Just very recently, I was in Paris and Barcelona for 10 days and I did a lot of people watching, shopping and even more so, eating. To my surprise, it appears most Europeans are smaller than Americans.
When I was in Paris, I observed what the locals were eating. They consume a lot of fresh local produce. Their farmer’s market was busy with customers and they look colorful and delicious! Other than fresh produce, we all know that France is known for their strong cheese and wine culture. Oh and let’s not forget about their bread. They have bread and pastry for every single meal. Even I got tired of chewing bread no matter how delightful they taste. Regardless of the heavy cream, butter and carbs in their diet, most French are quite slim, or at least not overweight. Even when I was enjoying a cup of aromatic cafe au lait, I could not find Splenda or any sort of sweetener anywhere in any coffee shop.
When I was in Barcelona, which is also known for their food scene, I still failed to find overweight people. To my surprise, Barcelonians start their breakfast with anchovies in olive oil, some toasted baguette with fresh tomato spread and famous Serrano ham. If I ate this everyday, I am for sure gaining 10 lbs! Furthermore, they also tend to eat very late. They have lunch around 1PM and dinner after 8:30PM. Their cuisine is heavy with fresh local seafood, fava beans, wild games, ham/sausages and wild mushrooms. I do not see a lot of gyms. In fact, i saw only one fitness center and a few people jogging on the street.
I am led by conventional theory that if you eat a lot of butter or and carb and you eat close to bedtime, you tend to pack on pounds. Strangely, it did not seem this way in these two cities. They consume a lot of cheese and butter. They don’t even bother with sweetener and use sugar instead. Furthermore, they also drink plenty of wine. However, their waist size is smaller than that in the U.S.
This got me thinking. How do Americans get so over-sized? I do not believe I consume as much cheese, or butter or even wine in my daily life? What did I do wrong? What do Americans do wrong? Here are my theories. First and most of all, Americans eat huge portions. We are so used to the over-sized food that is being fed to us that we tend to over-eat. Secondly, there is this weird American culture about excessive drinking among adults because drinking is not allowed before 18. hard liquor and beer contains a lot of calories and a lot of Americans drink quite a lot frequently. On the contrary, Europeans drink more wine and treat it as a way of life. They are not trying to make up for loss time. Finally, I think Americans snacks too much. You see Gelato or fro-yo shops, falafel places, bakery and hot dogs everywhere on the street. There is temptation everywhere! In Europe however, I do not see that many food stores other than restaurants, bakery and cafes.
After the trip, I really wish I could control my intake at restaurants and even better, restaurants can charge less and give me less food! So I can save my wallet and my waist line!