My husband has family there and we had been talking about it for so long. I was so excited. I researched everything. Churches, museums, cooking classes. I made every reservation for dinner, tours, and even a trip to the Prada outlet in Florence. We were meeting 60 of my husbands relatives for the first time at a grand Italian dinner. I was all set and we were all ready. So then why was I anxious? Was it the 9-hour plane trip? The gypsy children I had heard about who could mysteriously appear out of nowhere and take your purses and wallets? Jet lag? Or was it the inevitable 5 or 10 pound weight gain?
Lets face it, I wouldn’t have my trainer, my oatmeal, my flax seed…and I knew there’d be pasta, lots of pasta. I’m not exactly a pasta-phobe, I really like the stuff don’t get me wrong, but as an aging actress living in Los Angeles, it’s hard to keep up. I mean just when you’re feeling really good about yourself, (maybe I’m having a day when it looks like I only have one chin), a skinny-twenty something little actress size 0 thing will walk in to the hair salon, and suddenly I feel like I’m old and invisible and fat. (It’s not easy to be invisible AND fat). I have a friend who’s on a television series and told me that there was a rumor going around one day on the set that one of the actresses on the show had eaten bread one night at a restaurant. OMG, were talking about bread, not heroin!!!
I started watching my weight in my 20′s. Prior to that I could eat just about anything. After school, my friends and I would go home and bake chocolate chip cookies and eat all the batter along with potato chips and cokes, but eventually I had to be careful.
When I moved to L.A. and started pursuing an acting career, I went through my weird period with food. I pretty much stopped eating everything. Sugar, wheat, meat, chicken, dairy. About that time I met my husband. He brought me home to meet his family with the Italian mother who cooked the most amazing-fattening food. Tons of butter and cheese and oil. I arrived at their home with a bag of my own food. They were so confused by my cardboard food and me. Eventually I relaxed about my eating. Getting pregnant helped; suddenly I couldn’t get enough meat down! So, now I would say after years of experimenting, researching, and figuring out just what works for my body, I am a normal but healthful eater.
But pasta is a once in a while treat, and I just knew that a few weeks in Italy was going to pack on the pounds. Nevertheless, I was willing to take that chance in exchange for wonderful quality family time…Italian family time. So off we went. At first I was careful. I ate salads for my main course at lunch and then ordered small amounts of pasta for dinner as a side dish. And we walked. Oh, did we walk. And it was hot, so very hot. And slowly but surely I started having a little pasta for lunch, a little pizza here and there, some wine, at lunch? I’d finish the kids’ pizza crusts. And then there was the gelato. My husband had just started working for a new company, and some guys there told him about the gelato place from heaven in Florence. They said you haven’t lived till you tried THIS gelato. We walked for hours in the night looking for this special gelato. And it was good. Crazy good. So I ate. And it was a new adventure in eating every night. And I loved it. I forgot about the oatmeal and the flaxseed. This was food that was clean and good and people ate, and were happy about eating. I didn’t see women eating salads with out dressing. No one was ordering sauces on the side. I saw gorgeous Italian women in restaurants and they ate. They ate pasta and bread and they drank wine and they laughed. They were sexy and alive and they weren’t looking to see how much their friends were eating. Did I mention they ate bread? This was the food from their parents, their grandparents and their culture…it was ancient and sacred and healthy.
And, then there was the beach. I of course arrived with sweat pants and a t-shirt and a hat. Feeling self-conscience and bloated, I plopped down on a lounge chair with a book.
And then it happened. The women on the beach, one by one, of every age, every shape…walking, swimming, laughing, IN BIKINIS!! There they all were. 50 somethings, 60 and even 70′s something’s…in bikinis. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. Rolls, and breasts and skin. It was everywhere…in bikinis! And you know what? They felt so good about them selves. You could tell. I said to myself, what happened? Why are we so fucked up where I live? Look at them? Why do they feel so good? They were tan and alive and comfortable in their skin and their bodies. My husband’s cousin told me the people in Italy come to the beach for medicine. Therapy. Not to parade around and look good, but to feel good. The sun, the water, its all so good. Like the olive oil, and the pasta and the bread. Maybe I would loosen up and relax a little when I got back to L.A. Maybe I would embrace who I am and appreciate how lucky I am to have this healthy body. Maybe I would get off the roller coaster of a few pounds up and a few pounds down every season. After all, I could be a real bathing beauty if I lived in Italy. What a culture! Not like my ancestors in Minsk or wherever they’re from. Maybe my daughter will get some of that olive oil running in her veins, instead of the borscht like my family. By the way, I came home 5 pounds thinner…