I have been thinking about the inspiration for this post for a long time, in different forms for the last year, really. Then Lauren (Lauren’s Road Less Traveled) wrote this post on how her eating habits have changed living in England, and I thought that I should share my thoughts on the subject.
Even before ever stepping foot on Italian soil, I knew what the stereotype was of Italian women. Beautiful. More than that, skinny, with big boobs and soulful brown eyes. Those last two things I can’t really do much about but the one that gets me after living here is the skinny bit. How are these people skinny?
Never in my life has it been acceptable (as a women) to eat more than three slices of pizza in one sitting, if you want to be seen as fit. I’m talking about the teenage/young adult years here. Ordering pizza at 2am after the frat parties was only okay if you had at least two other people to share it with and usually still didn’t volunteer the information. Of course, these standards are created through the belief that the silence of frat boys meant that all of us were too fat and in response there is a race to become super-models.
Back to Italy. My first real Italian meal here was at the staff Christmas party for Lorenzo’s work. After kindly translating the menu for me, Lorenzo then started listing off all the choices for pizzas we could order. I had just placed my pasta order and was about to begin on the freshly placed antipasti. Lorenzo wanted a pizza too. When I refused he offered to split one with me. Still confused, I said no thanks. He then offered to split it with his mom and I both. I had only one slice because I couldn’t fathom the thought of eating appetizers, pasta and pizza. What was he thinking?
Since then, I’ve learned that there is no sharing pizza in this house, unless it’s the trade a slice for tasting purposes. Yes it’s true, in Italy everyone is encouraged to eat their own pizza. All of it.
They also make multi-dish meals with antipasti, pasta, meat and/or veggies, dessert and drinks! It’s pretty normal to have this large of a meal quite often in fact.
And to think, the Italians are skinnier than Americans in the scheme of it all. Of course, the young women don’t eat these portions every single night as mentioned above, never exercise and expect to keep their physique but they seem to ‘watch’ it a lot less.
In the States we focus on the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie options, deprive ourselves of dessert and snacks and work-out like it’s our job. I have to admit that rarely did all that solve any problems for many people that I knew.
The European lifestyle has opened my eyes to the importance of quality food, and control.
I’ve notice that we aren’t able to keep food in the fridge as long as we would in that States because it has a shorter freshness period. And as far as condiments go almost everything is accompanied solely with a bit of olive oil or vinegar.
Although now I can say that I’ve packed on a few extra pounds (after a year), it’s not due to my eating habits (well maybe I’m eating a bit too much dessert…) it’s more than anything due to my fear of braving the cold weather for a nice long run. I’ll get there. I will.
As I sit down to yet another full pizza, I think again back to my friends in the States that resorted to eating veggies and cottage cheese for dinner the last years of University in order to save their figure. Many time it comes down to genes, and after years of eating fresh, seasonal foods and healthy fats the Italians have conditioned their metabolisms to handle their diet. Lucky them!
In the end, the lesson I’ve learned in Italy is that healthy food is the best way to keep your figure and I rarely reach for the low-fat version of anything these days! Liberating!
Have you changed your eating habits as a traveler? Have you noticed a change in your health living abroad?