3

votes

How do french, italian and Japanese stay so slim?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created October 14, 2012 at 7:35 PM

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.

07d8ff43993e6739451e58ae7459cfe2

(154)

on December 01, 2013
at 03:00 AM

Mario Batali is American. Albert Roux has been living in the UK for fifty years.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

They don't STUFF themselves - there is no culture of stuffing yourself until you split in these countries. In americanised nations (US, OZ, NZ, UK) we like to stuff ourselves, especially on special occations, regardless of how full we are.

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:28 PM

And have a look at people from Bavaria, where beer is regarded as 'liquid nutrition'. No wonder they coined the term 'Bierbauch' (i.e. Beer-belly!).

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:26 PM

Grottenholm- I believe that Japanese and Koreans are nowhere near the alcohol consumption of most European countries. But it is hard to compare, as most Asians have a deficient in terms of alcohol metabolism, so they need much less to attain the same 'effects' from it. Most French do drink wine daily (at lunch and dinner). Based on my observations of folks around me, as well as a personal experiment (a period in my life when I indulged in 2-3 glasses of wine a day, while keeping my eating habits), I have the feeling that alcohol tends to be the trigger for obesity on a sub-optimal diet.

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:21 PM

Diane- Yes, you are absolutely right, French smoke a lot. It's really disturbing anytime I fly back. Staying in those coffee shops has become unbearable! I guess that smoking might contribute to metabolic differences and lower weight ... I agree.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:34 PM

I saw recently that sales of cheap soybean oil is rising in China and along with it, obesity. They of course blame the fat, but they fried their food in lard before.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:30 PM

And what about the smoking? When I've traveled it seems the French smoke a lot.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:28 PM

The French and other European people I know also eat much smaller portions.

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on October 15, 2012
at 02:16 PM

"And they may be slimmer, but the majority of them are ridiculously skinny fat." I think this is something people don't take into consideration, and it's so true! "Oh but Europeans are so Sliiiiim." Skinny fat is still fat.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 15, 2012
at 12:14 PM

@veggielover, yes -- just trying to have a little fun at the expense of Mario and Albert. Especially since you mentioned "cooking shows" and these two were the first that came to mind.

Ef777978cfeb8fbdd18d75c4f6c4cb23

(1297)

on October 15, 2012
at 10:28 AM

It seems that the incidence of diabetes in France and Italy is not far from the European average (Fr 6.7%, Italy 5.9%) and way above the UK http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/fulltext/8110161ec019.pdf?expires=1350297219&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=F0009B2BB41BB1E227A745C5D37F4EEE. That said I agree that the arrival of McDonalds & its clones is a complete disaster for the health of nations

Bb3d1772b28c02da2426e40dfcb533f5

(5381)

on October 15, 2012
at 08:57 AM

Youve never seen a fat italian?

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on October 15, 2012
at 05:46 AM

and they NEVER snack

Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

(7370)

on October 15, 2012
at 12:15 AM

There are actually laws in France about what can be in a baguette, and they are always sold fresh. It's more than bread, it's a national symbol.

E0e9255281093b2d518b56d5217a0955

(184)

on October 14, 2012
at 11:33 PM

By "quality", I didn't mean "whole grain". It's everything from the variety of wheat, the agricultural methods, the milling, etc, and then on to the actual baking. Good bread isn't empty. I'm making my own pita bread right now, and it will be very satisfying at lunch tomorrow. Yum!

76026e8ef496039d5075440ff731aa0d

(5386)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:25 PM

I seriously think that fish took its own life so it didn't have to look into the eyes of the "Batali"...Batali is a Yiddish word meaning "croc wearer".....did I mention I have an irrational fear of Mario...just something about the guy screams "Creeper Van" to me. Truth.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:21 PM

Sorry for the grammar - I R INGLISH

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:20 PM

How does body size related to the alcohol ingested specifically? From what I observe, Japanese and Koreans are great drinkers :)

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:14 PM

My German In Laws NEVER overeat even at christmas. But my South African family stuff ourselves like there is no tomorrow even at a weekend barbecue, lol!

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Artisan bread is almost always fermented as well. Even if it's not labeled as "sourdough," many traditionally made European breads are fermented.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Hey I like old man Batali's sausage.

79d9a05714efb2f41cc85a406048e668

on October 14, 2012
at 08:34 PM

yet it is white carbs, they never eat "whole wheat" or "gluten free" whole grains etc. It is white empty carbs, same with japanese with white rice vs. brown rice.

79d9a05714efb2f41cc85a406048e668

on October 14, 2012
at 08:33 PM

oh come on haha. have you been to paris?

Cfdbf3485f0bac5895f86d74afd9fac0

(98)

on October 14, 2012
at 08:23 PM

I agree. They do not eat loads, no snacking and probably most importantly: no sugar loaded softdrunks by the gallon.

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16 Answers

14
Dd74e6399ae697d8603dc9aa74fbafae

(695)

on October 14, 2012
at 07:46 PM

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.

Cfdbf3485f0bac5895f86d74afd9fac0

(98)

on October 14, 2012
at 08:23 PM

I agree. They do not eat loads, no snacking and probably most importantly: no sugar loaded softdrunks by the gallon.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:28 PM

The French and other European people I know also eat much smaller portions.

5
23a240b30b8622fed011ccbd4054fac2

(489)

on October 15, 2012
at 03:03 AM

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).

My conclusions?

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.

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on October 15, 2012
at 02:16 PM

"And they may be slimmer, but the majority of them are ridiculously skinny fat." I think this is something people don't take into consideration, and it's so true! "Oh but Europeans are so Sliiiiim." Skinny fat is still fat.

4
Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:17 PM

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.

Smoking.

In both Japan and France it was, and probably still is, much more common than in the US. It kills both appetite and taste.

4
F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:01 PM

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.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:30 PM

And what about the smoking? When I've traveled it seems the French smoke a lot.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:20 PM

How does body size related to the alcohol ingested specifically? From what I observe, Japanese and Koreans are great drinkers :)

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:26 PM

Grottenholm- I believe that Japanese and Koreans are nowhere near the alcohol consumption of most European countries. But it is hard to compare, as most Asians have a deficient in terms of alcohol metabolism, so they need much less to attain the same 'effects' from it. Most French do drink wine daily (at lunch and dinner). Based on my observations of folks around me, as well as a personal experiment (a period in my life when I indulged in 2-3 glasses of wine a day, while keeping my eating habits), I have the feeling that alcohol tends to be the trigger for obesity on a sub-optimal diet.

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:21 PM

Diane- Yes, you are absolutely right, French smoke a lot. It's really disturbing anytime I fly back. Staying in those coffee shops has become unbearable! I guess that smoking might contribute to metabolic differences and lower weight ... I agree.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:21 PM

Sorry for the grammar - I R INGLISH

F26fbc92b18f4689769d6f8746ea40f7

(334)

on October 15, 2012
at 09:28 PM

And have a look at people from Bavaria, where beer is regarded as 'liquid nutrition'. No wonder they coined the term 'Bierbauch' (i.e. Beer-belly!).

2
3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on October 15, 2012
at 01:50 AM

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".

2
E565e11cf32b38ab1f45086c1e0205f7

(613)

on October 15, 2012
at 01:03 AM

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.

1
C22d7cc6682eb6d08ac1c0a5b55fde07

(10)

on October 15, 2012
at 10:50 AM

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.

1
F694b3d8c620c7717287b32b6cac7f7e

on October 15, 2012
at 08:37 AM

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.

F9638b939a6f85d67f60065677193cad

(4266)

on October 15, 2012
at 04:34 PM

I saw recently that sales of cheap soybean oil is rising in China and along with it, obesity. They of course blame the fat, but they fried their food in lard before.

Ef777978cfeb8fbdd18d75c4f6c4cb23

(1297)

on October 15, 2012
at 10:28 AM

It seems that the incidence of diabetes in France and Italy is not far from the European average (Fr 6.7%, Italy 5.9%) and way above the UK http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/fulltext/8110161ec019.pdf?expires=1350297219&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=F0009B2BB41BB1E227A745C5D37F4EEE. That said I agree that the arrival of McDonalds & its clones is a complete disaster for the health of nations

1
Ef777978cfeb8fbdd18d75c4f6c4cb23

on October 14, 2012
at 08:39 PM

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!

Cc3ce03985eac5ebcbb95fc2329f13b0

(7370)

on October 15, 2012
at 12:15 AM

There are actually laws in France about what can be in a baguette, and they are always sold fresh. It's more than bread, it's a national symbol.

0a9ad4e577fe24a6b8aafa1dd7a50c79

(5150)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Artisan bread is almost always fermented as well. Even if it's not labeled as "sourdough," many traditionally made European breads are fermented.

1
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 14, 2012
at 07:43 PM

yeah, those guys are always so slim:

Mario Batali

Albert Roux

Medium avatar

(10611)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:12 PM

Hey I like old man Batali's sausage.

79d9a05714efb2f41cc85a406048e668

on October 14, 2012
at 08:33 PM

oh come on haha. have you been to paris?

76026e8ef496039d5075440ff731aa0d

(5386)

on October 14, 2012
at 09:25 PM

I seriously think that fish took its own life so it didn't have to look into the eyes of the "Batali"...Batali is a Yiddish word meaning "croc wearer".....did I mention I have an irrational fear of Mario...just something about the guy screams "Creeper Van" to me. Truth.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on October 15, 2012
at 12:14 PM

@veggielover, yes -- just trying to have a little fun at the expense of Mario and Albert. Especially since you mentioned "cooking shows" and these two were the first that came to mind.

07d8ff43993e6739451e58ae7459cfe2

(154)

on December 01, 2013
at 03:00 AM

Mario Batali is American. Albert Roux has been living in the UK for fifty years.

0
Fa51f2da1ed61c1177813672b07fe7a5

(20)

on December 02, 2013
at 07:31 PM

I recently read a book called Bringing Up Bebe, a memoir/parenting journal of sorts by an American who raised her kids in Paris. A few things really grabbed my attention in the book about French eating habits

no snacking or mindless eating

little processed food

meals "mean" something and are treated as "special"

little diet foods; they eat full fat things, which are more satisfying

here, we often eat "on the fly" and indulge in convenience foods that are easy to transport and, unfortunately, easy to overeat (chips, candy, even energy bars)

0
303167c96f5def259a8012b518c149b7

on December 01, 2013
at 03:48 PM

In the Netherlands our diet consists of bread/milk/cheese during the day.. and in the evening potatoes, meat and vegetables (rule of thirds). For a long long time this was the standard and not a lot of people got fat, exept for exessively consuming beer or have a metabolism problem. I also believe that since birth you get your enzymes from your mum.. so you are basically finetuned for your particular diet ever since the generations. Yes as you get older, more bodyfat comes in, but I wouldn't say we are a fatty type people like the Germans or English. I once chatted with an American guy and he was amazed at how fresh the food was... I was thinking.. really? then it must be really bad up there since I now walk past 80% of the supermarket isles. I strongly believe that people get more fat here because of the higher candy/chips/sugar content in their diet, and offcourse they lower fats. Also the whole low fat thing has been portrayed (we are all sick and have too high cholesterol if you believe the commercials) But my grandpa was a farmer and consumed loads and loads of fat. Even my mum told me. They made fat out of their animal cuts, mixed it with butter and re-used it frequently), and he was as thin as can be, but according to my mum that was because he worked hard on the land. I went on paleo, and it's quite a challenge living in a high carb culture. But I didn't need to do it for weight loss. In my family or friend acquaintance group I can tell only 1 or 2 people that are fat. Some more have a tendency to get fat but stay healthy none the less (I believe too much sugars and carbs for them so they are a bit chubby). Usually the social stigma prevents them from getting obese (start excersising some more, take less sweets or something). But the high carb content always stays.

Furthermore there is another development that leads to more obesity... the microwave and pre-packaged meals. Globalisation led to more food that wasn't indigenous to our culture. But people don't know anything how to make a perfect curry, or indonesian food. So they buy that shit in a package (thinking that is a good thing). They literally believe that if you make a sauce out of a package or pot in a pan, that it's more healthy then a microwave meal. (probably because they associate a real pan with normal food perhaps?). People here like the oriental world.. and they want to consume all that wonderfull flavours, because the Dutch menu is plain old boring. But they find it complicated to understand all the spices and such. So they want to have a taste, but want it easy in a package. Also the take-away formulas got expanded since the 70's. Usually fatty foods like a dutch modified version of Chinese, every chinese take away tastes the same really. It's all pre-made sauces and stuff.

Once I went paleo, i started to look to fructose content in everything packaged.. it's amazing to see that virtually everything that's packaged has fructose(maple corn sirup) in it, even the bacon I use for breakfast.. people don't know that, they just think that if it's meat, then that's ok... if they want to loose weight they cut on the candy and sugar in their coffee, but don't cut on their coke, and prepackaged meals.

0
Medium avatar

on December 01, 2013
at 03:04 PM

Oh things are getting worse here in France. Lean doesn't mean healthy. What I noticed when I moved to Paris is that here people have terrible skin. And they smoke sooooooo much...

0
Medium avatar

on December 01, 2013
at 01:04 PM

Italians are not really thin, they re usually thin until they get a bit older, and in the bigger cities, but it's the same in Sweden. People in larger cities are much more aware and higher educated.

I think it's many reasons why some people get bigger

1. Preservatives that interrupts the endocrine system

2. Too much food

3. To much carbs for activity level

4. To little exercise

Take a look at the US

1. On top when it comes to additives in food

2. On top when it comes to eating excessive amounts

3. On top when it comes to eating SAD food

4. Always taking the car

But truth is that we're closing in on the US in Europe, both when it comes to preservatives and the wrong kind of food. As a child people seldom had McDonalds for example, my first McDonalds meal was when I was 15 or 16, I found it awful. Now parents give their children American type of fast food much more often. I I ever get children I'll make sure they are raised on good food as long as I can control it!

0
40b242249739aace3d136d1e7f120ae7

on December 01, 2013
at 04:10 AM

Japanese and Asians don't have that many carbs trust me. When we do, it's in the form of starch (such as rice and vegetables) and it's eaten along with other things in a small ratio. Non-US people are skinny because our foods and animal produce aren't pumped with chemical crap and hormones like in the U.S. That's why Asians in Asia are thin, while Asians in the U.S. are thicker and well-endowed. Don't know about Italians, but the French don't eat a lot of starch either, and when they do, they're high quality baked good in small ratios.

0
E0e9255281093b2d518b56d5217a0955

on October 14, 2012
at 08:14 PM

I think it's that when they eat carbs, they eat good quality ones. E.g. fresh artisanal bread, not nasty supermarket plastic-wrapped bread.

79d9a05714efb2f41cc85a406048e668

on October 14, 2012
at 08:34 PM

yet it is white carbs, they never eat "whole wheat" or "gluten free" whole grains etc. It is white empty carbs, same with japanese with white rice vs. brown rice.

E0e9255281093b2d518b56d5217a0955

(184)

on October 14, 2012
at 11:33 PM

By "quality", I didn't mean "whole grain". It's everything from the variety of wheat, the agricultural methods, the milling, etc, and then on to the actual baking. Good bread isn't empty. I'm making my own pita bread right now, and it will be very satisfying at lunch tomorrow. Yum!

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