By Laurel House
There is this belief that Americans are not only fat, but fatter than people in other countries- every other country… which might be why we ravenously devour Euro-centirc books like the bestselling French Women Don't Get Fat, and tailor our diets to olive-oil touting diets like The "Mediterranean Diet." Still, we Americans stay massive. How massive? According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 63.1% of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.
Why Are We So Fat?
Let's look at the historical (and by that I mean 10 years ago) food and lifestyles of us (Americans) vs. them (the World).
-Fast Food. We preferred "complete" meals made up of fast, fried, and handheld foods- for cheap. These foods have little nutritional value. You can keep Track of what you eat with Jillian Michaels' Keep a Food Journal on ExerciseTV.
-Home-Cooked… what? Why cook when processed foods are so easy to nuke n'serve?
-Size Matters! Heaping portion of spaghetti topped with gigantic meatballs (tomato sauce is a vegetable right?), over a demure plate of handmade ravioli with a side of fresh-picked sautéed veggies? Any day! Personal trainer Kathy Smith believes it's "Partly based off the financial aspect, 'more bang for your buck' - Americans associate value with size as opposed to quality - so why buy healthier foods (which tend to be a little more expensive) when they can get a huge hamburger, fries and a coke for $2.99." Learn more about portion control from Kathy Smith on ExerciseTV.
-No Carbs, No-Fat, No Flavor. "No" somehow meant "good for you," ie: no-fat, no-carb diet crazes that led to lots of overeating and little satisfaction.
-Drive to the Gym. We were either sitting or spinning.
-Playtime=TV Time. Why run outside when you can sit and stare at the TV?
-Small Portion, Big Flavor. Small portions of favorite, full-flavor foods.
-Lifestyle Exercise. Walk or bike to work, stroll and socialize after dinner, play and adventure outside on weekends. Exercising and staying active plays a huge role in weight maintenance. Cardio, Pilates and yoga can help get more activity packed into the day.
THAT WAS THEN… THIS IS NOW
Top Chef's Stefan Richter, who lived and cooked all over the world (including Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, France, Italy, and of course America) before showing his culinary skills (coupled with a heaping portion of confidence/cockiness) on national television, has something to say (doesn't he always) about how food, fitness and lifestyles are evolving… possibly for the better in the US and the worse everywhere else. "The idea that America is fat and the rest of the world is skinny is not really true. It used to be. But food and lifestyle have changed since then… We didn't eat processed food like we do now. We also walked 2.5 miles to school each day and played outside instead of commuting to school in the bus and sitting inside playing video games."
Obesity has gone global. Yup, it's not just an American issue anymore. Sadly, even in developing countries where hunger has always been the known issue, the number of obese individuals is outweighing those who are underweight.
Seems America is going back to "old ways," while the rest of the world is adopting "new ways"- like fast food and living a sedentary lifestyle. The result is that weight seems to be flip-flopping, with Americans seemingly slimming down while the rest of the world is beginning to bulk up. "Now, other countries are following American lifestyle," says Stefan, "You see fast food chains are all over Europe and Asia.
(Parents) sit their kids in front of the TV to keep them busy because it's safer than playing outside. Americans are starting to focus more on fitness and cooking fresh meals at home again. We may still be sitting our kids in front of the TV, but at least we are putting on fitness video games to get the kids to exercise. There's a shift in focus and priorities as we are becoming more health-conscious."
It will be interesting (and sad) to see if a reversal ensues, if Americans in fact start to get skinny while the rest of the world gets fat.
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By Laurel House