But, I suspect there's much more to it. I'm not going to cite any recent research or studies for this article, but I'm sort of going to lay out what I think the important differences are between living and eating in the USA as compared to historically lean countries such as France, Italy, and Japan.
First and foremost, they walk around more than us. Walking burns around 150 calories per hour. So hypothetically speaking, if they walk just one more hour per day than us, they could be burning off about 1,000 more calories per week than us. And, they don't have to pay for gas!
Second, they eat smaller portions than us. Americans eat about 100 pounds more food per year than we did 20 years ago. Most of that is in the enormous portions we feel obligated to eat when we go out to eat. (Have you been to Claim Jumper's lately?) Our bodies just don't require that amount of energy stored. Especially since we don't even walk around that much anymore to burn it off.
Third, the food they eat is less processed and fresher. Americans eat about 30% more packaged foods than fresh foods and consume more packaged foods per person then our counterparts in these other countries. Processed foods tend to have more sodium and just more chemical stuff in them. What's that doing to our bodies? Here's where I say too bad California Prop 37 (the GMO one) didn't pass.
Fourth, they eat less sugar, including forms such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, cane sugar, and liquid fructose. Let's face it, we put these sugary things in everything, mainly because we do purchase and consume so much more packaged foods. The average American eats about 40 pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per year! Yuck!
Fifth, we eat too fast here. In Europe, you could spend at least an hour and a half eating at a cafe with all the rituals and formalities. In the USA, we are so busy, we need to eat and go go go; allot of times in our cars during commutes to the workplace. The problem is there are hormones that need to travel from our guts to our brains to let us know that we are full. When we eat fast, those hormones don't have enough time to get their signal through, and therefore we just keep eating, not realizing that we are pretty well full and should be satisfied.
So let's live like we're in Europe! We can walk around more in our neighborhoods, take time to enjoy a long lunch with a friend, go out of our way to purchase fresh foods, and track our daily sugar consumption. Who knows, we may all be wearing skinny designer jeans in no time!
Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach