Why do Italians look skinny, even when their national dish is pizza?

Skinny Italians

It was only at the end of week one of my visit to Italy this September that I found myself refolding my jeans back in the suitcase. Horror. They didn’t fit me anymore! After only one week?!

It happens every time I visit home. And that’s why I recommend to shop for clothes only in the first 3 days, jet lag or not.

It comes with no surprise that pizze, pasticcini (pastries) and pane (bread), all big hits in Italy, have to end up somewhere.

E con pasticcino

One thing that intrigues me, though, is how the heck do Italians manage to eat this well everyday and still look on average pretty slim?

Well, this time, between one cornetto and another (I swear one never seemed to be enough!) I made a few observations. These have become my theories.

I am sharing them in case you are planning on keeping your healthy figure while being a tourist in the land of pizza.

Perhaps we could all learn something from the creators of la dolce vita. We could learn how to enjoy this amazing food and still fit the clothes we arrived in at the airport on day one.

I think it comes down to some habits and the quality of ingredients:

1) The clock is ticking - Seriously, can we fit anything else after an antipasto, primo and secondo? Not really. And yet, we proceed to have contorno, dolce, sgroppino, limoncello and caffe`. Followed by a gelato on the way back to the hotel.

And this is just because we are in Italy and we think we should have all the food we see. We, the visitors, have only a time-limited window of opportunity.

Italians are exposed to such good and tasty food everyday, so they don’t really need to pack on it like us tourists. It’ll always be available to them.


2) Anything about morning tea?  - Italians’ morning break seems to consist of un espresso and perhaps a small pastry, un cornetto, or un tramezzino. In the afternoon, they might savour a glass of wine or the now popular Prosecco cut with Aperol or Campari, all accompanied by a rather small bowl of potato chips. That’s all.

The English tradition might see us indulging in a pie or a muffin accompanied by a cappuccino of an ever-increasing size.


Photo courtesy of Italian Food, Wine, and Travel

3) Do working hours make a difference?  - If we go by the average Italian working hours, many finish their working day at 7.30pm, limiting the chances of a pre-dinner binge while cooking or relaxing after work.

And when mamma is cooking, then dinner will be ready as soon as you enter the door. Less food in for Italians, I’d say.


4) Petrol stations: guilty! - How many of us associate filling up the car with filling up ourselves? A chocolate bar, a packet of lollies or even a pie are quite a temptation when queuing up to pay for petrol.

In my experience, in Italy it is very rare if not impossible to find petrol stations that sell anything other than items fit for a car or vespa.

Several Italian petrol stations do not even require you to get out of the car. They offer a ‘servito’ service, consisting of an often young and rather good looking assistant walking up to your car and filling it up for you.


5) The dairy product difference - Italian dairy products have much less cream, thus reducing calories and giving butter and milk a paler and almost white colour.

But calories are not the only thing that Italian cut off in their produce. Pastries, for instance, are often much smaller compared to some gigantic Australian or American butter-loaded sweets.

And how do I know the difference? Because I tested them both. One day in Italy, on my way home for a mamma-made lunch, l scoffed down un cornetto alla marmellata. Well, because of its lightness, I was still able to eat lunch, while most likely in Australia I would have had to call that pastry 'my lunch'.

I know these things might seem ridiculous, but seriously, pasta, pizza and bread and all looking that good?

What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment below.

And for the records, for the next few days, I’m on a diet.


PS: how many Italian words have you picked up from this post and how many did you know already? Well done.


















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