Episode 21: The Mediterranean Diet
Interest in the Mediterranean Diet began in the 1950s, when it was noted that heart disease was not as common in the Mediterranean countries as it was in the United States. There are no concrete rules for how to follow the Mediterranean diet, but there are many general guidelines that are covered in this episode. This episode's segments on mistakes - the what, why and cost - beginning at 13:00, are valuable insights no matter which eating plan you are following. There is also advice for melding the Mediterranean Diet eating plan with any plan you are following. There is no reason to ditch something you are comfortable with in order to follow some of the healthy principles of the Mediterranean eating lifestyle.
1:11. Listener of the week
1:45. Personal Story
4:40. The Mediterranean Diet
13:00. What mistakes are we making?
14:35. Why are we making these mistakes?
15:43. What is the cost of making these mistakes?
17:02. Calling out a new way
19:02. This week's actionable COACHING ADVICE
21:25. This week's VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
22:19. Episode 22, coming up
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Book
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Course
THIS WEEK'S VFO: The Brilliance of Chocolate Cake
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Facebook page
Roadmap To Diet Success Instagram
ACCESS Transcript Here
Article on Mediterranean Diet
Episode #: 21. The Mediterranean Diet
You’re Listening to the Roadmap to Diet Success, Episode #21, The Mediterranean Diet.
Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Breaking Free From Diet Prison, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl!
Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!
1:11 Listener of the Week
It’s time to highlight another listen of the week. This week’s review is from Reneepj, and she gave the podcast five stars! The title of the review is SENSE! She said, “Sensible guidance given in an easily digestible way. Miriam knows this issue — she can help you find YOUR way!”
Thank you Reneepj, and I am so glad you are enjoying the podcast!
1:45 Personal Story
Now on to this week’s episode…
My first foray into anything but American or Jewish cooking was when I met my husband, a handsome Lebanese fellow who could barely speak English. We met when I was a belly dancer in New York City, and he was a waiter at a Lebanese restaurant. At the time, my day job was working as a secretary at a law firm. I met this handsome fellow and wanted to learn to cook him something. I bought two copies of A Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. The reason for the two copies is that I kept one at home for use, and one in my desk drawer at work for research. I had never in my life had – or heard of – any of the recipes in that cookbook. Not even things that are popular today like hummus and pita bread. I never had a piece of feta cheese, and I certainly didn’t know what baklava was! This was in 1976, and I still have the cookbook on my shelf!
My friends, this was in the olden days – before the internet, before podcasts, before any lifestyle diets came into popularity. In other words, before anything that made it easy. The other side of not having access was also that I was not overwhelmed. I found one cookbook and I learned to cook from it. My husband and I went on to own a Lebanese restaurant of our own. I had a cooking column in the local Brooklyn newspaper. My interest in cooking – and particularly this way of eating which is actually one of the branches of the Mediterranean diet – had a chance to unfold nicely, at a pace I could understand and work with.
My strongest advice in all the episodes of Roadmap to Diet Success is to keep it simple. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the eating style possibilities out there. Don’t fall for the latest, greatest diet and health claims. Keep an open mind. Learn the bones. Meld it with how you are already comfortably eating and cooking. Proceed as if it is 1976, with a cookbook at home and the same one in your desk at work.
Because of writing this episode I couldn’t help but look up this cookbook. It is still available, but I also ordered two more of hers, “Claudia Roden’s Mediterranean: Treasured Recipes from a Lifetime of Travel” and “The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York.” See what you made me do? I haven’t even finished writing the episode!
4:40 The Mediterranean Eating lifestyle is a very popular and healthy way to eat.
Before I even begin, I want to address the word “diet.” In the thesaurus the word diet means, selection of food, food and drink, foodstuffs, provisions, edibles, fare; menu, meals; nourishment, nutriment and sustenance. For most of us, diet means diet regime, diet regimen, dietary program and usually, restricted diet. I use Mediterranean eating lifestyle interchangeably with Mediterranean diet, but when you hear the term “Mediterranean diet,” it is only meant in the spirit of food and drink and sustenance. It has nothing to do with a regimented diet. Don’t make it so!
Interest in the Mediterranean eating lifestyle began in the 1950s when it was noted that heart disease was not as common in the Mediterranean countries as it was in the United States. Since that time, there has been a great deal of research showing that the Mediterranean diet promotes heart health, with links to lowering risks of heart disease and stroke. It has been shown to decrease insulin resistance, reduce inflammation and may even protect against cognitive decline such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In the show notes and transcript, there is a link to a general article which, in turn, will direct you to specific studies. I read several of them and the most notable thing was that some of these were long-term studies in human subjects, not with mice running mazes, which can often be the case in nutritional studies.
There are no concrete rules for how to follow the Mediterranean diet, but there are many general guidelines that I will cover in this episode. Even though one of the guidelines is to eat healthy whole grains, you can even follow this diet with Paleo or Keto, just omitting the grains. There is no dictate that you must eat grains, but when you do, they should be whole and heart healthy. I just wanted to bring this up because when I read off the guidelines for you, it is important to understand that nothing is absolute. I find the Mediterranean diet more of an “eat this not that” type of diet. For instance, when fresh fruit is recommended but you are following Keto, you do not have to have a full variety that is recommended, and berries will do. However, that being said, one of the bonuses of following the Mediterranean style is its recommendation for a full spectrum of foods and food groups.
Let’s start with why it is called the Mediterranean diet. That is sort of a no-brainer in that it is obviously the way people eat in the Mediterranean area. However, a lot of listeners may think that it is limited to Greek or Italian. In fact, it represents the eating styles of all the countries that border on the Mediterranean including France, Spain and many of the Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon. Understand that the word style and the word cuisine are not necessarily interchangeable. The style is to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy fats, with a restriction on processed foods with added sugar and refined grains. The cuisine is how these foods are prepared and which spices and herbs are used.
A little further detail is fish and seafood, which would include what is popular in that area such as sardines, mackerel, sea bass, trout, tuna, shrimp, crab, mussels and oysters. They, less often, have poultry such as chicken and duck, and rarely have red meat, although lamb, of course, is popular in the Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines. Popular spices and herbs would be garlic, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Each individual cuisine brings its own spices to the table. The heart-healthy fats are olives and olive oil and avocados and avocado oil. Whole healthy grains include buckwheat, oats, brown rice, barley and rye. Whole wheat bread and pasta are also allowed. Just be aware that many of the whole wheat breads and pastas we have available here are enriched because the original vitamins and minerals have been removed in the processing and are added back in. Many of these whole-grain foods are as processed and empty as non-whole wheat varieties. It pays to read labels and to make sure you are getting the best quality whole wheat products as you can find.
The restrictions on foods would be processed meats and highly processed foods such as fast foods and even something like microwave popcorn. Sugar-sweetened beverages are also limited or eliminated. And, speaking of beverages, red wine in moderation is allowed, but is not necessary – don’t start drinking wine if you don’t already! Coffee and tea are popular but watch your cream and sugar. Definitely stay away from processed and flavored creamers. In any case, as with all healthy eating styles, water is your go to beverage.
Healthy snacks are abundantly available such as a handful of nuts, fruit or berries. If you feel you need some protein, snacks would include hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, hummus or cottage cheese, for examples.
If I had to say what eating lifestyle this most resembles, it would be Paleo or Primal, but with the addition of legumes and healthy grains. As with those two eating styles, weight loss is not necessarily a result of following a Mediterranean diet. HOWEVER, if you learn your hunger scale and especially learn your satiety cues, you will, most likely, lose weight because these whole and natural foods will pleasantly satisfy you with no need to keep eating unless you are intentionally ignoring your satiety cues.
Get started with this eating style by building your meals around vegetables, beans and whole grains. Eat fish at least twice a week. Use olive oil instead of butter when preparing food and serve fresh fruit for dessert. There are dozens – if not hundreds – of cookbooks that will guide you with recipes for the Mediterranean diet but remember what I said in Episodes #15 and #16, Grocery Shopping and Kissing, respectively, that you do not need to burden yourself with dozens of new cookbooks, recipes or ingredients to start a new eating style. In the case of this one, what I outlined for you above should be sufficient to plan your meals and grocery lists. Also remember what I said about each eating style having its own bones. Those are what I gave you. Once you understand these bones then look at cookbooks and recipes and start to fill out your pantry.
13:00 What mistakes we making?
· As with all the eating plans I have covered so far in this podcast, the biggest mistake is thinking that something new is complicated. It does not have to be. Just understand the bones.
· You will notice that the Mediterranean style claims better heart health, lowered blood pressure, improved blood sugar numbers, and fortification against cognitive decline. My lovelies, almost all healthy eating styles – such as the ones already covered in this podcast – can lay claim to those results and even back it up with research. The mistake we make is jumping on the latest and greatest eating style bandwagon that makes these promises. If we hear about its bones and say – “YES, that is the way I want to eat,” that’s different. Do it because you want to and feel that it will truly meld with what and how you like to eat. But don’t make the mistake of jumping ship on what you are doing because the latest and greatest just passed by.
· We make the mistake of thinking that we must give up everything we are familiar with in order to follow a new eating style. Sometimes incorporating a new style into how you already eat is the slow boat you need to take. How about eliminating packaged snacks and fast food, but leave the sardines for later?
14:35 Why are we making these mistakes?
· We make these mistakes because we are impatient and don’t take the time to really learn the bones. If you can’t hold it all in your head, make that simple Yes/No list that I suggested in Episode #16, KISS.
· We make these mistakes because we are impatient, but this time with results. If you follow a calorie-restricted diet, yes you will see weight loss in a week or two and may even see improvement in numbers such as blood pressure and blood sugar. However, with an overhaul of an eating style, more patience is needed to start seeing the results you are after. We neglect to understand that the more slowly we make an adjustment, the longer lasting will be the results.
· We make these mistakes because we are coming off an all-or-nothing way of looking at things. You have a closed mind about maybe melding Paleo with Mediterranean. It’s all possible if you want to make it work.
15:43 What is the cost of making these mistakes?
· The first cost is the overwhelm of learning yet, again, another eating lifestyle.
· The second cost is, because of the overwhelm, we get into that negative self-talk loop of thinking that we’ll never get it, we’re stupid, we don’t deserve health, etc.
· The third cost is that we never realize the benefit of moving to a healthy eating lifestyle such as Mediterranean because we don’t give it enough time. It is not easy to overhaul the way we eat and when we do, the results are not instant. The cost is that we are not good to ourselves because we are not patient enough with ourselves and our new eating lifestyle.
· The fourth cost is thinking we must give up everything familiar to move on to something new. With the example above with Paleo, if you like where the Mediterranean diet leads, such as more fish, interesting spices with the different cuisines, less reliance on red meat, then keep the Paleo principles of no grains and no legumes but incorporate more of what you understand about Mediterranean.
17:02 I want to call out a new way of doing things
· I want you to throw your quick-fix mentality into the trash. If the Mediterranean diet intrigues you and you think you might want to give it a whirl, I want you to take the time and learn the bones.
· I want you to find the way you can best learn the bones. It could be listening to this episode again and writing down what I have told you are the main foods, and the main things that go on the NO side of the list. You can go to the transcript of this show (the link is in the show notes) and it is all written out there for you. You can look it up on the internet – there are many fine articles from reputable sources such as the Mayo clinic, WebMD, Healthline, etc. Even popular recipe sites that say they are giving recipes for the Mediterranean diet usually also have some wonderful instruction for you.
· If you must, invest in a reputable cookbook. Amazon reviews will usually lead you towards good ones, or if you are in a Facebook group, some come highly recommended. Learn a few new recipes but promise me you won’t go all out until you learn the simple side of things using the bones.
· If you are invested in an eating style already – such as Paleo or Keto – look to see where there is overlap between the two styles, or what you can add to the style you are already eating. I want to recommend a cookbook here, that makes the point: Mediterranean Paleo Cooking by Caitlin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar and Diane Sanfilippo. There are over 150 recipes, all pictured, and all both Mediterranean and Paleo.
19:02 HERE IS YOUR ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE FOR THIS WEEK:
· If you think you may be interested in the Mediterranean diet but are doing something else, I urge you to not immediately abandon what you are doing, but instead, take the time to either listen to this episode again or go to the transcript and start by making a simple Yes/No list for yourself. What I have given you in this episode does not include nearly all the variety that is popular with this style, so use this only as a starting point. See what variety there is in the foods listed in all the categories.
· Find a good Facebook group, such as Mediterranean Diet for Beginners, or something specific if you need it, such as Mediterranean Diet for Diabetics. But, if you are going to go in as a beginner remember what I said in Episode #16, KISS – don’t be shot down by the food police or the food snobs – all groups have them. Instead take the kind advice and especially the advice given by the administrators. But in any case, usually you will get advice about great beginner recipes, shopping lists, and resources.
· Go back to Episode #15, Grocery Shopping, and make just a few days of meal plans and make your grocery list. Don’t buy ALL the things, just what you need for a few days. Don’t follow ALL the recipes, pick just one or two at the most, for your first few weeks. Keep it Simple.
· If you have a family to cook for, you might want to go back and give a second listen to Episode #14, Cooking for the Family. The reason for listening is two-fold: Make sure you are your own support system, and also gather some ideas of how to make the Mediterranean diet work for family meals. Out of all the programs we have covered so far in this podcast, the Mediterranean diet might be the most family friendly where you feel the least left out (if that is a problem for you). The family might have to adjust to less processed foods, but all in all, the cooking style should make them very happy.
21:25 This week’s VFO – Valuable Free Offer
Your VFO this week is my Brilliance of Chocolate Cake booklet. It is important to understand that your overeating behavior, or even your sweet tooth are not moral issues. It is science why we prefer these foods, and why we sometimes cannot stop ourselves from overeating. Your brain lights up when you feed your body pleasurable things. It is nothing to be ashamed about and nothing to apologize for. It ties into next week’s episode so perfectly, and that is why I would like you to download it this week if you haven’t already done so. It is available at miriamhatoum.com/brilliance and as always, the direct link is in the show notes and transcript.
22:19 Next week’s episode
Next week’s episode is about forgiving yourself. In Episode #6, Using Your Hunger Scale, I spoke to this, saying that overeating is not a moral issue. You are not a good person or a bad person based upon what you eat and how much you eat. Although there are many head hunger and heart hunger issues at play, which were covered in Episodes #19 and #20, the fact remains that there are physical reasons too. Forgiving ourselves is so important in our weight loss journey. Why would we ever do something kind for someone we hate? Learn more in the next episode, Forgiving Ourselves And Moving On.
So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Roadmap to Diet Success.
And, if you like what you hear, please like and subscribe, and remember to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find the show. Also, don’t be a stranger. Come on over to my Facebook page, Breaking Free from Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to see on the show.
Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.