My mum always tells me the secret to being thin is:
Eat breakfast like a King,
Lunch like a Prince,
And dinner like a pauper.
Big breakfasts do seem to be an Anglo-Saxon export; the full English, American pancakes, porridge, the bagel, granola, chia the list is endless. We reinvent old classics and come up with new vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free not to mention organic varieties. What pray tell me is wrong with just plain toast and a knob of butter? My grandparents eat toast every morning, they are thin and healthy. But now with the carb police, the patriotic protein lovers, the sugar scaremongers – we have not healthier populations, but more obese ones than ever before! Populations more skeptical of cancer and other diseases than our predecessors, ok life expectancy has increased but is that not due to better medicines rather than better lifestyle choices?
What I see is this: Anglo-Saxons eat big breakfasts and are fat. The French settle for a black coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice to get them through to lunch, they are thin. The French also live longer, an average of 83 years old versus the UK’s 81 years old*.
Of course Paris is lined with boulangères and patisseries, but don't for one minute think the Parisians are eating those fine buttery hunks of dough, mais non! They are for the tourists and for special occasions, but bien sûr a few centimeters of baguette will gladly accompany a lunch or dinner. Moderation, compensation, self-control…not words we common use in Anglo-Saxon cultures, are the mantra of the French. So skip breakfast and practice the art of moderation and we could all be willowy and salubrious.
Mum, it seems the French and their Mediterranean friends (Italian, Spanish, Greeks) have turned your theory on its head, they eat breakfast (if they eat it at all) like a pauper and dinner like a King and they are winning the obesity and life expectancy wars. The Sardinian's seem especially good at passing their centurion year.
But this is all a bit baffling is it not for us Brits? In an Orwellian way we are drilled on the numerous benefits of eating a hearty breakfast, but could that be the powerful cereal industry singing its tune to us proles? Maybe we should question the breakfast camp’s (mythical) argument that it kick-starts the metabolism. Maybe we should open our eyes to the Mediterranean intermittent fasting model (known in the dieting world as a 16/8 diet) and have a big late dinner so as not to be hungry before lunchtime. They are slender, we are overweight, do we need more proof on the benefits of not breaking the fast?