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Why Americans Are Fat

Monday, November 17, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

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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