How to eat less without offending La Famiglia. (#Fitaly Friday)

I feel like I’ve climbed Everest. I’ve cured cancer. I’ve solved world poverty. I’ve lost ONE WHOLE KILO in a week, whilst remaining inside the geographical confines of Italy! AND, I am fairly certain I didn’t offend anyone in the process.

You see it’s all about the give and take, the natural part of Italian culture that requires a certain amount of tugging back and forth regardless of the common interest. Everything must be debated, mulled over, considered, and then reconsidered, before arriving at a conclusion. You can’t just jump straight to, “I’m on a diet. I’m not eating that.” That would be offensive. You’ve got to go with something more subtle.

meal with La Famiglia - Married to Italy

Try these tips to eat less at your next meal with La Famiglia:

1. First, as soon as you enter the house, make reference to a wonderful meal you recently ate.

This will spur group conversations about the menu of said meal, the location, the cook, the ingredients, etc. While they’re all lost in the food talk, you are sneakily planting the seeds of your plot. You mention how big the portions were, how you ate every last crumb, how you can’t believe you were able to eat it all, but you had to sacrifice. This does two things:

  • (a) It gives you street cred – They now know that you’re not a wuss. That you can eat with the best of them.
  • (b) It sets you up for the ability to claim being full sooner. You recently had a very large meal, therefore, you couldn’t possibly have two large meals. You have to be more moderate this time around.

2. Make a fuss over the first course that comes out.

One of the keys to a moderate pace is making sure you talk a lot. Not only does this help you practice your Italian, but it makes it less noticeable that you’re not taking as many bites as everyone else.

When the first course comes out, “mmmm, ooooo, fantastico!”. Where did she get the ingredients? How long did it take her to make it? Is there something specific about this dish (like is it a regional specialty)? The questions will spur on the inevitable conversation about food that was likely to take place anyway, but the fact that YOU asked the questions again does two things:

  • (a) Beefs up that street cred more: You showing interest in the food means that you care, and can counter balance lower amounts of consumption.
  • (b) It distracts them, a necessary tactic which will be better described in the next step.

3. Pace yourself with the Married to Italy patented ‘Distract and Delay’ tactic:

Here’s where you show your prowess with the Italian culture. Remember to give me credit when you pass this on to your friends.

When they offer you more, you say, “Oh, I will, I will. I don’t want it to get cold on my plate, though. I’ll take another spoonful in a minute. I’d also like to try some of that other dish over there in a few minutes.”

Is it a lie? Yes. Is it a lie when the plumber says he’ll come on Tuesday at 14:30? Yes. We expats have spent years here learning how to take it from Italians; now it’s time to dish it. Follow up by asking, “What exactly is in that dish over there?”

This, again, does two things:

  • (a) It distracts them again and spurs them off on another food conversation, reaffirming your interest and care, while at the same time detracting from the attention on you.
  • (b) It delays the refilling of your plate. This is important. It’s all about pace. You have to appear to be continuously refilling your plate, right up until there isn’t any left. Then you can be the one to exclaim, “Oh, we ate it all already?! It was so good!”


What to do when they insist.

So someone says, “Mangia, mangia! You must talk less and eat more! Look, you’ve hardly had a thing!

In my experience this will be said even if you have had a full plate and a bis (seconds). But that’s ok. Remember – Food is Love. They love you. They are trying to show it.

You nod in agreement, say, “I know! I know!”, make a joke about your Italian, and then dedicate a lot of chewing to 5 full bites. Then just slowly re-insert yourself back into the conversation and reclaim your position by asking questions. I’ve found that asking questions keeps them distracted from the amount that you’re talking instead of eating.

What to do when you get discovered.

Some members of La Fmaiglia are molto molto furbi (very very clever). More often than not, it’s the suocera (mother-in-law). She has dedicated her life to making sure that her family receives enough love. She’s got super human powers that allow her to survey and catalog the exact consumption of each individual member of La Famiglia, not just during that meal, but over the course of their lives.

If you leave a bite of artichoke on the side of the plate one day in June, that action will be cited in a meal in November: “I know you don’t like artichokes (guilt trip), so I made this with as few as possible. Here, take more pork instead!” (But… I do like artichokes. I don’t even remember leaving that little piece on the side back in June. Please, please, no more pork!).

Berlusconi shrug

So, clearly, it is entirely possible that she will catch on to your tricks.

My response to this is borrowed from the master:

  1. Denial
  2. Partial confession, in the form of a joke.
  3. Promise to never do it again.


To my #Fitaly readers:

Yes! Week One of Fitaly Fridays is over. And to my shocking disbelief, I lost exactly 1.0 kilo. So, we’re still on schedule… for now. 

How? Well, I didn’t abstain from any one particular thing, but I did reduce portions drastically. Instead of eating the whole pizza (as Italians are wont to tell you is customary), I preserved it and savored it over the course of three meals. Instead of a full glass of wine with every meal, I had a half-glass at dinner each night.

If I knew I was going out with the girls for a beer, then I compensated by eating a bit less at lunch. I switched from regular pasta to whole grain pasta (the NaturaSi brand actually tastes great), and we made more soups.

I also did a bit of exercise every day, as you can see on my MapMyFitness profile (click here to join my group).

SO! I am officially at F – 1.

Check in, and tell me how you guys are doing!! Megan, how’s the weight training going? Bakeritalia, any walking in the hills? EKC, what’s your new F-count? DebbieDdid you successfully stay away from sweets? M.G., I’ve not been posting to Instagram lately, sorry! What’s your new F-count?

38 thoughts on “How to eat less without offending La Famiglia. (#Fitaly Friday)

  1. Brilliant post – distract and delay is genius! It’s true that the more you eat, the more they pile on, so distract and delay must be the only answer!

    I’ve been enjoying your posts so much lately, I’ve been going back and re-reading your old posts again 🙂 keep up the good work!

  2. Congrats on losing a kilo! No, I did a bad, bad thing. M and M’s were calling me. Been a rough week. Hope to start tomorrow and begin again. Boyfriend is gone this weekend. Time to start anew.

    • I hear ya!
      Challenge: pick your favorite color M&M and only eat those this week. Next week you can pick a different color. (Makes the pack last longer!)

  3. I loved your post!! Too funny…and the distract tactics were great! What always stumps me, though, is that they want you to eat, and they take it very personally if you don’t eat what they offer and everytime they offer it, but then they turn up their nose at you if you’re packing a few extra kilos on your behind!! What is their secret to staying thin, if they keep eating? It’s the mystery that I would love to solve! If you figure it out, let me know! K? And great job on the lost kilo…you may be on the road to discovering the missing link to the puzzle 😉

    • yeah, but it’s part of the whole drama… offer, get denied, be offended, offer again, act shocked, repeat repeat. So you have to beat ’em at their own game. Go on the offensive. I just got back from a family lunch where I teased my suocero for being a picky eater. He was shocked, I teased again. Ha! Guarantee you – the rest of meal, everyone was watching what he was eating, not me! 🙂

  4. Nice job M!! I am F-0 this week, which I am not happy with (but not surprised since I was so busy at work that I couldn’t make it to the gym. However, I will not give up and it is better than being F+!! Forza!!

  5. I may not be actively trying to lose weight, but this is a great distracting technique that I will definitely try with my (future) Russian in-laws. Preventing an explosion is always a priority when visiting the babushka!

    • yes. I lived in Russia for three months when I was younger… it was the ingredients that were so filling that really got me! Potatoes, cabbage, potatoes. I couldn’t keep up! Good luck!

  6. Hurray! Limiting portion sizes sounds like the best way. I go for extremes, unfortunately, then yo-yo. I started a fresh diet round Tuesday and have lost 5 lbs so far. It is not terribly fun though – no sugar, no carbs,… wine. Oh, the inhumanity! I’m going to try and stick to it until Thanksgiving and see how it goes. Good job to the Fitaliacs!

  7. Brava, that is great news and excellent advice, however, my Italian language skills will let me down and so my plate gets piled high from our landlords! Damn he is a good cook!
    I have regressed on my walks so thank you for the push… MIL just left a comment on my blog wondering if I have out on weight- noice!
    Your doing great, have a great week two 🙂

  8. I wish I’d read this before I went to a Calabrese family dinner the other night. I wasn’t very well, any amount of food was making me feel sick (strange virus going around my school you feel sick and full all the time, but you are not) But it was my first visit to this particular cousin and I couldn’t refuse anything! Why did I get the biggest piece of lasagne? Followed by roast beef, (I think in my honour) roast potatoes, artichoke and sausages – why sausages as well??!! I did leave a piece of the artichoke. I will be noticed and remembered… Next time I’ll try to remember your tips 😉

  9. This post is amazing, I am sorry I am seeing it only now! I have deployed many of these tactics (especially the distract and deny phases) when eating with my ex’s family. The worst was that they would comment often if they thought I gained or lost wait but then continue to shove food down my throat. #madness!

    • I know, it IS madness! I really don’t like when the whole family (or worse, someone I don’t even know that well) looks me up and down to assess my weight loss or gain since the last time we met. Kinda makes me want to point out their grey hairs and wrinkles. 🙂 heehee

      • If I am 100%, I cried a few times the first time that happened to me. Of course I know when I gain weight, my damn pants don’t fit anymore! But that being said, I can sort of appreciate the ease to which people talk about weight here.. its a difficult one..

  10. This post is hilarious. I was raised to eat whatever a host offers me or puts on my plate. Like, if I don’t eat it, I’m going to offend somebody and look like a shameless punk. Anyway, my Italian families must love me because I go in for thirds all the time-I would just walk everywhere if I lived there. I miss walking! I live in the American midwest, and I would meet a wall of snow or risk slipping on massive sheets of ice if I tried walking anywhere right now. Well, if I was really in a pinch, I’d excuse myself to go to mass or confession. Then they’d be left wondering about what I did wrong instead of how much I ate;).

    • haha, good ideas!
      Although, I have to tell you. I do walk everywhere (no car), and it seems to have little effect on the pasta that adheres itself directly to my thighs.


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  13. Thanks for your wonderful blog I found it last night and i have not stop of reading it. Your thoughts have helped a lot!the “e’ cosi'” Italian approach has been a real pain for me!

  14. Post fantastico, davvero brava! Hai centrato il punto: il cibo è amore e con esso lo dimostriamo. Lo fanno le nonne con i nipoti, le mamme con i figli, le donne in generale con gli ospiti. Per noi il cibo fa parte della nostra cultura e “avanzarlo” nel piatto è PECCATO! Quanti scapaccioni ho preso da piccola perchè non finivo tutto quelle che avevo nel piatto. Se non sei mai stata in nord Italia probabilmente non hai mai sentito questo modo di dire: quando un bambino lascia nel piatto un chicco di riso, gli si dice: Ogni chicco di riso è un anno di lavoro!… Bhè, penso che questo detto significa tutto.

    • Hihihi! Non ha mai sentito quello detto! Si, significa tutto.

      Cade a fagiolo questo argomento oggi. Tra poco parto per andare dai miei suoceri per La Majalata.

      Sono pronta per mangiare quest’amore!

  15. wow, buon appetito allora!
    Ho visto adesso che abitiamo vicine, io sono di Mantova. Se capiti qui fai un fischio! 😛
    Buona domenica

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