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.
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!).
So, clearly, it is entirely possible that she will catch on to your tricks.
My response to this is borrowed from the master:
- Partial confession, in the form of a joke.
- 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? DebbieD, did you successfully stay away from sweets? M.G., I’ve not been posting to Instagram lately, sorry! What’s your new F-count?