The Healthy Italian

A tavola non si invecchia.

At the table, you do not become old.

Many people are envious of the way Italians take the time to prepare meals and sit with friends eating and socializing for hours; how they keep in touch with family and friends and even call their moms regularly. Italian culture is, first and foremost, one of enjoying life to its fullest. 

Most Americans live a hurried life, especially those living in a big city. Traffic, appointments and real or imagined commitments make it seem like we do not have enough time to slow down and relax even for a few minutes. We are forever seeking material things we think we need for our happiness and to feel that our life is complete. We forget what is truly important in life.

This month’s topic: La Famiglia! 

Italy’s culture, steeped in food, family and inclusiveness, contrasts sharply with the prevalent work-centric one in the U.S. that emphasizes the individual, exclusivity and material acquisition. We are bombarded every day with solicitations for this product and that gadget, all supposedly to make our lives easier. It is difficult to resist the incessant hard-sell that we are exposed to on the TV, computer and phones, every minute of every day. We all have the responsibility for being taken in by the ease of “one-click” shopping, but the technologies that are supposedly bringing us closer together and more connected, seem to be leading us into further isolation and away from personal contact and interaction.

Italians’ strong sense of family is still a central and fundamental support to the younger generations. Italian families stay together longer because children are raised to remain close even when they become adults starting their own families.

Italian family solidarity encompasses the extended family and not just the nuclear family as it does in the U.S. Italians enjoy spending time with siblings, nieces and nephews, children, and grandchildren. Children spend quality time with their zii and nonni, listening to stories about the way life used to be and learning all their favorite recipes to carry on the family’s traditions. 

Italians have many family gatherings typically centered on food, religious events, birthdays, and any number of other reasons to celebrate.

Growing up in my Italian family, we had celebrations: holy days, holidays, birthdays, communions, confirmations…at least once a month, often twice. In addition to my nuclear family of two parents and five girls, each celebration included grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even some of our school friends if they were lucky enough to become an honorary member of our family. Everyone in my family loves my girlfriend of 55 years, Harriet, who still comes over for all our celebrations when I am in Cleveland. We were not rich in material possessions but we never lacked what we needed in life. It was the love and close connection of family that sustained us. 

Tip of the Month: 

Live the Italian spirit of togetherness and enjoyment of life. Enjoy and cherish the people you love, whether family or friends, who are in your life. They are priceless and cannot be replaced!

In the last few years, my sisters and I have switched roles with my mother who showed us in so many ways the importance of family. She is nearing her 90th birthday and needs a lot more help so we are the ones taking care of her now. Because we are Italian and that’s what we do! 

Chi si volta, e chi si gira, sempre a casa va finire.

No matter where you go or turn, you will always end up at home.

Please send your questions about nutrition, exercise or mindfulness to Diana at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. “If I don’t know the answer, I will find it.”

Diana Lucarino-Diekmann, has been working in the field of Health and Fitness since 1980, helping others achieve optimal health and happiness. She has a BA in Exercise Physiology, as well as Pilates and Yoga certifications and an extensive knowledge of nutrition and disease. Having taught almost every type of exercise class, she now specializes in Yoga, Pilates, meditation, and mindfulness, not only in exercise but also in life.

The contents of “The Healthy Italian” are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or your personal health.