Go Extra Virgin: 9 Questions For Mary Flynn

Mary Flynn has been a research dietician since 1984 and holds a position as associate professor at Brown University. Her recent successes include the development of a plant-based olive oil diet for breast cancer survivors, designed to help patients lose weight gained from cancer treatments. The journey she had with the patients in her study is documented in her book The Pink Ribbon Diet.


1. What gives you a sense of purpose?

My family, friends, and my work all give me a sense of purpose.

I truly enjoy talking about food and how to make someone’s diet healthy. I find the majority of people I speak with are happy to learn that all they need to do is make small changes that are really not that hard.

2. Do you have any daily rituals?

I tend to wake up early, typically between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. (and I go to sleep between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.). I do not use an alarm, so I sleep until I am rested. I watch the sunrise from my office, make coffee, say prayers that consist of petitions, and end with a list of things I am thankful for.

3. What is your favorite way to relax?

I have several favorites: watching a good movie at home, chatting with my sister, or other family members or friends while drinking a glass of wine, and reading a good book or The New Yorker.

4. What’s your favorite recipe?

I actually do not use recipes, per se. I start every meal with extra virgin olive oil, then add some combination of vegetables.

5. What are your 5 favorite foods to eat right now?

Extra virgin olive oil, eggplant, artichokes (both cooked in olive oil), red wine and good bread.

6. What qualities do you most look for in a friend?

Loyalty, humor, sense of adventure, and flexibility.

7. What do you think is the secret to longevity?

Diet, physical activity, and a decent genetic make-up.

8. What book are you reading right now?

I just finished a fascinating book, Extra Virginity, by Tom Mueller. It is a must read for anyone interested in olive oil. It tells the story of how much of the extra virgin olive oil we have available in the U.S. can be adulterated and how to find ‘real’ olive oil.  It is very well written/researched and a quick read.

9. If you could give one piece of advice to people, what would it be?

Choose to be happy. You can view mishaps and events that don’t go your way as either a positive or negative. Look for the adventure in what happens or how you can change when things don’t go as you planned.

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