Popular diets, especially the ones I like...
by Ian Craig
in Blogs

Take a moment, if you may, to picture yourself in rural Greece - you’ve just stepped off a sailing boat and onto a little rock of an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Despite the rural location, the first thing you see, sitting in the middle of the beach, is a taverna - a Greek word for cafe or restaurant. After sipping a cold Amstel while watching the sun wane over the sea, you decide to check out the menu, if there was one… Instead, an old lady ushers you into her kitchen and points to items in her large fridge. You have the choice of several seasonal vegetables from a nearby garden, some freshly caught fish or octopus, feta cheese that was fermented from the local goat’s milk, olive oil cold pressed from the vines on the hillside beyond, bread from the village baker, and wine freshly made by the old lady standing right in front of you…

This is not just a dream - it is an experience that I’ve enjoyed on more than one occasion in my life. My Dad sails in Greece and when I’m lucky enough to make it there on holiday, we get to travel well off the beaten tourist path.

There are a host of ‘diets’ out there nowadays: Atkins, Paleo, Banting, South Beach, Blood Type, Metabolic Typing, Weight Watchers etc etc. I’ve discussed the pros and cons of a few of them in our book (Chapter 8) and expanded on them in Step 8 of our course. Every 'diet' has pros and cons because it has been written by somebody with an agenda and usually somebody who has experienced success with a certain way of eating, who in his or her egotistical state, thinks that this one approach will work equally well for everyone around them.

A way of life, however, is something quite different, and is something that I always take note of when a new research study or newspaper article reveals the lifestyle, eating patterns and associated health of a group of people somewhere on the planet. These are always groups of people living an old fashioned existence. For example; a group of indigenous Bolivian people, living in the Amazonian rain forest, were reported by BBC News in March earlier this year. They were eating wild boar, a large rodent, fish from the Amazon, a farmed root vegetable similar to a sweet potato, some rice and maize, plantain, and foraged fruit and nuts. The study of this simple way of living reveals that the people had incredibly healthy hearts and incredible longevity. Were they following some sort of diet - absolutely not; they were simply following the way their ancestors had lived for many many generations.

With the study of indigenous populations in mind, in my Step 8 talk, I spent quite a while describing the exciting National Geographic research of certain rural populations, that has been revealed in one of my favourite books - The Blue Zones. Five hot spots in the world were shown to have an unusually high number of healthy centurions (people reaching 100 years of age with sound mind and body). The author shared with us a ‘Power of 9’ pyramid, shown below. The 9 points of healthy living were:

  • Move naturally - this doesn’t mean that you should drive to the gym, move on the spot for half an hour and drive home - it means walking, running, cycling, gardening/farming etc.
  • Purpose (of life) - which involves being in touch with your core personal values and living your life by them
  • Down shift - having a period of time every day when you slow down and mindfully smell the roses
  • 80% rule - stopping eating when 80% full, as opposed to having a stuffed belly
  • Plant stack - a heavy reliance on plants as first dietary priority
  • Wine at 5 - stopping work by 5pm every day and sitting down for a sundowner of a local organic wine
  • Right tribe - sticking together with close friends throughout your entire life; people who you can always rely on whenever you need them
  • Belong - being part of some kind of faith, whether religious or not
  • Loved ones first - purpose (of life) often links with the strong value of looking after family















Lets return to rural Greece. Guess what - one of the five hot spots of centurions was a Greek island called Ikaria. The others were particular rural locations in Sardinia (also a Mediterranean island), Costa Rica, California, and Okinawa (Japanese island). Whenever I spend time in rural Greece, it takes me a few days to slow down from my usual frenetic pace of being, but eventually I manage to lose my watch and fall into a very simple pattern of eating, swimming, sailing and … eating! Yes, I’m on holiday, but while you are in these locations, you can actually feel the more gentle pace of life and the strong value that the local people have for simplicity. For example; olive oil, made from their own vineyards, is a life force there - not only is it an incredibly staple dietary item in the Med, but it can be traded for other foods, it forms part of a farming community, and it is more valuable in many ways that the few Euros that it would cost to mindlessly buy an imported bottle of olive oil from a supermarket.

I’m currently studying a UK course in chronic fatigue syndrome and the first coaching exercise that we do with clients is called the 8-elements wheel - it is surprisingly similar to the Power of 9 pyramid shared by the Blue Zones people….

Think about what you can change today for your better health.