An Inside Look at How “Foodie” Beirutista Stays Slim
Today’s blog post is super special…it’s from a self proclaimed foodie that has the YUMMIEST instagram pictures! Her name is Danielle Issa, but she’s better known on the internet as the fab “Beirutista”! But how does she balance trying all the new restaurants and dishes with maintaining her health and figure? Read on to find out her secrets!
Danielle Issa is an American-born Lebanese who relocated to Lebanon in 2011. Presently working on the global strategy and organization of a leading local bank, Danielle also enjoys dabbling into the blog world on her lifestyle and food blog Beirutista. The blog is a treatment of the cultural and lifestyle nuances in Lebanon as seen through her multicultural lens. Topics range from analysis and humor pieces to restaurant reviews, foodie discoveries, rants and raves, travel guides, general news, views, and memoirs.
When people meet me, they’re often a little perplexed that I’m slender. A quick visit to my Instagram account, which doubles as a living tribute to the pursuit of good food, might convince you that I’m preparing for a sumo wrestling match. The written word, too, in the form of my numerous food posts and features, would have you believe I’m the patron saint of the culinary arts. During my television appearances on LBC’s B-Beirut (here and here), the program hosts commented on my trim physique.
What’s my secret? Do I have a hyperactive metabolism that burns as rapidly as I consume? Do I work out night and day and frequent the gym like a sports fanatic? Do I yo-yo between binge-eating and starvation?
Nope, sorry. None of the above.
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In the Mood for Food
Let’s start with the measurements. I’m 5’10” (179 cm) and my weight plays in the range of 60 – 65 kg.
I have an affinity for pleasant food, so you could call me a gourmand, or epicure. I’m not much into junk fodder—you’d never catch me inside a McDonald’s except for a 150-kcal merry cream cone. And on a normal day, I forego starchy carbs like potatoes, rice, pasta, and bread in favor of greens, lean meats, fruits, fiber cereals, and low-fat yogurt.
Since I’ve been eating “clean” my entire life, I’ve developed a natural predilection for healthy foods. I’ll almost involuntarily opt for grilled potatoes over fries, and if a restaurant is flexible, I’ll swap the spud entirely for veggies. On burgers and sandwiches, I hold the mayo or “special sauce”. I prefer roasted eggplants (batenjen raheb) to baba ghannouj, because I’ve learned to appreciate the aubergine flesh without the fatty sesame paste tahini. The same goes for balila over hummus. Fried matter holds no trance over me, so I ignore it when it features among the table spread.
I enjoy my frozen yogurt in its virgin state, totally snow-white and free from unnecessary toppings. I avoid juices-from-concentrate and sugary drinks because they’re sources of empty calories, and they don’t add any nutritional value to my regime.
Yes, I have a weakness for baked treats like chewy cookies, loaf cakes and muffins, but I eat these sparingly. I’m not too keen on the texture of creams and mousses, so their tempt appeal is nil. I’ll often satisfy a sweet tooth craving with a dessert yogurt, a cereal bar, or lightly-sweetened biscuits. Dried fruit also do the trick.
The key to staying trim is balancing one’s intake over 2-3 days. I don’t have it in me to decline delicious encounters that come along on occasion, as when I am invited to a tasting crafted by an award-winning chef, or when lunch lands me a 6-oz. bunned beauty from a top-notch burger joint. But you can bet that the following day or possibly two will find me nibbling like a rabbit, acutely conscious of what I’m consuming and curbing it at 1,000-1,200 calories.
We all know that dieting is just one part of the equation; continuous activity forms the second. I’m no gym junkie, and this year is my first foray into the world of strength-training and TRX. The motivation behind an annual gym membership was three-fold: (1) avoid the morning rush-hour, (2) stay fit in a safe environment, and (3) support my husband in his quest for sustainable exercise. We both work in downtown Beirut and thus commute together. Adopting a similar routine makes life tremendously more facile and enjoyable. Shared interests reinforces our marital partnership.
But what’s really kept me lithe all these years is walking. On a daily basis, I aim for at least one hour, and 3-4 times per week, I’ll squeeze in intense power walking to truly work up a sweat. Walking sculpts your legs like few activities can, and the proof is in the pudding: my preliminary body composition tests at the gym revealed “over-muscled” legs! In fact, one could readily notice from my chiseled calf muscles that I’m a walker. I attribute my fondness for the sport to my father, who since early childhood took me along his fitness walks, whether in our SoCal suburban neighborhood or along the Beirut “corniche” seaboard.
Walking was second-nature when I resided in Boston and Paris. These cities favor the pedestrian, whereas Beirut is the antithesis. There are hardly any sidewalks; pollution is insufferable; and you have to dodge cars with the same alertness required of dodgeball players. Near our home in Mansourieh, there is a quiet neighborhood with a hilly terrain and oval-shaped course to where I flee for power walks. That path does wonders for my physique.
Since I am confined between corporate walls 5-6 days per week, I elect to take the stairs rather than the elevator, and I make it a point to frequent the kitchen and bathroom simply to move my body. At lunchtime, I head out for a 30-minute stroll, because 9 long hours in the seated position can cripple you.
I’ve found that consuming good food in moderate quantities coupled with daily walking serves my body well. When the scale tips, I amp up the walking and dial down the noshing. This particular regimen may not be for those seeking swift weight loss and bodybuilding, but those have never been my objectives. I aim to stay in the weight range that is healthy and flattering to my frame, and to ultimately feel lean and clean.
I’m a firm believer that you are what you eat, and that your body is a temple, so extra care should be taken as to what you deposit in it. Treat it well, and the results will be stark in the clarity of your eyes; a natural sheen in your hair; and tight, lustrous skin. Self-confidence, you say? You’ll never love yourself better.
Thanks so much for your article Danielle! I love that you’re a living testament that everything in moderation is the key to success!
So I guess you CAN be a foodie and still be healthy, I hope that inspires everyone to stay active, whether it’s in the gym or out in the world going on walks! That way we can enjoy all the good food and tasty treats on the weekends 🙂