Yes, it’s possible to lose weight on the Mediterranean diet, especially if you’re switching from a standard American diet. But you must make wise choices, pay attention to portion sizes and don’t overdo the olive oil, cheese, nuts and other high-calorie foods. For example, overdoing olive oil, cheese and nuts will hinder your weight loss just as ice cream and cookies will.

There are many studies that show a Mediterranean way of eating can be an effective diet for weight loss and weight maintenance, says Elena Paravantes-Hargitt, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in the Mediterranean diet and author of “The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners.”

“One of the most important aspects of the Mediterranean diet in regards to weight loss is that it is easy to follow for long periods of time,” says Paravantes-Hargitt, who is also the founder of olivetomato.com, a website dedicated to the Greek-Mediterranean diet. She adds that “a traditional Mediterranean diet is 40% carbohydrates, 40% fat and about 20% protein. This combination has been shown to not only be ideal for long-term weight loss but is associated with lower mortality rates. As the diet is rich in vegetables, beans and olive oil, it provides good satiety.” Satiety is a feeling of fullness and satisfaction after eating.

Short-Term Weight Loss

If your goal is to fit into a 10-year-old pair of jeans in two weeks, the Mediterranean diet isn’t a great fit for you. However, health experts recommend losing no more than one or two pounds a week for a sustained length of time, and it isn’t uncommon to lose faster at the beginning of your diet, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose.

According to some research, your best bet might be to combine a Mediterranean diet with a reduction in carbs. We aren’t talking about the keto or paleo diet here. In one study, 194 overweight individuals with Type 2 diabetes were divided into three diet groups for one year (1). The three groups followed one of three diets. All three groups also cut calorie intake and exercised regularly. After 12 months, the average weight loss was:

  • 22 pounds for the low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet group. 
  • 17 pounds for the American Diabetes Association diet group. 
  • 16 pounds for the traditional Mediterranean diet. 

People who eat about 40% of their total calories in the form of carbohydrates and emphasize plant-based sources of protein and fat also have the lowest risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to an American Heart Association review of three studies involving nearly 204,000 adults. This is especially impressive given that adults in some studies were monitored for up to 30 years.

If you really want to seal the deal and lose weight, add exercise to your Mediterranean lifestyle. An often-cited study by medical professionals showed that people enrolled in a program combining a low-calorie Mediterranean diet, an exercise program and counseling fared much better than the participants who were told to adhere to a Mediterranean diet but weren’t given any information about exercise or weight loss (2).

Long-Term Weight Loss

Although few studies have been completed to demonstrate effectiveness of the Mediterranean diet for long-term weight loss, the research is promising.

Weight Maintenance and Management

According to a study of 32,119 participants, following the Mediterranean diet can minimize both weight gain and an expanding waistline (3).

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