How to Live La Bella Vita like the Italians

As I stroll through the beautiful streets of Sorrento, Italy I can’t help but notice all the happy, healthy locals sitting outside charming cafes enjoying an afternoon espresso or gelato in their perfectly pressed linen shirts. There’s a faint scent of lemon lingering in the air as the Sorrento sun shines down on my face. The sound of the elegant and exotic Italian language coupled with laughter warms my soul. There’s a distinct sense of harmony and life fully lived with a joy that radiates from each person I encounter. How is it that the Italians, who don’t enjoy all the accommodations and amenities that we have in the U.S., seem so happy and healthy? What is their secret and how can I attain it for myself? During my travels I discovered a number of qualities and lifestyle choices that are prevalent in the Italian culture.

Work Hard
Italians are hard-working people who have a strong willingness to dedicate long hours to their trade and they take great pride in their skill. At the marina in Sorrento our waiter, who has been working at the restaurant for 22 years, stated that he works 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week. He makes most of his living during the summer months when tourists and locals flock to the beaches of Sorrento for holiday. During his time off he travels the globe working at other restaurants in New York, San Francisco, Miami as well as France and Spain. He did note that in the U.S. people are fixated on work. In his experience, even after working long shifts, Americans would speak mostly of work while out enjoying social time. He couldn’t comprehend this mentality. Italians believe strongly in work but they always take necessary time for relaxation and indulgence. This work-hard, play-hard attitude creates a true balance that aids in the physical and emotional health of Italians throughout the country. Balance is the key and Italians seem to have it mastered. While in Capri, I dined at the exclusive Villa Verde Ristorante. Just as I encountered on my last visit here, Nonna, aging like fine wine, was making pasta and snapping green beans in the back of the family restaurant into the wee hours of the night. It’s this strength and tenacity that keeps the old feeling young and living long happy lives.

Take a Holiday
In Italy many businesses close for the month of August and most Italians take this time off to enjoy a holiday or vacation as we call it. Those in the Naples area journey to the beaches of Campania and the Amalfi Coast where the weather is incredible and life is leisurely. Some Italians choose to visit other regions of Europe which are a relatively quick and easy flight away. Other daring Italians might opt to visit the steamy streets of New York or the beaches of Miami. Whichever location they decide vacations are definitely on the agenda. All that hard work throughout the year deserves a return and August is just the month to do it. While we might not all be able to take a month off we can certainly find some free time during the year to travel or enjoy a tranquil “staycation”.

Have Something to Believe In
Religion is everywhere in Italy. Having faith is very helpful and quite necessary throughout all stages of life. It’s important to have something higher and greater to believe in that brings you peace and hope. Vatican City in Rome is considered the holiest place on Earth but there are many other places around the country that religion is evident. During my travels, I came across countless symbols of Jesus, Mother Mary and many other Saints. My first sight was a crucifix in the offices of Rome Fiumicino Airport. Even in the most obscure places like on the mountainside leading up to Monte Solaro I found shrines dedicated to The Madonna and Saint Anthony. The images were strong reminders of the faith and beauty this country represents. A strong sense of faith truly elevates a person on a daily basis and carries them during times of need. In some instances throughout life we must “put it in God’s hands.” Removing the burden from oneself and depending on a higher being to carry you through can be a stress relief that allows one to thrive.

Enjoy Family Time & Show Love and Affection
Italians are very family-oriented people. It is not uncommon to see large groups consisting of many generations enjoying a meal together. Many businesses throughout Italy are still family-run and more often than not you will find that nonno and nonna are still very much in charge. Much respect is given to elders within the family as they are considered the foundation or the rock of la familia. While on my flight home I noticed a lovely woman, with short dark hair who reminded me of my grandma that kept peeking over at me with a smile. When I returned the gesture she quickly befriended me and so kindly introduced me to her travel partners. Francesca was traveling with her sister, daughter and two granddaughters. They visited the homeland to see her mother who was in her 95th year. I couldn’t help but think what a beautiful blessing to bring all these women of four generations together for a trip back home. When our flight landed Francesca gave her daughter a big hug and kiss….The apple and the tree. It’s this type of family bond that makes people strong and happy individuals. I know this because I come from Italian-American decent whose family values these traditions and I couldn’t be happier because of it.

Live Fearlessly
There’s a sincere confidence that embodies the Italian spirit. Locals of all ages can be found whipping around winding streets and narrow alleys on scooters and in tiny Fiats through the streets of Sorrento. I’ve witnessed elderly men and women as well as a young mother with a child seated in front and back of her zipping around on Vespas. Buses, cars and scooters power up the mountains of Capri, passing just inches from one another, on curvy roads with minimal guardrails. The natives are not afraid. They take pride in their work and how their infrastructure and vehicles are made. I do believe that it is their faith in God that gives them the courage to endure the trickiest situations on a daily basis. It is not uncommon to see toddlers swim like fish, on their own, in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea with parents out of sight. Italians are brave and poised. They are truly comfortable in their own skin. During my time at the beach it became evident that Italians are remarkably self-assured. I spotted women of all ages and shapes sporting tiny bikinis with a casual strut that screamed “I am woman hear me roar.” It’s quite refreshing to see people with so much inner security and charisma.

Indulge…In Moderation
In Italy there is no “super size”. When you order a gelato a typical serving is a 1/2 cup rather than the usual 3 large scoops of ice cream you’d enjoy at home. The gelato is made simply from fresh cream, natural sugar and cocoa, hazelnut or pistachio depending on which flavor you choose. Small portions are the key whether it is gelato, pasta, bread or wine. Italians live life to the fullest and they know how to indulge…in moderation. While walking on the beach I witnessed a young girl twirling pasta around on a plate. It was a simple dish of spaghetti with Roma tomatoes and she sat there happily with her feet in the sand enjoying her delicious lunch. The complimentary table bread in Italy is not something you reject at a restaurant. While it is not often served warm, it is the tastiest bread you will ever encounter. So grab a piece of light and crusty bread with its fluffy center, dip it in a little EVOO and mangia. Italy is the second largest wine producer in the world. The wine selection throughout the country is massive and it is customary to indulge in one or more glasses per day of this local staple. Many variations are sulfite-free and velvety smooth. At a cost of 25 Euros for a superb bottle at fine restaurants it’s an excellent way to wind down for the evening and celebrate the day’s blessings. So salute and mangia…in moderation!

Walk Everywhere
You’ll notice much of Italian fashion includes flat-bottomed, comfortable and stylish footwear. While some daring women opt for stilettos, most appreciate flats or wedges allowing them to walk freely along the old cobblestone streets to work and for dinner. Many pathways are quite old and often steep yet natives travel them daily as a normal part of their routine trekking sometimes miles to work and back home. Being outside, one with nature and using your legs regularly to get you from place to place is a way of life here. It’s proven that regular cardiovascular activity can add years to your life and life to your years. For better health and peace of mind, make like an Italian and keep it moving.

Soak up the Sun…with SPF of Course
During my teenage years my cousin and I contemplated getting matching tattoos. It was my first boss who, with a few strong words, encouraged me not to go through with it. He spoke of his vacations to Italy where all the beautiful Italian women boast rich dark hair and perfectly bronzed bodies. There wasn’t an imperfection on them. Their skin was smooth and sun-kissed. He described them as the most gorgeous women in the world. The image became so stunning and vivid within my mind that I opted to take his advice. I’m extremely happy that I did and after visiting the beautiful country I can confirm his eyewitness accounts. Many Italians develop deep tans during the summer months especially those in the southern region. While overexposure to sun can be harmful, spending some time outdoors each day has many health benefits, including the production of vitamin D. In a day and age where most people spend their waking hours at a desk in the office it’s important to get outside, allowing yourself some fresh air and sunshine, the way that nature intended you to live.

Dress to Impress
Italians take great pride in their appearance. Milan is the fashion capital of the world and a multitude of famous designers, such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Gucci, Prada and Bvlgari, originated in Italy. Fashion is essential to the Italians. No matter age or gender I observed Italians draped in fine clothing perfectly matched and put together. They wear custom, handmade shoes and tailored jackets. Men appreciate the quality and style of Italian silk ties while women opt for neat blouses and trousers with designer footwear. Chic Italian fashion is everywhere and makes for fascinating people-watching. Be sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase on trips to Italy as you can find beautiful quality, handmade leather goods throughout the country such as belts, shoes and purses. When your look is well put together so too will be your day. Italians are not ruled by fashion but they live by this rule.

So if your wish is to live la bella vita, do what the Italians do. And most importantly please remember…

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello! Ciao!

 

Posted in Wellness | Leave a comment

Popeye’s Simple & Healthy Chicken Marsala

It’s another weeknight and you’ve finally returned home from work, it’s very likely that you’re asking yourself….”what’s for dinner?” Well we all know that chicken is always in season. And who doesn’t love the classic Southern Italian dish, made with rich Marsala wine? I named this recipe Popeye’s because I’ve included a healthy dose of my favorite superfood, spinach (strong to the finish). In addition, I’ve substituted regular all-purpose flour for almond flour and omitted the butter traditionally used in this dish. It’s easy to make, very healthy and oh-so delicious….

INGREDIENTS:
1/4 Cup Almond Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cups Baby Bella Mushrooms, Sliced
3/4 Cup Marsala Wine
2 Cups Fresh Spinach, Chopped

RECIPE:
In a small bowl mix together the almond flour, sea salt, black pepper and dried oregano. Lightly coat each chicken breast with the flour mixture. Next, heat 2 TBSP olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the pan and lightly brown both sides, about 3-5 minutes on each. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Add 1 TBSP olive oil to the same pan, then add the mushrooms. Saute uncovered for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and browned. Add the Marsala wine and stir. Next, mix in the spinach and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Pour the Marsala sauce over the chicken, serve with a side of brown rice and mangia (eat)!

chicken marsala

Posted in Nutrition | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Deliciously Moist Pumpkin Cookies

This one takes the cake, I mean cookie…There couldn’t be an easier, tastier pumpkin dessert recipe. These are super moist drop cookies that can be whipped up in 1 bowl. They will fill your kitchen with the beautiful aroma of pumpkin, better than any Yankee candle.  Put down that 800 calorie, sugar-laden pumpkin latte. These are slightly sweet and use all-natural ingredients, sans butter, white sugar and white flour.

INGREDIENTS:
2-1/2 Cups Almond Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Can (15 oz) Pumpkin Puree
2 Eggs

RECIPE:
Heat oven to 375º. Grease 2 cookie sheets and set aside. Mix all dry ingredients (first 5) in a large bowl. Add all wet ingredients (+ brown sugar) and mix well. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets. Bake 10 minutes or until cookies are set and golden. Cool cookies for 1-2 minutes, remove from cookie sheets and eat them immediately before anyone else in the house does. Makes approx. 2 -1/2 Dozen Deliciously Moist Pumpkin Cookies.

image

Posted in Wellness | Leave a comment

Kicking the Common Cold

Yes it’s that time of year again – the weather is getting colder and everyone around you seems to have a serious case of the sniffles. You are way too busy at work and home to get sick right now. Oftentimes simply being busy is what makes you more susceptible to the pesky common cold. We all know that burning the candle at both ends is a no-no but today’s hectic lifestyles make it inevitable. So what to do when your ears and throat get itchy and you feel your body getting tired and weak? Sure you can run to the doctor’s office, wait 2 hours to be seen and leave with a z-pack or strong round of antibiotics that your body may or may not require. If your symptoms persist longer than three days or you have a fever, it is imperative that you see a doctor. Yet at the first sign of a common cold there are many natural remedies that will help you boost your own defenses allowing your body to overcome that cold on its own.

First things first, if you aren’t already taking a multi-vitamin stock up now and begin taking one daily. In addition, purchase a zinc supplement which will naturally boost your body’s immune system. Next, take a bath in Epsom salt which is a great detox known to pull toxins from the body. It will also work to soothe your achy muscles. If you are feeling congested, boil some water and then add a few drops of pure eucalyptus oil. Steam your face with the concoction to reopen your nasal passages. Now remember, nutrition can heal (or harm) your body. Enjoy some chicken noodle or vegetable soup. Just be sure it’s fresh and not canned. While all warm soups are soothing a homemade soup made with fresh veggies and broth contains many more nutrients and will be most beneficial in helping you kick your cold. Green smoothies made with raw fruits and vegetables also have extreme alkalizing and healing properties so be sure to enjoy one. Drink plenty of water with lemon to flush your system and provide it with a healthy dose of vitamin C. Adding 2 Tbsp of organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the mix will also help your body kick the bug.  Be sure to drink it with a straw as it can be acidic on the teeth. If you feel as though you’ve swallowed a razor blade, soothe that painful sore throat by gargling with warm salt water and feel free to add a splash of that magical ACV. When all else fails take a nap. Rest is exactly what your body needs now.

Follow these steps and you should be able to kick the common cold within a few short days…I just did! *Be well*

common cold blog pic

Posted in Wellness | Leave a comment

Don’t Waste Your Time Waist Training

As I scroll through my Facebook and Instagram feeds I cannot help but notice the influx of young woman flaunting their tiny waistlines.  Some of these physiques seem oddly perfect and yet clearly unattainable.  Were these women born with genetic gifts from the physique gods?  Have they spent hours on the operating table getting nipped and tucked until the perfect modern-day Barbie appeared?  Or maybe they just eat really clean and work out regularly.  For starters, don’t believe everything you see…today’s apps, filters and Photoshop editors make it simple for the average Jane to transform from Courtney Love to Julianne Hough.  Trust me – she didn’t wake up like that! Unfortunately women are under a great deal of pressure to look a certain way and worst still are the “celebrities” who promote unsafe practices for achieving these looks. Enter the waist trainer….formerly known as the corset.  The original corset was believed to date back to the 1500s and was just as scary then as it is today.  The corset or waist trainer is a form of undergarment designed to constrict the midsection through tight lacing thereby distorting the natural shape of the body into a new, more streamlined hourglass figure.  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Why bother hitting the gym or eating salads when you can just strap on a waist trainer, tighten it until you can barely breathe and then sit back and let the magic happen?  As a fitness professional I always do my research when a new trend hits the scene.  Many of my clients share a common goal of losing weight, particularly around their waists.  While the concept of the waist trainer is not a terrible thing the extremes that people are putting themselves through are completely unnatural and can be very detrimental to one’s health.  Yes, if you waist train daily the odds are in your favor that your waist will start to cave in a bit but don’t be fooled; you have not eliminated the fat around your midsection you’ve simple squeezed it into other areas…hello instant back fat.  Speaking of squeezing, have you considered that there are some major internal organs under that waist trainer?  In addition to your waist those organs are being constricted and reshaped as well.  This can lead to a host of serious digestive problems and cause difficulty breathing.  You also run the risk of weakening your entire core which will ultimately ruin your abdominal musculature and potentially cause back problems.  If you are really looking to harm yourself go ahead and wear a waist trainer to the gym because that lack of oxygen is sure to help you along with your workout.  Just be certain there is a CPR-certified individual on hand. So the moral of the story is: JUST SAY NO to waist trainers.  Exercise belts that make you sweat more in the midsection are fine.  They cannot be tightened to a degree that will cause harm to the body.  Yet, if someone tries to sell you a modern-day lace-style corset quickly run the other way.  I wish to tell you that there is a magic pill, magic undergarment, magic something that will quickly and easily help you reach your fitness goals but sadly there is not.  Don’t believe the hype. A positive mindset, a healthy menu and a consistent training schedule is everything you need to be your best.  I can show you how!  Email me for details: NJFitnessTrainer@gmail.com

waist-trained-shape

Wow, your organs look so pretty now! DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME WAIST TRAINING

Posted in Fitness, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of Belief in Achieving Your Goals

How many times have you had a brilliant idea, perhaps an invention or a dream of creating your own business? Your mind races with excitement as you imagine the possibilities of your unique plan. Then your phone rings, distracting you, real world sets in and in the blink of an eye all hope for your incredible idea is long gone. But what if you had held onto that idea, developed a clear plan for it and actually put it into action? Perhaps you could have been the inventor of Spanx and amassed a fortune on that invention. Maybe you daydream about establishing yourself as a trusted leader in your industry and obtaining notoriety and great success in your field. Often those thoughts seem quite beautiful but also far-fetched. How could little old you stake your place and obtain any fame or fortune? Well with negative thoughts like that you can be certain that you won’t. Those very real and natural human fears and doubts will put a sudden end to your dreams. Just as you can pave your own path in life, you can also build your own roadblock. Next time you have an idea, a hope or dream your absolute next thought needs to be belief. Belief that you CAN and WILL achieve your goal, be it big or small, easy or hard. Believing in yourself is like setting down the stone in your pathway, belief allows you to journey to your ultimate destination. Having faith in your dreams takes a great deal of maturity, strength, confidence and perseverance. Of course it is easier to say, “I am content and although this is a great idea, I will let it go.” It’s good to be peaceful and content but if you do decide you want more in your life then by all means believe in yourself and your abilities and then pursue that goal until you have conquered your feat. The possibilities for your future are absolutely endless. You create your life with your thoughts and actions. If you believe you can do it then soon enough others will believe in you too and before you know it you will be living your dream.

Beware the dream crushers. Along your smooth path to success that you’ve carefully lined with solid stone there will be puddles. Puddles are those people who cast doubt and negativity upon you and your ideas. Due to their own fears and insecurities they discourage you from your goal. If you do happen to step into a puddle just keep walking and you will dry off. Do not drown yourself in someone else’s doubt allowing your dreams to wash away.

If you are lucky, you will also find plenty of flowers blooming along your pathway to success. These blooms are the people who support and encourage you to pursue and obtain your goals. They have an extremely positive impact on your journey and will brighten your path to success.

Ultimately when the road is barren and all you have is yourself, just trust and believe that you are all that you need. Never give up. Be your best. Fulfill your destiny.

image

Posted in Wellness | 1 Comment

Celebrating Mom Every Day

For those that know me well I can be found at any given gym in the metro area for a few hours at a clip whether it be training my amazing clients or training myself hardcore for my next competition, photo shoot or just training for a better life in general. My average weight training/resistance workout lasts anywhere from 1-2 hours and I spend an additional 30+ minutes doing cardio/plyometrics. The hard work I put in at the gym for my business and to look and feel my best are intense and I love every moment of it. Yet, over the past few years as my family members and friends have become parents I truly understand and appreciate the work it takes to be a mother. The job of motherhood and raising a child requires a tremendous amount of physical and mental work and can be a very challenging task; much more so than fitness and training for competition. When it comes to being a parent, particularly a mother, it’s not about you anymore. You don’t have the luxury of doing the things you want to do when you want to do them. As a matter of fact, your baby often determines when you’ll get your next bathroom and shower break. Yikes. I’m certain in the end it’s all worth it. You get to mold a wonderful little human being who will go on to experience the world and all it’s pleasures. Oftentimes, motherhood is not given enough credit and respect. It’s harder than most jobs and it’s 24/7, 365. No breaks, no holidays and no vacations, technically speaking. So, once grown, how can we ever repay our moms for all of their love and care? Perhaps with flowers on Mother’s Day? I think they deserve much more than that. I am happy to say that I’ve been my mom’s personal trainer for a year now and I’ve helped her to lose weight and keep it off. She feels great about herself and her beauty and health glows from the inside out. I’ve helped both my mom and dad develop better eating habits and live the fit life. There is no greater reward for me than knowing that I’ve played a crucial role in allowing my parents to live a better and perhaps longer life. I owe my life to them so this is the least I can do. You don’t have to be a personal trainer or nutritionist to pay it forward to your mother. Just acknowledging, appreciating and thanking them regularly for all they do is exactly what they need. Sincere words mean more than any material gift you can give. So to my wonderful mom, my sister-in-law Jess and my cousin Bern – thank you for being such wonderful mothers! I understand and respect all the work you do to create and maintain a happy, healthy, loving family. You all inspire me and I can only hope to be such a wonderful mother one day. Happy Mother’s Day!

image

Posted in Fitness, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment