The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a post from a bikini competitor/powerlifter, who is currently on holiday in Italy. Given that I am also on holiday in Italy, I was curious to see what she was saying about the country and the food. I was shocked to see that she is yet another person who is tracking her macros here.
She is in Italy for one week, and she is not preparing for a show at the moment. She provided a sample day of eating, which was mostly all protein and vegetables bar one slice of pizza, one bite (!) of lasagne and a scoop of gelato for dessert.
I’m not going to name her, as I generally agree with her training and nutrition philosophies, and this post is broader than her specifically. It is an increasingly common trend I see with many people in the fitness industry: despite how “free” they claim their relationship with food to be, they appear to be exactly the opposite.
Last year, Jill from JillFit Physiques went to Italy and proceeded to track every macro she consumed. People can live their life however they like and it’s indeed none of my business what someone chooses to eat or not eat, but what rubs me the wrong way is when these people claim to have a completely healthy relationship with food while doing so. To me, counting calories on holiday – and in Italy, of all places – is not normal. I called Jill out for this on my Facebook page, and she was very defensive about it.
This obsessive behaviour on vacation is something which only seems to occur among people such as Americans, Canadians, Australians and the British. I have never met a French person, for example, who saves up their macros so they can “splurge” on one cup of gelato later in the day.
When I was in Rome, I sat next to an American couple who spent their whole meal talking about the juice fast they were going to start when they returned home from their 10 day vacation. I just wanted to lean over and tell them to shut up and enjoy their damn food.
If you are preparing for a bodybuilding show or photoshoot then, sure, track your macros… or maybe don’t go to a country which is renowned for its food.
If you are in Italy for a week, you will have about 21 meals to eat. That’s not a lot, especially if you’re only allowing yourself to indulge in seven of those meals (and seriously, one slice of pizza is not indulging).
For most people, going to Italy is a once in a lifetime experience. It is not a time when you should be worrying about tracking macros, especially if you have no clear reason to.
A large part of the work I do with clients involves healing their relationship with food. I teach them that being on holiday is a time when they can relax, take a break from exercise, and enjoy foods they might not otherwise eat, without it derailing all of their progress.
I will be in Italy for three months in total and you can bet I’m making the most of it. I eat croissants for breakfast, pasta or pizza every day, and gelato almost every day.
When I’m older, and I’m lying on my death bed, what would I be more likely to regret? Would it be going to Italy and having the most amazing three months of my life where I eat everything and do whatever I want? Or would it be going to Italy and psychotically tracking my macros and limiting myself to 10 cheat meals? I think the answer is pretty obvious.
I pride myself on the fact that I do not regret much in my life. The bad experiences I’ve had have made me a stronger and more courageous person. Whether it is leaving a job or relationship that doesn’t make me happy, or taking a risk for love or my overall happiness, I never want to regret anything. And that includes regretting the fact that I should have eaten more pasta when I was in Italy – although, at this point in my life, I don’t think that’s actually possible.
Last night, I was watching Girls and Jessa (I’m definitely a Jessa, by the way!) happened to say this:
“I have been living this life for 25 fucking years. I am going to look 50 when Im 30. I am going to be so fucking fat, like Nico, and you know why? That’s because I’m going to be full of experiences.”
That sums it up for me. I am involved in the fitness industry, I have dated bodybuilders, and I have been friends with people who are very much a part of the food police. Although I have struggled with disordered eating habits in the past, I feel far removed from the disordered behaviour I see on a daily basis in this industry.
This also recently popped into my newsfeed from another, equally disordered blogger: “Food has a purpose and should not have a taste.” Good, then stay out of Italy and leave the gelato to me. Here it also seems pertinent to reiterate that not only are Italians extremely happy, they are thin!
All that said, every now and then, I start to think that maybe I’m the one that has an unhealthy relationship with food. Maybe I shouldn’t be eating so much pasta and maybe I should eat a salad instead of a second cup of gelato. But then I spend time with “normal” people, and I realise that wanting to enjoy Italy to the full extent is indeed normal.
Even if I was to gain 10kg, I wouldn’t care. I’m not going to regret any part of this experience. I’m not a bodybuilder. I’m barely even training at the moment. Why on earth would I make myself feel guilty about the food I’m consuming?
I adapt my eating habits to my surroundings. I know that as soon as I leave Italy and head to Croatia, I will likely drop some weight as I’ll mostly be eating meat and vegetables. I plan on travelling through Spain, France, Germany and Thailand, and I will eat according to the local cuisine – because that is firmly a part of my travel experience.
Sure, I often crave chicken and vegetables too, but I’m not going to deny myself these culinary experiences. Food is just a small part of our lives, yet it provides one of the greatest pleasures. Do not deny yourself, and instead waste your energy worrying about other, more important things.
I may be carrying a couple of extra kilos, but what I’ve also gained is the biggest smile I’ve had in years.
How do you eat on vacation?