I had dinner last night with two very good friends, both from the U.K., who have lived extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. They’ve literally been from Paris to Alabama, from Boston to Scotland. They have a unique view of the world.
We were sitting down to dinner at one of my favorite Thai restaurants where we were served big bowls of pho soup. They smiled, looked at each other, and said, “Right, American portions.” I sighed. We Americans are so good at undermining our own good intentions.
The main reason why Europe doesn’t have as much of a weight problem as America is because portion sizes overseas are normal. If you’re in the U.S., normal is NOT a relevant word. We don’t get normal. We get a big plate of food and we just shovel it in. The fact that your stomach is about the size of your fist is lost on the vast majority of people.
Over dinner, we started talking about a variety of issues and my friends had some interesting things to say. Keep in mind, this is only two Brits, but it does reflect the sentiment of what’s going on outside of the country.
Jamie Oliver’s success in Britain is starting to erode. He’s a hero over there; he really did effectively overhaul the school lunch program. But this recession has been so grinding and even though his adjustments are only pennies per meal to increase nutrition some schools can no longer afford this and are cutting back, returning to the old ways.
Dukan diet. I asked them if they’d heard of the Dukan diet, the French diet that’s becoming quite popular over here. It’s essentially a Zone or Atkins diet (protein-based). The husband looked at me and shrugged; he’d never heard of it. The wife said yes, it went through a phase of people trying it, but there was a report discrediting the diet and it’s fallen out of favor now.
Farm subsidies. A lot of our health problems can be traced back to farm subsidies. Monies that used to go to struggling small farms now seem to mostly go to Big Agra in this country. They said it wasn’t like that in Europe but it’s starting to go in that direction. The husband said, “Farm subsidies were originally designed to keep food stuffs local so people wouldn’t war against each other for food if it became scarce.” We seem to have lost that perspective.
Perspective. Good word, isn’t it? We get so caught up in our view of the world that we forget how others see us, or how skewed some of our viewpoints really are. Sometimes it seems like the way we deal with obesity in the U.S. is nothing more than throwing hundreds of band-aids over a scratch when what the patient really needs is surgery. It’s so frustrating. We need to get real, take a hard look at the true problem, and act on it.
There will be more on this later … I’ve got some additional thinking to do. What do you think about how others view the U.S.? Do you think it’s fair? How would you change our lifestyle habits for the better?