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They also eat less processed foods than we do, and food is a culture that is enjoyed and savored with a family, not shoved into the mouth on the run.
my advice to you about moving into healthy eating is to do it in steps. Slowly minimize fats and grease, replace them with good fats and add in more vegetables. Buy more spices, read labels, take everything step by step.
the height of the population,
the degree to which they get incidental exercise walking/cycling to work/doing errands etc.
The tastiness/appeal/size of packaging of the junkfood options available.
I am currently in France on vacation, and although what I may be seeing is tourist eating habits, I would say the French seem to eat quite alot, and are also obsessed with being slim. It also seems that to some degree it isn't like they just stay that way naturally either. I was at the drugstore yesterday and there were so many diet products, and especially anti-celluite products there I was surprised. More than i've ever seen in Germany. They are however relatively short, so I guess that makes it more difficult. They also smoke quite alot still which I guess tends to supress appetite.
I think part of the reason northern europeans stay slimmer is because they are just tall. at 170cm I am a shortish girl in Germany and down right short in Holland. If you are taller you can eat more without getting fat and carry the weight better.
People do engage in more incidental exercise, especially in Holland, where most people bike EVERYWHERE, but also in Germany. Everybody takes public transport/walks/bikes most of the time. Supermarkets are small, but everywhere, so you always walk to the store. Also because they are so small they don't have much space for tempting junkfood isles or loads of processed products. (german junkfood is perhaps the most boring in the world, unless you like paprika flavoured chips, although the chocolate is pretty good).
These are just my limited observations, and not meant to offend any group of people.
I'm originally from europe and gained quite a bit of weight without even realizing it when i got o the states. I realized it was because my habits changed and I am trying to go back to the way i was, both in size and mentality about food.
You can have a delicious meal with all your favorite things, but American portions kill all diet plans, which is why most American diets just wipe out all the goodies. In Europe, even the American junk food is half the size in the package. So, my point is, regulate your portions big time.
I love chocolate, and I have it every day, even though I have been losing two pounds every week. I just eat a small piece, like really small. Not one snickers bar, that's just an obscene amount of dessert! Think about it, it probably has the same amount of calories and fat as sitting down for a gourment dessert at a nice cafe! So I'd rather savor that experience and not just consume it daily. Same with fruit juice, I now measure out an exact cup instead of filling my giant glasses to the brim and then refilling when I'm thirsty. I have a short glass with my meal, and that's it.
I love croissants, so I have half of one every morning and just count it as part of my calories. The croissants here are almost twice the size of the ones in Paris anyway.
The point is, enjoy your food, slowly and in smaller quantities. Eventually, those portions will seem natural and the typical American portion will seem huge. Eat often throughout the day. Don't let the snack companies determine what a serving size is for you, they just want to sell more. Enjoy a variety of food, especially different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Make a point to try at least one new thing every week. I snack on Lychees when they're in season. That's so much better tasting and better for you than eating junk. And when you do eat "junk", don't do it on the go, savor that too!
One of my old roommates was from France. He said the women in his family would often fast and engage in crash dieting to remain skinny.
Don't believe all the hype about European food being healthier. If you eat too much, you're going to gain weight, plain and simple.
Our european houses might be small, but at least we pay for them, not causing a recession.....
how is this relevant? it just sounds snappy and kind of uncalled for.
Given the user name, I think there is a word for this type of person.
Dear funkychunkymonkey (wtf?)
I am from holland and the main reason europeans are thinner than americans is that we (seem; i can't tell since i did not visit the states yet) just eat less and move a lot more. For instance, every day i use my bicycle to bike the 4 miles to school...for dinner, we eat lots of veggies, not junkfood (pizza, fries etc.) and it's just not that oversized as in America. And then again, there are fat people in europe too!!
I lived in France for 1-1/2 years and lost a lot of weight, then gained it all back in the USA. Coming back to the US I found that it was harder to exercise naturally. It's more dangerous to walk or ride a bike while living in an area designed for cars. And of course the social expectation is that you drive to go anywhere.
French food was (is?) a lot more expensive, whether in grocery stores or in restaurants. The potential to eat unhealthy food was there - the best pastries in the world, and plenty of tasty fried foods - but it was not as affordable.