In the ebb and flow of eating trends in the wellness world, one style of eating seem to continually come out on top. While the Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, Vegan, and intermittent fasting have all gotten a lot of “air play” lately, and indeed people lose weight and “feel great” when they try these programs, year after year annual reports still rank the Mediterranean diet the winner. Out of 41 diets that are studied annually by doctors and nutritionists worldwide, the Mediterranean style of eating, and really their style of “living” wins hands down every time.
Why is this style of eating so superior to other “diets”? Well, I think it is primarily because it is NOT a diet. It is more of a lifestyle, and one which does not look for “quick fixes”, food group elimination, rapid weight loss, restriction of all alcohol and sugar, and long stretches of time with no nourishment for your body. Rather the Mediterranean diet ADDS in more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, organic foods, fresh herbs, healthy fats, legumes, and fish than most people are accustomed to eating on the Standard American Diet (aptly called SAD).
Additionally, the Mediterraneans seem to find true pleasure from food and sharing meals is a time of joy spent with friends and family. They don’t inhale their food while driving to work, checking their emails, and worst of all, walking down a crowded city street, racing to a meeting. Meals are leisurely, food is eaten slowly, perhaps with a glass of wine, and portions are generally quite a bit smaller as well. There is no Olive Garden’s “bottomless bowl” of Spaghetti Carbonara in southern Spain. But people rarely feel “guilt” for eating a small bowl of pasta covered in vegetables, a few shrimp, and fresh herbs.
Mediterraneans also stay active throughout the day, and throughout their lives! By nature, they are not a sedentary culture and also spend more time out of doors in nature. They may have fewer Soul Cycles in Italy or Greece than in the tri-state area, but many people commonly bike and walk to school or work, take walks after their meals, and play sports on the weekend like soccer, tennis, or cycling. Fitness is simply incorporated into the daily routine. I am a huge believer in spending time outside, and like to remind my squash, hockey, and basketball players, that I still expect them to take a nice walk on a Sunday afternoon. Being outside, getting fresh air, Vitamin D, and oxygen to the brain are essential to our mental health, even more than our physical health.
Finally, because the Mediterranean diet is NOT an actual diet, people do not quickly grow bored with their food choices, frustrated by being unable to eat dairy/grains/chocolate/wine when out in restaurants with friends, or rapidly lose several pounds…only to have it pile back on (with a few extra pounds) when they “relax” their routine a bit, and allow a few indulgences. I feel the Mediterranean is so successful because it is sustainable long term, and the results are long term. Who can picture their life without wine, cheese, or bread–and who would even want to? Saluti!