Monday, February 22, 2010 12:52 am
MY PERSONAL BEST
The Best of Both Worlds - True health reform starts in your kitchens and daily habits.
By Marta Montenegro; Photography by Steve Shaw Photography, Inc.
I used to stress over traveling to Europe. It was hard for me to change the way I ate and exercised (as it is for anyone trying to lose weight or lead a healthier life), even if my trip was not longer than a week or so. I would fret about how hard it would be to get fat-free milk, egg-white omelets, sugar-free drinks and so on. And let’s not even mention my hopes of finding a fully equipped gym.
Analyzing the food, exercise and overall health habits of the places I visit is a large part of who I am. But no matter how much you’ve read and studied about the Mediterranean diet, it’s one thing is to be aware of its benefits and quite another to experience them firsthand.
Since I don’t drink wine and I’ve never been a fan of plain sparkling water with my meals, I’ve experienced the disapproving looks of waiters when I’ve ordered a Diet Coke. Cappuccinos with skim milk have been equally frowned upon. I began feeling out of place whenever and wherever I ate until the day I was frantically going through my e-mail on the BlackBerry and started noticing how all the business types were actually eating their food, taking their time, not trying to squeeze in office-related tasks during their lunch hour.
That’s when I stopped feeling stressed, opting instead to study how they benefited from their approach to nutrition. In Italy, for instance, they do enjoy their pastas… but served in small, sensible portions, featuring plenty of healthy tomato and olive oil, and usually followed by a heaping salad packed with lots of different fresh vegetables. Fresh fish is readily available, and so is fruit as dessert. And over there, people were walking or riding a bicycle to and from the trattorias. At home I must drive to the only place in the area that features a decent salad bar.
No wonder they don’t need fancy gym equipment to work out. No wonder research keeps showing us that countries like France and Italy enjoy lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. No wonder their public health system doesn’t need desperate measures in order to keep up with sedentary and generally unhealthy lifestyles. These countries have historically learned that true health reform starts in their kitchens and in their daily habits. These people are not on diets. They just live the way we’re all supposed to live.
So let’s bring the best of the Old World to our New World. A world where we limit our options to the healthy and whole, not processed ones. Where portion control comes before supersized meals. Where the so-called “slow food movement” is not a passing trend but a fresh approach to letting our bodies adapt to a healthier way of living.
Half of our dishes should be made of foods rich in complex carbs, vegetables and fruit, and the other half should be split between lean proteins and healthy fats. Let’s stand up and walk, move around, play with our kids. My last trip across the Atlantic just showed me I should be less anxious about the things I’m not used to and more open to adopting new habits… particularly when they make this much sense!
Have a question? Drop me a note! I am always here for my friends, my family and my wonderful community! Whether it’s a simple question about an exercise or advice to improve your diet and overall health, know that I’m available to answer your questions, from one fitness enthusiast to another. Find your victory! Don’t hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.