According to this BBC article, the French stay slim because they eat smaller portions, sit down with family for at least 2 meals per day, and eat less junk food unlike the British and Americans. As a result, they are among the skinniest Europeans. This sounds plausible to me, but it doesn't explain why other groups keep the pounds away.
Scandinavians happen to be very svelte, but eat some of the richest food in large portions. When I was Sweden, it seemed like every meal was a huge smorgasbord with creams, butters, yogurts, and cheeses. There were no small portions, everybody filled their plates and returned to the buffet tables for seconds and thirds. How did they keep their weight down when they ate all this fatty food?
Now, Italy may have just held a Miss Chubby (Miss Cicciona) contest, but if you go to any mall, theater, or game in the U.S. you'd think you were at an American version. Besides Britain, no other European country can really come close to the size of many Americans. This leads me to proof (somewhat) of a theory I heard on public radio: Speaking English can make you gain weight.
Continents like Africa, South America, and Asia do not have an abundance of fat people, but other factors determine size including political and economic. When I was in China everybody was not only shorter but much slimmer. My friend said it was due to malnutrition and I also noticed how the only dairy really in existence was eggs (chicken and robin) and extremely bland ice cream.
But are the Australians (and others in Oceania) fat? I wouldn't be surprised if they were. Judging only from the hobbits in the Lord of the Rings films, who somehow managed to stay nice and chubby all the way to Mordor, it seems like there is a considerable chubby population.
Why English can make people heavier is a whole different issue. Learning the phrases deep fried, fast food, and take out in addition to seeing and understanding McDonald's and Pizza Hut commercials may contribute to the chubby complex in the mind, but who can be sure?