Pisto manchego with poached eggs (from directoalpaladar.com)

Just as I did the last time I moved to Madrid, I find that I am losing weight. Not a huge amount at one go, but enough that clothes that fit when I packed them in September are now going to have to be altered around the middle and through the hips. I’m fortunate that there’s an alterations place around the corner!

I want to say here that I am not a dieter.* I embrace the philosophy of Health at Every Size, and I am an advocate for loving the body you’ve got, regardless. As long as I can stride briskly along the street, climb the stairs out of the subway, and carry my groceries back from the market, I’m OK with my heavier self. My sturdy legs have taken me to lots of wonderful places.

That isn’t to say that I’m not feeling a lot better with five kilos fewer on my frame. I am. However, neither am I going to actively pursue losing more, in the form of over-thinking what I eat or joining a gym.** I know that I’m not likely to get much smaller than a 14, though I’m not even aiming for that.

So what has made the difference? Three things, in my estimation.

1. Walking. I like to walk. Being a pedestrian makes me happy — I get to see more, and experience more, when I’m outside. While having a car at my disposal is helpful for things like IKEA runs, it’s not that good for my health otherwise.

2. Less cr#p. There is plenty of junk food to be had in Spain if you want it — pizza, burgers, chips, etc. — but there are also many options for a quick meal that are healthier and better tasting. Any neighborhood bar can set you up with a slice of tortilla de patata (ingredients: eggs, potatoes, olive oil, and sometimes onion if you’re the controversial sort) and the beverage of your choice. It’s usually cheaper, too. And lots of those little snacks are full of vegetables — see “pisto Manchego,” above.

3. Lots of meals. When visitors first come to Spain, they get the impression that people never stop eating here.  In a sense, they’re right. There’s breakfast, elevenses, aperitivo, lunch, tea (merienda) or tapas, and dinner. The thing is, with the exception of lunch,  those meals are pretty small. Unless you go crazy at aperitivo or tapas time, in which case you probably won’t have the meal that follows. That’s what happened to me yesterday. My friend and I went far enough into crazy that I didn’t have dinner, either. I so was full of wild mushrooms and thimble-sized squid and artichokes and blue cheese with membrillo and eggplant that there just wasn’t any room at all!

There was a diet way back — I think it was from Duke — that encouraged you to have “metabo-meals” between regular meals, on the theory that by not letting yourself get too hungry, you’d keep burning calories. Whether that’s true or not, there is some good science behind the idea that not letting your blood sugar bottom out keeps you from gaining weight (because you’re less likely to develop insulin resistance, among other key factors).

Well, that’s all I have to say on that. All this writing about food has made me hungry, and I’m going to make myself some cream of zucchini for dinner (recipe here).


*Recommended reading on the topic: Rethinking Thin, by Gina Kolata.

**Many years ago, I visited the “Torture Museum” in Toledo (not Ohio) — it was full of replicas of the devices used to extract confessions during the Inquisition. Let me tell you, it looked just like a gym, only with less chrome. I rest my case.