You might have heard about the Mediterranean here and there and in my field I’ve learned that it is hands down the best for longevity, a good figure, and a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. All these words (except perhaps ‘good figure’) are pretty meaningless when you’re young, but as the years creep by, and the weight creeps up in spite of protestations of ‘but I eat really healthy!’, then perhaps it’s time for a change.
The Australian diet has some fatal flaws in it, perhaps the greatest of which is dessert after dinner every night, closely followed by red meat nearly every day. And amounts! Those same people who protest that they eat really healthy yet still gain weight like there is a magical reason for it, are still eating too much. And will still doth protest that they’re not. And how much is too much anyway? And how much is enough?
Enough is far, far smaller than we’ve been conditioned to think. In fact we’ve been programmed so beautifully by commercial advertising that centres food around a reward, or a ‘you deserve it’ mentality, that by giving ourselves less, we feel cheated, like we’re missing out, it hurts our sense of self-worth. This is the greatest lie of all, because by reducing the amount you eat and ditching the block of chocolate, you do yourself the best favour of all. A long life, a good figure, and no heart disease or diabetes. That sense of missing out, at the unfairness of it all when you don’t get to eat what you want when you want, is nothing more than brilliant marketing. And it’s not helped by friends who can’t handle the changes you make making them feel guilty who will push harder for you to change back so you don’t feel bad about yourself – but I digress, I was in the business of blowing your mind and got sidetracked.
Here is where I blow your mind:
This is the Mediterranean food pyramid. As you can see there are some fundamental differences to the Australian one which dictates that all butter and sugar is bad bad bad but go nuts on the red meat.
The Mediterraneans eat more sweets than meat. Chicken and fish should be far greater dietary staples, pork doesn’t get a mention, and carbs, my god, carbs, are the mainstay of their diet. And when I say carbs, I mean complex ones. Sourdough is a much lower GI than that scary stuff you get in a supermarket. Australians probably don’t even know what half the grains available are even called and yet they’re a staple here.
The biggest surprise to me personally was that Italians and Greeks eat fruit for dessert. Come to think of it, so do Thai’s (blended with ice). There is no puddings, cakes, or pies, they’d be hard pressed to tell you what that low-fat so-called ‘healthy’ muffin is, there is just fruit. Cakes and sweets are for special occasions, family gatherings, the odd snack. It is not a daily food.
What you eat is for life and that is why weight loss diets don’t work (Weight Watchers being the exception and that’s because the mainstay of their approach is portion control and support groups) – as soon as you stop, back it comes. And for some reason, ‘diet’ in this country has come to be equated with flavourless basics like steamed chicken breast with nothing on it and dry flavourless supermarket wholegrain bread. Pull out any decent Italian or Greek cookbook, lose the boring diet food, and start living – for longer.