How do the French/italian/japanese stay so slim eating loads of carbs? I keep watching all these Italian cooking shows and had me thinking.
Believe it or not, but Italian and French food contains much less carbohydrates than what is portrayed in America. A lot of fat (olive oil and butter) and meat, little to none processed food, and no snacking in between meals are key components.
When I lived in France I walked all the time and lost 25 lbs. But I never got skinny by local standards. I didn't participate in one common habit though.
In both Japan and France it was, and probably still is, much more common than in the US. It kills both appetite and taste.
I'm living in Taiwan right now, and I have realized that people are generally slimmer here, despite the ridiculous amounts of noodles and rice consumed here and the number of bakeries that can be found on one block alone (it isn't uncommon to have three bakeries right next to each other - they LOVE their sweets and breads here).
Food quality may not be the best, but portions are definitely smaller here. And they don't eat as much as we do.
Asians are generally small boned and petite.
But the most important thing is how active they are. Most people don't have access to a car, so they take public transportation and walk everywhere. That makes a huge difference. From personal experience, I've definitely noticed a slight improvement in my body composition since the weather has been nicer and I've been walking to places instead of taking taxis. Same in Italy and France. When my sister went to Italy, she lost weight. she ate pasta all day because it was cheaper for her, but she also walked miles every day.
And they may be slimmer, but the majority of them are ridiculously skinny fat. No muscle tone whatsoever to speak of. It looks very, very strange. For example, I'll see a chick who probably wears a size 00, but her legs still look ... squishy and fat. Their idea of getting skinnier and dieting is to eat less, not eat healthier and work out.
Basically, I've noticed that generally people here have no sense of what's really healthy, and eat crap food. But they don't overeat it, and they stay active by walking a lot. So they're skinny, but skinny fat.
Being half-french half-german, I feel like I have to respond :)! I would largely agree with the points that have been mentioned above. It's really that in those countries, there isn't much over-eating happening. It's true that bread has a special place in France as well as in Germany, although it couldn't be more different: french LOVE their 'baguette' (good thing I moved to New Zealand, so the temptation isn't that present anymore ... I don't crave it anymore, but walking past a steaming bakery in the morning can be somewhat overwhelming) and germans cannot do without their whole-grain, super dense bread.
In France in particular you might get out of a great restaurant feeling somewhat hungry. It's about the food, not the quantity. I would even argue that body size, in those countries, is more related to the quantities of alcohol ingested (in the form of beer and wine) than solid food.
I lived in Japan for about 15 months, mostly in Tokyo. I often pondered the slimness of the Japanese in my time there. I think the most basic thing it comes down to is the same said for the French and Italians. Portion size. Cultural attitude about food. Quality over quantity.
Other factors at play? There's big social stigma about being overweight in Japan, definitely more so than in the US. The Japanese value and most enjoy the fattiest cuts of meat/fish. Eating with chopsticks helps enforce portion control because it's generally slower to eat with them than a fork. People walk a lot more there than in the US.
Japanese bento boxes are also a form of portion contro.
I grew up on the island of Okinawa. People believe that Okinawans follow a "starch based diet" but that is NOT true. They eat the same amount of rice as mainland Japanese and I NEVER saw sweet potato as a major food there. They eat a lot of seafood, sea vegetables, and regular non-starchy vegetable PLUS a lot of fatty pork. They believe very strongly in never overeating and many do a lot of physical work.
I never saw a fat Okinawan but it had nothing to do with a "starch based diet".
I have been here in Italia for the last 6 months. Believe me they are getting fat just like the US. the UK and Australia. It's just taking a little longer. But for the first time the kids are obese.
I have 3 words for this problem. Wheat, vege oils and Fructose.
I am convinced after reading "Wheat Belly". This "new" wheat is a disaster.
Also I am seeing for the first time bottles of coke on the tables here in Italy when their was only 3 years ago just water and very very moderate wine drinking.
We also went to France and Spain. Not so problematic yet. But in France McDonald's are growing in popularity now so...... Luckily the French still like their saturated fats but it's changing and they are eating crap breakfast cereals and there are lots of cheap crap takeaways shops now. Potato chips using vege oils is particularly popular.
We also went to Germany and England and the Germans are very obese as are the English.
So the rest of the world is catching up.
It's hard to argue that the Japanese arem't a slim race and I don't know why, but Italians tend to be rather extreme in my opinion.
For every Italian stallion prancing around the beach in their Speedos there's a morbidly obese version who lost control of his or her portion size years ago.
I think one of the interesting things about the French is that they buy bread every day. There are way fewer preservatives in a baguette made in France than an overseas version. I can't prove anything, but for me it rather suggests that French bread is less "processed" than other bread.
The Germans also have wonderful bread and I think as a nation are at both extremes. Either obese or very healthy, but then there's the national obsession which is beer!
I'm a Brit, so in no position to criticise anyone!
We get fatter and fatter in France :(, even though men are taller than their ancestors [ I think 1,78cm will be the new average soon]
Currently the national standards [recommended daily intakes] are:
for a 2500Kcal/day, it is 11-15% of prots · 50-55% of carbs · 30-35% of fat
but between 1900-1950, the country was mainly agricultural and for instance there was more whole foods [of course there are good whole breads and baguettes at the local bakery, but now it is white breads mainly etc.], we ate more seasonal veggies and cheeses were done with unpasteurized milk; I know the milk today differs from milk a century ago for instance. Agricultural means also more calories burnt a day. Basically, it was like today but no junk-food. Breakfast was about 3hrs after waking up and we applied the rule: eat like an emperor at BF, a king at noon and a beggar at night, ie no fat late in the day but complex carbs to get sleepy, the contrary in the morning to get energetic.
Also, now commercials on TV for foods have a litter banner saying it is important to eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day to stay healthy [your equivalent of an apple a day keeps the doctor away] especially when children are watching.
In school there are four hours/week of sports but children and teenagers stay more and more sedentary, have less and less sleep [browsing the net... till midnight], eat light breakcfast [sweet american cereals] and with more and more junkfood consumed...
However, I think young adults are more and more aware and picky about food, especially in the cities; organic products are widely spread now [and pricey of course]
So I guess, it comes with better food quality and physical activities, nonetheless.
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