For nearly 10 years of my life, food was the enemy to me. I looked at it with fear, with disdain, and even sometimes with terror. During this time, I traveled to countries like Mexico, Croatia, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina. With each country, I would avoid the local delicacies, looking at them as though they were the devil. I had a hunger for travel itself, but because of my eating disorder, I avoided the food from these countries like the plague. My relationship with food actually stopped me from exploring travel to a greater depth, unable to swallow my own demons. Looking back, I wish I could give myself a big hug and tell myself that it would be ok. I wish I could tell myself that food was not the enemy, but it was in fact a place of pleasure, of self-discovery, of relationships, of education, and most of all – of love. But I wasn’t ready yet. I first had to learn from this horrible battle against myself and hopefully emerge from the other end, alive – albeit with scars to tell about it.
I grew up in an Italian family where food was king. My mother was (and still is) a great chef and like most Italian families, dinnertime was a time for the family to share in a home cooked meal together. But as I got older and became a top-ranked track & field athlete, my relationship with food began to change. Just as I expected excellence in my athletic performance, I too expected it in my body. As I entered my Ivy-League university as a Division-1 athlete, my coach started to put pressure on me to lose weight and to look like I did when I was 15, all while expecting me to lift heavy weights, get good grades, and compete at one of the world’s top Ivy League universities. As a Type-A personality, I thought I could do it all. But I began to crack. And the one thing I attempted to gain control with was my food.
In order to please my coaches, I began purging after I ate. And well, it worked – to the untrained eye. My coaches began praising my new physique, telling me that I’ve never looked better, and to “stay at this weight.” My eating disorder consisted of binging and purging, eliminating most of my calories multiple times a day all while keeping up a full academic schedule, two hours of training on the track, and an hour of training in the weight room. I wanted to be the best and if that feat required binging and purging, I accepted that challenge willingly.
Enjoying the finer things in life in Paris, France
Long after my competitive years as a track & field athlete and Olympic weightlifter, I still had a tumultuous relationship with food. I forgot how to enjoy the dinner table, to relish in a meal, and to savor food with friends and family. After lots of therapy, reading, time, love, and travel, I am happy to say that I’ve been able to come out the other side of this horrible eating disorder and this hate for myself and emerge as a young woman with love for herself and for food. A huge catalyst in the ability to love myself and to love food once again has been travel. To the places and people I’ve met along the way, thank you for showing me how to savor and enjoy food once again.
I’ve been called the ice cream queen…
And I’ll accept gelato as well 🙂
In June 2015, my husband and I quit our corporate jobs to travel the world. I won’t lie – in the beginning, I was nervous about how I would stay in shape on the road. I was nervous about all of the random foods around the world, about my lack of control in the kitchen, and I was scared of the unknown. Little did I know that this trip would teach me how to respect food and how to respect myself.
Indulging in the delicacies of Belgium
Learning how to make pizza in Taormina, Sicily
Through my years of travel, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the most fascinating places on earth, make fantastic friends that will last a lifetime, and eat in some of the most prestigious kitchens around the globe. By tasting my way around the world, I learned that great chefs bring something else to the plate besides food. Chefs bring passion, they bring heart, and they bring soul into their food. I learned that a culinary experience isn’t just about the food; it’s about all of the ingredients of the experience – the company, the location, and the overall ambience. Memory plays a huge part in the culinary experience – it’s the scents, the tastes, the presentation, and the communality of it all. But I’d be kidding myself if it weren’t also about the pure unadulterated pleasure of a fantastic meal. I deprived myself of that pleasure for so long.
Michelin-starred ramen in Tokyo, Japan
Noshing on local delicacies in Hong Kong
Conceivably I thought I needed to earn the ability to consume something so decadent. Perhaps I didn’t think I was worthy of that pleasure.
I’ve brought passion into everything I do in my life – my family, my athletics, my writing, my travels – and through my escapades, I’ve gained a great appreciation for the passion that chefs bring to their craft day after day. This newfound respect for the art of gastronomy has taught me to look at food in an entirely different way and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience this change and this feeling.
If it weren’t for travel, I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the intricacies of the sushi from Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, the mouthwatering al dente tagliatelle Bolognese at Donna Rosa in Positano, the heartfelt and homemade orrechiette with my great aunts in Puglia, Italy, the mounds of handmade burrata in a Trulli house in Alberobello, truffles with a local family in Ljubjlana, Slovenia, side of the road Pad Thai in Koh Pha Ngan Thailand, or the scrumptious steaks from Francis Mellman in Mendoza, Argentina. These mouthwatering moments will live on as some of my favorite travel moments.
Dining with Jiro at Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, Japan
Now, I travel specifically for food. I revolve my travels around discovering the best meals in the world because I now have such a great appreciation for the craft and for the food itself. I also believe that I deserve to enjoy every delicious morsel and pleasure that the world has to offer. We all deserve that simple pleasure. My husband and I flew across the world solely to experience the world’s first three-Michelin starred sushi restaurant, we’re exploring the local ramen restaurants in Los Angeles, and hopefully soon, we’ll travel to Modena, Italy to experience Osteria Francescana.
Indulging in a 7-course meal in Tokyo, Japan
Noshing on fresh fruit in Cartagena, Colombia
After all these years, when I think about great food, I am filled with emotion. Not because I’m nervous or scared of it, but because of my great appreciation for the art of it all. I appreciate where the food comes from, I appreciate the pure pleasure it brings, but most of all, I appreciate the community and family that food creates – just like it did in my house growing up.
Tasting food from a master is like travel in itself. Sometimes it takes you to a different country, sometimes to a different state of mind, to a long lost memory, or even to a different world.
After years of wandering the earth, I’ve learned that to travel is to evolve. For so long, I was stuck in quicksand, unable to get out of my own way and progress as a person. So to my dear travel, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, for teaching me how to appreciate food, to value life, and to love myself.
Thanks for the information
Thank you for sharing such intimate details of your journey. I’ve struggled with weight and my relationship with food my entire life and after reading your words I feel inspired and hopeful. Also, I really love that you guys went to Tokyo specifically for the greatest sushi! Travel goals!
Thank you for any other informative blog. Where else may I am getting that kind of information written in such an ideal manner? I have a venture that I’m simply now working on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such info.
Freelance Assignment Writer
End binge eating now!
You haven’t tried everything…”End Binge Eating Now” was featured in Health Magazine and is one of the most practical solutions to crack-a-lacking the code on solving your eating disorder FOREVER! …