When it comes to obesity, it might seem as if America is tipping the scales-and for good reason. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States is the ninth fattest country in the world (second only to Kuwait and some South Pacific isles). And as our waistlines grow, so do our risks for heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

At the same time, there are several countries where people manage to both enjoy their food and stay slim. What do they know about weight control that Americans don't? Read on as we reveal dietary secrets from some of the skinniest spots around the globe.

The Region: Asia

South Korea, Indonesia, China, Japan, Singapore, and the Philippines all made it onto the World Health Organization's list of the top 10 skinniest countries. Japan also secured the number-one spot for the country with the highest life expectancy. So what do they know that we don't? For starters, vegetables, rice, and minimally processed grains are staples of the Asian diet. Soy, which is also popular, has been shown to decrease body fat while increasing lean muscle.

The Secret:

While Americans generally view meat as an entrée and vegetables as a side dish, most Asian meals consist primarily of vegetables that are merely enhanced with a bit of meat. They've mastered the art of substitution, using rice and vegetables to replace high-fat meat dishes.

The Region: France and parts of Europe

Ah, the famous French paradox. They eat cheese and butter and cream and pastries, and yet they have bodies most Americans could only dream of having. So what's their secret? Moderation, exercise, and portion control. According to the book Why French Women Don't Get Fat, the French and most other Europeans typically walk every day to the bakery, the butcher shop, and the vegetable stand for their food. Americans, on the other hand, often load a week's worth of groceries into the trunks of their cars, which they park as close to the store as possible. In addition, the French eat three small meals a day....slowly.

The Secret:

It's not what the French eat; it's how they eat. Mealtime is viewed as a special event to be shared with family and friends, in which flavors can be savored and foods fully appreciated. They don't, for example, inhale their breakfast while they wait for the morning train or gobble up their dinner to get to dessert.

The Region: South America

While South Americans are known to pile their plates high with meat, the difference is that they're super-lean cuts--which are pretty easy to come by in this part of the world. Many of the continent's cows are grass-fed, so the meat is naturally lower in saturated fat, yielding about 2 grams per 4 ounces, compared with America's grain-fed cattle, which can produce steaks with as much as 11 grams per 4 ounces. And while Americans are quick to douse their foods in oil, gravy, and sugary sauces, South Americans are big on spicing things up in a different way--chili peppers are an area staple.

The Secret:

Lean meats and non-fatty ways to spice up a meal keep people in this part of the world thin.

The Region: The Mediterranean

For generations, people along the coastal regions of the Mediterranean have enjoyed longer life expectancies and lower instances of heart disease than in most other areas of the world. The residents of Monaco, for example, have the fourth highest life expectancy in the world, according to the WHO. This may be a reason why the cuisine-based on whole-grain breads and pastas, as well as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and lean protein-has crossed borders.

The Secret:

Mediterranean people get about 30 percent of their calories from fat. But make no mistake: It's the good fat-the kind found in olive oil, avocadoes, and almonds.