amanda-morgan-nutritionist

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Why You Might Lose Weight Traveling In Italy

Why You Might Lose Weight Traveling In Italy

Hello my darlings! Last night, I decided to make some homemade bolognese sauce over zoodles, and I was left reminiscing of my last vaca to Europe and how amazing our time was in Italy. Have you guys been?

I truly love it out there. Although I get homesick if we’re gone for a few weeks, life just seems so simple and I can’t help but savor every moment. Especially the food…THE FOOD.

In all seriousness, I would move to Europe for the food alone. (I’m not-so secretly plotting Summer escapes to Europe with my husband for down the road!).

Italian food is the definition of simple yet delicious, like Ma’ and Pa’ would make it: clean ingredients that are locally grown. And they don’t use the word “local” as a marketing scheme when it could mean hundreds of miles away. It’s “local” as in down the street, and grown in an organic garden (because everything is pretty much organic there—they don’t use pesticides and are appalled by how Americans treat their food).

Our hotel’s garden on the Amalfi Coast.

Our hotel’s garden on the Amalfi Coast.

Tomatoes are so fresh that they taste like a different fruit compared to the ones in the states (yes, tomatoes are fruit!).

Everything is seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and there are no preservatives involved. It’s just food in its simplest form, as it should be.

One of my fave parts about mealtime? Italians love them some wine. We were in Tuscany for “World Wellness Day” (I can’t decide if our hotel made this up to sell us things to do, or if it’s real because we definitely don’t talk about it in the states), so Ryan and I took an organic cooking class, and the chef told us about how his Grandfather would add wine to his soup because wine was considered a food group back in the day.

Love that.

Wine is just as important as water in Italy. You have it with lunch (maybe) and dinner. It’s a ritual; not something they bring out for fancy events or parade around at dinner parties to display how wealthy they are because they have a really cool wine cellar.

(And no judgment here. In our new house, we’re building a glass case under the stairs in our basement that’s going to be a cool display with wines we’ve collected from our travels around the world. We’re those people.)

So there’s wine…lots of wine. And bread. And cheese.

Why is it that Italians can eat foods that we’ve labeled as “bad” in America, yet the average Italian looks far happier and healthier than the average American?

Piazza del Duomo, Florence. Stunning!

Piazza del Duomo, Florence. Stunning!

The bread thing is easier for me to explain. Wheat products (breads, pastries, pastas) in the states contain an exorbitant amount of gluten, the protein found in wheat, that is foreign to our bodies and therefore difficult to digest. Most bread you see on store shelves contains up to three times the amount of gluten compared to bread found in Europe. It’s been deemed “Frankenwheat” in the U.S. and for good reason. This is why some people who are very sensitive to gluten can go to Europe and enjoy bread with no issue.

Cheese is cheese; I believe dairy can be inflammatory but some people digest it better than others. I attribute Italians ability to digest dairy well to the way they treat and raise their animals—there’s no hormones, antibiotics, or anything of this nature in Italy.

To sum it up, they drink more wine casually than we do, and eat gluten and dairy on a regular basis. AND they’re naturally thin.

Somethings gotta give, right?! What’s the deal?

One of our fave meals: La Fontalina on the side of Capri.

One of our fave meals: La Fontalina on the side of Capri.

Well, as you just learned, Italians grow and treat their food differently. Their food system isn’t screwed, like ours is. They care. They take pride in their food. In fact, if you leave food on your plate after a meal, they ask you if something was wrong. It’s a sign of respect to finish your plate. (Sign me up).

Which leads me to my next point: the portions.

Only in America do you go to an Italian restaurant and order a pasta or parmesan dish that’s meant for one person but could actually feed a small family. After spending 10 days in Italy and witnessing this for the second time, I’m appalled at how we handle portions here at home. It’s so wasteful, and has only contributed to our health epidemics.

We think we’re supposed to eat more than we actually need, and it takes more for us to feel full because our food is so devoid of nutrients. So, in some ways, it’s really not our fault.

We think a lot of things because we’re told to—by the media, by Dr. Oz, by all of them. But in Italy, they don’t overthink food one bit because they know how to listen to their bodies.

They eat when they’re hungry. There are no green juice shops on every corner, and big salads are not considered a meal. They take leisurely walks frequently to stay healthy.

Which makes us look like a bunch of crazy people.

Juice cleanses, lemon water fasts, exercising over an hour per day, drinking a ton of wine then banning it because we feel guilty, swearing off gluten and dairy only to dive into mozzarella sticks days later. Our relationship to food and our bodies is a hot mess.

What if we made things easier? What if we spent more time cooking and taking pride in our food, and less time eating out? What if we tuned in and started to eat food that made us feel good, rather than paying attention to diet fads (which don’t exist in Europe) that don’t suit our bodies?

Is it possible to drink wine when we want without overdoing it, and in our case, purchase organic, grass-fed dairy and bread and enjoy it when we feel like it? (Again, our food system sucks, so in order to enjoy dairy and gluten, that’s the way to do it).

Yes, it is. But…you have to make the time, love. You have to make cooking and your health and your family’s health a priority. You have to flip the script, and pay more attention to your health than your career or money or anything else that’s maybe gotten in the way of you feeling your best.

Italians praise happiness over body perfection. There are very few people (mainly women) who have perfect bodies on paper that are 100% happy all the time. In order to obtain said perfect body, there has to be sacrifice…

More time in the gym. More regimented schedules. Less wine. Less food. Less having fun for fear of blowing your diet.

I’ve realized now more than ever that I’m ready to put body happiness first and looks second. I’m blessed with good genes, but I still work pretty hard at it. I also don’t overdo it, though. During our travels to Italy, I worked out 20-30 minutes per day 6 out of our 10 days, and we also walked a ton. Nothing intense. Just enough to keep the muscle mass I had worked hard to obtain and am proud of.

In fact. And you may hate me for saying this, but it’s true…

If it weren’t for the overload of sugar I consumed out there (gelato, gelato, and those tiny cookies they leave on your pillow every night), I probably would’ve lost weight in Italy. When I was talking about my trip with a few girlfriends, those who had been there shared my sentiments. THAT is a true testament to the quality of their food system and way of life.

Do you believe it’s possible to live and eat with more ease? Can you let go of perfectionism in order to live a happier life? What’s maybe getting in your way of making the decisions that are necessary for you to live a little healthier? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Love,
Amanda

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