Eat the pizza. No really, eat it.
My entire college life I have spent counting every calorie, utilizing My Fitness Pal, and restricting my intake of food and alcohol. Coming to Italy terrified me. Thoughts of getting fat ran through my head constantly. Fears of gaining a single pound kept me from eating the free dishes of pasta. Determination to stay somewhat normal sized forced me to exercise every day.
In the United States every day was the same. I would wake up, run, eat a healthy breakfast, complete my homework, plan my meals for the day, go to class, track my meals for the day, maybe go to a friends house, never go out to eat, go to bed, and start the day again.
I was the hamster, my life was the wheel. Round and round we both went. There were no changes. There were no differences. There were no exciting moments to make life worth living.
I began my trip to Italy the same as I lived my entire college life. I worked out every day. I didn’t eat as much as I probably should. I definitely didn’t eat the pasta, pizza or gelato. I didn’t drink the wine. I also didn’t fully enjoy my experience.
I concerned myself with the way my clothes fit. Are the tighter? Are they looser? Do I look okay? I contemplated what I could eat during the day. Will breakfast have eggs? Will we go to a restaurant with salads? Will dinner only have pasta? I thought endlessly about working out. Is it safe to run? Will there be a treadmill? Did I walk enough?
Thankfully, Italy changed me.
I wish I could point out the exact moment it happened. Maybe it was in Sorrento when I realized an Italian boy liked me. Maybe it was in my apartment when my roommates formed a bucket list where most of the items included food. Maybe it was at Dante’s Pizza when Courtney confessed to me how she looks up to my determination, confidence and grace (all of which I fake). Or, maybe it was Sarah who never turns down a good heart-to-heart moment and told me of the importance of my life, the importance of letting God take control, and the importance of experiencing all of the pleasures God placed in this world.
Friends and family have told me these things for years. Friends and family told me I am beautiful. Friends and family pushed me to try and make the most of my experiences. Friends and family encouraged me to take a leap of faith, not work out every single day, and enjoy indulgence every once in a while. Yet, in Italy things seemed different.
Gradually my perceptions toward working out, eating, and living have all changed. Gradually I ate the bread, ate the gelato, and ate Gusta Pizza. Gradually I drank the wine, drank the beer, and took the free drinks. Gradually I ran less, stayed out later and didn’t beat myself up about it.
Eventually I began to live life to the fullest. I ate all of my meals at dinner, I ate a croissant at two in the morning, and I ate a large gelato. Eventually I drank an entire bottle of wine, drank the whisky and drank two beers. Eventually I skipped a run, skipped two runs and went out three nights in a row.
Yes, I began to live my life in Italy to the fullest. I didn’t go to bed early, I didn’t keep myself from enjoying all the tastes and experiences Italy has to offer. Most importantly, I didn’t let my fears of gaining a pound hinder my last weeks abroad.
Maybe I am gaining some weight, maybe I am eating a little unhealthy and maybe I am drinking more than I should. Yet, at the end of the day I am having experiences and making memories. I know I will never remember the nights I stayed in. I know I will never remember the nights I read a book instead of going out. And I know I will never remember the night when I ordered a salad.
However, I will remember the night I ate Gusta pizza and drank an entire bottle of wine on the steps of Santo Spirito. I will remember the night I stayed out until three in the morning to buy a freshly baked chocolate croissant from a local baker. Most importantly, I will remember the memories I made with my roommates, the friendships I built on drunken heart-to-hearts, and the laughs I shared after a night of fully indulging in everything Italy has to offer.