Stressed out, overweight and depressed in London, Kamin Mohammadi healed herself by learning to live, love and eat the Italian way. Here’s some tips on how to make the Bella Figura work for you. Read our May issue for the full feature…
1. Make like Sophia Loren
Drink a spoonful of extra-virgin olive oil four times a day
Loren uses nothing else to cook with and puts it on her skin and hair, and in the bath. Extra-virgin olive oil fights dangerous stomach fat and reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and insulin sensitivity. Scientists found that in just four weeks of replacing other fats with extra-virgin olive oil, both visceral and deep belly fat was reduced.
2. Mangia Mangia
What and how to eat
Natural and wholefoods are key. This is not a diet. Bella Figura is more about what we put into our bodies than what we don’t. We detox our cupboards instead of ourselves, eliminating anything that doesn’t bear any resemblance to its origins, or has E numbers, microwavable packaging and a sell-by date that exceeds our own expected lifetime. The Italians take pleasure in their food and this is what we should aim for. Their multi-course meals encourage eating slowly, and in the pause in between courses the brain has time to realise how full it is: the hormones that regulate appetite need about 20 minutes to reach the brain. Eating mindlessly in front of the computer gives not only less pleasure, but it overshoots the timing of the hormones, so it’s much easier to overeat.
Do as the Italians do and seize any opportunity to get moving – be it taking the stairs, doing the coffee run at work, or walking part of the way to the office with gusto. Better still, join a dance class: learning a new skill burns new pathways in your brain, and releases those feel-good hormones. It will give you a community, a new passion, have music pumping through your body (instead of cortisol) and dancing in hold will give you some of those ten embraces a day that scientists say release oxytocin and make you feel loving and compassionate.
4. Come Bere
How to drink
Drink alcohol in moderation – a small glass of wine with dinner is the guide. A report suggests it is women with expensive homes and six-figure salaries who drink more than any other social group: up to two-thirds will drink more than the healthy limit. The bella figura demands we break this unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Remember that drinking to excess will make you pile on weight and stress out your skin as well as all the internal damage it is doing.
5. La Passeggiata
Walking, seeing and being seen
Walk with style. Good posture is all-important. Walk tall as if offering your heart up to the sky. Look up more: looking down at our smartphones is slackening our jawlines prematurely, sagging our faces, giving us jowls before they are due. Smile much more – research shows that if you smile genuinely enough and often enough you will release the feel-good hormone serotonin. Seek out your community; don’t be fooled by the remote connection offered by social media. Considering the difference between the Italian way of life – with its squares thronging with all the generations and the nightly passeggiata – and our own, it is perhaps no surprise that in the UK in 2016, 64.7 million antidepressant prescriptions were given out – nearly double that of a decade ago. Loneliness adversely affects the immune and cardiovascular systems and has been proven to be worse for one’s health than smoking. To be healthy we need to see our friends and family, visit our grannies, call up our aunts and cousins. So let’s go back to doing things together, even if it’s just a stroll in the park or a visit to the greengrocer. It may just save our lives.
6. Festina Lente
In haste slowness
There’s practically nothing that can’t be improved by slowing down – even climbing the stairs deliberately instead of running has been proven to lose you an extra pound a month. Seek out nature as often as you can, be it a city park, a tree on your street, or some nearby wild place, wherever you can go to let your eyes soak up the green, a natural and effective way to de-stress. And consciously, at least once a week, contemplate beauty – be it a painting, an urban corner you love, a wide blue sky or the most exquisite of shoes. Do this quietly and without any purpose other than your pleasure. When I first arrived in Florence and my unhappiness was palpable, I was advised to ‘let the beauty heal you’. I think it did. And if you follow the simple tips of Bella Figura, it will do the same for you.