So what’s the magic, then? What’s the secret that makes all this make sense?
First of all, think of how we approach diet. Many people in the UK are overweight or obese. And this one single marker of poor health contributes to cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and a closet of disastrous consequences.
And everyone knows that we need to live a healthful lifestyle, without resorting to fad diets. But even though the phrase, “Diets don’t work,” has been said so many times that it is now a tired, overused mantra, no one really seems to know what that even means.
That’s where magic of the Mediterranean approach can help. They are thinner and healthier, but they didn’t get this way by following any of our diets d’jour: they never wore fat-be-gone rings; they never ate margarine; they never avoided eggs; they never ate low fat foods; they never avoided carbs; they never wrung their hands about their blood type; and they never felt like they had to eat every three hours because some theory told them to. They were made thin and healthy by living the same lifestyle they’ve enjoyed for centuries.
It’s who they are, not what they do.
And the promise of the Mediterranean approach is that we can adapt and adopt their eating system as an observational model for ourselves. After all, if we do what they do, we’ll get lower weight, healthier hearts and longer lives. Just like them.
There’s just one problem: We don’t live there.
Bummer, right? We don’t have 2½ hours to eat our lunch, fresh markets on every corner, five weeks of mandatory vacation, and a culture that works to live rather than lives to work. Double bummer. Yes, they are living a healthy lifestyle—but how are we supposed to make that work for us? How are we supposed to “Rosetta Stone” their cultural habits into our lives here at home?
The first key to translating the success of the Mediterranean lifestyle is to stop being so detailed and specific. Followers of this lifestyle don’t care how many carbs are in their baguettes, how many points are in their crème brulee, or how many calories they burn when they take a walk. Micromanaging molecules— whether calories or carbs, points or proteins—is the very definition of a diet, and is never practiced by any healthy culture.
The second key is to focus on principles you know to be true. For example, the Mediterranean people eat food, not synthetics (that’s sugar, not non-nutritive artificial sweeteners; olive oil, not hydrogenated oil; and vegetables, not supplements). Even in the UK, we can adopt the Mediterranean habit of choosing items that are real food, made with real ingredients.
The third key we can adopt is to learn to love our food again. Yes, you need to LOVE your food. It’s a common misconception that the love of food is equivalent to the consumption of food. We are coached to believe that the more you eat, the more you love it. This idea is certainly not one applied by healthy cultures in the Mediterranean. For them, the love of food is less about the quantity eaten and more about the quality enjoyed.
Win, win, and win.
With these keys you can unlock the magic of the Mediterranean approach. And the only thing standing between you and smaller trousers may just be getting past the lessons that this culture has trained you to believe.Dr. Will Clower is the founder and CEO of Mediterranean Wellness. He applies his neuroscience training to teach people how to eat well, lose weight, and love their food again. Based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, Dr. Clower reaches people all over the world through his successful programs, two books on the Mediterranean Diet, national television interviews on The Dr Oz Show, and many other radio and print appearances. His passion and authenticity is inspiring this generation to live life they love again.