The Checkup: Me minus 10, the Mediterranean diet

By Jennifer LaRue Huget
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 8, 2010; 11:32 AM

I am pretty well convinced that the Mediterranean diet is good for your health and particularly for your heart. And I know its components -- from fish and fiber-rich vegetables and nuts to olive oil and wine -- are delicious, particularly when enjoyed in the company of friends and family.

So why am I not adhering to the Mediterranean ways while I march along my Me Minus 10 path?

I hadn't thought about it until I was writing this week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about the death of K. Dun Gifford, founder of the Oldways "food think tank" and a leading advocate of the Mediterranean diet. In that column, I try to reconcile his premature death -- from heart failure at age 71 -- with the notion that the Mediterranean diet is supposed to offer protection against just such an outcome.

When my editor asked me whether I had tried the diet, I realized that my current eating patterns in some ways resemble the Mediterranean approach, in other ways not so much. With the help of experts Pam Peeke and Brian Wansink, I've cobbled together a way of eating that works for me right now and, I hope, will continue to serve me for years to come.

That means, for me, lots of lean protein, mostly grilled chicken (and some not-so-lean protein, in the form of peanut butter, which I use sparingly to satisfy my sweet-salty-fat cravings in a relatively nutritious, fill-me-up way) and, yes, some fish. I eat lots of vegetables, though not generally dressed with olive oil, as is the Mediterranean way. I rely heavily on my daily dose of home-made yogurt for protein and calcium. And I continue to enjoy alcohol in moderation, in the form of my nightly martini.

That last bit's not exactly what the Mediterranean diet folks have in mind, though. They'd rather I sipped my drink while eating a meal. But I don't enjoy it as much that way. That martini serves as dessert for me, especially as I don't do sweets any more. (The Mediterranean approach calls for sweets in moderation and for enjoying fruit as dessert.)

I used to eat tons of bread and nuts and at least my share of pasta; the Mediterranean folks are big on all three. But I've found that cutting way back on them has made a huge difference in my waistline. I may one day learn to indulge more modestly than before, but for now I'm happy with the difference their absence has made.

So, how am I doing with Me Minus 10? Really well. To find out just how well, you'll have to wait until July 8, when "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" will be about my progress, the things that I've found have worked best for me and the things that didn't work for me well at all. I will actually be in Italy -- Mediterranean diet central -- that week. That will be the first big test of my new eating and exercise routine, seeing if they can survive a 10-day trip to Europe.

When I launched Me Minus 10, a number of readers pledged to join me in my journey. I wonder how many of you have actually done so -- and how you are doing. Please contact me at and tell me about You Minus 10!

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