I remember when eating was fun.

I remember when food didn’t stress me out so much.

I remember when ‘Italian’ was one of many cuisine options.

I remember when ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano’ was ‘Parmesan’.

I remember when ‘grana’ meant nothing at all.

I remember when no one watched what I ate.

I remember when toasting with water was an option.

I remember when no one commented on what I ate.

I remember when pork was a once-in-a-while meat.

I remember when no one looked me up and down each time they saw me.

I remember salads. Big, creative salads.

I remember when no one commented on my body, my figure, or my clothing.

I remember when I didn’t have to eat fast enough to ensure no one would get offended.

I remember when I didn’t have to eat slow enough to ensure no one would pile seconds on my plate.

I remember not thinking at all about the pace at which I was eating!

I’m writing this post from a DIY desk that I have assembled above my exercise bike, so that I can get a little workout in while I type. I have resorted to this ridiculous form of multitasking because the activity level of my daily life can no longer support the onslaught of carbohydrates and pork that this country is wielding at me.

my DIY deskycle

my DIY deskycle


Seriously. Help.

I am a food person. I love food. I especially love Italian food (how can you not?). Even more specifically, I find Emilian traditional cuisine to be one of the best in Italy. But this is getting ridiculous.

When I was growing up, I always used to think my mom’s family was kinda weird… in that they talked about food a lot. Like, a lot. Turns out, they were just Italian-American. Upon arriving in Italy, I discovered that food is THE subject of discussion. It doesn’t matter what you think you’re talking about… food makes its way in there somehow every time.

At dinner, while you’re eating, you’re discussing what you’re eating, how it was prepared, where the ingredients came from, the history of that specific dish, when was the last time you ate it, what you ate for lunch, what you’re going to eat the next day, where to get the ingredients for the next day, the mythical health benefits of said food, what other ingredients could be substituted, how the dish varies slightly in the next town over, and it goes on and on and on…

Not that it’s not fascinating. It is! But (to borrow a phrase from my hosts),

“Che palle!”

(Literal translation: “What balls!”… a stronger, more exasperated, “Come on!”)

So here I am, 15 kilos heavier than when I arrived 5 years ago. This has to end. I propose a club of sorts. A network of expats in Italy attempting to healthily adapt to the food culture here. We can have a hashtag (I’m thinking #fitaly, or something similar) and keep each other accountable by blogging our own stories and asking each other for progress updates.

Who’s with me?

(This post was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge at The Daily Post.)

29 thoughts on “I remember when eating was fun.

  1. Yes ma’am. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have to take charge. They aren’t really embarrassed or hurt if one person eats less than a wild boar, they just manipulate you that way.
    One day a week you can go out, eat with friends or family, cook for friends and family. The rest of the week you have to take care of your health. For me that means no wine, no sweets, no bread, no pasta, no starchy veg or sugary fruits. It means meat, fish, cheese with loads of vegetables, water to drink almost always except for my morning coffee.
    It took me 12 years to realize that if I came here to live I had to be my own boss. If I came here to die, well bring on the gelato and the risotto. I’ll have Prosecco with that. And before that. And after, a nice digestivo…

    • wise words, Judith. I’m hearing the no pasta thing a lot. I’m just curious what you do if your husband is a pro-pasta Italian man…. add to that – one who thinks a little wine and grana is healthy for the system!

  2. Sounds exactly like my experience. Like Judith, I’m taking charge. Until I return to my pre-Italian sojourn weight, I’m pretty much eating like Judith every day of the week. Then I’ll adopt a 5 days on, 2 days off and see how that goes. Wine is definitely a problem, but I’ve found that abstention, especially among women, is pretty common so it’s no so obvious when I politely decline. I’d love to be part of a support group on this topic–safety in numbers.
    My blog is: http://www.nuovastoria.wordpress.com
    Thanks for your post–timely and incredibly helpful!

    • I know! I feel like there is not a single meal here that doesn’t have carbs in it… Then I tried that nasty whole wheat pasta… holy crap. That’s a whole other post, right there.

  3. Hey – I’m game to join in on any group effort to shape up and slim down. I too need to lose 15 chili…I’m cutting way back on carbs…skipping pasta is not so hard for me, but other salty carbs (and wine, especially prosecco) I have a hard time passing up. Plus, it’s been too hot to work out. I did P90X through most of July and have started to see results, but it’s tough to want to break (more of) a sweat when it’s already 40 C outside. So, count me in and maybe we can pull each other along! 🙂

    • oh good! I’m so happy to have people to commiserate with. I hear ya on the breaking a sweat in 40°. I was on the bike when I wrote this article this morning, and it was just completely disgusting.

  4. I dealt with “pressure” from the family in Italy, too when it came to resisting the bounty at the table. Now they’re used to me saying “I’m finished” when I’ve had far less to eat than anyone else. My father-in-law worries because I’ve lost some weight (and believe me, I’m glad to see it go), but on the whole he’s accepting my refusal to stuff myself.

    Then again, I have a hubby who *refuses* to eat pasta at night (although pizza is okay – wtf????), and who, left to his own devices, would be perfectly happy living on salads, fruit and yogurt for the rest of his days. LOL!

    I think Judith had the best advice of all, too. You have to take care of yourself, even it makes you an oddball in the eyes of your Italian friends/family. At least you won’t have half the neuroses some of them have as a result of your diet!

    • It’s true… I’m going to have to offend occasionally. The family meals are only 1-2 times a week (only! ha!). My husband is also a big fan of salads, but he needs his pork and wine… and his default meal if at lunch is pasta. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement! -M

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    • Thanks, Tiana! I’m a fan of my bidesk…
      I’m out. Anyone else got a good name? I’ll give you naming royalties! -M

    • I’ll check it out now, thanks! (by the way, looks like you’re getting some heat on that “myths about Italian mammas” post. Yeesh! You’re handling it very well!) -M

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  7. O cara, you just made me laugh so much – and feel normal again! How many times have I heard the phrase “non e’ normale!?” I bit the bullet early and I told them that I couldn’t eat pasta every day; ma vale la pena?
    …I haven’t gained weight, but also can’t count the number of times some family member has partially covered her mouth and said, “that’s Fabio’s wife, she doesn’t eat pasta.” One day I showed up for a meal and they had put food on everyone’s plate except mine – and nothing else to eat! Buon appetito!
    PS: still haven’t found a way out of the sausage. luckily it’s only served for all of february

    • Oh man… that’s hilarious that you get introduced as the one who doesn’t eat pasta. That’s what I’m afraid of. If I make too much of a stink about things, they would find me even more odd than they already do! And there’s no way to NOT make a stink about food.
      (you only get sausage in February? lucky)

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  12. Me too!!!!!!!!

    I remember fitting into all of my amazing American clothes.
    I remember my first meal here and EVERYONE commenting on how small my food portion was.
    I remember thinking my in-laws make comments about my figure A LOT!
    I remember eating before 7pm.
    I remember being called a Gallina.
    I remember asking my friends in the States, “what should we eat today? Japanese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, Moroccan, Greek, or… oh! Italian?”
    I remember my skinny buns…
    I remember thinking I was normal for eating eggs for breakfast.
    I remember being able to go walking or jogging without bumping into 20 of my husband’s friends.

    • YES YES YES. Why am I just now seeing this comment? I LOVE all of your “I remember”s
      Ha, when I wrote this I was only 15 kg over… well, crap. Blew that cap clear off in the past 2 years. 😦

  13. dear god this is brilliant i am inspired thank the lord for you clever ladies!! finding it very hard and im here in italy with king carb himself it doesnt help that i like them but not EVERY DAY! What happened to salads what happened to them. When did bread become a utensil! Why when you say your piena do they offer you a basketful of Fromaggio! Thanks ladies i need to get my as moving!! ill check in with you all Jane, Lecco

    • Your comment today has inspired me ! Off I go for a walk. Hopefully I won’t run into anyone offering me pork along the way. HA! Ass if.

      As if.

      Now you’ve got me doing it.

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