This past June, I had the distinct pleasure to sing with the Columbus International Children’s Choir for a 10-day tour of Italy. Milan, Venice, Rome, Lucca, Pisa, Florence . . . we’ve traveled everywhere! It was an experience of a lifetime – especially singing a Mass in the gorgeous St. Peter’s Basilica.

Now, here’s the catch. Prior to flying across the Atlantic, I was nervous. No, not about the flight..about the FOOD. Ha! Sure, I was more than excited about the new cuisine my palate would discover. BUT, word on the street is that a person gains a couple pounds on vacation and even more weight when eating in a foreign country – ahhhh!!! I literally have no research to back up these insights, but I was still hesitant and believed this information as dangerously true.

If you know me, I have practiced calorie counting religiously for years to quantify and justify everything I intake. I knew there would be NO way to track the exact calories of everything I consumed while staying in Italy since most of the eateries are at local, authentic Italian restaurants that don’t provide online nutritional information. Because of this, I took one of the biggest risks my stomach has ever experienced . . . I would have to practice intuitive eating and just ENJOY the food I tried -“SCARY”. How could I trust myself to eat until I was satisfied?

Well, I am proud and happy to tell you that I conquered my calorie-counting food obsession – maybe not for life but definitely for the rest of the summer. I surrendered any attempt at quantifying what I ate and didn’t prevent myself from eating anything I thought of as”forbidden” from my diet.

This was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I don’t ever remember feeling this liberated from my prison of disordered eating. I ATE pasta and gelato to my little heart’s content EVERY day! Everything was full of flavor and tasted so REAL. I listened to my body’s hunger cues and stopped when I was full. Sure, sometimes I would overeat, but I didn’t feel guilty because I never had the number of calories screaming in my head! All I knew was that I was filling my stomach with deliciousness and satisfaction.

But, here is the incredible thing. Because I never deprived myself of certain foods and never counted calories in Italy, I experienced LESS cravings since my diet didn’t exclude certain foods. I never felt like I needed to pork out on forbidden foods because “it would be the last time I ever ate the food” and “tomorrow would be a clean day”. Pssh. Who am I kidding? That has never worked in the past for me! If anything, I’ve binged on MORE food from “restricting”. The irony.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t calorie count altogether. It is important to analyze the portions you are putting into your body and whether the balance of food is healthy for you. I’m also not saying to go eat 50 cookies and call it a day. Intuitive eating is about making nutritious choices in healthy portions when your hunger cues kick in. AND, you can eat the ice cream and cookies moderately without feeling miserable. 😉

Not only did I get to ride a gondola, sing in St. Peter’s Basilica, and visit Michelangelo’s David , I made incredible steps towards a healthier, ED-free me!

Eat that spaghetti al ragu and enjoy the flavor of life.