An email from a reader: Part 3

by Andie Mitchell on December 18, 2011

read part 1, read part 2

“Andie,

…[tremendous kindness and day-brightening]…

…I am striving to lose as close to 10 pounds as I can (in the healthiest way possible) before I  study abroad in Italy next semester (Florence to be exact). I was wondering if you would be able to give me some guidance on how you maintained such a terrific journey while being in the land of cheese, bread, pizza, pasta, wine and every other delicious factor in life.

Thanks!

G

…………………..

Hi G,

Thank you for writing!

First, believe that you can do it. I [somehow through the grace of the Vatican and the many, many euros I spent on rosary beads from whispery street vendors] left Rome sixty pounds lighter.

Italy is indeed a land of lovable food and what you’ll learn there is that by falling madly in love with each and every bite of pasta, every last lick of gelato, you will appreciate food and fullness in a brand new way. The portions are smaller, the eating experience is longer and more celebratory, the food is fresh and whole.

My advice:

Walk everywhere.
And by everywhere, I mean:
ev.ery.where (adv): to or in all parts or places.

Make your own breakfast.
Now, breakfast is not as big a deal in Italy as it is here in the USA, so I’d recommend you make your own morning meal rather than partaking in the traditional sweet pastry or biscuit and espresso- as the Italians do. They’re a culture that might nibble on a small starch and be content ‘til lunchtime. You, however, can develop a fantastic habit of having a healthy, wholesome breakfast and you certainly won’t be missing out on any grand eating experiences. (Unless gelato becomes an a.m. staple over there, in which case- disregard the entirety of this recommendation). I’d suggest fresh fruit with oatmeal or yogurt.

Eat 3 solid meals per day and do not snack (please).
Europeans eat well, and a large part of how they maintain their slim figures is by avoiding snacking. Americans are said to consume somewhere around 25% of their daily calorie intake through snacks. And if you think about it, the snacks are never as satisfying as sitting down to a meal. They’re often forgettable, and only leave you fantasizing about your next lunch or dinner. If you’re eating a balanced, full-of-vegetables meal three times a day, you should be fine in between without grazing. Here is where you’ll get in tune with your hunger. You’ll learn that being hungry is a gentle building, and when you do eventually eat, you appreciate, you taste, your food that much more. You celebrate meal time because it is not something that happens at any hour, in any location.

1 Dessert per day
This will keep you happy. This will keep you strong and sane. The goal is to stop after one of something, one of anything your heart desires. Know this: Sweets will exist tomorrow, and even the day after that, so no need to stockpile your stomach.

Stay in Italy and be, feel, live, and gesture wildly, like an Italian.

Savor your meals.

Savor your time.

No regrets.

andie

 

Any other advice you’d offer this Italy-bound reader?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh December 19, 2011 at 4:34 am

I’d love to be able to pass along some advice but instead I’m bookmarking it for when I make it there. Excellent advice as usual Andie! :-)

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Mary December 19, 2011 at 4:43 am

I lived there many many years ago (1992? 1993?) but at the time, one of my memories of both Italy and France, was that there were so many fresh food options. I ate very little processed food (if any while I lived in Europe and I think that processed food is pretty much the reason why North Americans struggle with obesity issues. Italian food is amazing, make sure to eat plenty of it (in moderation!) while you are there.

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Jen December 19, 2011 at 6:45 am

I spent a semester in Rome about 10 years ago. I completely agree with everything said here, and would like to add my own perspective – restaurants there tend to do the portion control for you. An order of pasta usually won’t be so huge that you get 2-3 meals out of it like it would at a restaurant in the States.
Have an amazing time! You’ll never look at Olive Garden the same when you return :)

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat December 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

Great advice Andie! I’m actually off to Italy for the first time on Friday and I’m super excited! Like your reader, I had the same concerns but have decided that since we’re going to be walking pretty much everywhere, I’ll likely be too busy taking in the sights to concentrate on food all the time. Of course, there will be the odd gelato consumed to fuel all that walking… ;)

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Carol @ Lucky Zucca December 19, 2011 at 7:55 am

For some reason I didn’t realize you were in Italy when you lost your weight! I think you gave lovely responses. I was not careful when I was in Italy and gained a few lbs. Thankfully they dropped when I got home… I think it was the multiple gelatos a day … over indulging… ordering too many things at dinner and feeling like I had to eat them all (like you said… it will all be there tomorrow.) Balance is the key.

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Mila @ loftyappetite December 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

This is great advice! Every time i visit my family in Poland I lose weight, even though I’m on a serious carb, cheese, and ice cream tourist diet! I’m always stunned by this, but then I realize all of the other factors. The walking! All day, non stop being a tourist. Also, I start eating like a European, which like you said means long savory meals of small portions, but also a major factor is that the biggest meal of the day is around 2pm. I think that makes a huge difference too! The small appetizer meal (although most likely rich, savory, and high in fat) in the evening isn’t as big of a deal because it’s small and just enough without feeling like you’re going to burst. Drinking a minimum of 20 teas a day also doesn’t hurt either, I’m sure! ;)

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Mila @ loftyappetite December 19, 2011 at 8:07 am

Sorry to attack your comments, but one more HUGE factor is that food in Europe is more natural. People buy groceries every day because they are not stock piled with preservatives like our food is in the U.S. and they have to to have fresh food. The natural/organic state of their food which isn’t an option but the norm, makes a gigantic difference in their weight versus ours.

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Addy December 19, 2011 at 8:57 am

Mila, I totally agree with you here! Fresh, whole foods make all the difference. I think a lot of people balk at fat or carb counts on some foods, not realizing that the context in which they’re eaten (as in, in a whole food form) is so important!

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Jen December 19, 2011 at 8:16 am

+a million for the walk everywhere advice. I’ve lived in France 3 separate times and always lose weight when I’m living there… it’s mostly because of the walking!

On a different note, walking is also good when you’re homesick. When I would feel a little sad about missing Easter with my family or a birthday with friends, I would put on my headphones and walk off in a new direction. I connected more with the city around me and didn’t feel as lonely. Now, when I go back, those cities I lived in are more than zip codes on letters from that time… they’re friends.

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Beth December 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

No advice but I’d like you to expand more on your snacking habits (either here or in another post). This is where I struggle Big Time. Meals are really no problem for me in terms of controlling portion sizes, eating healthy food, etc. I’ve maintained a 60 lb weight loss for about 15 years now, give or take a few during pregnancy. But I’m still overweight mostly because of my snacking tendencies. Having two small kids who seemingly eat constantly doesn’t help. Anyway, there’s all kinds of so-called research claiming people who snack or eat six small meals, etc. are a healthier weight. And most diet plans and programs I’ve seen stress healthy snacking and not letting yourself get too hungry. Which really does fly in the face of the “French Paradox”, right?

Anyway, sorry for such a long digressing comment. But this is something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now. How much my mid morning and afternoon hunger is because I’ve trained myself to eat at certain times and maybe I should just stop snacking all together.

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Addy December 19, 2011 at 8:59 am

I love this post, and I think it’s totally something that we should strive to adopt in our everyday lives. I traveled in Spain for a month and came home much lighter, despite eating fried foods and ice cream, simply because I was doing all these things. Now I’m trying to incorporate this way of being into my everyday life, as well. Thanks, Andie!

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Gabrielle December 19, 2011 at 9:04 am

I’m currently living in Sicily for 9 months and my advice would be take the mindset of a resident rather than a tourist – you’ll be in Italy for an entire semester, no need to try everything in the first two weeks that you’re there. Eat slowly and make sure you’re aware of your wine intake!

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Meg December 19, 2011 at 9:55 am

In Florence, G. may find that food may be different than she’s expecting. Florence isn’t strictly “Northern” Italy, but the region tends to lean more toward risotto and polenta, and a little less toward pasta. I have always found the former easier to eat slowly and savor compared to pasta, but that could just be me?

I would definitely second the advice to walk everywhere, every opportunity you get. I walked a ton when I lived in London for a semester, and lost about 15 lbs. without even trying. (Don’t even try to blame British food–London is home to some amazing ethnic food, and I fell in love with Indian, Korean and Moroccan food while there.) Also, taste everything, no matter how decadent, but in smaller portions and slowly–portion sizes are much smaller there to begin with, which makes it a little easier. But avoid tourist traps–many of them have started to increase their portion sizes accordingly!

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Walnut December 19, 2011 at 10:53 am

If you feel that you need to snack during the morning, find a fresh food market. Nothing was more delicious than a blood orange in the morning while I was in Rome.

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Rebecca December 19, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Try lots of new things, but if you don’t love it, don’t finish it. Why spend extra calories on something you don’t love?

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Amanda December 19, 2011 at 6:04 pm

What a beautifully written post and great tips and advice! :)

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Blair Lieber December 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

I love this post! What great advice. Again Andie, you’re blog is so inspirtational. Once I found it, I got up off my booty and started working out, I’m documenting my journey at http://www.whatifoundwhilewalkingaround.com I’ve already lost 10lbs!! Thank you!

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