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What's up with these Europeans anyway?

If you walk around any major European city, it's hard not to notice that most people look fit and slim. Yet, you also can't ignore the fact that many are walking around with a baguette sandwich or ice cream cone in their hand.  

When I first noticed this, I wondered if there was some unwritten rule that overweight people have to move out of the city and are not permitted to return until they shape up. But joking aside, everyone seems to be in good shape and in good spirits. And after observing their eating habits at restaurants during lunch and dinner, I became rather envious.

So what do Europeans eat that keeps them so slim and trim?  You'd be surprised!

My usual lunch consists of a small salad with a piece of fish.  If I plan on working out later in the day, I might treat myself to a latte with a piece of dark chocolate.  Or if I was really good the day before, I might have a piece of toast with jam for breakfast. Either way, I'm always conscious of the carbs, fats, or whatever else we Americans are supposed to be counting at the moment.  

Europeans eat very differently. Their morning begins with espresso, and moves slowly to a very heavy lunch that consists of a sandwich and always a dessert. All of which is chased by a glass of wine. Dinners are even heavier, with rich sauces, very rare meat (dripping with blood!), potatoes or pasta. Wine is consumed like water. And don't forget the salad, appetizer and breadbasket that get devoured at every meal.  

If Europeans can regularly enjoy such luxurious meals and get away with it, what are we Americans doing wrong? Why do so many of us seem to be losing the never-ending "battle of the bulge?"

The answer is simple—they walk, we drive.  

I pride myself on walking four miles a day at least five days a week. And on a good week, I will throw in a few weight-training sessions as well. Twenty miles a week may seem like a big accomplishment. But when you get down to it, for women over 40 it's not enough to prevent weight gain if you aren't careful about what you eat. And it's definitely not enough to stay fit and toned or to shed unwanted pounds.

Most European women do not go to the gym.  Yet, most of them don't have cellulite, and most don't stress or obsess over their bodies. They eat only when they are hungry, stop when they are full, and walk all the time.  Now that is a formula that works.

In addition, European foods don't contain as many hormones, pesticides and preservatives as American foods. I once met a French baker who lived in San Diego for a while before returning to France. He used the same ingredients to make his baguettes every morning when he lived in San Diego, yet he claims they tasted different.

Another thing I like about Europe is the untouched faces of women. You rarely see evidence of botox injections or plastic surgery of any kind. The older generation proudly displays their wrinkles, and in doing so shows the younger one how to age gracefully.

I'm not saying all is right with Europe and everything is wrong with America.  But when it comes to taking care of ourselves and getting comfortable with our bodies as we grow older, it seems we could learn a few things from our friends across the sea.

All the best,



Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kathy Holmes wrote Mar 4, 2008
    • Ah, the battle of the bulge- my lifetime war. I’m one of those people who has to watch every calorie and walking helps me maintain-not necessarily lose. But walking is good for many things and I couldn’t live without it. Like you mentioned, Europeans only seem to eat all of that food. They know when to stop and Americans are taught to clean their plates - a tough habit to break.

      Good thoughts and something worth being aware of. And I’d love to live in a culture where aging is accepted with grace-wrinkles and all.

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Mar 4, 2008
    • I’m a honored member of the clean plate club.
      It’s the Russian in me.....

      So I to suffer daily, today I walked for 4 miles with 3lbs ankle weights, hopefully that will do something...

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Kathy Holmes wrote Mar 4, 2008
    • You’ve inspired me to get back to my regular walking regime. With all of the moving, everything has been set upside down. But my goal is to walk to the shopping area and back, which will be 2 miles - a nice start.

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Mar 4, 2008
    • As much as I hate to admit it, but when I stick to my walking, I can get away with cheating (once in a while), as soon as I stop walking it’s all down hill, and you know how that is, once you put that piece of bread in your mouth, you are on a bindge for a week, before you know it it’s 5lbs on the scale, a tire around the gut and it’s not going anywhere.....

      We are all suffering from this wonderful syndrome, called
      Fabulously40 :)

            Report  Reply

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Carine Nadel wrote Mar 5, 2008
    • I’ve always exercised, even if I have no feet I do stretches and do something, but now that I’ve hit 50 and my thyroid is getting worse, the battle is getting harder to stay on top of!

            Report  Reply

    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Yvonneo wrote Mar 5, 2008
    • Yana,

      I am one of those European women. Living in the States since about 4 years, I am amazed how easy people step into their cars. Believe me when I say that I happily use my bicycle to go to work each day. And when it rains, I walk... 35 minutes to work and 35 minutes back home.  

      One of the things I think is also helping Europeans when they eat out, is the portion size. I had never heard of a doggy bag when I still lived in Holland. And I never needed it. I am not a big eater, but what is served here on ONE plate is enough for 3 days for me.  

      I am glad you liked your trip to Europe. And next time you may want to stop of in Gouda, Holland... my town happy


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Yana Berlin wrote Mar 5, 2008
    • Thanks Yvonne, never been to Holland, but always wanted to, maybe next year.


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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mamatheresa wrote Nov 26, 2010
    • heart  When I visited my girlfriend in Germany, very recently, we ate and drank coffee all the time. I did notice the portion sizes are a little smaller and everyone cleans their plate, noone asked for doggie bags. I thought I would gain weight, but we walked SO much, we did take the train a lot...but walked a LOT too! I love it over there. I also think their weight may be controled by the way they do not have as many chemicals in their food/drink as Americans do. The best food in the world is in Europe. estatic

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