Americans vs. Europeans – the health wars

As a disclaimer, let me say that I have absolutely no scientific evidence for what I am about to write.  None of this has been substantiated by any panel of doctors anywhere in the world.

This is just me and my own observations.   Take it or leave it.

Europeans seem to be a fairly healthy bunch.  (Ok, I’m talking Germany and Italy because those are the countries we just visited, but I am taking the liberty of including the rest of the continent in my comments.)   During our trip we did see a few people who would fall into the category of morbidly obese, but they were very, VERY few and even farther between.   Unlike when we drive out of NYC and head West; we always know that we are nearing “the heartland” because a stop at McDonald’s is cause for shock and awe at the fact that an entire season of “Biggest Loser” could easily be cast just from our fellow diners.

Here’s the puzzling part; lots of Europeans smoke.  They drink alcohol daily.   They don’t drink much water.   When they do drink water, it is often the carbonated kind.  This particular point is especially noticeable among the parent/child population.  Parents are not lugging around large bottles of water (filtered, of course) and plying their kids with it at every turn, exhorting them to “stay hydrated”.    I believe that European parents trust their kids to know when they are thirsty and to ask or procure liquids accordingly.   Ditto for snacks.  In all the parks, playgrounds and other public venues we visited, I saw no parents loaded down with bags full of healthy snacks (or unhealthy ones, for that matter). Kids weren’t there to eat, they were there to play.  Eating could wait.

When eating does happen, it often includes things that Americans might consider “unhealthy”.   Sausages, schnitzel, Nutella by the pound, buttery croissants and lots and lots of pasta.  Crepes for breakfast?  Sure!  How about lunch?  That too.   Vegetables?  Great!  Especially if they are dipped in flour and fried in olive oil.   Bakeries on every corner selling amazing breads and pastries?  You bet! Who needs a backpack full of dried seaweed and rice cakes?

Meanwhile, we Americans preach against fatty foods (sausages, nutella, schnitzel and anything fried in olive oil would qualify) and tell everyone to avoid eating too much bread and pasta.   Oh, and butter, without which no German breakfast is complete.   (My mouth is watering just thinking of the fresh rolls slathered with butter and topped off with slices of salami.  Yum!)    And also soft boiled eggs.  Oh those brave Europeans,  risking salmonella on a daily basis.

Yet despite smoking, drinking and eating fatty foods while simultaneously NOT consuming 64 ounces (or even 4 ounces) of water daily or plying their children with organic homegrown snacks, Europeans are fairly healthy.   At least as healthy as their American counterparts.  By which I mean, as us.   And, if I may say, they seem happier about their food.  Could it be that physical health has something to do with your state of mind?  Radical notion, I know.

And now is the moment when I hear all my organic obsessed friends chime in that yes, state of mind may be important, but European food is healthier – and therefore so are the people –  because they’ve banned all GMO’s (which is true) and most food is grown within 50-100 miles of where it is sold and so of course they don’t need to be as vigilant!    And I would agree those are contributing factors..

But what about the smoking?  The drinking?  The blatant lack of hydration? The children who survive each day without water and healthy snacks being shoved at them every few minutes?  The fried foods? ‘Cause even if it’s local, fried is still fried.

You know what I think?  I think we all need to relax a little.  Look, I’m not saying don’t drink water and live on fried foods.  I’m not saying spend your days in a Barcalounger munching on chips and watching Dr. Phil.  Nor am I advocating smoking as a habit.  I’m just saying….relax.   Enjoy a cheeseburger if you want to.  The world won’t end and neither will you.    Stress is as detrimental as any “bad” food.  We spend so much time stressing about what we eat that we effectively destroy any benefits of that whole grain free range sugar free gluten free raised without chemicals or artificial colors lunch we insist on eating.

Health wars?   Americans are the unhealthiest health-obsessed people on the planet.

Europe wins.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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2 Responses to Americans vs. Europeans – the health wars

  1. M says:

    This is a great blog! And SO true!.

  2. Barb says:

    It makes sense to me. Don’t they get a lot more exercise than us Americans do, on average? Maybe that’s the key. And, now I’m craving a cheeseburger – lol.