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Scientists: This Simple Hack Makes the Mediterranean Diet 5x More Effective for Women Over 50

It worked for Deborah Duckworth, 74: She lost 114 lbs and got off meds

Can ordinary women living on far-off islands help you lose weight, feel great and add years to your life? “Yes!” say experts studying Ikaria, Greece, and Sardinia, Italy. Both places are featured in the Netflix hit Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones and are home to some of the world’s healthiest and happiest folks. And while their lifestyle can be difficult to duplicate stateside, their Mediterranean-style diet adapts well. “You can absolutely borrow their eating habits and see dramatic changes,” insists Melina Jampolis, MD, part of a prestigious panel that voted a Mediterranean diet the world’s best diet for the seventh year running.

For those hoping to get lean in a hurry, more good news: Spanish scientists have found an easy Mediterranean diet hack that’s helping women slim down five times faster than usual. Keep reading to learn how to maximize your own Mediterranean diet results.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean Sea stretches past Spain, Italy, Greece and a dozen other countries, so traditional diets along its coast vary. One constant: All are built around “seasonal, minimally processed plant foods — veggies, fruit, beans, grains, olive oil, nuts, herbs and spices,” says Dr. Jampolis, a Tufts University–trained women’s health expert and author of Spice Up, Live Long. “For protein, beans and dairy are emphasized, with smaller amounts of eggs, poultry and seafood. Red meat is a treat.” The approach delivers so much good stuff and so little bad that studies link it to better heart and brain health, reduced diabetes and cancer risk and overall healthier aging.

Folks who eat Mediterranean are also far less likely to struggle with weight. Why? While many modern staples like white sugar, flour and processed meat drive fattening issues with blood sugar, Mediterranean staples do the opposite. One study found that for every couple steps we take toward a Mediterranean eating pattern, risk of blood-sugar and insulin problems falls 14%. This is a slimming change “because when your body produces too much insulin, the hormone makes it almost impossible to lose fat,” Dr. Jampolis notes.

Related: This Surprise Olive Oil Trick Is Helping Women Over 50 Balance Blood Sugar to Lose Weight Effortlessly

Use this hack to get next-level Mediterranean diet results

Ever tried to eat Mediterranean foods and been bummed by the results? Dr. Jampolis says you may have overeaten out of habit or because all the food you see on social media and TV stimulates appetite. “Even when you switch to high-quality calories, you may still take in more than you burn off,” cautions Dr. Jampolis.

The easy workaround: “Keep a food log for at least a month and start again any time you gain or plateau.” As women use free tracking apps like My Fitness Pal and LoseIt!, “I often hear, ‘I didn’t realize how many calories I was eating.’ Logs snap us out of ‘calorie amnesia.’” Once we’re aware, “we often eat less without feeling deprived.”

Proof it works: In a new study of adults coached to eat a Mediterranean diet, keeping a food log led to five times greater fat loss. “There’s a huge body of research with similar findings,” says the doc. “Awareness is powerful.” Worth noting: This research is part of large on-going study that has already demonstrated Mediterranean-style eating reduces heart attacks and strokes by 30%, even among folks who have health conditions that put them at high risk.

Related: Counting Macros is the Simplest Way to Really Lose Weight

Why the Mediterranean diet works well for anyone over age 50

Those folks who lost five times more fat were seniors (average age: 65). Dr. Jampolis isn’t surprised. Blood-sugar control almost always worsens after age 50, so the older we are, the bigger the impact we experience as the issue subsides.

In the new study, “a Mediterranean diet was also been shown to help preserve muscle during weight loss, which is so important as we get older and become prone to muscle loss,” she adds. “Muscle doesn’t just keep you strong, it keeps metabolism up.” Translation: Mediterranean eating can shrink your waist, improve blood work, boost stamina and set you up for lasting success.

Related: What You Should Be Eating to Fight Muscle Loss as You Age

Mediterranean diet results: Deborah Duckworth, 74

For many years, any time 270-pound Deborah Duckworth had even a tiny nibble of food or small swallow of a drink, severe heartburn set in almost instantly. Her arthritis also made it painful to get around. So she went to the doctor for meds. “He suggested LoseIt!” recalls the Maine great grandmother, 74.

Deborah was hesitant since diets had made little difference in the past. But she was so desperate to feel better, she downloaded the app. “It was easy to use, and I was shocked to see all the calories I was consuming,” she recalls. At the app’s suggestion, “I started to aim for 1,600 calories per day.” Her clothes were loose within two weeks.

As she kept at it, the app — which also tracks things like protein, fiber and vitamin intake — inspired her to aim for more nutrients while keeping calories down. She began making Mediterranean-style tweaks, like cutting back on red meat and sugar while upping intake of Greek yogurt, tuna, tilapia, whole grains and produce. A favorite Mediterranean-ized meal: Instead of a Big Mac with fries, she’d have a bunless turkey burger with a yogurt-topped baked potato and green beans. She also swapped cereal for veggie omelets and Doritos for air-popped popcorn or nuts.

“You can find healthy choices that make you not miss the bad ones,” promises Deborah, who began taking regular walks once she noticed her GI trouble and joints getting better. Fast forward to today: Deborah has been maintaining a 114-pound loss for over four years and walks two miles a day with no pain. She’s also off blood pressure and cholesterol meds. “I haven’t felt this good since 1994!”

Mediterranean diet results: Marie Damm, 63

Before and after of Marie Damm who lost 58 lbs with the help of cottage cheese
Nathan Bolster, Shutterstock

Overweight even as a toddler, Marie Damm’s weight eventually soared to 278 pounds. She had gastric bypass surgery in her 40s, but was gaining again within months.

“I care for my older daughter, who has autism. There was a lot of stress-eating,” recalls Marie, 63. As extra weight and worsening health made it hard to meet her daughter’s needs, Marie went to health coach Jacynta Harb at Sparkle Wellness center in the Atlanta area.

As Jacynta helped Marie form better habits, “she had me use MyFitnessPal,” Marie recalls. Marie was surprised to find it helped her see patterns — like how Mediterranean-style meals worked wonders on her hunger and cravings.

Filling favorites: Oats with fruit and walnuts or a huge salad with beans, fish and olive-oil dressing. She also began getting more of her protein from dairy sources like cottage cheese. Click through to read more about how Marie used cottage cheese to slim down.

“Tracking was life changing. It helped me find the best foods for me.” All told, Marie shed 58 pounds. “I got off eight meds. I feel confident and strong. It’s the best feeling!”

How to make the Mediterranean diet work for you

To eat Mediterranean-style, simply limit processed food and aim for lots of produce. Round out meals with dairy, beans, whole grains and good fat; also add 1-2 option servings eggs and poultry daily. To slim down at top speed, use a free app like LoseIt! or My Fitness Pal to keep portions on point and to find foods you enjoy that make you feel full a long time. We’ve got ideas to inspire you below, and you can find more with this Mediterranean diet meal plan.

Mediterranean sample breakfast

Top a cup of Greek yogurt with ½ cup fruit, ½ oz. nuts (such as 10 cashews or 14 almonds) and an optional 1 tsp. drizzle honey.

Mediterranean sample lunch

Toss 1 cup cooked lentils; 1-2 cups chopped veggies; 2 Tbs. lemon juice; 1 Tbs. olive oil; 1 oz. feta and seasoning to taste.

Mediterranean sample dinner

Bake ¼ lb. shrimp with 1 Tbs. olive oil and seasoning at 400ºF 5 min. Serve with zucchini spirals or any veggies.

Bonus recipe: Juicy and healthy kabobs

Plate of pork kebabs on skewer as part of a Mediterranean diet to get results

“Brining” chicken in saltwater before cooking makes this 278-calorie entrée extra succulent  


  • 1 lb. chicken breast, cubed
  • 4 cups assorted vegetables in bite-size pieces
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 tsp. grill seasoning, such as McCormick Smoke Paprika and Onion


  1. Soak chicken in large bowl of warm water with ¼ cup salt for 15-30 minutes. Drain; pat dry.
  2. Toss with veggies and olive oil. Add seasoning; mix to coat well.
  3. Thread chicken and veggies on metal skewers. Broil or grill for 10 minutes, flipping once. Enjoy with optional brown rice and tzatziki yogurt sauce. Serves 4

Click through for more doctor-approved ways to make weight loss easier after age 50:

Could Magnesium Be the Key That Unlocks Weight Loss For Women Over 50? Dr. Carolyn Dean Says “Yes!

This Surprise Egg Twist Is Helping Women Over 50 Drop 100+ lbs — Top MD Calls It “Critical” for Losing Weight

Top MD: Easy Big-Breakfast Hack Helps Fight Diabetes and Boost Weight Loss After Age 50

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