America vs. Italy

am-flag.jpgWe had a special visitor during our diet group today, our colleague from Rome, Dr. Antonella Montano.  During the meeting she talked about her impressions of food in America and the differences between here and Rome. Antonella reported that she was SHOCKED when she went to a US supermarket.  She said in Italy, they have one or two varieties for most products, and the sizes are much smaller than in America. She was staggered by how many types of bread, snack food, cakes, and soda there were.  For some products, like ice cream, Antonella couldn’t believe how big the containers are that you can buy.  They don’t sell ½ gallon cartons of ice cream in Italy because people don’t eat that much!  As Antonella says, in order to successfully handle the US supermarkets, “You have to be a warrior!”  Because there are fewer options and smaller packages in Italy, making the right food decisions is easier there.

Antonella also pointed out some other differences in eating between Italy and the
U.S.  She ordered a salad at a restaurant yesterday and said that this single U.S. serving would have been enough for five people in Italy.  Also, in Italy they only put lemon, vinegar, and a small amount of oil on their salads, “not blue cheese dressing!”  She further noted that in Italy, children are taught from the onset that you eat three meals a day, and maybe a small snack in between.  There’s no eating all day in Italy as we sometimes do in America. In fact, restaurants often close between lunch and dinner, which forces people to stick to a more normal eating schedule.  Antonella was surprised that you can get huge meals 24 hours a day in America.  “You can always find a place to get extra food.  In Italy it’s not like that.” it-flag.jpg

We learned a lot from Antonella. We Americans tend to think our abnormally large portions are normal. Then when we restrict our eating to lose weight, we feel deprived (a problem dieters learn to cope with on Day 22 of The Beck Diet Solution)—instead of realizing that we are finally having the same reasonably-sized portions as much of the rest of the world.

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5 comments

  1. I just want to say that I love this blog, and I have found it very helpful while I waited for the book to arrive.

    I got my book in the mail this week (was very pleased that it arrived early) and although I am only at the beginning of the program, I have every confidence that it will work for me.

    I decided to tape record my Advantages Response Card so that I can listen to it when I’m in the car on the way to restaurants, since that’s where I need a little extra reinforcement.

    Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Something I’ve noticed that reinforces this is that you rarely find a fat person in Italy. Some of the older women and men might have a bit of a middle-aged spread, but there is none of the obesity and paunches that you see in America.

  3. I also love this blog, and so glad I found something about Italy and the way they eat. It is true, when I was young, living in America. we would eat 3 meals a day, maybe a small snack afterschool, not all day (!) and a small salad AT THE END OF THE MEAL. Yet many of today’s diets actually ENCOURAGE eating 6 meals a day(!)

    I think some diets will benefit those who gorge, to limit themselves a little, but for others like me with 20 lbs or less to lose, these diets actually make me gain weight or keep me from losing(!) because I eat more then my body needs. I don’t think listening to an “across the board, pre scripted diet” will help anyone listen to their own bodies, thats why they don’t work for everyone most of the time.

  4. I get really irritated anymore with excessive portion sizes and unwanted food items that restaurants add to our plates. I get really irritated that inexpensive choices are usually the worst choices, and at supermarkets junk foods go on sale all the time, while healthy staples rarely do. So many sandwich places use fries and chips or jumbo sodas to give their menu the appearance of added value. What they are really doing, intentionally or not, is killing us. Coincidentally, (or is it really?) the fatter people get the more likely they are to keep buying, and buy more of, the items that made them fat in the first place. You can simply make a lot of money making and keeping people fat. We have to be on guard all the time.

    I don’t mean to sound militant, but sometimes I find that an excellent strategy to keep from being lead down dangerous roads is to keep all that in mind ahead of time, and to let myself get really… angry about it.

    Equate junk food with poison, garbage. Which is exactly what it is. Even if you were starving you’d be better off with 500 calories from a rich homemade stew than with 500 calories from a fast-food burger. It really helps me to think that way at restaurants and supermarkets. And it helps too I think, when we are honest with ourselves… Was the best cake you ate wrapped up in cellophane? Was the best tasting spaghetti ever scooped out of a can? No? Then why buy it at all? ‘Convenience’ isn’t so convenient when it leads to obesity, disease, disability and death.

    On the flip side, I praise where praise is due whenever I can. A new healthy alternative shows up on a menu or at the supermarket, let some one know how much you appreciate it. (And of course start buying it over the unhealthy alternative.) Has a restaurant or food company honestly improved the healthiness of their product? These days is can be really easy to go to the company’s web site or call the 800 number and let them know how grateful you are.

  5. Deborah, your post is brilliant. Part of what makes losing weight so hard is that all this junk is IN YOUR FACE all the time. My husband and I made a lifestyle choice a while back not to eat processed food, and now I can’t stand the taste of it. It’s harder sometimes, because it’s less convenient, but once you’ve retrained your palate, junk food becomes distasteful.

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