Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why are Italians thinner than Americans?

Several years ago, a Frenchwoman wrote a best-seller called French women don't get fat. Apart from its being an overstatement (there are indeed fat Frenchies), it also glosses over the fact that a number of other nationalities are also a lot slimmer than we are. And among these are the Italians.
The Italians are not only slimmer than we are, they're thinner than most other Europeans (including Spaniards and Greeks). Let's take a look at comparative behavior between Italy and the US to get an understanding of this.

-Italian food is better than American food. This is also true of authentic French, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine-and these populations are also slim. Quality over quantity.

-Italians are on the average better cooks and have more extensive food knowledge. In particular, they are much more skilled with a variety of vegetables and herbs than we are.

-Italians eat smaller portions.

-They take more time eating and eat less in informal settings- at the desk, in front of the TV, at the wheel.

-They snack less. A lot less.

-They consume less sugar- even their pastries and desserts are less sweet.

-They eat less meat than Americans. Meat is often an ingredient and not a main dish.

-They eat more fruit than we do. This allows them to feel fuller with fewer calories and more nutritional value.

-They drink a lot less soda and a lot more water.

-They drink less hard liquor and they drink less outside of meals.

-Despite what you've heard about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, neither the Italians nor the French are big on it.

-They eat out less, they use delivery and take-out less, drive-through is rare, they use convenience foods and microwaves less, they go to fast food places a lot less.

-Italians drive less than Americans. This is also due to the layout of their cities and towns, and the shorter distances between places.

-Italians are less sedentary than Americans. This is not so much a matter of gyms and sports as a matter of moving more in a variety of life activities.

-They are among the most fashion-conscious, along with the French, and this goes with being slimmer.

-Many Italians will disagree, but life is generally less stressful there, and there is less nervous eating.

-Marketing and the food industry is not as insidious as it is here, for example, candy and chips are not found at every check-out counter. There are fewer vending machines.

-There is a higher level of social control in Italy and a greater stigma attached to being overweight, and especially to being obese. I don't see the Italians taking up the Fat Acceptance thing anytime soon. Or ever.