Mainely Running
Join me as I train in Maine and race all over the world in pursuit of my goal to run a marathon on all 7 continents

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Italian Contradiction

When I'm in Italy I am always struck by how seemingly contradictory it is that everyone is so thin in a country that is famous for its food. I mean I ordered a medium women's race shirt and I couldn't even come close to fitting into it. I easily fit into a medium here.But when I'm there, I see how it all works. The year I spent in Italy was probably when I had the healthiest relationship with food and my body. I ate good things, I exercised moderately, I didn't stress out about either food or exercise, and I actually lost weight without trying. Here's how it works:

1. Meals are events, especially dinner. Sometimes they last several hours. The secret is that you aren't eating the whole time. You are talking, laughing, savoring the food. This trip we tried to embrace that every meal, from sitting outside on our delightful rooftop terrace for breakfast, to picnic lunches in sunny piazzas, to long lingering dinners.
It was not all that warm but we insisted on sitting outside to admire the view anyway. We're Mainers, we can take the cold.

2. Portions are smaller. I have the problem of eating whatever is in front of me, no matter how big it is. In Italy that's not a problem because they serve you a portion of food that is meant for one person at one meal. Dinner is all served ala carte, meaning you order an antipasto, a primo (pasta, risotto, etc), un secondo (meat or fish) and contorni (sides). So you can order according to how hungry you are or order a few dishes to share. I leave meals feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Lindsay's vegan pizza and my truffle pizza. Maybe the best thing I ate there.

 3. The food is good and natural. Food in Italy is actually food, not chemicals. So it is incredibly good and satisfying, even in smaller portions. Gelato comes in a dish that is easily half the size of an ice cream here, but I never feel like I didn't get enough because it's so yummy.

Okay, so not the best example of portion size, since this was the biggest and most decadent gelato I had. The famous tartufo in Pizza Navona. 
4. Exercise is a part of life. I easily walked 5-6 miles a day when I lived in Siena just getting to the bus and to school. And I lived on the 14th floor and there was no elevator. Italian cities and towns are set up so that people walk where they need to go instead of driving. I've tried it here, but I basically get run over. In Rome we were on our feet all day everyday (not so good before a marathon, but hey you gotta live).

Spanish steps, hotel stairs, the Vatican... we climbed a lotta stairs.

I love how effortlessly healthy I feel in Italy, but I can already feel it slipping away. On my way home from the airport I got stuck in traffic for a long time. I had to go to the bathroom and ended up at Burger King (it was the only option). And then I ended up with onion rings. I felt awful after I ate them. Yesterday I ate breakfast and lunch at my computer trying to catch up on work and dinner in front of the TV. I drove to the grocery store and bank even though it was easily nice enough to ride my bike. I'm falling back into being an American.

No comments:

Post a Comment