This article is going to hit home with some hard truths that will either make you upset, or help you decide to finally take the steps needed to make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to be a nutritional expert or a doctor to realize that more and more Americans are becoming obese. You can literally go to your local mall, walk around, and see it. In fact, believe it or not, one third of Americans, or 110 million, are classified as obese, and that’s not even taking into account those who are simply overweight, and hovering between healthy and obese.
But how come when we travel to places like Europe, the obesity epedemic we face seems non-existent? Sure, Europeans have been watching their waistlines grow bigger, but not at the same rate as Americans. In fact, only 1 in 6 Europeans is considered obese. That’s only about 17% of the population, which means that they are only HALF as FAT as we are. But why? Is there a secret we don't know about? Well, there are 5 VERY good reasons, which we're going to go over now!
Reason #1 – We Do NOT Eat Many Vegetables…If Any!
The first and possibly most important reason why Americans are fatter than our fellow Europeans simply lies in our nutrition choices. Most of our meals contain little to no vegetables and fruits and those that do, usually include some kind of potatoes or tomatoes. No dark leafy greens, no broccoli, no lettuce, no cucumbers and worst of all, very limited beans and nuts. Especially with so many people allergic to nuts these days – what's up with that? All these foods are known to be calorie-thin, yet extremely filling, because they contain FIBER.
Fibers make you fill satiated for longer, therefore reducing the appearances of cravings and binge eating. But it goes far deeper than that. Fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts actually contain a tremendous amount of vitamins and minerals which our bodies NEED in order to lose weight, and help with absorption of our macronutrients.
Think about it like this; if your body is sick from the inside, missing micro-nutrients and fighting with chronic diseases, it will NOT prioritize weight loss, and a multivitamin is certainly not the solution. It doesn't matter if you're in a calorie deficit, and I don't care if you're exercising daily. Your fat loss will still be impeded by your poor nutrition and lifestyle choices. But the worst news here is that all of this information only accounts to our HOME meals alone, which brings us to our second reason.
Reason #2 – We Eat Out A Lot!
Over the last couple of years I visited both the United Kingdom, France and Greece, and while I definitely noticed a few fast food joints and restaurants, it was NOTHING like what’s happening here in the States, and the fast foods shops there are much healthier, in my opinion. If you see the golden arches in America, you know that Wendy's, Burger, Arby's and Panda Express are lurking somewhere close by. The fact of the matter is we are cooking less and less and eating away from home more and more. But why? Maybe because it’s more convenient, maybe because it’s less time-consuming or maybe because we don’t know any better. Due to inflation and high divorce rates, a lot of parents just don't have time to cook, so lots of kids grow up under the impression that daily fast food is OK. It’s definitely not because it’s less pricey though. Cooking and making your own home-made meals will always be much cheaper, but more than half of our food dollars are now being spent on restaurants and convenient on-the-go meals.
Now, can you eat healthy meals outside? I guess you could but they are still no comparison to a healthy, homemade meal, especially when restaurants put all kinds of stuff in their food like lots of salts, butters and oils to make it taste better. At the end of the day you still have no idea how everything is cooked, you know nothing about the quality of the ingredients, the oils that are being used, or the preservatives and fillers that have been added. So, it is really a surprise that more and more of us are getting fatter by the day? We are constantly consuming thousands of fast-food calories and we don’t even bother tracking them. Which brings us to our third reason.
Reason #3 – Our Portion Sizes Are Too Big!
In Europe, the serving sizes are much, much smaller! When I first started travelling, I absolutely hated it! But the actual problem lies right here, in America. The truth is that the average restaurant or homemade meal today is more than four times the size of typical 1950s meals, when Americans, in my opinion, were much skinnier and healthier. Everything is supersized now in America. For example, when I order ice-cream, I never know what to get. When I was a kid, I was happy with a medium, which is about two scoops max. Today, the medium is about three times as big as that! At the movie theatre, a small drink is the size of what a large used to be, and a jumbo is just ridiculous! Who can drink all that soda and not be bursting at the seams in the middle of a movie?
On top of that, we still don’t even track our calories. But it’s not until AFTER you decide to crunch up the numbers that you start to realize that, even just 200 extra calories a day over what you should be eating can make an ENORMOUS difference in the long term. In fact, 200 calories a day, equates to 1400 calories a week, which is roughly 72,800 calories per year or 20.8 POUNDS OF FAT over the course of that year! Just think about it…who wouldn’t LOVE to be 20 pounds leaner by simply reducing the size of their meals just a tiny bit? It doesn’t take much guys! It just takes consistency and patience!
Another interesting fact is the big meal of the day is usually lunch, giving you the rest of the day to digest all that food you just consumed. In America, our big meal is dinner, which is typically very close to bed time. I know for my body at least, if I eat a lot of food before bed, I tend to hold more body fat, even if consuming the same amount of calories that I normally consume daily, and I'm sure the same holds true for many of you as well.
Reason #4 – We Are Convinced Carbs Are The Enemy!
You read and hear it daily: “I am going to start cutting down on my carbs” or “I’m going on a low-carb diet to lose weight”. But, are carbs really the enemy here? Well, that depends on which carbs you are talking about. Are you talking about simple, processed carbs like sugar, or are you talking about complex carbs found in beans, brown rice and potatoes? Now, while Europeans are a complicated mix of different cultures and religions, they all tend to eat a lot of carbs, whether it’s pasta, beans and lentils or rice and potatoes. But what they don’t do all that much is drink and eat sugary and fatty foods.
So first of all let’s knock that carb-fearing myth out the window with some science. The process of turning carbs into fat is called “De Novo Lipogenesis”. Lipogenesis is Greek for “creation of fat”. So this metabolic process simply converts the carbs you eat into fat and stores it into your fat deposits. Here’s the catch though! This process is EXTREMELY unfavorable to your body, and it only happens 10% of the time. Of course, as long as you're in a caloric deficit, you're bound to start losing weight.
However, a high fat diet is much, much harder to adhere to. Just note that 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, while 1 gram of carbs contains just 4 calories. So you can eat MORE carbs, and you'll still be able to adhere to your deficit diet. And lastly, I want to underline this again. I’m only talking about wholefood, complex carbohydrates here, and not pure sugar or processed foods. So no Pop Tarts! The whole Pop Tart thing was an annoying fad. I mean, is it really surprising to you, that people who drink soda and eat only processed foods are more likely to be obese? And who drinks more soda or sugary drinks than your average American? No-one.
Reason #5 – Europeans Are More Active!
The one thing I noticed the most whenever I did travel to Europe was that you can pretty much walk anywhere you need to go. It actually reminded me of New York City. People in general just tend to be outside more walking or riding a bike to get around, and those extra calories that you're burning really add up over time. Even I noticed that when I used to work as a personal trainer in a gym, rather than working from home like I do now and sitting all day in front of a computer, I really didn't have to try to keep my body fat percentage down. My old gym was two floors, and I was going up and down the steps 30 times a day. It wasn't intense cardio, but the additional calories I was burning was enough to keep me super lean.
It's as simple as that. There's really no big secret to staying lean as an American. We just choose to pretend like we don't know what's going on, and this along with the information that's at our fingertips, we really have no other excuses other than that we're being lazy. Also, not for nothing, but if you plan on travelling to Europe, there are a few things that you might not enjoy if you are a little bit more on the obese side.
It's not like in America where restaurants have 4 feet of space between the tables and chairs to have enough room for our big bellies. Things might feel a bit more cramped, and if you like to find those fun out of the way places to eat at or sit at when you travel, you won't want to be too big either. Also, I swear, the bathrooms are just big enough for someone my size to sit down in!
If you've made it this far, I'm sure you're the type of person who takes their health seriously, and wants to take their gains to the next level. So if that's you, make sure you check out the fat loss and muscle gain programs available here on the site!