By Meri Raffetto, Wendy Jo Peterson
Weight loss is an important issue for many people (and perhaps you) in the world today. You may be looking for a way to lose some weight and think that the Mediterranean diet is the way to go. Choosing a Mediterranean diet isn’t going to be a traditional “diet” or a quick fix.
Rather, it’s a series of healthy lifestyle choices that can get you to your weight loss goal while you eat delicious, flavorful foods and get out and enjoy life. Sounds much better than counting calories and depriving yourself, right?
With that description in mind, you need to focus on a few must-haves with the Mediterranean lifestyle in order to lose weight successfully. You have to pay attention to lifestyle changes, manage your calorie intake through balancing food choices and controlling portions, and increase your physical activity.
Focus on lifestyle changes
The focus of the Mediterranean diet is on your entire lifestyle. Paying attention to lifestyle changes, such as changing your portion sizes and exercising regularly, is the only way to see long-term results. Weight-loss diets come and go, and most can help you lose the weight, but they aren’t something you can live with long term.
The Mediterranean diet helps you pay attention to your individual lifestyle, including the types of foods you eat, the portion sizes you consume, your physical activities, and your overall way of life. You can incorporate these changes into your daily life and create long-term habits that bring you not only weight loss but also sustained weight loss.
- Set realistic, practical, and measurable goals.
- Quit diets once and for all.
- Make time in a fast-paced lifestyle.When incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your lifestyle, your first goal is to try to slow down. Look at all you have on your (figurative) plate and see whether you can start to say “no” to some things so you can free up time for yourself.
- Create small changes that stick.Look at small goals you can integrate into your daily life and do it.
Consider calories without counting them
Calories are one of the most important concepts of weight loss. Basically, calories are the amount of energy in the foods you eat and the amount of energy your body uses for daily activities. Your body constantly needs energy or fuel not only for daily activities such as cooking, cleaning, and exercising but also for basic biological functions (like, you know, breathing).
Everyone has a different metabolic rate that determines how quickly he or she burns calories and depends on factors such as age, genetics, gender, and physical fitness level.
At the end of the day, you can’t lose weight if you eat more calories than you burn through daily activity and exercise. To lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit, but you can do so without actually knowing how many calories you burn. All you have to do is make small changes to your lifestyle, such as reducing portion sizes and exercising more, to reduce your calorie intake.
- Eat more to lose weight.Unlike many weight-loss diets, a Mediterranean style of eating lets you have more food on your plate while still taking in fewer calories. Eat far more low-calorie vegetables and fewer high-calorie meats and grains. As an added bonus, these lower-calorie foods also help you feel more satisfied with your meal instead of feeling deprived.
- Take portion size into account.Paying attention to portion sizes is a far better way to decrease your calorie intake than counting calories. Portion sizes in the Mediterranean are different than they are in the United States, which is one reason folks in the Mediterranean region tend to manage their weights more effectively.
- Watch your fat calories.The Mediterranean diet also allows you to keep track of the calories you get from fat. Although people on the Mediterranean coast eat slightly more fat than is recommended in the United States (35 percent of their calories come from fat, versus the U.S. recommendation of 30 percent), they consume different types of fat, such as the healthy fats from olive oil.
- Increase the activity you love.Exercise is an important component to weight loss and health, especially with the Mediterranean diet. You have to use up some of your calorie intake as energy, or those calories will store as fat. Exercise allows you to not only burn calories but also strengthen your heart, manage stress, and increase your energy level.
Suppress your appetite
Eating a Mediterranean style diet is not only great for your health but can also work as a natural appetite suppressant to help manage your weight. When you eat the right balance of plant-based foods and healthy fats, your body works in a natural way to feel satisfied. Because you’re full, you’re not tempted (at least, not by your stomach) to snack on high-calorie junk food a short while after your last meal.
- Load up on fiber.
- Turn on your fullness hormones.The Mediterranean diet is naturally high in low-glycemic foods, those carbohydrate-containing foods that illicit a lower blood sugar spike. Low-glycemic foods may just help kick on your fullness response. Appetite is controlled by an intricate dance of hormones that trigger the feelings of hunger and fullness.
Control food cravings
Food cravings occur for many reasons, whether they’re physiological, psychological, or a combination of both. For instance, having a stressful day at work may lead to food cravings. Unfortunately, no one-size-fits-all-answer exists to deal with food cravings, but you can do a few things to manage them more effectively.
- Avoid blood sugar spikes.
- Make sure you don’t skip meals or wait longer than 5 hours to eat. Eat a meal or snack every 3 to 5 hours. Eat when you are hungry instead of waiting until you have extreme hunger.
- Eat protein-rich foods and a bit of fat. Include foods such as fish, beans, nuts, or eggs with a fat with each meal to help slow down your digestion
- Eat high-fiber, fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes with each meal and snack. You don’t have to eat these foods all at once, but including some combination of them at meals and incorporating a fruit, veggie, or whole grain with your snacks is a good idea.
- Manage your stress hormones.You can accomplish this by exercising, getting enough sleep, drinking water, practicing deep breathing, meditating, and relaxing. For example, if you are getting ready for a stressful meeting, take a few moments to do some deep breathing. Simply take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and let the air out. Keep repeating for as long as you can. Even a few minutes can help.
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