“You Americans are OBSESSED with losing weight! It’s so funny.”
This is but one of the “funny” observations that some of my new European friends have made to me over the past few years.
Somehow, I’ve gotten to know a number of people who either live, or have spent extended periods, in Europe and South America. I’ve shared a few of their observations in blogs over the years, but after spending the weekend with a new friend from Austria, I’m inspired all over again to share some of the insights I’ve gained from these people over the years.
It was… real food.
First, I’ll share the observations of a guest who appeared on my radio show last year. She’s an educator with a major US supplement company, and she spent a summer in South America for business.
What she told me was that the foods she ate each day had virtually no chemicals added to them.
They were fresh, locally grown, or caught that day.
She ate fish and vegetables and fruits and coffee, and she even had a few sweet treats along the way each week.
She was always full, and her intense cravings just evaporated after a few weeks of eating this quality of food. She said it was the most health-reviving experience of her life, and yet, she did nothing that was challenging. She just ate what was there.
Net result is that she was more satisfied and weighed less than she had in years, but with almost no effort.
The Good Life
What I thought was also very interesting about her South American adventure was how she described her lifestyle there. She said that the culture was such that “hustle and bustle” was at a minimum.
Multi-tasking wasn’t part of the experience; savoring life was. This made such an impression on her that she said she finally understood why so many people list “stress reduction” as their primary strategy for great health. She thought she knew how to do this until she lived in a culture where stress was more easily avoidable.
People were active, but it wasn’t considered “exercise”. They were just having fun at the beach. Or climbing a hill. Or playing. All the while, she was able to get things done on the business side more easily than ever before because she had more energy, more focus, and more zest for why she was doing it.
So, first observations from friends living outside America:
Eat clean. Chill out. Don’t “exercise”; do fun things.
The rest of the observations come from friends who have lived in Europe. All of them experience the same thing that the South American experience had – cleaner foods, stress management and doing fun things instead of exercising.
Europeans Coming To America
Upon arriving to the United States, each of our new Austrian friends were struck by how big everything is here. Big trucks, big volume, big stores, big wardrobes.
We also have gigantic portions of food and beverages.
One friend was struck by the fact that, “Everyone seems to carry around a ‘canteen’ of soda.” She was talking about those huge cups of soda that you get at convenience stores. She also said,
“When you go to restaurants, your order has the amount of food for a whole family, not one person.”
I think it’s good to be reminded how wildly out of proportion our food portions are here.
We did an episode of Know the Cause some time ago where we showed how big dinner plates and cups are nowadays compared to 50 years ago. We have slowly grown to have an appetite that is out of proportion to our needs.
I heard a comedian talk about going to the doctor, and the doctor asked him how long it takes before he becomes full and stops eating. The comedian answered, “I don’t stop eating when I’m full! Who does that? I stop eating when I feel sick and hate myself.”
It’s funny, because it sounds so familiar.
So, next observation from friends living outside America:
Stop eating so much.
One European couple made my family dinner one evening. They worked all day to make it perfect. When we arrived, they had a simple meal.
They cut vegetables, covered them in olive oil and spices, and let them bake in the oven. We had salad for starters, the vegetables, and a little chicken. For dessert, they had fresh berries and cream.
I was aware of how slowly they ate, and how small their portions were. We visited the whole time, and the conversation far outlasted the meal.
Make your own meals, and make them with love.
There were certain things that every single European commented on: “Nobody walks, jogs, or rides their bike anywhere.” “You can’t order an adult size portion of juice with an adult dinner; it only comes in kid sizes.” And, “Why does every corner have pharmacies? Why is everyone sick?”
Many of them commented on fat-free grocery products, and couldn’t quite believe that this was desirable.
None of them had ever seen ranch dressing.
When I asked if they like sports, they all answered, “I do not like watching sports; I like participating in sports.” All of these people are healthy and trim – so trim that our American eyes may even call them “skinny” at this point in our history.
American Lifestyle, Re-Evaluated
All of these observations were illuminating for me. We can get used to almost anything. Cramming family-sized portions into our mouths may have become a habit, but it’s not something we need.
We can get used to sitting or driving most of the time, and driving five extra minutes to get a slightly closer parking place to the Super Store. We can get used to taking drugs to alleviate symptoms that our habits have created.
We can get used to the idea that happiness means keeping up with the Jones’ rather than working in the areas that we’re naturally gifted in and for which we naturally feel joy.
We have gotten used to an awful lot of things in our go-go-go culture, and perhaps some of them need to be re-evaluated.
Don’t misunderstand – I bleed red, white, and blue. I’m not anxious to load up and move. I still watch football, I still shoot fireworks in July, and if you come to Oklahoma, you may find me in a pair of boots. But none of the observations these people made are an affront to America, itself.
On the contrary, I feel that their observations represent what is (literally) killing America, land that I love! Seventy percent of Americans are obese or overweight. We spend more on healthcare than any other country on the planet, and yet we are the sickest in terms of chronic disease. It makes me wonder if we’re missing something.
All of this is pretty basic stuff. We haven’t even talked about The Kaufmann Diet and supplements. In my mind, The Kaufmann Diet, exercise, and thoughtful use of supplements represent the elite of the physical health strategies. But looking at these people who simply eat real food in reasonable portions, walk as much as possible, and deal with stress well show us how simply getting in the game can help us make enormous strides in our health and well-being.