5 Dolce Vita Tips to Help You Slim Down and Gain Confidence




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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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

7 Secrets to that Roman Sense of Style


Photo Courtesy: Ferragamo

Here are seven rules of thumb I have deciphered  on my recent Roman sojourn, for those who wish to transform their look, all’italiana . I have written a more in-depth article on this subject in my weekly column for The Italian Tribune. Buon Leggere!

1.      1.  Buy Detailed Clothing. When a Roman woman buys a suit, it has to go beyond being just a gray blazer and skirt. The jacket may have a lace panel cutout between the shoulder blades, the waistband of the skirt may end high on the midriff and cinched in by a chic textured belt with gold hardware at the waist. The color of the suit will be anything but drab—grass green, sapphire blue or even bright chartreuse. Italian jeans are not unremarkable denim panels sewn together at the seams with orange thread. You will notice embellishment on the rear pockets, artistic seaming in pearl gray, and a fit that proudly caresses every curve of the body. When you shop for clothing you may have to spend a little extra on  the subtle details that make each piece  work of art, but Romans see well-made clothing as an investment and would prefer to have three unique pieces than twelve cheaply made outfits from a discount outlet.

2.      2.  Get a Good Hair Cut and Consider Highlights. A great head of hair is the crowning glory of Roman men and women. Silver haired men of a certain age in Rome are still irresistibly chic because of a great layered cut. Or , if losing their hair, shaving the entire head is also in style, as it is here. Roman women get regular stylish cuts and highlights, whether copper , bronze, or warm chestnut, to contrast with their natural color. Hair is never sprayed into a still life, but cascades fluidly as its owner moves. Up-dos are neat, yet lose and feminine, with a long side-swept bang or pushed all the way back into a sexy topknot. Shine and body are always apparent.

3.       3. Compliment Your Look with  a Few Exquisite Accessories. A great pair of dangling earrings or hoops, a large designer hand-bag an a unique silk foulard tied at the shoulder are just some of the imaginative accessories Roman women use to polish their total look. Many of us think that a dress and heels are all we need to complete our look.  Italians would beg to differ.

4.       4. Get In Shape. My readers know I don’t hold back and so I will come right out with it: Whatever you wear will look a hundred times better if you are in shape.  Rarely will you see Roman men with potbellies so big they can’t even see their feet, or Roman women with rolls of flab around the tops of their hips. The Mediterranean way of eating is definitely more conducive to good health than most other diets out there, but it is more than that. The tendency for Romans to keep their shape is a matter of caring about it enough to take action each and every day to maintain it. Smaller portion sizes, less pane, and an everyday dedication to walking to where they need to go, are some of the secrets to a great body.

5.     5.   Shoes to Boots.  Forget the jogging sneakers unless you are going for a jog, or the convent-style black pumps that you bought to go with everything.  From here on in think of your shoes as specialty outfits for your feet. Italian shoes and boots are masterful works of art, and Roman women buy different pairs to go with different outfits. There is no “one pair spans all”, nor is there a primary emphasis on the need to have your shoes feel like slippers. Slippers are worn in the bedroom, spiked heels on the cobblestone roads, if you want to make heads turn. While not every Italian (or American) can afford the latest multi-colored patchwork suede pumps I drooled over in the Salvatore Ferragamo shoe store window display in Rome, there are plenty of exquisite designs that are more affordable and still of great quality. It is time to think of shoes in a whole new way.

6.    6.    Visible make-up. Roman women wear eyeliner as if to say “what’s the point if no one can see it?” Yet there is nothing clownish about the Italian approach to make up. Sexy is visible. Sofia cat-eyes; slightly darker lip liner to make the lips seem fuller, and  blush that matches the lip color. I personally sought the advice of a makeup artist at a  local profumeria near the Vatican, where  I was advised to wear a warm coral palate as a compliment to my darker olive skin tone. It has made a dramatic difference in my total look.

7.      7.  Two Additional Tips for Men. Roman men do not buy half sleeved shirts. Long sleeve button-downs are more elegant, especially when the collar is left open and the sleeves are rolled up above the wrist. This kind of shirt  makes for an alluring Italian look when  either tucked in with dress pants or suit; or with tails out over jeans. Finally, especially in warm weather, Roman men go sockless under a well made pair of leather shoes or loafers. Tri colored leather in tan, mahogany and black hombre are especially big these days, as are styles that are just a bit out of the ..well, shoebox, such as  traditional tie dress shoes with a glimmer of red or green metallic at the seams.

And there you have it. Remember that it takes a while to transform yourself along the path to any goal you want to obtain, so pian piano. Take it one step at a time, and before you know it you too will have the confidence and the grace of the everyday Roman fashion icons you have admired in the eternal city.

Toss the Turban and Don the Confidence!

Red turban 2


When I was a young woman studying in Italy I remember a merchant selling me—of all things—a red silk turban. “Ma Signorina, ti fa’ bellissima”, he gasped, hands clutched together as if a holy apparition had driven him to prayer. I had never worn a turban before—or any other hat for that matter, other than the woolen cap that kept the New England frost from biting my ears in the winter. But with a reaction such as his, I thought he might have been on to something important.
“How many lire did you say this costs?” Whatever it was, if it had really made me that beautiful , I was in, and here is my wallet.
“No need for a bag, just cut the tags, I will wear it out of the store.” With straightened spine, shoulders back, and a graceful proud sway, I strode out into the main via of the town I was living in and much to my surprise, I saw more heads turn than had ever happened to me before. My day began to suddenly get lucky. A local artist began frantically sketching me and then gave me the gift of his labor. A young Italian gentleman with eyes like the midday sky in June asked me if I’d like to meet him later on for a dance. A fruit vendor thought I looked as beautiful as the ripe apricots he was selling and insist I take a few, gratis, on him. It was as if I had put a genie’s lamp on my head. I began looking people in the eye and greeting them with a smile. I got the courage to go up to one of my professors and ask that he go over the parts of the lesson I hadn’t quite understood. Friends were vying for my company, offering me concert tickets or promising the gelato later on would be on them. What was going on?
Certainly when I found a mirror that night and looked at myself in the sky-high red turban, I couldn’t help but be mortified at how ludicrous I looked. Could everyone else have been putting me on, egging me along, making a joke out of me? Could they have possible seen me as more attractive with that monstrosity on my head? Or was I the one interacting with the world differently?
As it turns out, economists at the University of Verona actually studied the phenomenon of beauty and productivity. Research shows that students rate attractive professors as more effective, and more attractive students also seem to get better grades. Was it discrimination, or something else? We all know about the self-fulfilling prophecy—the fact that what people expect of others usually becomes a reality. A body of research also shows that more attractive individuals are seen as having a myriad of good qualities, and this “halo effect” drives how others treat them.
Researchers Cipriani and Zago, however, make a strong case for the effect of self-confidence on productivity. When a person feels more attractive, they behave more confidently, and people react to them differently. Because I believed that the red turban gave me elegance, beauty, stateliness—all of the qualities the merchant promised me it did, I carried that belief around with me all day, and the result was nothing short of amazing.
I often stress the importance of looking your best in my workshops and presentations. It is not about trying to impress others as much as it is about feeling good about the way you look to yourself. Why? Because doing so will make you confident, more productive, and each day now has the potential for a victory! Now go take off that turban (and I will, too) 

Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.

•National OSIA (Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America) Summer 2013 Book Club Selection for LEMONS INTO LIMONCELLO: FROM LOSS TO PERSONAL RENAISSANCE WITH THE ZEST OF ITALY (HCI BOOKS)

•”Living la Dolce Vita:Bring the Passion, Laughter, and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life” (Sourcebooks)
•”Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” (HCI Books)

http://raeleenmautner.com (linked to The New Haven Register Blog)

“The ITALIAN Art of Living Well” on WNHU 88.7FM or live stream http://www.wnhu.net, Mondays at 7AM

The Italian Tribune

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Even the Pope Dresses to the Nines


Stefano Gammarelli is the ecclesiastical tailor to the Pope. You can be sure that a lot of thought goes in to each fabric and detail that ends up cloaking the most dignified figurehead of the Catholic Church. Tradition requires that the Pope look special and elegant when he presents himself to the public.  Why? Because clothing can represent a certain role, a certain vision, and it can inspire confidence in others as well as in the wearer.

I am all about tradition as a way to stay grounded, confident, and keeping ancestral memory alive as a vehicle for remembering the potential inside of each one of us. Dressing up special at least one day a week has been a religious as well as a family tradition for most of us. Yet, in recent times it seems that every day just blends into the next without fanfare.

In Italy today, even those who work in the remote fields and villages put on their Sunday best one day a week when they go to church, and later break bread with friends and neighbors.  The act of dressing in our best clothing set Sunday apart from the work week and gave a special respect to the holiness of the day.  Sunday dressing served to remind us of the dignified side of human nature.  It signaled a day of rest, the day that a special meal was prepared, the day in which we elevated ourselves to the image of God, and pulled ourselves temporarily out of the whirlwind of the mundane work week.

Whatever your religious beliefs, the tradition of setting aside a special day in which you reflect, rest, gather round the family table , and put on your “Sunday best”, will re-charge your sprits like nothing else can.   If you have not tried this in a while, you can start with TODAY.  Or declare a Saturday or Sunday best day, once a week, every week.  Weekends should be about more than exhausting yourself with chores. Let one of those days be a day that you dedicate to personal elegance, dignity, and spirituality. Put on your best clothes, hold your head high, and give thanks for the blessings that ALWAYS sprout up between the hardships.

How do YOU feel when you put on your Sunday best? Do comment below!

Summon Your Coraggio (courage) to take the Right–Not the Easy Road

La costiera amalfitana

Every time I ride along the Amalfi Coast  I am both exhillarated by the beauty that surrounds me, yet  always  quite cognizant of how I am less than a foot away from a very steep cliff , while moving rather rapidly.  Sometimes the thought terrifies me. Yet, when I ask myself: Is this too dangerous? my answer does not take long.  No, no, e poi no. Why? It has to do with what I value for my life.  I need aesthetic beauty to fill my senses and recharge me. I need Italy’s energy, its majesty, its people, its culture. It is who I am. And I need it from up close, not from a safe distance.  I could certainly view the majestic golfo di salerno from a balcony, but my instinct drives me to go directly to it, and ask it to open its arms to me so that I can live it from the inside. Some things are worth the risk, but often we entrap ourselves in the safe zone.

Coraggio, is what helps us take the risks that support our inner values. The courage muscle, like anything else, strengthens with practice. Of course you need to get real clear on what really matters to you, first.

Diego Dalla Palma, in his book “La Bellezza Interiore“, writes of a love he once had in Sicily. When he realized that despite the love between them, it would be better for both of them to go their seperate ways, he had to look deep inside to summon the courage to ultimately end the relationship. “When you end a relationhip”, he notes, “there is no more hand to hold, no one who caresses your hair, no telephone ring that makes your heart skip a beat with excitement.”

Certo”, he writes, ” I am physically alone, but when I began to think about the situation, inside of me, I was not really alone.  I did what I know was the right thing–not the easiest thing–to do. I still had the strength of my principles to  accompany me–and that is no small achievement”.

I don’t advocate sensless risk–that is irresponsible. I do, however, think that once we get clear on what our real values are, we have no chioce but to let those values guide especially our most difficult decisions -that is what authenticity is. We need our coraggio most of all when the gulf waters get rough.  Rediscover yours–and use it to do the right thing. Always.


Need some advice or guidance? Send me your life coaching question and I will answer it on the air on my Monday morning radio show, “The Art of Living Well”. Write to me: Raeleenmautner@gmail.com   No names will be used on air. The show airs every Monday morning at 7AM. Tune in 88.7FM or Stream in live www.wnhu.net  for great ideas on making your life easier, happier, and getting you to where you want to be.

Thank you to all of my readers around the world!! I am honored to see you are loving this blog across Europe, Asia, Africa, and in many many countries. Vi ringrazio dal cuore..


Simple Old World Advice for Staying in Shape: “Non esagerare!”


There is an entire movement in American psychology based on the need to get back to rational thinking. Nowhere do we need this more than the area of weight control.   How often do we see situations as all or nothing? “If I can’t stick to this diet to the letter, I will chuck the whole thing.”  How often do we make mountains out of molehills and announce the end of the world if just one thing goes wrong? “ I blew it today. There’s no use, I might as well eat the whole bag.”

Fortunately the gluttonous orgies of the Roman Empire have long since been replaced by the wiser belief in the daily philosophy of : non esagerare, don’t overdo it.  While the ancient Romans enjoyed laying around the table (on couches) for 5 or 6 hours, in a stuffing -vomiting ritual, modern Italians have a healthy skepticism towards overindulging in anything.  Meals are still best enjoyed as a social event,  but Italians make sure they consume high quality foods in the right amounts that satisfy their hunger. Once a meal is done, they typically do not refuel until the next one. The act of eating is much less pleasurable if reduced to an all day grazing ritual.  Italians opt for moderation, and my own research on Italy-US body weight comparisons validates their approach.

Our bodies and minds don’t do will with excess. Homeostasis is a natural physiological phenomenon that helps us to survive. Excess in food, sedentary behavior or even negative thinking, throws our homeostasis mechanism out of balance.  Think of moderation on a spectrum. If you have been sliding towards the edges of the spectrum blow, think about reeling yourself back into the middle of the range—the area of moderation and good health.

The Non-esagerare Mindset


Too Little                                                                                Too Much

You want to try and stay as close to the  mid-line  X as you can, when it comes to any behavior related to weight control. The  X is the non-esagerare, or moderation zone. It is the healthy point at which you neither deprive nor overindulge yourself. You simply live well, and watch the weight start to normalize as your behaviors do.  Slight deviations from the X always average out, and are nothing to worry about.  Not to worry about an extra indulgence here and there, just go a bit to the other side of the X for the next few days to make up. If you notice a pattern at either extreme of the spectrum, however, it is time to take action.

Here is an example. Loretta takes a walk on most days during her lunch hour. On the non-esagerare continuum for exercise, she would place herself on or close to the red X. She is getting a good, moderate amount of activity in every week. Maria, on the other hand sits at a computer all day, then comes home and sits in front of the TV all night. On a weekly basis, she gets very little daily exercise. She would be toward the left (too little) of the non-esagerare continuum for exercise. Dina has gone in the opposite direction. She goes to the gym twice a day and takes a short run at lunch. She feels guilty when she sits down, and constantly worries about how many calories she burned off each day.  She would place herself toward the “too much” side.

Either “too little” or “too much” of food or exercise is not healthful. On the other hand, if you simply keep yourself within the normal range each day, you won’t have to deny your self anything, and eventually your weight problem will be history, without much fanfare or sweat on your part. A common impression is that Italians seem to enjoy life as if they haven’t care in the world.   Moderation has a lot to do with it, because excess not only causes stress, but also requires way too much effort to correct. Living in balance promotes serenity.

I have never met an Italian who felt compelled to finish a whole tray of biscotti, on the rationale that since she already ate one, and “blew it” anyway, so why not go for it and start over tomorrow?  Italians live by a down-to-earth practicality, especially when it comes to fitness and well-being.  A few extra pounds? Cut a little bread from your supper this week. Just tweak something here or there and get back to good common sense. “Does it make sense to dive into last night’s leftovers at 10 0’clock this morning?” “Does it make sense to eat a whole layer cake just because I had a fight with my cousin and I’m upset?”  If the answer comes up in the negative, just turn around and walk away.  Practice strengthens the non-esagerare muscle.


I love to hear from my readers. Do drop me a line and let me know about the challenges YOU are struggling with. What challenges are you struggling with? What losses have you experienced, that have changed your life? Write to me: raeleenmautner@gmail.com

Create Your Own “Ortogym” and Get Fit!

Photo Courtesy: Ansa.it

A recent article reported in ansa.it, announced that Italian school children in the campania region–where US scientist Ancel Keys reported on the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, as a way to prevent several life-theatening diseases—are part of a program to prevent obesity, which is becomeing a global concern. The children tend a vegetable garden for one hour per day.

I am a long time advocate of the old fashioned Italian garden as a means to achieve serenity and good health. Ecopsychologists know that working with the earth gives us a greater sense of serenity and connectedness. We get a sense of achievement in growing some of our own food, and give our bodies the gift of good nourishment by eating fresh, clean, pesticide-free produce. we save money , too.

But there is another benefit to gardening–staying in shape– and as  usual Italians are leading the way in putting emphasis on preserving the health of their  children using gardening as part of their fitness regimen. Bravi ragazzi!

If you want to make  the joy of gardening become the heart of your fitness regimen too, now is the season–don’t let it slip away as you sit on the couch.  One hour of gardening can burn 300-400 calories. That is not just growing produce, but you can also include mowing the lawn(I prefer an old fashioned non-gas driven mower), trimming hedges, pruning trees, etc. To make sure you don’t overdo it, you can get out and tend garden for 30 minutes at a time,  two or three times a day. What a way to get a return for your efforts!  If you are in an apartment or condo, you can more than likely  garden some of the common grounds , volunteer your services for your local community garden, or even create a pot garden on your balcony that you tend to regularly.