We’ve Got a Biiiiiiig Problem
I recently returned from a trip abroad to Europe. While galavanting around Spain and France, I enthusiastically indulged in the pastries and bread that were in shops on nearly every corner. I partook in the Spanish tapas, which are mostly fried and covered in mayonnaise. I ate rich risotto and a crap ton of cheese in France. I gulped glass after glass of wine during dinner (which is cheaper than water, by the way. Did you hear me? CHEAPER THAN WATER!!!) Yes, Europe is quite a delightful place to visit.
GELATO. Enough said.
As my guts protested ferociously to my change in dietary habits, first by halting all production, then going into a zealous overdrive mode, my bloated belly took on the shape and feel of the 1st trimester of pregnancy. I actually don’t have any experience with the first trimester of pregnancy, I’m just stealing information from my mom friends and the internet.
Despite all the rich foodgasms that seemed to be around every zig zag alley turn, as I observed the locals in Europe I noticed a glaringly obvious difference between them and my fellow Americans. Uhhh guys… we fat. It got to the point where I could pick out a North American person just by looking at them. I know what you’re thinking- aren’t the sensible, Costco water sandals and anti-theft cross body purses a dead giveaway? It was more than that. We are just…. bigger. But how can this be? They literally have pastry shops on every. dang. corner.
I confirmed my observation when I got home. A recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has the U.S. clocking in as #1 most obese country. In the world. Roasted. So what’s the deal. How are those croissant happy Europeans beating us in the obesity game? Here’s what I think:
1.) They walk waaayyy more than we do. Public transport is used widely and on a daily basis. That means more steps on their Fitbits walking to and from railway stations, home, and work.
2.) Their food is better. What do I mean by this? Europe has banned many gross additives and ingredients that the FDA still allows in our food, like bovine growth hormones and artificial colorings. Also, so much of their produce is sourced locally. Meaning the food is fresher and more nutritious because it wasn’t picked 2 months ago and hasn’t sat on a plane and truck, eventually ending up on the grocery store shelf where it will sit some more.
3.) They sit and eat meals at a leisurely pace. This matters, why? Americans are constantly go, go, go. We smash sandwiches in our mouths at our desks and hit the drive through on the way to dropping the kids off at soccer practice. We eat on autopilot, consuming food even when our bodies are full. We just aren’t paying attention enough to realize it. Does this mean Europeans don’t do those things, too? No, I’m sure they are guilty of the same habits. However, there is a much bigger emphasis on a longer, relaxed meal, which encourages chewing, mindful eating, and knowing when you are truly full.
4.) They start ’em young. If you’ve never seen the comparison of school lunches around the world vs. America, I encourage you to do so. I could write a whole other blog post about the abomination that is the American school lunch, but I don’t have time to rant that much right now. Here’s a little peek into what a Paris school will serve for lunch vs. New York, and how the French train their kids to try different foods from a young age.
5.) Portion sizes. A European restaurant won’t serve you portions like The Cheesecake Factory or Texas Roadhouse. Which is a good thing, because we don’t need that much damn food.
So what do we do about the whole “fattest country in the world” thing? Do we want this to be how we are known across the globe? I hope not. Take some tips from our friends across the ocean. Not the whole pastries and wine all the time thing, although that is pretty awesome. Get out and walk more. Move your body like it was designed to move. Check your food labels. If you don’t recognize or can’t pronounce an ingredient, there’s a good chance your body won’t know what to do with it. Take a few extra minutes to savor your food and breathe while eating. Learn to recognize the signals when your body is truly full. Get your kids out of the whole “I only eat chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese” situation. We can do better than that for our kids! If you need some resources on this subject, check out The Picky Eater Coach.
If we don’t act now, we could have a 50% obesity rate by 2030. This is the first time in history that kids are predicted to have a shorter lifespan than their parents! That’s insanity! If you need help getting started with a lifestyle shift, guess what? I’m a health coach, and I would love to help! Check out my website for free resources like a healthy pantry builder and weight loss guide and more information about my affordable packages. Also make sure you are following me on Facebook and Instagram for health info, tips, and sometimes pictures of my cats.
Now, get out there and start breaking those American stereotypes!