This past July I was blessed to visit Portugal and the Azores Islands for two weeks and every time I visit somewhere new, I ALWAYS take note on the culture. Especially the food and activity levels! I had never been to Portugal or the Islands so it made for some great observing, tasting, and indulging. If you're reading this you are probably wondering what I have to say on the Portuguese lifestyle that I briefly witness. Read on.
For those who have read or listened to my thoughts on Europe before, I'm sorry for the repetition. Europe always amazes me when it comes to fitness and health. It seems in the states that eating healthy and exercising is becoming more and more of a priority for many. Our grocery stores, fast food chains, and even schools have become more "health conscious". There are gyms all over the place, every corner you turn is a new boutique fitness studio . So why is it that we STILL are one of the most overweight countries in the world?
In Portugal, everywhere you turned their were pastries shops. EVERYWHERE. Made by hand everyday these pastries were loaded with sugar, cream and more sugar. They even had them for breakfast! Sugar, for breakfast? When in Rome... But why did everyone look healthy and not appear to be overweight? I mean, they WERE eating sugar for breakfast. Common?! Maybe because it was just as simple as that... A pastry made of sugar, cream and maybe 1 or 2 other ingredients. Decadent? Yes. Real ingredients? Yes. Maybe I'm on to something here....
We have all been to the grocery store when we see 15 flavors of 1 item. For example, an oreo. How the heck do you take a cookie and make it into red velvet flavor or birthday flavor or mint something or another. There are so many flavors I can't keep track, nor will I eat them. Beyond millions of flavors for everything you have sugar free, less sugar, diabetic friendly, low carb, low fat, and so on. How many versions of 1 cookie can you chemically make? It seems to be endless here. We have taken all the whole foods (sugary ones and healthy ones) and completely mutilated them. They don't even come CLOSE to their natural form. We have taken that one granule of sugar and turned it into 1000 different things. BUT WHY? What is so wrong with having it in its natural form! Maybe if we all scaled back on the chemically and genetically modified foods our health would be different. Bad news is, it will take quite sometime before America rewinds.
Everything is bigger in Texas. Well, maybe not just Texas but all over the States. Why is it that our plates are huge, our drinking glasses are large, restaurant portions are GIGANTIC, fast food chains have extra extra large this and that. Really?? Do we need that? No, not really. Recently I started scaling back. I use a dessert plate for dinner (so does my husband) because it is way more reasonably sized than our actual dinner plates AND we are completely satisfied afterwards. I also only fill my morning coffee cup half way. No need to drink a HUGE cup when before I would force myself to finish. Why? If we all take a step back and try downsizing our everyday meals, drinks and so on, we might notice a difference in our bodies.
Enough about food. What did the Portuguese do for exercise? Not much from what I saw. Our hotels didn't come with a gym but they did come with stairs! And lots of them! No one used an elevator there. The elevator was only big enough for one person and I wasn't about to cram in there. Lisbon and the Islands were also situated on hills. Many, many, many hills. I mean, I love a good little hill to get the glutes going BUT seriously, I don't think I want to climb another hill for a few weeks. :) They may not lift there but like most of Europe, they walk everywhere. And when you are walking everywhere carrying your groceries (especially up gigantic hills), your cardio will probably be on point.
I love observing other cultures and taking what I can from each. I am thankful for having a gym (and many of them at that) and happy to have access to many fresh fruits and veggies. However, there are small changes I (and you) can do each and everyday to live a healthier and more fit lifestyle.
Where have you been? What have you noticed? Have a recommendation of a place I should visit? Let me know! I'd love to hear from you!! Comment below.
In good health,
Cristina Walterman, owner of CW Physique, let's you in on fitness and nutrition tips, recipes, exercises and much more. With over 8 years of experience in the industry, she loves to inspire and motivate individuals. She always practices what she preaches and leads by example.