Shocking. Are we getting this fat? Recently, I saw a 2-hour documentary on TLC on the “downsizing” of a 600-pound woman. Since the Biggest Loser series, the fat problem has become worthy of a State of the Union address.

In the US, “Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years,” the CDC reports. More than 1/3 of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Even worse, 25.8 million people, or 8.3% of the US population, have diabetes. Centers for Disease Control on obesity or diabetes.

Who is to blame for this health crisis? There are gyms around every corner. Why don’t people use them? OK, the pop tarts, the sugary sodas, the greasy fast food, the slow metabolism, the stress, the sedentary lifestyle, the industrial conspiracy, or perhaps the “government”?

Bauernkalender girl for August 2012

Blame yourself. Yes, please do! Maybe I don’t understand this weight problem because I was raised in a different millennium on a different planet called a “Bavarian farm.” (Deutscher Bauernkalender image on right) We ate plenty, and a lot of fatty foods too. Nobody expanded to the size of a biggest loser. You know why? We had a few strong, habit-forming German sayings (mind control) to keep us “normal,” functioning, and healthy.

What I am telling you here is not a diet. Eat anything you want, as long as you stick to these rules like German girls do. You’ll never get fat, I promise. Here is how it goes:

Wer nicht kommt zur rechten Zeit, muss haben was übrig bleibt.
Who does not show up on time, must make do with what is left.

Easy enough. Meals are strictly scheduled at certain times. If you missed your opportunity, you will be lucky if something is still left for you. Maybe there isn’t, so you wait for the next meal to come around. “Gegessen wird bei den Mahlzeiten” (Eating is only for meal times), my mom would say if she caught us snooping around the cabinets for cookies. LESSON 1: Stick to a firm and manageable meal schedule.

Wer nichts arbeitet, soll auch nichts essen.
Who does not work, should not eat.

Oh yeah, zuerst die Arbeit, dann das Vergnügen, have you walked around the block today? Did you get your chores done? Walked stairs? Hit the gym? Spent your calories and energy? Fulfilled your duties? If not, better forget about eating altogether. LESSON 2: Earn your food intake or work the calories off right away.

Was auf den Tisch kommt, wird gegessen.
What is put on the table will be eaten.

Es gibt keine “Extrawurst,” no special requests. In all fairness, a housewife had to get through her daily chores and manage the available supplies. Pickiness was clearly frowned upon. This is quite a democratic rule, because if you wait another day your preferable dishes might come around again. You don’t like today’s cabbage? No worry. Tomorrow it will be pancakes. LESSON 3: Don’t be picky because the less desirable foods may be healthy for you.

Hunger ist der beste Koch.
Hunger is the perfect cook.

How true! When you are really hungry, a broader spectrum of foods will taste delicious to you. If you don’t like beets at first, wait another couple of hours. Maybe even celery will taste good to you after a while. LESSON 4: Eat only when you are really hungry and even plain foods will taste better.

Wenn es am besten schmeckt, muss man aufhören.
When the pleasure is at its peak, you must stop eating.

Bummer, right? Well, that is some German stoicism that I unfortunately can’t spare you. If you follow this rule, you will never overeat. The problem still is to know when to stop eating. For example, does this delicious roast taste best NOW or will it taste even better in 5 minutes? LESSON 5: Know your stomach’s limits by listening to your body’s signals.

Eigener Herd ist Goldes wert. and Ein gutes Mahl lohnt Müh und Qual.
Your own hearth is golden. and A good meal is worth its effort and labor.

If you want to have a really good meal, you must cook it yourself. Your “own hearth” gives you control over the budget and quality of ingredients. You can cook flavors exactly to your liking and you save a lot of money by not eating out. “Effort and labor” are an acceptable price for a delectable result. LESSON 6: Cook your own meals to save money and increase appreciation and enjoyment of eating.

Aufgewärmt schmeckt es noch besser.
Reheated food even tastes better.

Germans have an intricate leftover culture. It is not considered stinginess to come up with creative variations for pasta dishes and make the most of each mealtime endeavor. Reheated goulash does indeed taste better, although this saying might not be totally true for all recipes. LESSON 7: Waste nothing and get creative with leftover recipes.

Essen und Trinken hält Leib und Seele zusammen.
Eating and drinking keeps body and soul together.

Sound body, sound mind. If you don’t add food to your body, your soul will soon leave its residence. That’s how food is the glue to keep body and soul together. Eating and drinking is a philosophical and spiritual experience. If you have a pleasurable eating experience, your soul will rejoice because your taste buds are a gate to the world of senses. LESSON 8: Cherish every bite that is given to you for pleasure and nourishment.

Liebe geht durch den Magen.
Love goes through the stomach.

Food can be an aphrodisiac. The enjoyment of a tasty meal unlocks the readiness for other sensual adventures. Good food puts you in the mood. A delicious meal may “bait” a mate or create unexpected bonds. Two people who love the same kinds of flavors are several steps closer to a match. LESSON 9: When you love somebody, cook your (or his or her) favorite meal for them.

Das Auge isst mit.
The eye also participates in eating.
Das Essen soll zuerst das Auge erfreuen und dann den Magen. Goethe
The food should first enchant the eye and then the stomach. Goethe

Eating is a holistic experience. That’s why we garnish the cutlets or decorate the cake. Pretty accents on dishes, the lemon wedge, the parsley sprig, or the delightful table setting make a meal an experience. Artful garnish shows love, appreciation and care for the sustenance and gifts of nature. Can you cut a radish like a rose or a ladybug? LESSON 10: Increase your appreciation of food by making it an artistic endeavor.

Was der Bauer nicht kennt, frisst er nicht.
What the farmer does not know, he does not eat.

Don’t misunderstand this one. Farmers are not ignorant. To the contrary, they want to know what they are getting on their plate. Many Germans are highly aware about quality foods and nutrients. They make a conscious decision of what goes into their mouths and bodies. Know your food, read your labels. Are the vegetables natural, organic, or highly engineered? LESSON 11: Hone your food consumer awareness on every shopping trip.

Wer die Bohne nicht ehrt, ist das Schnitzel nicht wert.
Who does not respect the bean does not deserve a cutlet.

I admit it, I made this up from Wer den Pfennig nicht ehrt, ist den Taler nicht wert (Who does not honor the penny is not worth a dime). But this is an important reminder for all of us to eat the vegetables too, not only the meat. If you follow that rule, you will be able to balance your nutrition. LESSON 12: Eat a little bit of everything because even the commonest staples have important nutrients to provide.

Zum Frühstück essen wie ein Kaiser, zu Mittag wie ein König, zu Abend wie ein Bettelmann.
Eat breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king, dinner like a beggar.

This makes it clear: load up energy before you go to task for the day and maintain your momentum with a reasonable meal at midday. However, don’t starve yourself throughout the day and stuff yourself at night. Don’t go to bed with a heavy stomach. Most of us rush out hungry in the morning like madwomen (wrong). LESSON 13: Follow the “German food pyramid” and eat the majority of food early in the day, less at night.

Essen ist ein Bedürfnis, Genießen eine Kunst.
Eating is a necessity, enjoyment (of food) is an art.

Finally, the ultimate advice in eating leads to enjoyment. Train your taste buds, savor delightful foods, learn to discriminate the gazillion flavors of cheese, chocolate and wine. Maybe you even want to know how the cheese was made, what herbs the cows ate, or come up with adjectives or similes to describe flavor experiences. Become your own gourmet and guide to frugal splendor. Grow your own vegetables for better satisfaction. LESSON 14: Become a gourmet and let your artistic imagination enjoy your food many times over in your mind and heart.

That is how German girls never get fat. Just try it!


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