Over the last 3 years, while traveling in and around Europe I have repeatedly noticed the differences in European bodies, eating habits and exercise versus the American way. This is not to say that the Europeans have it all figured out. Americans have a huge love of sports and exercise—we birthed Jane Fonda for goodness sake! BUT there are a few big differences in the European lifestyle and attitude versus America’s that may contribute to Europeans having a smaller frame. There I said it—I think on average and by far Europeans are smaller, thinner, and skinnier—however you want to call it! Sorry if this offends you and maybe you can find some statistics that prove me wrong but in my travels throughout Ireland, London, France, Italy, and Spain I repeatedly noticed tiny men and women eating all the things that we in LA would never consider an OK thing to eat daily. In Europe, it’s perfectly fine to eat bread, cheese, wine, meat, and chocolate EVERY SINGLE DAY! Even when its not your birthday! I’ve observed and thought on how this is possible and came up with a few tips that may help you adapt to a European lifestyle here in LA.
#1 – Moderation!
We all know and have heard it time and time again. Everything (even chocolate and wine) in moderation is ok, however very few people do this America. Our busy, busy long work days prevent us from eating as regularly as we should. We sit down at lunch or dinner after not eating for 6-8 hours and cannot help but over eat. The only way to eat moderately is too never NEVER let your self get too hungry. 5-6 small meals a day with no more than 3 hours between them is the key to maintaining a highly efficient metabolism and not over eating. This is exactly what the Europeans do. They have breakfast, a mid-day snack, followed by a mid-day siesta (lunch), drinks/snacks, and a late dinner. Seriously late. No one ate dinner before 10pm in Barcelona, Paris, and San Sebastian on my last Euro trip. Because they eat constantly they don’t over eat. They can have wine, bread and cheese and all the things we try so hard to cut out when we’re trying to diet. Their portions are much much smaller as well.
#2 – Enjoy your food and take in your surroundings!
One of the strangest things I noticed on my first trip to Paris in 2009 was that all the cafes have their out door seating facing the street not in towards the tables. My first thought was “is their a show about to start in the street or something?!” Nope! They don’t sit facing each other so they can take in their surroundings. They face out, enjoy the scenery and in doing so they focus less on scarfing down their food and more on enjoying the day. This is another key to not over eat. Eat slowly! Yes, yet another thing we’ve all heard and unless you also do tip #1 and don’t let yourself get to hungry, eating slowly might be impossible. Also, in America a half hour to one hour lunch break is typical. Or maybe none at all! However, in the cities I visited in Europe everyone (even some restaurants) take at least a two hour lunch break. They go home, nap, and eat…slowly.
#3 – Eat the freshest meat and produce possible!
In Italy, it happen to me more than once where I went to a late dinner and tried to order chicken but they were out for the day. They slaughter their meat fresh daily and when their out, their out! No reaching for the frozen hormone infused meat to appease the customer. I noticed that on average more Europeans eat fresh, unprocessed, and organic. But its not a trendy fad to them to eat this way. It’s normal and expected. Their milk and cheese is not over processed, their meat is fresh, and their produce is mostly grown locally and sold fresh daily in huge outdoor Farmers Markets. People get their groceries fresh daily and only in the amounts they need for that day. It’s pretty impressive. Now, you might say—I don’t have time to go to the grocery store every day! I hear you! Me either but there are ways around that. We have to be meal planners. Plan and list the produce and/or meat you’ll need for the next 3-5 days and utilize the two awesome farmer’s markets we have here in the valley. Studio City’s is on Sunday 8-11am’ish and Sherman Oaks on Tuesdays 3-8pm’ish. Or there’s always good ‘ol Trader Joes!
#4 – Walk every chance you can get!
In Europe, they walk a lot! We do have a valid excuse here in LA for our lack of walking as a mode of transport. Its next to impossible for most people to walk along the 405 to work but we can make an effort to challenge our bodies outside our regular workout hours at PSC and grab a few more calorie burning moments throughout the day. Try parking farther away from your work than usual so at least your walk from the car is farther and maybe requires a few more stairs. Always opt for the stairs, not the elevator, and take a walk at lunch if you can fit it in (but don’t forgo slowly eating lunch of course).
Tell me what you think about my observation and if you have anything to add please do!!!