By now, the first and maybe even the second flush of the new year dieting excitement has worn off. Yet the dreaded swimsuit season approaches.
Never fear. We can take our inspiration from the ancient Greeks, who saw the body as a temple and treated it with respect. Yet they also treated food with respect.
In ancient Greek times, citizens started the day at the gym. It was more than just a place to work out. It was the social center of ancient cities, the place to meet friends, court allies and plan the night's festivities. A good body was a must in ancient Greece and Rome. For proof, just take a look at those gorgeous ancient statues.
Philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle and Plato taught that it was essential to take care of the body by eating right and getting exercise to show self-control and discipline. If you're like millions of Americans, you're thinking about shedding a few pounds in time for bikini season.
Here are 10 quotes from the ancient Greeks and Romans and the modern-day lessons they teach. Who knows? Maybe 2,500-year-old advice still has the power to inspire the best bods on the beach.
Some men live to eat and drink, I eat and drink to live.
-- Socrates, Greek philosopher, fourth century B.C.
Modern lesson: Be sure to try a new interest or two. Eating shouldn't be your only hobby.
Appetite is the best seasoning.
Modern lesson: Get in touch with the healthy feeling of being a little hungry. Don't snack on junk food at the very first pang of hunger. Wait for a meal, and you'll enjoy healthy foods a lot more.
We should look first for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink. Dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf.
-- Epicurus, Greek philosopher, third century B.C.
Modern lesson: Don't eat alone, standing in front of the fridge or over the sink. Try to have at least one meal a day with someone else; you'll probably eat less and enjoy the meal more.
It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well and justly, and impossible to live wisely, well and justly without living pleasurably.
Modern lesson: Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food. Sounds like the opposite of diet advice, but guilty eating isn't pleasurable or satisfying, and so you end up depressed and eating more.
A crust eaten in peace is better than a feast in anxiety.
-- Aesop, about 550 B.C.
Modern Lesson: Don't eat when you're stressed out. Sip some tea, take a walk, talk to a pal. Stuffing your face to cure a bad mood will only pack on the pounds and give you indigestion, too.
Nothing can nourish the human body unless it participates in some sweetness.
-- Aristotle, 384-322 B.C.
Modern lesson: Don't deprive yourself. A once-in-a-while treat is fine.
The way to keep healthy is to know one's own constitution, to understand what is good for it and what is bad and to exercise moderation regarding all one's physical needs.
-- Marcus Cicero, Roman statesman, first century B.C.
Modern lesson: Don't overdo. Don't overeat, but also don't overexercise. Setting unrealistic exercise goals invites failure and maybe even injury.
Live each day as though your last.
-- Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome, first century
Modern lesson: Treat yourself elegantly. Set a nice spread when you sit down to eat: good plates, a pretty napkin, maybe even a candle.
There are two liquids especially agreeable to the human body, wine inside and oil outside.
-- Pliny the Elder, historian, first century
Modern lesson: Drink a glass of red wine with dinner. The ancient Greeks believed that wine was essential for proper digestion and many French and modern health writers agree. The ancients called a meal without wine "a dog's dinner."
To be happy takes a complete lifetime. One swallow does not make summer. . . .
Modern lesson: One bad day doesn't mean anything. Everyone slips off the diet wagon once in a while. Don't beat yourself up for a binge blast. Keep your eye on the larger picture: healthful eating and healthy lifestyle.
Alexandra Pierce asks:
Is that really where "one swallow does not make a summer" comes from?? Seems very funny, in the context of talking about food!!
I was somewhat confused by this one as well; the author (intentionally?) seems to think the swallow here is the kind that happens in your throat, as opposed to the bird. Or do they? The attribution to Aristotle (which is common) is somewhat troubling too ... see this item in the Hindu, e.g. (which may or may not have the authorship right either).