Is there anything I love more than a good meal? Not much. I was in Rome recently, eating as the Romans do, at a delightful little community restaurant—all Italians except for our table. There was a moment when the waiters, prompted by our Italian host, Angelo, brought out so many delicious antipasti that I actually felt my heart surge, like an engine switching gears. We had zucchini stuffed with prosciutto, and fresh, ripe tomatoes layered with melting mozzarella so warm you could see tiny cheese bubbles, along with a bottle of Sassicaia '85, a Tuscan red wine that had been breathing for half an hour, to sip and savor like liquid velvet. Oh my, these were moments to treasure!
Did I mention I topped all this off with a bowl of pasta e fagioli (this bean, tomato, and pasta dish is my all-time favorite when done well, and this was perfection) and a little tiramisu? Yep, that was some good eatin'. And I paid for it, too, with a 90-minute jog around the Colosseum the next day—but it was worth every delectable bite.
I have a lot of beliefs. The value of eating well is one of them. I know for sure that a meal that brings you real pleasure will do you more good in the long and short term than a lot of "filler" food that leaves you standing in your kitchen, roaming from cabinet to fridge. I call it that grazing feeling: You want something but can't figure out what it is. All the carrots, celery, and skinless chicken in the world can't give you the satisfaction of one good piece of chocolate if that's what you really crave.
So I now eat one piece—maximum, two—and dare myself to stop and relish it, knowing full well that "tomorrow is another day, Scarlett," and there's more where that came from. I don't have to consume the whole box just because it's there. What a concept!
Getting my lifelong weight struggle under control has come from a process of treating myself as well as I treat others in every way. I've learned that you can't eat junk and expect to have an unjunked life. It's true that you are what you eat, what you think, what you believe, what you do. Eating well, making healthy choices, delicious choices, enticing choices is symbolic of how you treat yourself, and it shows. Your skin, your hair, your eyes, your energy level, your attitude, are all affected by what you ingest.
After my Roman splurge, I came home, worked out consistently, and ate a lot of salads—fresh greens, picked from my own garden, thank you very much. I used the simplest dressing ever: two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, one crushed garlic clove, and the juice from half a lemon. I ate grilled artichokes, also homegrown, and soups made from whatever was available in the garden—tomato, basil, and red pepper; summer squash; green pea. And for one meal a day, I had a protein dish of grilled fish or chicken. It wasn't pasta e fagioli, but it was still delicious and satisfying.
Even today, as I finished my spinach salad—wilted with hot olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and layered with thin slices of shaved Parmesan—and put down my fork, there was just a trace memory of that melted mozzarella in Rome. Now, that was a meal worth the wait and the workout. I'm looking forward to returning and doing as the Romans do.