Why Italians are not fat.

You don’t see that many fat Italians. In Italy. Outside Italy I’m going to presume that Italian fatties are everywhere. But inside the Italian peninsula they are quite rare, genetic variation aside. The old cliche of ‘big fat Italian mammas’ probably originates in Orlando, Florida.

I should know. I spent over a decade living in Italy. I traveled around. I saw stuff, man. And being a keen student of the human species and societies, I observed. You see, I like to work out stuff  but I am mechanically illiterate. So I need to satisfy this internal hunger by working out other stuff. And after observing for a while I identified that this was a problem that needed solving.

How is it that Italians are in such great shape yet they spend their days stuffing their faces with pizza and pasta and then they finish it all off with a generous serving of gelato, (ice-cream for you heathens out there).

Give the same amount of carbs and fats in these dietary delights to a housewife in Orlando, Florida, and oh boy, you’re gonna have a fatty. She’s going to be big and contrary to everything that Oprah tells you, she ain’t gonna be beautiful.

Thankfully for Western civilization and husbands everywhere I have successfully solved this culinary and lifestyle riddle. It’s not complicated so this post won’t be long. You may think that because this is so simple that it can’t possibly be correct. The universities of today are convinced that the value of any information is in inverse proportion to the length and complexity of its explanation, but I do not hold to the theory of windbags. In the real world the best truths are easily communicated. So here we go.

There are three rules of avoiding the fatts that one must follow if one wants to eat things like pasta, pizza and ice cream on a regular basis.

Rule number 1 – No breakfast.

Rule number 2 – No snacking between meals.

Rule number 3 – You need to enjoy your food.

That’s it. Thanks for coming.

Oh, you want me to explain it all to you? Sheesh, all right, but this is going to get a little bit longer. Keep in mind that explaining is not the same as justifying. I care not one whit if you don’t believe me. You will be wrong. And still fat.

So rule number 1. No breakfast. A coffee or tea is fine. When I say coffee I mean a small coffee such as an espresso or a real cappuccino. Something that can be consumed in about a minute.  None of your half gallon Starbucks monstrosities here. You may add to this something very small such as a brioche or a couple of plain biscuits that you dunk in your coffee. The Italians only eat two meals a day, lunch and dinner. I know that the government always tells you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah blah blah. But when has the government ever been right on this stuff? You’ve been lying on your back for eight hours. What the hell do you need fuel for?

On to rule number 2. Between the very generous lunches and dinners that the Italians eat, often numbering to several small courses, there is no eating. No snacking at all. I first noticed this after living in Italy for a few years. I went on a trip to London and I was surprised by all the people walking around at all times of the day who were eating. Waiting for a train? Eating. Sitting on the train? Stuffing their face. Getting off the train? Hurrying to the next outlet that sold packets of chips.

In Italy it is possible to obtain food between the hours of 12pm-2pm and 6.30pm-9pm. Outside these hours? Fughettaboutit. Now I know that in the major tourist centers that this is not the case, but they have to cater to those pesky tourists. Go to Trento, the regional capitol of the Trentino region and you will see what I mean. That city has one, exactly one, McDonalds. It is not located in the center of the town, but sits ostracized on the outer perimeter. And it struggles. The key to the non-snacking rule is the generous lunch and dinner. That way your body does not suffer the cravings.

And now for rule number 3. The ability to enjoy your food is probably the most important of the three rules. In fact, the first two rules tie in around it. Lets take a Tuesday lunch. In Italy you would leave work, go home, make a nice lunch, sit down with the entire family, (the kids are already home from school), eat together and have a nice chat, and then head back to work. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Better than sitting at your desk staring at a computer screen while you stuff a dry toasted tuna bagel into your pleading gob.

Foreigners make fun of the Italian cultural habit of shutting everything down for this daily siesta. But then again, the Italians aren’t the big fat porkies, so who’s making fun of whom now?

Enjoying your food means being interested in food. I once overheard three Italian boys of roughly ten years’ of age arguing amongst themselves over which particular type of pasta was better with a particular sauce. Enjoyment also equates to skill. How well can you cook? Everyone should be able to cook well. If you like eating then you should like cooking. In this way food ceases to be a fuel and becomes an interest, a passion, and an experience. For those poor fatties resolutely stuffing their faces, food is merely a drug. Something very sad indeed.

So there you have it. It’s not hard to achieve this. Really it isn’t. It all depends on your priorities.

 

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