Happy Friday everyone! I hope your week is going well. I’m starting to see more posts about summer on social media, no doubt because we’re all itching to be outside and hopefully living with a few more freedoms! We still have pretty strict restrictions here in Italy, and we’re all so ready to live a life that feels slightly normal. On all of my socials, I have a pretty decent balance of Italian and American friends. While we all seem to be ready for summer, the types of posts I’ve seen from each population has been vastly different. Italians seem to be dreading the upcoming “prova costume” (bathing suit try-on), while Americans are just ready to embrace themselves as they are for the summer.
I’ve found that this sentiment extends far beyond just the summer months. America has become much more body positive as a country. While there is still a ways to go in terms of acceptance, Americans have started to accept all body types as beautiful as opposed to the tall, thin, supermodel body structure that was so heavily desired in the 90s and early 2000s. Italians, however, still consider the tall, thin, supermodel body type as standard. When I moved to Italy, my self-confidence took a huge hit, and it’s still something that I struggle with daily. The topic of weight-loss is not new to me, I think I’ve been wearing the same adult size since I was thirteen years old. I always wanted to be a size 2 like my friends were in high school. I lived in the world of, “If I just lose five more pounds…”. While I wanted to be thinner, I never felt large while living in America. When I moved to Italy, that’s all I felt.
Living in Milan certainly does not help. When you’re surrounded by literal supermodels and city residents who constantly go to the gym on their lunch break, walk everywhere, and eat the smallest portions that an Italian would ever permit themselves to eat, you start to feel like the “Big American” stereotype. Knowing that lots of Italians do think of Americans as big people who eat terrible food, it didn’t help my mindset. I always felt like when I told someone where I was from, they were judging my body based on that. Even if I was still hungry, I wouldn’t take seconds at dinner for that reason. I’ve thankfully gotten to the point that I don’t consider myself to be big, but compared to the typical Milanese, I know I still am.
What really made my self-confidence take a hit is how open Italians are to talking about weight, and their diet culture. For those of you might not know, Italians treat weight and comments about it as observations, not insults. I’ll never forget a conversation I overheard between an Italian teacher and their student many years ago. One child came up to the teacher upset that another student had called him chubby. She sweetly and nonchalantly told him, “But he wasn’t making fun of you, your body is your body it’s just a fact”. I was not used to that type of mentality regarding weight. I still wasn’t used to it last year when a doctor told me, “You should maybe lose a few kilos, plus summer is coming so it’ll be good for you to do anyway”. In America, you don’t dream of commenting on someone’s weight. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of people seeing Italian relatives after many years and the first thing out of their mouths is, “Wow, you’ve gained weight!”. Going to the beach here almost every year makes for an anxiety attack in itself.
Aside from indifferent comments, Italians are always figure-conscious. It seems like most Italians I know are always dieting, cutting carbs, not eating sweets, etc. I know Americans diet too, I do. The major difference between the two places, as far as I can tell, is that Americans diet for themselves, Italians diet for the “bella figura”, making a nice appearance to others and being attractive to others.
On one hand, it’s kind of refreshing to be so disconnected to the subject of weight. In taking a matter-of-fact approach, I can accept where I’m at and where I want to be more easily. On the other hand, when you’re as sensitive as I am about how you look, sometimes not saying a damn thing is better. There is a silver lining to all of this though! Taking from the American culture and taking care of myself for me, I am the healthiest now that I have ever been. Living in Italy not only helped my body adapt to being more active on a daily basis, but it gave me the push to start running, varying and adding how many days a week I exercise.
While I typically don’t mind adapting to the Italian ways of doing things, I think this is one area where I prefer the American culture. There are so many other parts to a person and their personality that commenting on weight is truly unnecessary.
So here’s my weekend mantra to myself and anyone reading today:
You are worthy at any size.
People love you as you are.
Your opinion of yourself is the only one that matters- be kind with your thoughts.
Lots of Love,