I have always claimed to welcome change. To relish it, in fact. To lean into it with great expectations. But sometimes I find myself resisting change for no apparent reason. It is as if change represents a discomforting disturbance to the status quo; the current state of affairs I have come to appreciate more than I realized. Laziness probably accounts for some of that resistance. But fear must play a part, as well; fear that change could reveal inadequacies and, therefore, failure. When I contemplate these matters—looking inward and trying to be honest with myself—I get the sense that I might have been a pretty astute psychologist, except for the fact that I am missing a thousand other necessary attributes. It’s a matter of “necessary but not sufficient.” But there I go again, veering off track.
Change imposed on us is harder to accept than change we initiate. Resistance to change imposed on us might be fueled by our distaste for either losing control or ceding it to someone or something else. But fear, again, is probably the most likely culprit. We are afraid of the unknown that accompanies change. Something as simple as considering a haircut can spark that resistance, that fear. “What will people think of me if I cut off my long hair? Will I no longer be viewed as pretty or attractive?” Frequently, I think, our resistance to change is based, at least in part, on the fear of how it will impact others and/or their perceptions of ourselves. The changes we dread most, I think, are the changes that confuse us about what they might represent in our lives and in how we view ourselves.
The Mediterranean diet is not a diet at all. Rather, it is a lifestyle represented in the preparation and consumption of food. People who live in the Mediterranean do not follow a prescribed meal plan, nor is there a uniform diet or menu common to the region. In fact, plenty of people in that part of the world eat foods that are unhealthy; plenty of those same people live unhealthy lifestyles. But, by and large, people in the region tend to live a dietary style that many, if not most, doctors and dietitians promote as wise and healthy. In a nutshell, here is how many domestic dietitians describe how we (the rest of the world) can follow the Mediterranean diet, thereby getting many of the same health benefits as people who live in the region and come by the culinary lifestyle naturally:
Fruits and Vegetables
3 servings (½ to 1 cup per serving) of fruit per day (1 serving = ½ to 1 cup)
3+ servings ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw per serving) of vegetables per day
Legumes (beans & lentils)
3 servings (½ cup per serving) per week
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
At least 1 tablespoon per day, but no more than 4 tablespoons per day)
Fish (focusing on those high in omega-3 fatty acids)
3 servings (3-4 ounces per serving)
Note: Salmon, sardines, herring, tuna and mackerel are all rich in omega-3.
At least 3 servings (1 ounce or 1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons nut butter per serving) per week
Note: Walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are especially recommended.
Whole Grains & Starchy Vegetables
3-6 servings per day (1/2 cup cooked, 1 slice of bread or 1 ounce dry cereal per serving)
Note: Potatoes, peas, and corn are among the most commonly mentioned starchy vegetables
Maximum of 2 to 3 servings (3 to 4 ounces per serving) of skinless white meat poultry per week, baked, broiled, or grilled.
Dairy & Eggs
Maximum of 2 servings (1 cup per serving) of low-fat milk and 1 egg per day; limit cheese to 3 servings (1 ounce per serving) per day.
While many dietitians recommend completely avoiding red meat (beef, pork, veal, lamb), they say if we insist we should limit our intake to no more than 1 serving of lean meat (3 ounces per serving) per week.
Other recommendations are to dramatically limit the intake of alcohol and the consumption of baked goods and desserts; nothing new, of course. But reasonable and logical.
With these recommended guidelines, it appears to me it would be a pretty simple process to develop a weekly or monthly menu, which in turn could be readily translated into a grocery shopping list. In my case, given some additional restrictions placed on me by doctors who say certain foodstuffs would be especially hard on my digestive system, the process might not be quite so easy, but it’s certainly not an insurmountable challenge. And, in my case, the benefits of following the rough guidelines of a Mediterranean diet would include much-needed weight loss.
All of the previous comments heretofore notwithstanding, Italy is a member country of the Mediterranean region. Last night, as I watched the last episode of the penultimate season and the first episode of the final season of The Sopranos, I became ravenously hungry as I watched the characters consume massive amounts of pasta with all manner of sauces that looked incredibly appetizing. How, then, can I ascribe to Italian food any “healthier than thou” attributes? How does that Mediterranean meal fit into a scenario in which the Mediterranean diet represents the holy grail of healthy eating? These are, of course, rhetorical questions. “Too much of a good thing”…and all.
The changes we dread most may contain our salvation.
~ Barbara Kingsolver ~