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Why Americans Are Fat

Returning to the US from Italy I notice a couple of things:

1) Damn we have big, wide, straight roads.
2) Italians don't do landscaping in city, suburb or highway.  Californians do.  Advantage California.
3) The US is amazingly bright.  Lights everywhere.  
4) This is a very roomy country.  You could walk around swinging a dead cat over your head.  (If anyone has a dead cat they'd like me to swing . . .)
5) I know it's superficial, but I kind of like it that Americans smile.
6) Italians look like Italians.  Americans look like every nationality on earth. But fatter.
7) Sweet Jeebus Americans are fat.
8) I mean, OMG:  we are fat.
9) Yes, at 6'2" and 235 I include myself . . .
10) . . . but in Italy I was a freakish, awe-inspiring giant of a man, while here I don't break the top 10%.   You know why?  Because this is one fat-ass country.

Why are Americans so fat?  You'll see all kinds of theories. My instinct generally is that when you see "all kinds of theories" chances are there's no one answer.  I have a number of explanations, each of which I believe explains a part, though not all, of the problem.

1) An Italian eats meals at regular times.  We eat whenever we damn well feel like it.  And as many times per day as we like.  The only time an American can't gorge is when he's asleep.

2) Our dessert choices are endless.  Italians cannot bake.  Sorry: they can't.  They should not be allowed to use flour except for pasta.  It's like a national intellectual dysfunction.  Italian desserts are pannacotta (flavorless white goo),  cannoli (rock-hard tubes filled with flavorless white goo), chocolate bars, and gelato -- which is ice cream minus the cream.

American desserts are pannacotta, cannoli and gelato.  And.  Dozens of flavors of donut, pies in 30 different varieties, cakes in dozens of forms, tortes, tarts, ice cream, ice cream with dozens of different sweets mixed in, cheesecake in 30 different flavors -- and that's just at the Cheesecake Factory,  roughly a thousand different species of cookie all of which are superior to every Italian cookie, mousse, pudding, danish, Twinkies, fried pies, muffins, an endless variety of candy, and every single other dessert ever conceived of in any nation in the world.  We have every single dessert ever invented by homo sapiens. And they are pretty much all available 24/7/365.  

3) We built cars first and then the the country.  We are great ones for concrete and long distances.  So, except in a few cities like New York, it is all-but impossible for an American to accomplish anything without a car.  If your day involves four errands and you can only reach one on foot, guess what:  you drive to all four and walk to none.

4) The US of A is a great big, roomy country.  If you weigh 350 pounds in Italy you can't get into a shop to buy your hard, joyless, unsalted bread.  But if you weigh 350 pounds in the US you can waddle right on into the Cheesecake Factory and settle yourself into a booth.  (Yep, that's two Cheesecake Factory references.  CF is to fat people what Mecca is to Muslims.)

5) Americans can turn anything into a "right."  The right to carry a gun into church.  The right to sue for, well, anything.  The right to be as big as a mid-size SUV.  We are all about the absolute right to do whatever we want and if you don't like it, screw you.

6) We adapt.  You know what you'd call an Italian who weighed 350 pounds?  Naked.  Because he'd never find a shirt or a pair of pants.  Italians don't work too hard at responding to market demand.  You say you want stores to be open on Sunday?  Um . . . no.  You say you want a bank you can just walk in and out of like it was just a bank and not the White House under condition red?  Um . . . no.  You want your car fixed during lunch?  Ah hah hah ha, good one.  

But Americans, oh, we adapt.  If you have a dollar in your pocket we will, by God, do whatever it takes to get that dollar away from you.  You say you need a mumu big enough to clothe the entire nation of Sudan?  Got it right here, ma'am.  You can be as big as you want, we will serve your needs.

7) We work really hard.  Really.  You might think hard work would be thinning, but no.  Just the opposite.  Because when you have to eat at your desk guess what?  You won't be enjoying a small green salad, a nice piece of fish and some grilled eggplant.  Italians have time to eat a nice, healthy lunch.  We have time to shove a burger into our frantic maws.  They eat sitting down.  We eat driving.

8) We smoke a lot less than they do.  

9) We have a lot more children.  Not only is pregnancy fattening (well, no kidding,) but having a bunch of kids makes it more likely that more parents are doing more work to support their ungrateful children and spending correspondingly less time cooking healthy, balanced meals.   

10) We have awful weather compared with Europe.  Our winters in much of the country are colder and longer, and our summers are hotter and more humid.  During the worst of the Tuscan summer my landlords would ask, "Is this hotter than in America?"  Uh, sure, hotter than a summer in Minnesota, maybe.  But hotter than North Carolina in summer?  Hell isn't hotter than North Carolina in summer.

Because our weather is hideous almost year-round in much of the country the great outdoors is not terribly inviting.  As a corollary, we out-air-condition everyone.  So inside (where the food is) is much more pleasant than outside (where the humidity and the exercise are.)

11) We are paranoid and hyper-protective.  When I was a kid my parents shoved me out the door after breakfast and saw me next at dinner.  I wandered far in my freedom and had many fine adventures. If I offered my kids the same freedom Child Protective Services would arrest me.  

Conclusion:  Americans have created the perfect conditions for the growth of human fat.  Every age group, every ethnic group, every economic group with the exception of those who can afford liposuction, is fat.  Italians who emigrate to the US promptly get fat.  We have a culture that offers us every chance to gain weight, little incentive to stay thin, and caters with magnificent efficiency to our fat-ass needs. 

So, I'm going on a diet.  Again.

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“Why Americans Are Fat”

  1. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    Well, good luck with that. Alcohol is nothing but empty calories, too.

    Let me know when you're settled in so I can get you that bottle of Scotch I owe you. You'll have to remind me of the brand you prefer.

  2. Anonymous Dave Schuler Says:

    As you said, the reasons that we're fat are complex.

    One of the reasons we're fatter than the Italians is that we're not Italians. I'm overweight but I don't believe that my weight has a great deal to do with how much I eat or how much exercise I get. My body shape is much as my father's, my grandfather's, and my great-grandfather's were.

    Our ethnic mix here is completely different from that in Italy and includes lots of folks who are genetically predisposed to carry a lot of weight, especially when you couple it as many do with a diet that has lots of calories and a lifestyle that doesn't have much exercise.

  3. Anonymous Dave Schuler Says:

    BTW welcome back.

    How's the smoke where you are?

  4. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Not to mention outrageously huge portions at restaurants!!

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    Not much smoke at the moment but we actually flew in at night directly over the Orange County fire. One of those creepily beautiful moments. It was exactly like aerial views of an advancing line of lava, a long irregular line of brilliant fire.

    After we landed we noticed the moon was quite red until it rose above the smoke at which moment it snapped to pure white. That in itself was eerie.

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    Will do. And it's Macallan 12 year.

    I'll give you a chance to get even on some upcoming prediction.

    By the way, what happened to your favicon?

  7. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    The favicon still shows up for me when I use Firefox but not when I use Internet Explorer.

  8. Anonymous Danny Says:

    Ugh, everything you said is true. When my cousins from Holland visited once they ended up taking a ton of photos of fat Americans. Not to make fun of them, they just couldn't believe it, and when they got home they organized slide shows of fat Americans for their incredulous Dutch friends. Very depressing. Reading your post I made a vow to lose weight. But then I got to your list of desserts available at the Cheesecake Factory and they sounded so good...

  9. Blogger amba Says:

    and when they got home they organized slide shows of fat Americans for their incredulous Dutch friends.

    My husband (no sylph himself -- described as "obese" once on hospital admission, though just "big" seems more accurate) has that kind of attitude towards fat people. He stares, and makes comic faces of disbelief and horror just barely out of their sight. We joke that his tag line is, "I . . . see . . . faaaat . . . people . . . "

    Don't forget snack foods and fast foods and supersizing. When I walk down the snack aisles of a supermarket I marvel that everybody isn't obese. And on the rare occasions when I do have something (apples and dip!) at a McDonald's while indulging my husband, or even any kind of Starbucks latte but plain, I notice it is appallingly oversweetened. Sugar addiction seems to be epidemic.

  10. Blogger peter hoh Says:

    Sleep doesn't stop us, either.

  11. Anonymous GN Says:

    From my favorite doctor

    I love this Doctor

    Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?

    A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that's it... don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.

    Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?

    A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.

    Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?

    A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so
    you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!

    Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?

    A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio
    is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.

    Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?

    A: Can't think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain...Good!

    Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you

    A: YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!!! .... Foods are fried these
    days in vegetable oil. In fact, they're permeated in it. How could
    getting more vegetables be bad for you?

    Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?

    A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.

    Q: Is chocolate bad for me?

    A: Are you crazy? HELLO Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!!
    It's the b est feel-good food around!

    Q: Is swimming good for your figure?

    A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.

    Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?

    A: Hey! 'Round' is a shape!

    Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you
    may have had about food and diets.

    And remember:

    'Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the
    intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO, What a Ride'


    For those of you who watch what you eat, here's t he final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

    1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

    2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

    3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

    4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

    5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of
    sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

    CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like, speaking English is apparently what kills you.

  12. Blogger Snow White Says:

    If diet be your next road and not a real fun one at that, try Herbalife. It really works if you actually use the products and, costs less than a coffee at Starbucks, and if you use it twice a day, you will only have to worry about one real meal a day, anyway you like it. My stints between Italy and the States are a lot easier now with these easy shakes for meals. Plus, if you are living in Orange County...OMG you are going to need all the money and pennies you can save...life costs to keep up with the crowd there.

  13. Blogger Grace_around_the_world Says:

    I'm doing a presentation about Obesity in America, so I stumbled onto your blog. Some pretty funny stuff! I would have to agree with all of it and add a few of my own...
    Americans are fatter than Italians (in Italy) because they watch way more television, which is a very sedentary activity.

    Americans also have a ton more food options. We can eat Chinese, Mexican, Italian, etc... anytime we want.