The Best Diet: It’s Not What You Eat, It’s Who You Eat With

We like to obsess over what we eat.

And we’re not wrong. Diet matters.

But I believe friendship and community are more important.

Take the Mediterranean diet, for example.

Some nutritionists call this “the ideal diet.” Lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans. Moderate amounts of meat.

What they usually neglect to mention is how people treat each other in the Mediterranean.

Men in Greece, for example, will have 2 hour lunches together. They’ll play chess, and talk about their feelings. They’ll talk about their families, their dreams, and their spiritual beliefs.

They argue. They laugh. They cry in front of each other. They even hold each other when they need support.

What they don’t do?

They don’t just talk about surface-level stuff like sports, or politics, or how to make more money.

They don’t live in pointless debates over matters they have no stake in.

Instead, they are real with each other.

Maybe you still think diet matters. And it does. But not as much as friendship and community.

Take the town of Roseto.

They didn’t care about diet. They fried their meat in lard. They smoked constantly. They got drunk constantly. The men worked in coal mines.

As a result, they had… the lowest rate of heart disease in America.

Because they were friends.

They were a community that supported each other.

Dinners weren’t about WHAT was on the table.

Dinners were about WHO was at the table.

Nearly every house in Roseto contained three generations of family members. They all belonged to social clubs, churches, and went to community festivals.

Roseto was all about community and connection.

What you eat matters. It matters a lot.

But what matters more is knowing you have people in your life who will support you when times are tough. That you can be fully open and honest with.

It’s why Mexicans tend to outlive whites and blacks in America. Scientists theorize that it’s because they eat less red meat or that they smoke less. That’s nonsense.

If you’ve ever spent any time with Hispanics, you know they are some of the most loving, supportive, and emotionally open people on the planet.

That’s what we can all aspire to. To be that social support for the people we care about, the people who matter to us. And to be more open and real, even when it’s ugly.

It’s definitely easier to focus on your diet. Just eat different things, see how you feel, and keep making adjustments. Obsessing over food is certainly less risky than making yourself vulnerable in front of someone you care about.

But we’re not here to eat the “right foods.”

We are here to connect with each other.

And what’s a good meal without someone to share it with?

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Video at Scribe. He lives with his wife and daughter in Colorado.

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