I prefer to think of myself as Eurocentric.
I mean…I’m not. But I’ve spent enough time around Europeans to convince myself that their expressions (“bloody hell” a la Ron Weasley), customs (because who can resist a pub crawl?!) and utter sophistication (Kate Middleton…enough said) are mine by osmosis. In reality, I’m that Yank, who can’t even fake a British accent; however, I have been known to reference my college days as uni. So, that counts…right?
In all seriousness though, here’s one Euro attribute I believe Americans could benefit from: a mindful relationship with food. One of my best friends (or, mate, as they say Across the Pond), Millie, is from England. And, during our “NYU roomie” days, I learned more from her about healthy eating habits than I ever had from anyone else.
(Side-note: she’s the tall, thin blonde in that photo above. I’m the vertically-challenged goober holding our turtle friend, Alan).
From what I gather, Europeans are generally “meat-and-potatoes” people. It’s not that their diet is necessarily more nutritious than in the States (although you’d be hard pressed to find a rampant fast food culture over there). It’s that they’ve mastered moderation. Unlike many Americans, who have seemingly shut off this part of the brain, Europeans are tuned into hunger cues. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied.
Notice I said satisfied. Not full.
This, in my opinion, is the missing link that puts us at a disadvantage. We’ve been culturally conditioned to lick our plates clean. To keep that fork moving until we physically can’t swallow another bite. We have super-size Big Macs with extra processed cheese and 2 greasy patties. We have entire holidays dedicated to gorging ourselves with good ol’ Southern cooking. We have fried Snickers bars and bacon-wrapped bacon (but, seriously…why is that even a thing?!). No wonder diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, and obesity are reaching epidemic proportions.
Overall, the American mentality toward food just can’t keep pace with countries, like England or France. Granted, Parisians do love their cream sauces. And Londoners effortlessly down pints of Guinness. On average though, they can enjoy an indulgent meal without shoveling it away in excess.
Another difference I’ve noticed is that Europeans view eating as a leisurely social activity. They take their time during meals. They actually taste each flavor combination.
I inhale food. Sad but true. And unfortunately, that’s not abnormal among Yanks. It most definitely is among Brits though! When Millie and I would grab dinner in China Town or Little Italy, I’d finish eating within 10 minutes. But she’d savor every single bite. This both fascinated and perplexed me. After all…I was still recovering from anorexia, while Millie was thoroughly content with her body image. She didn’t care much about weight. I spent most days preoccupied with weight. Yet she trumped me in the health department. Every time.
How was this possible?
And then I realized: it’s possible because Brits, like Millie, approach mindful eating as a lifestyle. Not even a conscious decision, but just the way to be. They understand balanced nutrition is nonnegotiable if you want to stay active and live longer. They. Get. It.
Further proof that Yanks can learn a thing or 2 from our British mates…here are 5 lessons Millie taught me, which led to finally making peace with my own body:
- Size Zero doesn’t really exist in Europe, and they’re sorry about Twiggy.
- Most Europeans would rather walk or ride their bikes instead of driving.
- Oh, and they rarely opt for “non-fat;” they just consume smaller portions.
- Eating disorders are less prevalent in the UK than the US. (Like…British media actually acknowledges the medical complications, rather than turning them into a fashion statement).
- Counting calories is highly unusual. (Whereas, in New York, you’ll find calorie breakdowns on every menu. Even at the Regal Cinema. I mean…if you’re gonna order a large popcorn, hasn’t the “calorie ship” already sailed?!)
Basically, they just do life better over there.
And that’s my “OWNED!” face in the photo below…