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November 19, 2014

How to Go to Italy for 2 Weeks, Eat Pasta, Pizza & Bread and Not Gain a Single Pound

Last month, I was sitting at dinner in Amalfi, Italy with my friend Gianpiero and I was remarking on “the carbs in this bread” and the “fat in this cheese,” and he looked at me and just said, “Jill, we don’t talk like this — carbs, fat, protein. It’s just food. And in Italy, if someone a little fat, it’s no big drama.”


No big drama?? In the states, it seems to be THE BIGGEST drama. Ha! It’s what my entire business is based on. Wow, what an eye-opening statement. I immediate texted my girl Neghar to tell her, and thus the hashtag #nobigdrama was born!

This short conversation was everything. I loved it. The best.

Ohhh, I forgot to tell you all …

I went to Italy for 2 weeks last month. A little mental reset, lots of writing, meditation, walking and wine. And before I left, Jade said lovingly, “If you go to Italy and don’t eat any pasta or pizza, I’ll fucking kill you.” Well then! ;) I had my work cut out for me.


I knew I had to taste the amazing food, but I wanted to do it in my way — the way I eat now — moderation 100% of the time, picking and choosing my nutrition battles and always working to feel satisfied, but not stuffed. And while the not-gaining-a-single-pound is a sexy hook to this post (and true), the bigger take-away (and why I wanted to write this blog) was to exemplify how it is possible to “go on vacation” to somewhere us Americans see as Land o’ the Carbs and think there’s no way you don’t gain 20 lbs going there, and actually eat for 3 things: experience + satisfaction + maintenance.

I would never have been able to do what I did 4 years ago. Back when I was doing the all-or-nothing eating thing, I LIVED for vacation because it was an excuse to throw caution to the wind and eat with abandon because … vacation!! Situational eating + Food FOMO at its best.

But this trip (and each one for the last 3 years), the way I did things was not hard and it didn’t leave me remorseful and bloated and shameful. It was effortless because it’s just how I eat now. In fact, if you asked me be strict on my diet OR asked me to binge eat, I simply couldn’t do either now, I’m just too practiced at moderation.

So I went from a fairly low carb diet and having not eaten pasta, pizza or bread regularly for literally years to incorporating it into my routine for 2 weeks. And I kept a list of every pasta dish, pizza and bread item I ate on the trip. When I showed it to Jade he said, “That’s actually not a lot considering you there there for 2 weeks.”

I loved that response because that’s precisely the point. I didn’t go overboard. I didn’t stuff myself every single day with every carb under the Italian sun. I didn’t go all out and “take advantage” of my time in Italy. Why? Because pasta and pizza will always be there, and simply tasting some of the best homemade version in the world was not only a treat, but … wait for it … #nobigdrama.

I felt 100% satisfied 100% of the time. Not stuffed. Not bloated. Not deprived. Not like I was missing anything.

The idea that you have to stuff yourself to have “the full experience” is absurd. Because remember, stuffing yourself doesn’t enhance your experience. In fact, it takes away from it because you end up constantly berating yourself for it.

No thanks!

So here’s my list:

  • 1 slice pepperoni pizza
  • Spaghetti with clams
  • Noodles with clams/mussels
  • 1/2 caprese sandiwch
  • individual margherita pizza
  • Noodles with clams/mussels
  • 1 piece of bread
  • 2 scoops gelato
  • 1 piece of bread
  • 1 slice pepperoni pizza
  • Spaghetti with red sauce
  • 1 piece of bread
  • Noodles with beef band onion
  • 1 piece of bread
  • 1 piece of bread
  • Bowl of noodles
  • 1/2 medium pizza
  • 1 zeppoli
  • About a gallon of mozzarella cheese

So that’s what I ate, and here’s are the 8 steps I used to managed it all:

1) Always leave something on the plate.

I never ate every single morsel of food. Admittedly, one particular night, I had the most insane pasta with red sauce and had to really work to stay mindful and push the plate away. But it was fine. I surfed the disappointment in the moment and was able to feel satisfied with what I’d eaten. The heavy pour of vino rosso didn’t hurt either.

2) Stay mindful.

I was in ITALY! It was not hard to enjoy the atmosphere, take in the culture, and take my time during meals. I savored the flavors, the fresh herbs used, the wine pairing, and I put my fork down between bites. The leisure quality of the meals helped me to eat with awareness. And when I slowed everything down, it was easier to tap into my level of fullness, rather than what we normally do, which is scarf down massive quantities in minutes only to feel stuffed and uncomfortable 20 minutes later. Which bring me to my next practice:

3) Eat to 80% fullness only.

This has been my practice for the last few years and it used to be really hard because by nature, eating to 80% fullness means that you can still eat more. And you want to. It doesn’t feel normal to stop before the point of stuffification (yes, I just made ‘stuffed’ into a noun). So that’s where the mindfulness practice comes in — being in tune with your level of satiation and satisfaction in every moment.

4) One piece of bread at a meal, not more.

Hard and fast guideline. Again, not hard because I’m practiced at taking one and moving on. Check The One-Fry Rule for more on how to practice and master this.

5) Pasta OR pizza per day, but not both.

Another hard and fast. Not difficult to do because … I GET TO EAT PIZZA AND PASTA! How can I not feel lucky and completely satisfied when I am doing one of these each day. I didn’t need both. And not eating both in a day didn’t make me feel gypped. Sometimes I’d skip a day, just depended on the restaurant I was eating at — most days I dined out twice times a day. And I always went with my go-to:

6) Stay satisfied with cheese :)

Specifically caprese salad. I ate it every single day, at least once. Fresh buffalo mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs over the reddest tomatoes you’ve ever seen … seriously my mouth is watering right now just thinking abut it! It’s insanely satisfying and contains 6g of protein per ounce, so I was always getting at least 20g of protein at each meal. I don’t stress about sodium or the fat grams in the cheese or anything like that. I work on staying satisfied and implanting the big rocks, not sweating the small stuff.

7) Lightly monitor the rest of your day.

If I knew I was going to be eating pizza or pasta that day, I’d simply watch the rest of my day and make choices based on eating light. I’d usually have caprese salad and then maybe a Quest bar (which of course I had to bring because #snaxxx) and then maybe some nuts, olives or fruit. It wasn’t hard to down regulate my food volume because I didn’t have a huge appetite mostly because I didn’t exercise the entire time. Just a conscious choice not to lug around a ton of workout clothes, but instead I did this:

8) Leisure walk like crazy.

I enjoyed many of the hiking trails on the Amalfi coast and on the island of Capri. I walked around town, shopping and seeing the sights. Easy.

Years ago, if you told me I’d be one of those people who could eat a single slice of pizza and be good, I’d laugh in your face. But now I am because I made a conscious choice to begin practicing:

These steps might seem like a lot of work to you, but it was honestly easy. Why? Because I am practiced at it. I didn’t have to harness willpower like crazy and white-knuckle my way through Italy. I didn’t feel like I was missing out or like I didn’t get the full experience. In fact, what would have been more work is ditching mindfulness, blindly eating with abandon, scarfing food left and right out of feelings of urgency and exclusivity, only to feel disgusting both physically and mentally later. No. I can’t and won’t do that to myself anymore.

And that mental switch took me 3 years! It was a practice. I didn’t get it right all the time, but I worked in mindfulness, staying aware, thinking about how I feel in the moment, and then just trying to do that more and more. It wasn’t easy at first. I was breaking 30 years’ worth of Food FOMO and all-or-nothing eating practices. And I want you to know that eating moderately always seemed like an impossibility. Those people who were able to take a few chips out of the bag and put it back in the cabinet? They were insane. Those people who could share a dessert and only take a bite or two? WTF? I want you to know that the ability to stop at one cookie or turn down free food or not get Sour Patch Kids at the movies seemed like something I could never, ever do. I was someone who always had a huge appetite, who was always obsessed with food and my next meal, how much is there, what if there’s not enough, how many hours until I can eat again, where’s the food??? This was a tough mentality to change but with a little self-trust and lot of patience and self-compassion, I was able to do it.

And while many think progress selfies take away from the message of body-love or self-compassion, for me, they help reinforce my “maintenance mindset.” And I don’t believing working to get/maintain physical results and loving yourself are mutually exclusive. Just because I work on body esteem doesn’t mean I stop working hard in the gym or stay mindful with my eating. In fact, the more I learn to love my body, the easier those things become.

It is what it is! And for me, “it” is maintenance. Long-term sustainable lifestyle approaches that help me stay stress- and shame-free. I hope this post was helpful for you, and gave you a few insights about how to vacation with a maintenance-mentality, and still stay satisfied and enjoy yourself ;) #nobigdrama

Let me know what you think on the JillFit Facebook page! Love, Jill

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