If you are just starting it is critical to take measure of where you are so that you can quantify your progress, even if it is something difficult to measure like “I don’t feel very well again today”. You goal may be weight loss but pay attention to other important elements that may be effected by adopting the Mediterranean Diet. These might include less belly fat, reduced clothes sizes, lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar level, higher energy, restful sleep, less acid reflux, better or longer exercise, clearer sinuses, better mood, positive feedback from others, as well as weight loss. Take a baseline of what is important to you and keep track.
Why measure other things?
Why might we want to measure beyond simple weight loss? We want to do that because health and wellness is more than just getting to your ideal wealth. Measuring other important factors can also give us incentive to continue during the “dark times” of our journey when it is so easy to lose hope and when we need to break through the body’s effort to undermine the change. What you measure if a personal decision that is based on what you feel or have been told is important. You might also pick more than one measurement so that even if one is temporarily stalled you can celebrate progress elsewhere while adopting the Mediterranean Diet.
Belly fat is a good starting place as it is an easy one to spot on yourself and others and is liked to emotional hot buttons such as attractiveness. For many belly fat is considered unsightly and it’s the prime indicator of whether or not you are overweight. Belly fat also has very real health implications as carrying excess belly fat is now consider a risk for heart disease. Measurement is very straightforward and is done by using a paper tape and measuring the same spot (navel) each week. Keeping track of before and after and your progress is useful.
Another health related measurement is blood pressure, as elevated blood pressure is another indicator of cardiac health and many take medication to lower their blood pressure. You likely already know your blood pressure and home blood pressure devices are cheap and plentiful. They are also accurate; my pediatric cardiologist (long story) uses an automated blood pressure device in his office to get consistent results. Like belly fat blood pressure an indicator of overall health and specifically cardiac health and heart disease. Your goals with blood pressure many vary from lowering your blood pressure while taking less medications to eliminating the blood pressure medications altogether. Even a little progress with blood pressure is cause for celebration, this is good one to track along with your other goals.
Blood sugar (or glucose) level is an important measurement for an increasing number of us as diabetes and prediabetes seems like it at epidemic level. If you have either of these conditions then you are already aware of your fasting glucose levels and any progress you can make toward bring the number under 105 mg/dl is going to improve your health. Measuring the effect of adopting and sustaining the Mediterranean Diet should be straightforward and easy. As with the other alternative goals keeping track of your progress is important.
Another health-related factor that can be measured or at least felt is acid reflux. Many of us suffer from acid reflux and as you get older and your stomach flora and fauna change on sometimes the result is acid reflux. If you’re like me and combining intermittent fasting with the Mediterranean diet and typically only eat in the morning and then fast from 11AM until the next morning then you greatly reduce chance of having acid reflux because sleeping in the prone position creates the right environment for reflux. Some of the causes of acid reflux that are addressed by the Mediterranean Diet include: large meals, especially at night, obesity, alcohol or caffeine, eating later in the day, smoking, and certain blood pressure medications.
Clothes sizes is another popular way to measure progress with any effective diet and is usually the easiest way to determine if you’re losing weight and reshaping your body. If you have had substantial weight gains or losses you know how difficult and expensive it can be to dress comfortably and fashionably. Fitting into clothes that have been relegated to the back of the closet can be a thrill and is good way to measure progress. Clothing may also be the best incentive for taking the difficult and challenging step of maintaining the Mediterranean Diet, even before summer bikini season.
Higher energy is one of the most widely reported benefits of losing weight by adopting the Mediterranean Diet. Whether it is from better food choices or a higher metabolism through exercise most of us get a sustained energy boost that allows us to be more productive and feel better. Some of us don’t notice that poor diet and exercise choices have drained of us energy and fully adopting this way of eating and lifestyle helps us recover our energy. The follow on effect is that with more energy you can exercise more and have even more energy. A related benefit to having more energy is a stronger immune system, more resilience, and the ability to exercise longer and harder. Many athletes have attributed enhanced performances during training and competitions due to dietary changes that allow peak performance. If it works well for top athletes it will work for you as well. Measuring energy is more subjective but the more that you tune into how you are feeling the easier it will be to make that judgement.
Directly related to increased energy and perhaps just as important is restful sleep. Numerous studies point out that in modern society sleep deprivation is the rule not the exception, with people citing working multiple jobs, juggling kids activities, long commute times, apnea, reflux, and many other factors as the reasons for lack of sleep. While adopting the Mediterranean Diet does not address all of these factors there are many reports of people with problems getting and staying asleep have more restful night’s sleep, waking up with more energy and feeling refreshed. Like higher energy this one is more difficult to measure, but you certainly will know when you have enjoyed numerous better nights’ sleep.
Mood and Feedback
Two other benefits that are important but harder to measure are mood and feedback from others. Much like energy, mood is often difficult to self-assess, you may want to look to others for their feedback on your mood. People that are feeling better from adopting this way of eating report better and more consistent moods. This makes sense because if you feel better, and can feel better about yourself because you are accomplishing your goals then it makes sense that your mood will improve. And while we can’t rely on those around us to celebrate our successes, when they do it is very motivating. While this is also difficult to measure, other’s support of your success can be wonderful and highly motivating.
To your success!