3 Things I’ve Learned From The First 3 Days in Italy

By Elizabeth MacDonald

If you’ve ever been out of your own country, you know there are culture barriers. Whether it be with meal etiquette, rules of the road, or simple language barriers, it’s common to feel out of place.

Before I left the U.S. for a semester in Florence, I read up on the culture differences to prepare myself for life in Europe for over 3 months. Reading blogs on Italian culture and actually living amongst Italians has proven to me that you must experience it for yourself to fully understand. I’ve been out of the U.S. a few times to vacation in Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas, but I can officially say the culture shock is much more apparent in Europe.

There are crosswalks, but beware.

In the U.S., pedestrians (for the most part) always have the right away. In Italy they most definitely do not. There are a few street corners that have light posts that pedestrians can signal a right of way, but otherwise, make way for mopeds, cars and bicyclers. I can’t say this “rule of the road” makes sense for cars and mopeds, but I can say that after my 3 roommates and I rode bikes around Florence, we understood the annoyance of pedestrians.

Dressing is strictly for dressing rooms.

In the U.S. when my mom and I go shopping, we often will try clothes on clothes in the isles. Articles of clothing that can be worn over other clothing such as a cardigan, scarves, hats, etc. Although it’s not something that is encouraged, it isn’t looked down upon but other Americans or store associates.

The first shopping experience in Italy was at a common U.S. store called H&M. I was with my roommates and I came across a cardigan that I wanted to try on. Deciding between a black or gray one, I tried them both on in front of a nearby mirror in the store. I was immediately greeted by a store associate. She spoke with a strong Italian accent, but she was clear on her message. She pointed to the dressing rooms and sternly suggested I go there to try anything on in the store. This was a very new concept to me. My only assumption as to why this act isn’t tolerated is because dressing, changing clothes is a more intimate act and the Italian culture is much more reserved when it comes to covering their bodies.

Machine-o Cappuccino’s

The title says it all. In the university buildings at FUA students and faculty can order a variety of caffe from vending machines. At first, I was skeptical because of the thought of milk being prepared in a vending machine, but I had to try this. Could you blame me?

I got a cappuccino and was not disappointed at all. Once you order the coffee you want, the cup pops into the chamber and fills with just the right amount of sugar, then espresso and finally the classic cappuccino foam to top it off. And these coffees are only € .70 compared to coffees from cafes that range from € 1 to € 3

Is the Whole30 diet for you?

The deal with whole30 & my personal experience with the challenge.

For those of you that don’t know what Whole30 consists of, I’ll give a run down. But to tell you the truth, I was still learning new rules as the month went on.

It’s easier to tell you what you can’t have.


  • Added sugar of any form (agave, honey, etc.)
  • Alcohol (even in cooking)
  • All grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc)
  • Legumes (chickpeas, peanuts, edamame, etc)
  • Dairy (cows milk, yogurt, cheese, etc)
  • Processed foods (labels with ingredients that aren’t “whole food” or you can’t pronounce)
  • Baked goods, junk food (even “approved” treats are off limits)
  • When I indulged in this Whole30 “approved” chocolate (shown above) I didn’t know I was cheating!

  • It’s a lot to remember it all, which is why they say: when in doubt, leave it out.

  • Before I started these 30 days of restriction that promised me a better relationship with food and my body, I was warned of 2 things: You will be hungry, you will cheat at least once. Even if it’s by accident.
  • It’s important to remember that everyone that does Whole30 starts for their own reasons. My reason for trying it was to see if I gained more energy and a better understanding of the effect & relationship of food for my body. Of course, an added bonus of Whole30 is the weight loss and I was interested in seeing that as well. For the most part, who doesn’t want to see a few inches off the waist?
  • My experience:

  • I started Whole30 with my friend Moira. If you’re planning on starting Whole30, FIND SUPPORT. I found it in my parents, my boyfriend and Moira. Doing Whole30 with a friend makes it easier to follow the rules because you know that the other person is facing the same daily diet challenge. We also started an Instagram page @_the_wholesome_duo where we posted what we ate on a day to day basis. This helped out immensely.
  • The first week is the weakest. This might sound obvious, but the first 7 days going without sugar, dairy, grains, and more is the hardest part. I never fully understood how dependent I was on being able to eat readily available foods of any kind until the first week of Whole30. The second week was almost as hard as the first. During week two I craved things like chocolate and cheese. Since potatoes are an approved food, I would often find myself snacking on potato chips to curb the cravings… (It wasn’t until the last week that I learned that chips of any kind are off limits. WHOOPS!) Week three the cravings subsided and I felt less hungry than I did in the first two weeks. This either meant my body was getting used to a lower calorie intake or that I was finding more foods to eat within my regimen. Week four was a breeze compared to the first three weeks. Although, because I was so close to being done with the challenge, I caved. I admit. My boyfriends mom made me her amazing spring rolls and I did it. With no hesitation either. Of course, after I ate it I had regrets. It was the first food that I cheated with all month. Key word being food. I did cheat a few times with alcohol. I stuck to low sugar and calorie drinks like vodka soda & tequila sodas. Being 21, I couldn’t avoid alcohol as much as I would’ve liked to during this month. Can you blame me?
  • After finishing the Whole30 challenge I felt free. Free from restrictions, hunger & expectations. It wasn’t easy and I’m proud of the commitment that it took to do Whole30. And it felt as if my body was thanking me.
  • My Results:

  • At the beginning and end of the 30 days, I had an instructor at my health and fitness gym do a body analysis for me. It gives accurate measurements on weight, water level, BMI, vascular fat, body fat & body muscle. It even told you how much fat and muscle are in each of your legs and arms. It was really interesting and I highly recommend getting your own body analysis done.
  • You’re probably dying to know how the before & after results compared to one another. I regret to inform you all, it wasn’t the results I was hoping for. The reality of the second body analysis left me shocked. I thought that I would’ve at least lost a couple pounds or lost some fat, but oh was I wrong. I lost muscle, gained fat and remained the same exact weight to the decimal point.
  • So what happened?
  • I have a few theories as to why I gained fat and lost muscle. It’s possible that the reason I gained fat was due to the lower daily calorie intake and therefore my boy had to store all of the calories that it could. Eating such fewer calories a day can put the body in emergency mode and store more fat as a result. I also could have gained more fat because the foods that were easier to snack on were healthy fat foods such as nuts, egg (yolk), avocado, etc. and I had a lot of these foods. More than likely, the reason I lost muscle was because I wasn’t getting enough protein in my diet. Simple as that.
  • I wish I could inform pre-Whole30 Liz that she needs to find more macro friendly foods, specifically, protein. As I look back at the way I ate I should have had more chicken, egg whites, shrimp or even steak. I tended to grab fruits, veggies and almonds as my go to snack and (sometimes) meals because it didn’t take too much time to prepare. Doing that created a diet that was mainly carbohydrates and fats, thus, gaining fat and losing muscle.
  • Although I didn’t receive the results that I was looking for, My body did feel better eating non processed foods and “whole foods”. I felt more confident because I wasn’t ever bloated and my energy levels were at an all time peak during the third and fourth week.
  • My advice:

  • For anyone that wants to start the Whole30 diet, it definitely is a challenge. You need to study up on what you can and can’t have! I know that both me and my friend Moira were eating things throughout the month that we didn’t know wasn’t part of Whole30. You need to prepare your daily food so that you don’t fall into a caloric deficit! Take it from my mistake, being hungry all the time isn’t a good sign. Macros will be the last thing on your mind because of the amount of rules there are for this challenge, but I challenge you to challenge yourself. Find good sources of protein (don’t load up on fatty snacks like I did). Lastly, have fun with it! Create an account, blog, go shopping at Whole Foods. Show Whole30 who’s boss.
  • Oh, and if you do try it, tell me about your experience! Contact me through my contact page here. I love hearing stories of personal growth & learning curves.
  • With love, LivingLiz.