The Mediterranean Diet Myth

Much has been written about The Mediterranean Diet and usually the focus is on how much red wine you can drink without feeling ashamed. Occasionally, they mention increasing your consumption of eggplant but mostly they focus on the wine.

Most of the Mediterranean food pyramids I found are missing the essential bottom layer illustrated here:

I especially like the hip movements in the swing dancing.

What we usually fail to overlook is the physical aspect of the mediterranean life. Outdoor living does not entail propping one’s self up in a comfy lounge chair with a colorful, fruity, cocktail and paging through the latest Vogue Italy but rather walking to the grocery store and then home, then to the post office and home again. Later, out to see Aunt Sophie to wish her well after having a rather unpleasant mole removed and home again. One last trip out to check if the car, parked at the city parking lot one kilometer away, is locked and then home.

Where is home? Well, as I have discovered, most Mediterraneans do not live in a cul- du-sac. They live in cities. Small, efficient, little cities in what can only be equated to beehives, heaped one upon the other, reaching towards the sky. They don’t have electric scooters that they power around on and even a bicycle may be a bit of a hassle. They walk with their packages, which, usually equates to them consuming less. They buy local and in small quantities. Because of this they also throw less away since they probably have to carry their garbage to a collective garbage bin, which is located  a good distance from their home.

Based on this, I would say the average 60-year-old in Manarola in the Cinque Terre on the coast of western Italy, gets more exercise than an American suburban mom doing Pilates and Body Pump five times a week. My reasoning? Well, during our trip to Cinque Terre last year we were resting on a shady stoop. Cooling down with a gelato after a strenuous trip up from the train station. We had another 125 steps before we were back at our hotel,  so were carbo-loading, so to speak.

While we were sitting there, I noticed a woman, not exactly in the prime of her life, come out the door of her house. The house was perched on top of several gardens up a ways in the village. She quickly made her way down the steps as if in a hurry. There were a lot of steps as you can see here.

Diet Myth (1)

She made her way down the steps, down to the street and continued downwards into town until she reached the Coop store. She was in the store not more than a minute or so before she emerged with a little something in her hand that I couldn’t identify. It could have been a kilo of sugar or a little box of potato flour – who knows. Then she quickly pranced back up to her house. We suspected she had pasta boiling because she didn’t use more than a five minutes for the whole trip.

Diet Myth (2)

Diet Myth (3)

The steps here represent two flights of stairs in the “flat” part of this village.

We were gob-smacked! This little fireball of a women, well into retirement, trotted down to the store and up again. I didn’t see her pause to catch her breath. Jiminy Crickets! We were winded after walking from the store to where we were sitting. Did I forget to mention it was 35 °C / 95 ºF ?  Even after a few days in this city, we hadn’t gotten any better at lightly jogging up and down the steps.

I think it takes a lifetime of forgetting something at the grocery store to build up that kind of endurance. I certainly wouldn’t want to combine red wine with these narrow, uneven stairs. You would sooner end up in the hospital than on the cover of  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

So, if you are thinking about following the famous Mediterranean Diet, eat what you want and just put your car in storage for a year or better yet go live in Cinque Terre. That will boost your metabolism and your spirits!

Did I forget to tell you that May is International Mediterranean Diet Month? So eat an olive and walk a mile!

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