10 Things I Learned In Portugal – Part 2

Vacations are a perfect time to rest, relax, and hit the “reset” button. Let’s be realistic – our lives are busy. There’s always more to do than we can achieve in a day: to-do lists, carpools, work obligations, family commitments – you name it, we’re got them. And each of these things takes up time, effort, and ultimately, focus we don’t have to put into our weight loss goals.

So when Mr. Big and I visited Portugal, I took some time and energy I wasn’t spending on my to-do list, and put it into taking stock of where I am today in relation to my goals. And I’ll be honest, I was fully embracing the vacation, but in the back on my mind, I knew there were going to have to be some changes when I got home.

I shared the first half of my observations on Tuesday, and here’s the second half of what I learned:

Be Present. Meals are as much about the company as about the food in Portugal. Portuguese meals are a celebration – both of the delicious food, but also of a chance to gather together! Meals are at least an hour and a half to two hours, and are seen as a chance to converse, socialize, and spend time together. There is wifi in most of the cafes and restaurants, but yet, you don’t see many people on their phones. It’s considered rude, so people focus on the people they’re with, instead. Mr. Big and I used to have a rule – we’d put down our phones as we made dinner and while we ate it. We’d talk about our day, what we read that we thought was interesting, and it was a GREAT chance to connect with one another after a chaotic day. We’d going to work on reinstituting this screen-free time more often at home!

Olive Oil is NOT the enemy. The Portuguese eat olive oil with everything. And it makes a difference. We asked a tour guide to take us for fresh seafood, and she joined us for the meal. When it arrived, they served our grilled fish with a side olive oil sautéed with junks of fresh garlic and parsley, and our guide said to me, “Oh, please don’t be one of those Americans who doesn’t eat the oil. It’s so important to the dish!” My plate of grilled fish, salad, and 3oz potatoes was about as low in calories or Weight Watchers Freestyle Points as it comes, so I happily added a teaspoon or two for flavor, and for health. Olive oil (or really any oil at all) is one of the first things we cut out during weight loss, and as it turns out, our bodies actually need oil for good digestive health, for our joints, hair, nails and skin! So by eating a lean proteins, a little potato, and salad, I can easily fit this healthy oil into my meals!

Eat the cake! The Portuguese eat more sweets than any other nation I’ve ever visited. Whether it’s the famed Pasteis de Natal, the cakes, or the roving salesman walking down the beach hawking donuts (bolinhas), there are sweets EVERYWHERE. Like a good weight loss journey-er, I was trying figure out how to politely decline, but then I realized – if I was eating fruit for breakfast and snacks, and meals with protein, salad, and a small amount of starch, I could TOTALLY make splitting these sweet treats work in my days!

Eat fresh AND seasonal! We LOVED a chance to eat fresh while in Portugal. Every restaurant was excited to show and tell us, “Come see what was swimming in the sea just yesterday,” or they’d say, “You have to try this! It just came in!” And as we checked the menu, the whole grilled fish was always less expensive than the fish that had to be flown in from other places – usually by a lot! On the streets or in the bodegas in Portimao and Faro, the pre-packaged snacks were always more expensive than cups of fresh melon or cherries – which made the fruit a delicious, and less expensive, option! That got me thinking to eating seasonally at home. The Sunday circulars from the grocery store always have seasonally-fresh foods on sale – meaning they’re less expensive (and more nutritionally dense) than the fruits and veggies that are out of season. Farmer’s markets are also a great place to find produce this time of year – so I’m making plans to hit mine up regularly, rather than eating the same-old, same-old stuff!

Wear the damn bathing suit! As women, we get so self-conscious about our bodies. We’d rather sweat under long sleeves or in a cardigan sweater than embrace our body in all its glory. These bodies have walked and run miles, they’ve carried us through times of joy and times of struggle, and they’ve taken more than their share of criticism, mostly from ourselves. Even as we work for leaner, healthier bodies, that’s no reason not to embrace the body we have. The Portuguese, and Europeans in general, are much more accepting of a woman’s body in all shapes and sizes, and I felt right at home walking down the beach, sunning myself, and running straight into the ocean holding hands with Mr. Big. I’m bringing that body positivity home with me – I’m going to wear sleeveless dresses, I’m going to wear shorts, and I’m going to wear my bathing suit. Because all this work is worth it – now and at goal!

So what do you think? What has your vacation taught you?


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