Long-time Wheat Belly follower, Donna, describes her 3-week jaunt through Europe . . . sans wheat! She successfully navigated her way through rich European breakfasts, lunch, and dinners, not getting tripped up even once. (Wheat Belly followers here since the beginning may remember Donna’s fabulous shrinking tummy transformation that she posted for us way back.)
When my husband George and I decided to take a three week trip to Europe to celebrate our 25th anniversary, one of my first thoughts was “How could I stay true to Wheat Belly while visiting France and Italy? Baguettes, croissants, pastries and pasta everywhere?”
Before leaving on our trip, I had been a faithful follower of Wheat Belly concepts for more than 18 months. I was afraid of undoing my new lifestyle with a mere glance at a Paris dessert tray. I did not want to blow my success of achieving good weight, freedom from body aches, greater energy, and fantastic lipid profile.
I learned early on from the Wheat Belly book that becoming a fat burner, rather than a sugar burner, would make my life easier when it came to my appetite and relationship to food. Since I could go for 5-6 hours, even much longer, without truly being hungry (unlike in the past where I would tear through the cupboards in desperation if I went that long), I knew I could be successful traveling.
In cities such as Paris, there are tempting loaves of long, crunchy bread that I previously would have died for, but my bread obsession has disappeared since following Wheat Belly. I now know what wheat can do to my body and none of it is good. Over time, my mind got retrained. I look at bread as if it’s part of the table, like the silverware, since the waiter insists on bringing it, but it holds no interest. I would look at Paris treats in the windows as I would look at cute animals at the zoo–fun to look at and take pictures of, but do not touch! Just taking photos of the fancy food displays to share with my friends later was enough to keep my mind legal and not tempted to commit any Wheat Belly felonies!
One great thing about European hotels is that a breakfast buffet is included in the price of your room, unlike in America. Buffets can be mine fields, though, unless you go to breakfast mentally prepared. The typical buffet includes everything from smoked salmon and cucumbers to chocolate cakes and tortes, with tons of carbohydrates and sugar. There is yogurt in little glass jars, rows of colorful juices, bowls of fruit, eggs, sausage, and assorted cereals. Most buffets in France and Italy had a similar spread so, after one hotel, it’s easy to navigate the next one. I stuck with hard-boiled eggs, smoked salmon, bacon, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a small piece of fruit. I was afraid to try the scrambled eggs since hearing that some restaurants in the States make them more fluffy by adding flour. This type of breakfast kept my blood sugar stable. We walked and explored for hours each morning and I still did not feel hungry by noon.
Did I ever feel like cheating? Surprisingly, no. Even with my husband sitting right across those tiny French tables, eating his cereal and milk, I had no desire for off-limit foods. I didn’t give my husband the “evil eye” for eating things I wouldn’t order and he didn’t mock me for my choices. I did grimace to myself at the huge bowl of oatmeal he’d get in Italy, though, knowing he’d be ravenous in a few short hours.
We discovered an outdoor market in Florence that had table after table filled with various types of chocolate. I nearly dove onto one table, it was so enticing. Fortunately, I found a merchant who made their own 90% dark chocolate. We had run out of my stash from home, so it was good timing. Florence may have an original Michelangelo and countless other artistic treasures, but I will always remember how beautiful those chocolate treats were displayed! Chocolate art trumps marble art any day in my book.
You can find good meals, but it is helpful to pack snacks before you leave home. There will be times when there is no healthy food available or you may not eat out until later in the evening, which is the custom in Europe. I came armed with extra-dark chocolate bars (90%) and some Brazil and macadamia nuts. I also brought little packets of Artisana coconut and almond butter. My Whole Foods store also had little servings of pistachio and macadamia nut butters made by Wildnerness Poets.
Navigating lunch and dinners was not as exciting as the chocolate stands, but most menus offered a wide range of entrees. For lunch, I mainly stuck with salads, and dinner was fish or meat, along with grilled vegetables topped with olive oil. My husband tried various pastas and pizzas in Italy. Everywhere around us at restaurants in Italy, people were eating their own individual pizzas–not small either, about 12″ in diameter. Have to admit they looked delicious, but I saw many wheat bellies all around me!
During one of our walking tours in Rome, I asked our guide whether they had a problem with obesity in Italy. She said there has been a huge increase in childhood obesity the past five years or so, since more moms are working and fewer people are making home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. Junk food is more widely available. We saw a group of school kids in Rome sitting next to ancient ruins while on a field trip. I looked to see what they were eating and, sure enough, half the kids looked overweight and were eating huge bread-type sandwiches. I guess it’s not just an American problem.
I decided my leeway would be to have wine every night, which I only have when we go out to eat in America. I justified it by saying we were going out to dinner every night, after all, so why not? Besides, who can go to Tuscany and not try the local wine?
Three weeks was a long time to travel and behave while eating, but I felt no trouble keeping to Wheat Belly. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the menu or to ask them to prepare an entree the way you’d like. Also, if you’ve followed the Wheat Belly way of eating for several weeks and are now a fat burner, you will have no trouble with excessive hunger. This makes it easy to avoid temptations. Freedom from hunger every few hours frees you: your mind is on your surroundings and how much you are enjoying them, not on your next meal or rumbling stomach.
I now know that I can go on other trips in the future and won’t come home a bloated whale! No Paris pastry pudge on this girl, thanks to Wheat Belly. By the way, I did not gain any weight, but my wheat eating husband gained 5 pounds from pasta and pizza. Thank you, Dr. Davis, for Wheat Belly. It followed me from Paris, to Milan, to Lake Como, to Venice, to Florence, and finally Rome. Now, I’m afraid, it’s time to get back to cooking!