Monday, May 10, 2010
In front of one of many beautiful castles in the Spanish Countryside (I'm in the green zip-up...haha)
In 2005, I studied for a semester in Madrid, Spain. To say it was one of the greatest times of my entire life would be an understatement, to say the least! Anyway, when I was there, I came to a very quick realization – there was not a single overweight person. Seriously! And ironically (and sadly) enough, when I saw an overweight family (after about three weeks of living there) it turned out that they were American (or Canadian…they spoke English w/o a British Accent) tourists…and not really from there. I hate to say this, but I couldn’t help but stare. It had been so long since I had seen anyone that was even slightly overweight that I realized how much it really stood out. Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect by any means, or that there is no such thing as an overweight vegan, but I did realize a lot of things about their culture that I’m certain had a lot of influence on their physiques and overall health.
1. The Spaniards (at least in the city) literally walk everywhere! I can honestly say that I’ve never walked that much in my entire life as I did when I was living there! The walk to school each day was a little over a mile, and I would walk to school, home for lunch/siesta, back to school, and home again five days a week. Not to mention the walking I’d also do going to different shops and just generally exploring. A few miles a day really add up!
2. Meal portions. The first few times that I went out to eat with fellow students (as well as eating what my host “mom” would cook), I felt like I was getting ripped off. Turns out, they just don’t eat out of control portions like we do here! Yes, even vegetarians and vegans are culprit to over-eating at times. This was probably one of the most important dietary lessons I learned there, which was HOW to eat:
•Small breakfast, just enough to get your system started (apple and slice of bread/toast)
•Lunch: soup, small sandwich on fresh bread
•Dinner: soup, grains and vegetables
Now, I discovered a common denominator between eating at home, eating out, and what everyone else was being served at their host homes…soup! These people ate soup at least two times a day, and would eat it before their main meal. Not only is it super yummy and simple, but it fills you up, leaving less room in that growling tummy to be filled up by huge portions and such. This past week, as soon as I began incorporating soup back into my diet 2x/day, I ended up losing 4 pounds. Coincidence? I don’t think so!
3. Rest. It may seem simple enough, but I truly believe that Americans just don’t sleep enough! Every day, the entire city of Madrid literally seemed to shut down between noon and 3:00pm. Stores would close, schools closed, everything closed! People would go home, eat, and “siesta” for a few hours before returning to work! At first, my roommate and I tried to do this, but felt absolutely absurd taking a ‘nap’ in the middle of the day when we could be out exploring! Well, after a few days of finding nothing to do (since everything was closed) we really began enjoying our siesta time. Not only that, but people really value their sleep at night…you won’t find a television in anyone’s bedroom in Spain! And getting enough rest is absolutely imperative in maintaining a healthy weight!
So anyway, these were just a few keys that I discovered while living there that I really try to value each and every day, especially being back in America. Not only this, but these should really be keys to anyone’s life, vegan, vegetarian, or not! These small changes in how we do things can really make huge impacts on our lives!
And, if anyone was wondering what kind of delicious soup I’d made this week, well, here ya go!
Navy Bean Soup
2 cups Navy Beans, soaked overnight
6 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup V8 vegetable juice
8 oz. frozen green beans
1 cup shredded carrots
4 tblsp. Minced garlic
½ onion, chopped
½ tsp. sea salt
Seasonings/herbs to taste
Pop all these ingredients into a slow cooker for 8 hours on low. Enjoy!
Can be kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, and can also be frozen! I like to keep some out to have at lunch and dinner before my meal, or even as my main meal, and when I run out, I’ll thaw a batch out to have for the next 2 days or so! It’s super simple, super delicious, and your digestive system will LOVE you!