Countless studies link poor body image with excess weight and obesity. Our society certainly stigmatizes those who are overweight, and women especially come to internalize these messages until they feel disgusted with the way they look. We all know that body image issues plague us from the time we enter adolescence but did you know that women over 40 become increasingly dissatisfied with their physical appearance as they continue to age?
Two powerful strategies to boost your body image confidence –especially as we age are as follows:
- Stop trashing yourself verbally and focus on what you appreciate about your body every single day. Yes, we may have a new facial wrinkle or a bit of extra fat around the middle, but think of your body as the precious vehicle which allows you to enjoy an exquisite meal, breathe in the healing salty ocean air, witness a neon sunset, and hug the ones you love.
- Eat a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes vegetables, greens, beans, fish, capers, olive oil, nuts, tomatoes, herbs, and garlic. It is not a bad thing to want to be as fit and healthy as possible but you don’t have to follow any diet craze; you must simply be willing to make some moderate changes in lifestyle so you can be as fit and health as YOU can be. Chose healthy foods at each meal and your weight will gravitate closer to where it needs to be. I once gave a talk for Dr. Riccardo Dalle Grave’s Italian physicians conference on eating disorders and obesity. Dalle Grave emphasizes the concept of “reasonable weight”; the weight that is right for YOU.
Finally, Italian women, even when they want to lose a chili, are NOT fans of restrictive diets and frenzied hours at the gym. Here are FIVE tips they DO adhere to. If you want to lose a few pounds and improve your health, perhaps you find these ideas helpful too.
- Learn to Enjoy COOKING! We all enjoy a night out at a restaurant now and then but eating out too often is a recipe for packing on the pounds. Authentic Italian cuisine (and I don’t mean carnival foods like fried dough or pasta swimming in oily jarred sauce) is healthy, light, and according to research, can also protect us against certain diseases. The most delicious Italian dishes are simple and fresh. They don’t require a lot of time and once you get into the habit of cooking and eating this way, you will enjoy it so much you won’t want to stop!
- Cut Your Typical Portions in Half: Italians eat smaller portions than we do in the U.S., despite not having a book that immortalizes them for it, like their French and Japanese counterparts. In reality, even slight overeating, if done consistently can pack on quite a few pounds over the course of a year. Most of us could stand to eat about ¼-1/2 less than we normally put on our plates without even noticing the difference. Try doing this for a few weeks, and then you can gradually take away another ¼ until you are down to about half of your original portion sizes. Your body will love you for it.
- Don’t Eat in Between Meals. My friend Giovanna made one thing clear to me as we sat together on the piazza Santo Spirito in Florence, dangerously close to one of the best gelatterias in all of Italy—Vestri. “Tre. tre TRE!” She said emphatically when I had inquired how Italian women maintain their figures. Italian women eat three meals a day period, she told me, except for maybe a late afternoon coffee break that might be accompanied by a small biscotto (when not trying to lose a pound or two) or a fruit, to tide her over till the 7 o’clock dinner hour. Because the Mediterranean way of eating is rich with vitamins and minerals from an abundance of fresh produce, it satisfies hunger so there is no famished feeling between meals.
- Cut the Sugar. Italian women are rarely found to gorge themselves on cannoli one day, and eat nothing but a salad for the week that follows, to make up for it. No extremes, no ambivalence as to what to do. Interesting were the headlines on the cover of an Italian woman’s magazine that I once picked up at a kiosk on Via Cavour in Parma: How to Take Care of Springtime Allergies. Discover What Skin Type You Have. There’s a Time to Work, and a Time to Live. Can You Find Happiness in a Moment? The themes of all of these articles are consistent, pertaining to a woman’s well-being. If you examine the magazines at the checkout counter in the U.S., you might instead find something like this: Lose 10 pounds on the 7-Day Veggie Juice Fast. 20 minute Chocolate Cheesecake Fudge. 5 Exercises you can do at your desk. Icebox cake the way Grandma Used to Make It –all on the same cover!
- Pull back on the Bread and Pasta. Italian women tell me that if you eat a loaf of bread a day you will start to look like one. When trying to drop a chilo or two they might substitute a vegetable minestrone for their afternoon (or evening) pasta dish a few times a week, and cut down on some of the bread. They don’t cut those foods out completely, however. Deprivation never leads to success. But bread and pasta are not green lights for gluttony either. Italians typically use a piece of bread (even a half piece) to fare la scarpetta (literally, make a little shoe) to mop up the pasta sauce or the last bits of soup. There is no eating slice after slice slathered in butter. Instead, bread is used more as an accent to maximize enjoyment of the main course. Pasta, likewise, is not heaped in high mounds on one’s plate; rather, a couple of forkfuls would be the equivalent of what Italians commonly consume at a meal, according to Chef Lidia Bastianich whom I interviewed on my radio show, earlier this year.
What do YOU do when you want to lose a few pounds? Which tips in this article appeal to you? Let’s start a conversation by commenting below! Or, you can write to me RaeleenMautner@gmail.com
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Article ©Raeleen Mautner, Ph.D., LLC