It is not just enough to pick up a recipe book and start cooking. This way of eating is sustainable and enjoyable but does take planning, cooking, some discipline and the will and ability to change to make it stick. Learning some key concepts will ensure success and allow you to lose weight and feel great on the Mediterranean Diet. Understanding some common behavioral traits such as moral licensing, and the limits of willpower will also be helpful in effecting a permanent change to a healthy way of eating and lifestyle.
First it might be a good idea to refresh your knowledge on the difference between protein, carbohydrates, and fat as well as the most recent findings of nutritionist and researchers. Modern diets focus on the restriction of one or more of these essential dietary components. The reasoning behind the various diets has changed drastically over the last four decades. Recall that margarine took the place of butter in many people’s diets because butter had fat, the thinking being that eating fat makes one fat. We now know that some high fat foods are very healthy, in addition the brown fat known as BAT that the body can create and store is very good for us. Monounsaturated fat, known as oleic acid is healthy for us, particularly as part of a high fiber avocado.
Essentially artificial trans fats and saturated fats lead to weight gain and cardiovascular disease whereas mono and unsaturated fats help manage your moods, stay mentally focused, control weight and fight fatigue. What this means is that by following recipes closely, and ensuring that your ingredients such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) are high quality, will help your body heal and help you to lose weight without necessarily feeling deprived.
Eating proteins like legumes, nuts, beans and some seafood will provide most people with ample protein. A good rule of thumb is having protein be 20 – 30% or more of your daily calories. Be aware that proteins are important for weight loss as they boost your metabolic rate (burning calories) and reduce your appetite. This calculates out to 50 to 90 grams per day for the average male and 45-75v grams each day for the average female. As with the fats, the Mediterranean Diet doesn’t require that you count calories, just watch your portion control and follow the recipes to get the right balance of macronutrients.
Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for your body. Your body breaks down sugars and starches for absorption into your bloodstream where they become blood sugar. Those sugars are needed by the body for everything from breathing to thinking about what you want for breakfast. By the way, our brains use glucose, or sugar for fuel, burning about 20% of calories used each day. And no, thinking hard doesn’t really burn more calories. Our brains need those sugars to function properly. Restricting carbohydrates can make you lethargic and unable to focus on simple tasks.
Carbohydrates are crucial for healthy weight control, particularly the fiber component of this macronutrient. Fiber is only found in carbohydrates, and can make you feel full or satiated quickly, and fiber is generally low in calories for the weight, letting dieters feel full on less calories than the other macronutrients.
Dietary fiber increases the level of LDL cholesterol, the cholesterol that reduces the amount of plaque accumulating in your arteries. In addition high fiber helps with proper digestion, reducing indigestion and constipation. The insoluble fiber, known as roughage help move other foods through the digestive track and adds bulk to the stool. This facilitates bowel movements, promoting regularity.
As mentioned, you will want to stick with complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber. The fiber helps regulate your blood sugar by slowing the absorption. It is recommended that you get at least one half of your carbohydrates from whole grains. Some specific examples of includes:
Steel cut Oatmeal
Whole-grain breakfast cereals and pasta
Black, Pinto, Navy, Soy, Garbanzo Beans
In addition to what to eat, the other two areas of importance are how much to eat and when to eat. Portion control is critical to success in any weight loss plan, and there are a few ways to ensure you are eating the right amount. One obvious way is to only prepare the right amount of food for your portion. Be careful of those extras that are available of someone in your family doesn’t finish their meals. If food cannot be saved for another time it is very common to “not waste food” that you did not intend to eat because of training we probably got in childhood. Phrases like “finish your plate” are commonplace and I myself struggle with nibbling a bit of something left over from a child who did not finish his plate. Determining the right portion may be difficult; if you are accustomed to overeating it is amazing how quickly your stomach will shrink, reducing hunger pangs and enabling you to eat less and less without discomfort. This is especially true if you are eating the aforementioned proteins.
There are differences of opinion on when is the best time to eat. I prefer to exercises before eating when possible, especially after an overnight or longer fast. This habit ensures a successful autophagy, or cleaning of old cells including fat. Although it is difficult socially I also don’t care to eat in the evening, limiting or eliminating my evening meal to something closer to the size of a snack. I find it is generally better to eat in the morning then taper off, but of course not everyone is the same. I do know that eating a large meal before sleeping will be counterproductive to weight loss so if that is your goal eat early, go to bed a little hungry.
It will serve you well to become knowledgeable about this way of eating. As you focus on eating the proper foods at the right times in he right amounts you will naturally become more attuned to your body and pretty soon your body will crave only good food. We have seen this happen over and over in our Mediterranean Diet Facebook Group, so much so that is no longer a surprise. Inform yourself with articles, find recipes you like and stay motivated and you will soon feel the benefits, and know that they are easy to maintain and sustain.
To Your Health!