet, let’s look at some of the current popular trends in fitness.
This particular trend works quickly. CrossFit is a combination of cardio workouts with weight training, plus other exercises such as running, jumping rope and KettleBall. In fact, it is so popular and effective that you may have seen it on realty TV weight loss shows. It is also used by professional trainers, some military units and law enforcement.
Get Paid to Get Fit
If you need extra motivation, there are a few sites that will pay you to lose weight and get fit. There are others where you can “bet on yourself.” You ante up a certain amount and if you meet your goal, you double your earnings and if you do not – you lose what you paid.
Zumba was the hot item for getting and staying fit and is still around; but, seems to be “old news” today. The new trend is SH’BAM™ – dance-inspired cardio. Quotation from the website: “The perfect way to shape up and let out your inner star – even if you’re dance challenged.”
A 45-minute workout starts with stretches to loosen and warm-up the muscles, followed by the cardio portion with Latin and Hip-Hop style dancing to contemporary music, then – a cool-down stretch.
Dance experience and a talent for dancing are not required – the moves are simple enough for anyone to follow. It’s about having fun and MOVING. The great benefit is that each workout burns ~500 calories.
This is a great choice for people who love to jump or have experience working on a trampoline (mini or regular). KangooJumps are much more portable than a mini-trampoline. As you can see, the shoes have a futuristic flair. They also carry a large price tag ($200+).
The springs on the bottom create the bounce and prevent any pressure on your joints – while giving you a great full body workout.
If you are into this kind of exercise, it is possible to burn 25% more calories when you walk, run, jump and dance using these sports shoes. You can also let the kid in you come out to play by jumping through rain puddles without worrying about harming the shoes.
As we move on toward the end of 2014, you will see more diet and exercise trends come and go – as we do every year. With all the realty shows and magazines following every move of well-known celebrities – all it will take is for one celebrity to talk about losing a few pounds and within a short time the next “perfect diet” or exercise routine will be introduced.
Instead of being swayed by the hype, take the time to look around and choose a healthy diet and solid exercise plan that suits your body and your personal health needs.