Last week Ben and I took a trip to Italy and explored the Amalfi coast. Besides how beautiful, charming and serene it was, it also gave us both the time we needed to reconnect with one another and switch off from the world. In short – it was a week of pure bliss and I soaked up every second of it.
I love traveling – I love exploring, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and tasting authentic and wholesome foods. Italy was always on my bucket list and in the last few years, I’ve been so lucky to explore my way around that beautiful country with my love at my side. It has become one of my favourite places to visit and every time I go, I feel like I learn more and more and this time, what stood out for me, was the health and vibrancy of everyone that lived there. In fact, after only a week, I experienced some of that increased vibrancy myself!
I believe whole heartedly in the 80/20 rule and don’t believe in restriction of any kind. So when I go on holiday, I let myself relax. I stop thinking about my probiotics, greens powder and kale. Instead, I opt for a more intuitive approach, where I eat when I’m hungry and I eat what I want to. Basically, I allow myself to enjoy the food I’m eating – I opt for relaxed and fun food choices that I wouldn’t normally get to experience at home. So, I enjoyed pizza, pasta, cannoli’s and gelato! (After all, we were in Italy so it would be rude not to!)
As always, I came back home and jumped on the scales to assess the ‘damage’ and was completely shocked – rather than putting on that dreaded holiday weight, I’d in fact lost weight – 3lbs of it. I couldn’t believe it – after all, If I was in the UK and ate pasta, gelato and pizza every day I would most certainly put on weight; I wouldn’t feel healthy, energised or vibrant in any way, yet after eating my fair share of spinach and ricotta cannelloni, I came home feeling healthier and happier than I had done in a long time. You can imagine what a total shock that was to me when I spend my weeks eating organic whole-foods, drinking probiotic smoothies and spending hours in the gym.
The Mediterranean lifestyle, the food, the social life, the activity – it all came together in one beautiful recipe to create a truly energising experience for me (and for Ben!).
Positano is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen – it almost felt like stepping back in time with all the beautiful architecture, brightly coloured houses and original fiat 500’s. I felt like I’d just stepped onto a scene from Roman Holiday (one of my favourite movies with Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck). This was our first stop on our holiday and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
There were steps at every corner – the town is built into the side of a cliff so the walkways were full of steps. (We had 400 steps to climb whenever we needed to get back to our hotel – not to mention the hundreds we had to climb to get back from the beach!) It amazed me how fit everyone was – that first day climbing even just the 400 steps back to our hotel resulted in Ben and I panting and having to stop every now and again for a breather. We both thought it would be a breeze considering how ‘fit’ we thought we were but I learned something on that first day. Fitness comes from being active day in, day out. You’ll get stronger and leaner by going to the gym but true fitness comes from being consistently active. Those that lived there would completely storm past us walking up these hills and cliffs (regardless of their age!) which made it all the more meaningful that being consistently active really does have it’s benefits in improving your fitness.
So many of us believe that to be fit we have to go to HIIT classes, join a cross fit gym or slave away on the cross trainer. Yes, going to the gym does benefit us but something as basic as climbing the stairs or racking up 20,000 steps in a day did absolute wonders for us – it was so refreshing to feel our fitness levels increase without having to do 100 box jumps!
Let me tell you, climbing almost 3,000 steps in one afternoon was more of a killer to my legs than any spin class I’ve ever taught.
I’ve talking about the benefits of walking time and time again. My dad is in his beautiful 70’s and is still as fit as he was when I was a little girl, why? Because he makes an effort to go for an hour walk every single day (even in the summer heat in Dubai!).
While we were away we averaged 20,000 steps (easily) but we weren’t the only ones. It didn’t seem to be a ‘touristy’ thing to do and in fact, most of the residents seemed to opt for walking over driving or getting a bus (again that added to their superior fitness levels over ours). Besides the physical benefits, walking is an incredible mood and energy booster.
This goes hand in hand with ‘walking’ really but it deserves a mention in its own right. We are all so used to being indoors constantly, whether it’s working in an office environment, watching TV or spending hours at a time glued to various forms of social media. It’s so easy to forget the magic of being out in nature , soaking up the sun and enjoying the fresh air. Stepping outside and spending time in the outdoors allows you to switch off from the world and to be more present in the moment. In fact, I didn’t see one person on their phone while walking, sitting on the beach or heading to the shops.
Being in the present and enjoying the moment allowed for every memory to sink in more. It meant going back to basics and noticing the small things, those little things that just make you smile and spread joy throughout every cell in your body.
Stepping out and lapping up the fresh air is exactly what all our bodies need for true vibrancy.
Have you ever heard the saying
Well if it’s true, then no wonder everyone living on the Amalfi coast looked so healthy! I have never heard so much laughter, viewed so many smiles, or seen so many gatherings in one place. Enjoying another person’s company became so contagious that I can’t remember the last time Ben and I shared so much laughter! It felt like we were in fits of giggles the whole time. Whether it was a weekday or a weekend, it didn’t matter – every moment seemed like the perfect time for everyone to get together and share good food and good company. Even on a week day, there were families that we met who had work the next day but had just opened another bottle of wine to share with their friends at 10pm (after all, they only had dinner at 9, so why not?).
Social life and building strong connections and relationships seemed like more of a priority than anything else. Sometimes our bill took 20 minutes to arrive at our table, why? Because the waiter started chatting to another family, sharing in their laughter, and you know what? That was totally OK because it gave Ben and I another 20 minutes to be present with one another and enjoy our own conversation.
One of the most noticeable things, especially is Positano, was how chilled and laid back everything and everyone was. It is such a complete contrast to our life in England where we are constantly on the go 24/7. At home, our lives revolve around a massive to-do list: Clean the kitchen, work, hoover up after the dogs, do the food shop, work, make dinner, take the dogs out, feed the dogs – oh yeah, and did I mention work? Every day I wake up with a million and one things to do and try to get them all done at bullet speed. I noticed a major flaw in my to-do list while I was away – there was no tick box that said:
Sheesh, I mean, no wonder burn out happens for so many of us. It’s almost culturally built into us to go go go without ever giving ourselves a break and time to actually enjoy life! Life is short, life is meant to be lived – isn’t that why we’re living? To actually live?
So what if things take longer to get done? They will get done eventually, so isn’t it more important to take your time and enjoy the process rather than despise the process and feel exhausted at the result?
This is my biggest take away from the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Our grandma’s never cooked with additives, preservatives or heated up shop bought ready meals – in fact all of their cooking would have been made with whole foods from local farmers markets and more than likely it would all be organic. Now a days additives and preservatives are everywhere and anywhere and it’s harder to buy organic, raw foods than it is heavily processed foods! Not a good ratio if you ask me.
If I were to eat a pizza or pasta from a restaurant near me, more than likely I’d feel bloated, sluggish, nauseous and break out in a skin rash – the oils, processed dairy and preservatives would be way too much for my body to handle. The reason why I was able to eat pizza and actually enjoy it was because it was all made from scratch, it was always fresh and made from local, organic, home grown ingredients. In fact, although I ate a lot of pasta that would normally lead me to depleted energy levels, I was more energised and glowing than I would normally be at home. Why? It’s simple: I was eating organic wholefoods that were extremely nutrient dense and full of anti-inflammatory properties (not to mention all the olive oil!).
Everyone seemed to have lemon or orange trees growing in the gardens and there were no shortages of farmers selling their local produce – it was beautiful and the smells were incredible!
I kid you not – so many of the restaurants were making authentic meals straight from their grandmother’s recipe book! Needless to say, the food was nothing short of incredible – made with organic, home grown wholefoods and a whole lot of love!
Cooking from home and choosing what ingredients go into our dishes is a simple and easy way to transform the way we eat and it’s something we can all do!