The Author’s Story
In many ways, the Slimmer story is really my story. As a young man growing up in modern Athens, Greece, I had an enviable life. I looked good, felt good, was popular and smart, and saw nothing but continued success and happiness in my future. I ate a relatively healthy diet, without too many indulgences, and was physically fit and active. Then something changed.
Many people gain weight as they get older, particularly in middle age, because their diet does not reflect their change in lifestyle and the need to adjust to a natural slowing of the metabolism. But what happened to me, and what happens to millions of people around the world, can be more sudden and drastic and can occur at any stage in life regardless of age. Events such as divorce, job loss, family and romantic problems, depression, stress, and even boredom can create a weight gain cycle that quickly and easily spins out of control. Before we know it, we are looking in the mirror at someone we no longer recognize.
For me, my entry into a new academic environment at college proved to be the trigger for the unraveling of my good health. I was now merely a small fish in a very big pond. No one envied me. In fact no one even knew me. I was stressed, depressed, lonely, and bored, not only with my uninspiring choice of economics as a major but with my daily, unrewarding routine. In a very short time my life had gone from a sunny romantic fairy tale to a gloomy Shakespearean tragedy and in the process, food became my only friend. I reached for junk food for comfort and chocolate for fulfillment. My daily calorie and fat intake snowballed as I ate more and more of these empty calories at every turn. I felt sluggish and unable to break from the sedentary existence I had created for myself. In one year I gained 110 pounds.
Unhappy and unhealthy, I knew I needed to lose weight. So I began dieting. If one diet didn’t work for me I’d try a different one from the multitude available. I’d lose a little bit of weight and then quickly gain it back. Or I’d find a particular diet difficult to stick with and not lose any weight at all. Often the food was tasteless and unsatisfying, or the ingredients were too unusual and hard to find. Sometimes the strictness of a program itself would make me feel so deprived and full of cravings that I would abandon it in a moment of weakness and head for the nearest pizzeria. Surely there had to be a better and easier way.
I made a decision. At the University of Athens I switched my major from Economics to Diet and Nutrition. If there was a better way, I would figure it out myself! As a Diet and Nutrition major, I was exposed to a great deal of valuable research including the landmark 1960s Seven Countries Study which was, in many ways, responsible for the popularity of the Mediterranean diet. The results determined that the Mediterranean diet eaten in Greece and specifically on the island of Crete was the healthiest for reducing heart attacks and coronary disease (more on this study in Chapter 1). And since then, the components of the traditional Mediterranean diet, including olive oil, lean protein, whole grains, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, have been determined to be beneficial for a number of health issues we are facing in today’s world including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, depression, and yes—obesity and the need for healthy weight loss. Here in my own country, the answer, at least in part, was right in front of me.