While eating and drinking your way through Italy is an amazing time, it certainly does a number on your waistline! The pattern typically goes like this: when I arrive in Italy I do as the Italians do–pastries for breakfast, pasta for every other meal, and wine… lots and lots of wine!
For the first month or so it’s liberating, and since I’m leading a large group of students up volcanos, around medieval towns, and across ancient ruins, indulging while staying in shape isn’t a problem. But then the students go home and I spend my days sitting in the archive, still eating and drinking whatever and whenever my heart desires.
By the time I return home I feel pretty crappy. I am sluggish and out of shape! So for the past couple weeks I have been working on my fitness and trying to eat healthier. I am sure you all can relate as most people struggle to eat right and stay in shape. I am also one of those people who, if after a couple weeks of working out, I don’t wake up looking like Gisele Bundchen I am disappointed and discouraged!
There are a couple of mistakes I make, and most people make, when it comes to a healthier lifestyle–unrealistic goals (i.e. expecting to look like Gisele Bundchen), a lack of moderation (I tend to be an all or nothing exerciser), and the expectation to be successful alone. I find that I am much more successful when I lower my ridiculous expectations, moderate my diet and exercise (no extreme calorie cutting), and make eating right and working out a social experience. This last one is key. Cooking healthy meals with friends, daily walks (also a great way to catch up), and group exercise classes integrate health and wellness into your daily life, making them fun and social activities you can look forward to instead of dreading.
Brittany and I are addicted to group exercise classes at the YMCA. Not only are these classes fun, but working out in a group of people pushes you to do your best and doesn’t allow you to cut out early–they keep you accountable! Our favorites are the Les Mills classes–Body Attack and Body Step. Brittany also loves Body Pump, it’s not my favorite (I am not a fan of weight training), but I know it’s good for me and the social pressure of the group class keeps me going lol.
But as we all know exercise is only half of the battle! Eating right is also important. My biggest downfall is that I don’t like cooking. Fortunately Brittany does, just another reason why these things are easier with a friend. Brittany recently introduced me to the world of spiralized veggies (I say world because there are lots of websites and recipes devoted to this). Did you know that you can replace starches, like pastas, with veggie noodles?
Now I know what you are thinking, because my eyes rolled so far in the back of my head when she first suggested it (#GiveMePastaOrGiveMeDeath), but we tried a couple of recipes and it’s actually really good! What I like is that I still feel like I am eating a great Italian pasta dish, but with more veggies and less carbs! This sausage broccoli rabb dish was delicious.
It’s been a couple of weeks of my new workout schedule and spiralized veggie pasta diet and while I still don’t look like a super model (because sadly, I never will) I feel so much better! My next goal is to not revert back to old habits in Italy this January. I still want to indulge in the deliciousness that is Italian food, but I also need to practice my healthy habits from home while I am there–join a gym, take group workout classes, and cook with friends (I am looking at you Anna ;)).
What are your diet and exercise secrets?