John Goodman and The Mediterranean Diet
My good friend Jarrett Wright, clued me in to what John Goodman, the actor, has been doing for his health recently. Goodman, 64, had finally had enough of his seesaw battle against obesity and decided to make a concentrated effort to change his life. He took charge, changed the way he lived life, adopted the Mediterranean diet and dropped over 100 pounds. Stop me if this sounds familiar…actually, don’t bother because we both know I’ll just keep typing!
Goodman’s strategy was a multi-pronged assault on obesity. He had a personal trainer help him with both diet and exercise, and they formulated a total wellness plan that, as you can plainly see, has worked for him. The plan was to combine exercise with a healthy diet. Specifically, the Mediterranean diet, of which there has been much recent discussion. But moreover it wasn’t just about making dietary changes – these needed to be lifestyle changes.
I can identify with this – I was in the same position. The term “diet” seems so temporary – or even like a fad. But to transform who you are, it means transforming how you live your life. I had to change how, what and when I ate. A regular exercise regimen was mandatory and so was the most important thing to making this all work …namely, my attitude and outlook. Most of all, I needed to step back from the kind of lifestyle that led to the obesity in the first place and just breathe. Goodman recognized that too.
The Pace of Life
A cornerstone piece to Goodman’s plan was that the pace of which you are living your life needs to slow down. It creates peace of mind, freedom and time to give attention to your health. I found that to be VERY true. Thinking about my health was important and making healthy choices is an intentional process. Being in the moment and making a healthy choice gives you control over your days and your health.
The alternative is living in a rushed way. Imagine rushing out of work, stressed because you didn’t get as much done as the 23 year old in the next cubicle. Then you pick up fast food because you don’t have time to do anything else …little Billy has soccer practice, then it’s on to Miriam’s kickboxing tournament and finally back to school to get Ingrid after chess club. By the time you get home you are exhausted and you haven’t even seen your spouse yet. You better hope they’ve had a good day after all the running around you have done.
The Priority List
To help change up his lifestyle, Goodman made a list of 5 strategies to reduce stress. They were:
- Have a prioritized to-do list, and cut out the non-essential items.
- Learn to say no.
- Schedule you time each day.
- Schedule time for physical activity.
- Learn to delegate.
The Exercise Plan
Goodman started with walking by making the commitment to hit 10,000 steps per day. After 3 months, he upped that to 20,000 steps. Additionally he used treadmills and elliptical machines to aid in hitting these goals. If evening rolled around and he had not yet hit his steps, he would go out walking until he got there. Additionally he would play tennis 3 times a week for an hour-long session.
As his success mounted, his trainer developed a set of core exercises for him. Here is his plan:
Spiderman Push Up
- Assume a regular push up start position.
- As you lower into the bottom push up position, bring your left knee up to meet the elbow. Be sure to keep your butt down.
- Exhale as you push up, returning the leg to the start position as you do so. Repeat with the other leg.
- Assume a bottom lunge position rear knee just off the ground.
- Come up out of the lunge, kicking the leg directly in front of you as high as possible.
- Return to the start position and repeat.
- Get down on all fours.
- Draw one knee in then kick it back out and back behind you. Keep the head up.
- Bring the knee back down, crunching the abs, then kick it back out.
- Do a press to bring your forehead down to the floor. Repeat.
- Lie flat on the ground on your stomach. Stretch your arms out in front of you and have your legs together.
- Exhale as you arch your torso up to stretch your arms out in front and your legs behind you. Try to lift as high as you can, feeling the stretch in your lower lumbar area.
- Lower and relax and then repeat.
- Assume a normal plank position with a straight body and tight core.
- Take small steps with the toes and forearms to move forward, sideways and backwards.
Mediterranean Diet – what does it look like?
Goodman’s trainer then introduced him to the Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid. The diet itself is based upon dietary traditions found on the island of Crete and southern Italy in the early 1960’s. Rather than being a specific diet, it is more about eating in the traditional style of those living in the Mediterranean countries.
“The Mediterranean diet includes foods and beverages native to the land for which it’s named. Rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, beans, legumes, a variety of herbs and spices, wine, fish, seafood and olive oil, this meal plan may reduce the risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions like arthritis,” says Martina Cartwright, a registered dietitian.
“The mechanism for how the diet works is unclear. However, the theory is that since the diet is rich in anti-inflammatory fats (olive and fish) and antioxidants (which help with cell repair and include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and phytochemicals), it helps the body’s repair mechanisms,” – Again, Martina Cartwright quoted on the Mediterranean diet.
You will see these quotes quite a bit if you look into the diet. I have found Ms.Cartwright quoted in many of the articles I read on the topic. It seems to be one of those cornerstone quotes people love using to describe what this diet it about. I can see why – it makes it abundantly clear how this diet is supposed to work for you.
Correspondingly, I make no claims regarding health outcomes with this diet. I think, like most diets, it depends entirely upon the individual in question. However, I will say that it seems that a few recent studies have identified some potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
The following study presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in 2016, noted that the diet was associated with lower risk of death in cardiovascular disease patients:
In essence, it states that in 25,000 random adults from the Italian region of Molise, researchers found 1,197 with histories of heart disease. Those participants who adhered closely to the diet saw their death rate from any cause drop by 37 percent over the study’s seven year period. The researchers acknowledged that their study was “observational” and that further research was needed to establish a causal link.
At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2017, a study was presented that established a link between the healthy eating habits of the Mediterranean diet and the preservation of cognitive function and reduction in the risk of dementia by 30-35%
Lastly, in 2017 a study was published in Neurology, a peer reviewed medical journal, that suggests that the diet promotes brain health.
Researchers followed the eating habits of 967 Scots around the age of 70 who showed no signs of dementia for three years. MRIs were conducted on 562 to measure brain volume at the start of the study, with 401 of them receiving another brain scan at the end of the study. Scans were compared to how closely the participants followed the diet, and researchers found that those who didn’t stick to the diet showed a higher loss of total brain volume over three years than those who did. The results remained the same when researchers accounted for other facts such as education, age and blood pressure.
There are but a few of the studies that have been conducted on this diet. There are many more that also have illustrated various health benefits of the Mediterranean diet ranging from cell aging benefits to handling the effects of pollution better.
Clearly the combination of diet and exercise has worked wonders for John Goodman. My gut instinct says that any system that combines healthy food with exercise is bound to work over time. But the difficult part is finding something you can live with. For me, my shakes, a healthy 600 calorie meal and exercise is a winning combination. But clearly it’s not the only solution and I think this illustrates that there are many possible roads a person can take to get to a healthy life. The only question you need to answer is “which road do you want to plow?”