I got an interesting question the other day:
Dr. Sam, I’m curious to know why people in Italy are so skinny even though they eat lots of carbohydrates, fats, and creams like pasta, bread, pizza, cheese, wine, and so forth? Is it their genetics, hormones, or something else? I really wish I could eat pizza, pasta, and bread all day long. So what’s the secret? =)
Well, since I am part French and Italian and have also lived in Italy, I can give you some insight.
First off, people in Italy are not “so skinny”. There are plenty of overweight people there and that could simply be because of the modern society we all live in. And also, so much of the Western world and lifestyle has now been adopted by almost all other countries, including Italy.
However, I do know what you mean or you’re trying to say here – how can people in Italy, eat all of these yummy foods and yet, look healthy, not be super overweight, and so forth?…
As with everything, there’s never one specific answer. However, allow me to share some things about Italian culture and food.
Food In Italy Is Different Than US
First, the type of foods people eat in Italy, is way different than in the US.
For example, pizza in Italy is different. It has a thinner crust, less cheese, less meat, more vegetables, herbs, and so forth. Thus, it has fewer calories.
However, in the US, the pizza crust is super high in calories – with a TON of cheese crammed into every inch of the pizza, topped with lots of horrible meat like sausages, pepperoni, and so forth.
Obviously, it tastes great, but the calorie content and type of ingredients are very different.
Different Type Of Milk
Continuing with our pizza example, since it’s my favorite food… In the US, we use horrible milk that’s loaded with casein type 1, while in Italy and other parts of the world like France, they have casein type 2 milk. What’s the difference?…
The milk in America, the Casein type 1, causes stomach problems, gas, bloat, and thus, a lot of inflammation. And, inflammation causes fat gain and negative changes in your hormones. It increases cortisol, your stress hormone.
In fact, years ago I used to think it was the lactose that was the problem, the milk sugar. However, I can have goat’s milk and I’m fine. That’s made of casein type 2, not 1.
And the same with the smaller, less milk-producing cows in other countries – they are type 2 casein, while in the US, it’s the bad, type 1.
The US cows are also fed harmful corn, soy, and other junk. They’re given lots of antibiotics and thus, all of this leads to inferior, harmful milk that shouldn’t be eaten.
It’s also high in omega 6, which causes even more inflammation.
While casein type 2 and grass-fed cows have more CLA – a fat that reduces inflammation and actually helps burn fat.
It’s About Your Fat Burning Hormones
This is just ONE example of how the foods in Italy are different than the US and thus, your body reacts differently.
Thus, different foods produce different hormones in the body – either fat BURNING or fat PRODUCING hormones.
Like I’ve said in the past, it’s all about your hormones.
Italians also eat 3 main meals daily and take their time to eat. They eat slowly. They enjoy their food and do so with friends and family. This produces positive hormones.
While in America, we are eating on the run. We try to eat as much food, in as little time as possible. And many do so while watching TV.
All of this causes you to eat much more food and calories.
In Italy, people also walk a lot more, especially after a meal.
I’ve stated in my previous articles, that simply taking a 10-15 walk after each meal, will do wonders for weight loss, supporting healthy blood sugar, and reducing stress hormones.
Again, optimal hormonal balance = better fat loss because the foods get digested and absorbed better. They’re used for energy, fuel, and repair, rather than fat storage.
Different Preparation Of Food
Italian foods and the preparation of foods also have much fewer lectins, which again, cause inflammation and hormonal imbalances.
So, you want to avoid lectin-containing foods – which is the majority of the US diet.
Italians have more olive oil and healthy fats, rather than soybean and corn oil, which are high in omega 6 fats. Which again, causes inflammation and hormonal imbalance – leading to fat storage, rather than fat burning.
Italians have lots of fresh vegetables and fruits with their meals. It’s natural and full of healthy polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.
Thus, their foods contain more nutrients, not just high in calories.
It’s About What They Do NOT Eat
And at the end of the day, it’s not even about what foods they eat – but more so about the food, they do NOT eat or drink.
They aren’t drinking soda, high fructose corn syrup, or other high-calorie drinks. It’s mainly water, coffee, tea, some wine, and beer.
They don’t have huge portion sizes as we do in the US, it’s much smaller. Probably half the size or maybe even 1/4th.
Foods in Italy also have far fewer preservatives, toxins, and so forth. All of which, again, improves hormones and gut health.
In fact, their government regulations are far stricter than we have in the US. Many countries are, especially in Europe.
So What Does This Mean For You?
At the end of the day, YOU can also eat lots of yummy foods, if you:
- Don’t overeat, so watch your portion sizes and eat slowly.
- Walk after your meals.
- Eat more naturally prepared foods – organic foods, lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and healthy naturally occurring fats like Olive oil and avocados.
- Avoid eating bad, man-made, pre-packaged foods.
- Don’t drink your calories, this is a big one for most people.
The bottom line is that it’s all about optimizing your fat-burning hormones. By doing so, you can improve your genetics, the way a skinny person is.
I have 2 very important links for you.
One reveals a formula for supporting your fat-burning hormones.
And the seconds goes to an article series revealing the Top 10 Weight Loss Myths.