GOOD FOOD (ACTUALLY, GREAT FOOD!)
I spent the majority of my time in Europe traveling across the Spanish countryside. I assume most people are familiar with tapas, which can consist of a lot of different foods, but are generally small in size and are meant to share. Europeans from what I saw did not eat what we would call incredibly healthy. In fact, breakfast, if breakfast exists (I’ll come back to that) consists mostly of pastries and coffee. Quick side note: I love pastries and I indulged repeatedly every day – just had to say it. Wheat? Gluten? Cream Cheese? Milk Chocolate? Sugar? How do they survive? (more on that in a sec) I just felt the Paleo community collectively dry heave. Admittedly I would shun those ingredients and probably will once again when I return to my normal routine. But seriously, how do they all not look like walking Zeppelins (or the standard oversized zombie apocalypse called Disneyland:-)?
As I mentioned earlier, breakfast sometimes doesn’t exist (I’ll explain why later). Breakfast can however, look a lot like lunch, which closely resembles dinner – now it’s starting to sound more up your alley Crossfitters (I had to). I nearly forgot to mention adult beverages. I ate in restaurants nearly every meal, mostly because I wanted to enjoy the local cuisine and atmosphere of wherever I was at but also secretly to observe what the locals ate and drank. Beer! Wine! I don’t think I had a single meal (yes lunch or dinner) where I didn’t enjoy at least one beer or glass of wine. Now you may be thinking, “of course, you were on vacation.” It wasn’t just me. It was not out of the ordinary to see most of the locals drinking beer around noon. God bless them!☺
I think the secret lies in the quality of the foods and ingredients. While yes, many of the foods are fried, just as many are baked or come fresh and the diet is based around quality meats, a lot of fish, rice, veggies, and potatoes. Most of the basics! Sound familiar to success in other areas of life…hint: weight training. They don’t put corn in everything. There’s not a lot of chemically reproduced food like substances, not much HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), it’s all pretty simple, standard and they hit repeat from day to day. I had some of the best meals of my life on this vacation and they didn’t deviate that much from one another. Fish or other seafood, rice, potatoes, soup, coffee (more on that in a second), veggies, but also desserts…. everyone loves their desserts and hold your breath, bread before dinner! I wouldn’t blame you if you’re reading this thinking, “I’m not sure how it’s possible to eat everything I just listed and remain healthy minus regularly scheduled exercise.” Glad you asked.
Strange thing, I had a friend in Spain who would always tell me that the sun didn’t seem to rise until abnormally late (our standards). I, of course didn’t believe it. This same friend would tell me that it didn’t seem that anyone awoke prior to 8 or 9 and nothing productive seemed to happen until 10am. Once again, I disregarded it as hyperbole. It wasn’t until I was in Barcelona that i witnessed the sunrise and sleep phenomenon first hand.. The sun didn’t rise until nearly 8am and even if I were motivated to get out and get going, the streets and cafes were ghost towns until at least 9am, with the first people starting to show themselves. Somewhere around 10am the cafe’s would fill up with espresso seeking individuals either on their way to work or tourists visiting the city. I started to think about my own daily schedule. I’m normally up by 5am and at work by 6am. Had i mentioned that to anyone in the streets of Barcelona, I may have been whisked away and taken somewhere for evaluation. Not kidding! Think pace of life...Think about how that affects sleep patterns... I also thought about my eating schedule as I typically fast through the morning. Guess what, no fasting necessary (assuming I didn't eat at midnight)!
Now combine that with what we’ve known for forever (and only now are seemingly confirming with a weird field called sleep science...only humans would necessitate sleep studies) that good sleep can heal the injured and make brilliant the not so bright and it became clear that the Europeans had another aspect of healthy living nailed. They sleep more!
It’s well known that most things in Europe, including dinner happen later at night, Later is somewhat nebulous and I'll try to clarify a bit. As I mentioned earlier the first meal of the day was typically around the 11AM hour, then siesta around 2PM, a snack around 6PM and dinner around 9PM. With the ability to have a relaxing dinner and know that I was able to sleep as long as I needed to feel rested...well, I wouldn’t know what that felt like, but I got a taste of it there and it was awesome. It’s no wonder that there is a lower incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Imagine a day, week, month or year of not having to eat perfect, no cravings and no binge eating because your hormones have spiraled out of control due to lack of sleep (you know, that feeling you get when you’re super tired and all you can think about are candy bars)...It seems pretty sweet (pun intended)! Stay tuned for part 3 when I tie it all together with community and good coffee (saved the best for last)