Once, when in Rome I decided to get some definitive answers on how Italians stay so slim and sexy. My own research had confirmed that our Bel Paese brothers and sisters have lower Body Mass Indexes (BMI) and more positive body images than Americans in general. Surprisingly, the Italians I interviewed admitted they don’t put a lot of sweat and toil into keeping their bodies in shape. Instead they offered six amazingly simple techniques, which if followed in conjunction with a sensible eating plan, will have you, too, turning heads in no time.
Tip # 1: Don’t Overdo It. (Non esagerare)
Gluttonous orgies of the Roman Empire have long since been replaced by the wiser philosophy of: non esagerare, Don’t overdo it. Excesses in eating, drinking, smoking, and sedentary living are all associated with disease and even premature death. Italians are fans of moderation. Overindulgence not only wears on your body, but also on your emotions. No one feels good about handing their day over to bag of cookies. Stop eating when you’re full, and fill those between- meal times with the pleasure of a good book, a brisk walk, or a lively soccer game. When you take the focus off food you put “eating” back in its rightful place.
Tip # 2: Keep Your Life Balanced (Equillibrare)
Don’t let dieting become the focal point in your life. Getting fit shouldn’t make you crazy. Go to that party with your Sweetheart and eat sensibly from what’s on your plan, and enjoy every bite to the fullest. Skip dessert, and then dance the rest of the night away. What could be more fun? Remember to give due attention to other important areas of your life, too. Funnel some more energy into family ties, friendships, finances, spirituality, health, and of course self-enrichment. You will live happily when you live as a complete whole.
Tip # 3: Dress Well (Bella Figura)
Italians say if you wouldn’t cover your best piece of furniture with sweatpants, why would you hang them on yourself? Sweats were originally designed to wear in a gym, so if you are going there now, be my guest. Otherwise, be forewarned that good grooming affects how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you. Adorn yourself with something sharp, and watch the dynamics start to change. No matter what your size, it is your right to look and feel good about YOU. That doesn’t mean obsessing over your appearance, but simply treating yourself with the dignity you deserve.
Tip # 4: Eat Simple (Semplicita’)
No way do you have to spend hours to cook up a delicious meal. With a few basic ingredients I’ve watched Italian friends put a nutritious feast on the table in a half hour or less. Even the quickest home cooking makes a kitchen warm and comforting to kids and adults. Stock your pantry right, and let your imagination take over. On a harried days you might simply open a can of tuna, take a slice of provolone a sundried tomato, then pile everything over a big salad, or if bread is on your plan, a warmed slice of crusty Italian. Eat slowly while sipping a robust glass of red wine, and you’ll feel like you’ve had a feast.
Tip # 5: Weave in Exercise, Naturally (Ginnastica ragionevole)
Gyms are not for everybody. My Bel Paese colleagues say the best exercise in the world is a brisk daily walk or bike ride, along with an enjoyably active day that might include some gardening, a game of soccer with the kids, and even making love. If you take this route your body will look better than ever, and your brain won’t even know you’ve have a “work out”!
Tip # 6: Stay Calm (Vai con calma)
If you feel bad because you “blew” your diet, you’re still not following the Dolce Vita philosophy—which above all means to live well and joyfully. Instead of running to food to calm your emotions, run out your front door, look upward at the open sky, and take a nice deep breath. Smile boldly at that blue sky, and say “Grazie” for being alive. Staying calm and focused will help you stick to any food plan, sans the stress. We will all make mistakes now and then, but staying confident we will succeed is what gives life its gusto.
(This post was adapted from an article I once wrote for ediets. If you enjoy my posts please pass the word along.)