What’s to Love about Dieting?

June 17, 2014 in Foodland, Mediterranean, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Many people still go on diets; often the diet involves eating a certain way that leaves the victims of the diet fad uncomfortably hungry, or they just don’t like the food, or very often they can hardly wait to eat some certain food that is not in the diet. Popular diets are often designed to cut out whole food groups. And the worst problem of diets is that they are usually intended to be temporary; that is, designed to go on, then off; designed to end. Of course, the weight comes back when the eating style/diet ends or changes. The speed the weight comes back is accelerated by how hungry and deprived the dieter felt while on the diet.  The body’s hormones, such as the hunger hormone ghrelin, protect the body from starvation by making eating high calorie foods even more attractive.

I was a ‘dieter’ for many decades – mostly I counted calories. About 15 years ago, however, I decided to stop counting calories and to begin eating the Mediterranean-style of eating all the time. I have to say that it’s been the easiest and most satisfying, enjoyable way of eating and controlling weight at the same time that I’ve tried. The Mediterranean-style of eating can be the end of dieting – it was for me.

There are some excellent reasons to change your style of eating, rather than going on a diet. The Mediterranean-style of eating has been shown in study after study to lower your risk of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks. Now more research is declaring that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain (avoiding dementia and Alzheimer’s disease) and it also can help us avoid some types of cancer. Science is now discovering some of the mechanisms that support the epidemiologists who found the links between the Mediterranean-style of eating so long ago and longer life expectancy. Therefore, health is one very important reason for considering the Mediterranean-style of eating.

One of the most pleasant benefits of changing to the Mediterranean-style of eating is that I’ve not cut out any food groups. I feel so sorry for all the people needlessly getting drawn into gluten-free eating. Certainly, I know that there are those that have Celiac disease and gluten intolerance, but many are being convinced that they have a problem with gluten. The evidence is that they lose weight when they don’t eat gluten. It’s true, that if you cut a starchy food like bread out of your diet and replace it with something with fewer calories you will lose weight, but personally I enjoy the variety of foods available without cutting out foods. I will say that we only have sandwiches for lunch once or twice a month. We more often have salads or a salmon patty on whole-wheat sandwich thins, which are about half the calories of regular bread. I really like the idea of not cutting out food groups, but just limiting how much and how often we have certain foods. It really reduces the emotion of feeling cheated or deprived.

One of the changes that I made when switching up to the Mediterranean-style of eating was changing less healthy fats for healthier fats; for example, we switched from butter to extra virgin olive oil; and eat very little red meat and more fish and some chicken. The fact is that we’ve even moved to many meatless meals. Certainly, it is not necessary to be a vegetarian to embrace the Mediterranean-style of eating. But you can easily adapt meatless meals to the Mediterranean-style of eating.

Other changes are:

  1. Nuts have replaced grabbing a cookie, cracker or sweet treat. We do still have some sweets, but a lower volume and less frequently.
  2. Beans and seeds are included much more frequently than the past. Sliced almonds are always sprinkled on top of our oatmeal or shredded wheat breakfasts.
  3. We use whole grain pasta, crackers and, of course bread. I’m grateful that some food processors make excellent quality whole-wheat pasta now. Brown rice is another of our frequent whole grains and we use it in many different dishes. Besides the additional protein and nutrients in the whole grains, one of the benefits of switching to whole grains is that you don’t have a blood sugar spike and then a crash - enticing you to eat more frequently.
  4. Yet another benefit of the Mediterranean-style of eating is that it includes fat, albeit healthy fats. The fat mostly comes from olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Besides the nutrients that are contained in fat, one nice benefit from fat is that it helps you to feel satisfied. We use olive oil, nuts and seeds moderately, with restraint. Being hungry has prematurely ended more than one diet. This is one of the reasons that you can stay on the Mediterranean-style of eating permanently, rather than dieting on and off. You stay full, satisfied and with a net fewer calories. If hunger comes, you have healthy nut and fruit, or whole-grain snacks available, not processed junk fudes.
  5. And lastly, another benefit is that the Mediterranean-style of eating works for so many different tastes. The choices are vast. You can apply it to Asian dishes, cuisines from countries all around the Mediterranean Sea; really any cuisine (except ‘junk food’ if that’s actually a cuisine) can be made in the style of Mediterranean eating. The main ideas are: lots of vegetables and fruits; seeds, nuts and legumes, olive oil, whole grains, and dairy. Just changing spices and herbs make an entirely different taste experience. Besides the taste, one nice thing about using different herbs and spices generously is that it helps you cut back on salt or eliminate it.

Last night I was in a hurry, I quickly fried a couple of pieces of frozen Mahi Mahi sprinkled with a little spice in a little extra virgin olive oil. Thinly sliced some green cabbage, chopped a big bunch of chives (OK, huge bunch.), chopped some tomato, sliced some grapes in half, and diced some mango. I mixed a sauce together using some Greek yogurt, balsamic vinegar, a little mayo for favor, and a shake of salt and pepper; and then stirred it into the vegetables and fruit. Into a microwave heated whole-wheat tortilla, some broken fish fillet topped with the vegetable mixture.  So you say Mexican tacos are not like this and Mexico is not in the Mediterranean, but I say you can make Mediterranean-style of eating possible from just about anywhere.

Mediterranean-style of eating helps to protect your heart, brain and whole body; the taste is wonderful and you can enjoy it for the rest of your life because it can be varied to always include new delicious and exciting recipes. When you’re eating lots of vegetables, it’s the easiest way that I’ve known to net far fewer calories than any other style of eating, not counting starving yourself and becoming subject to the big weight rebound as your body tries to get past that starvation episode.