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food misconceptions...?

So I'm an overweight girl from California and I of course always heard the diet talk and how there are certian things you shouldn't eat like breads, pastries and you should do mostly veggies and fruit all that good stuff.

Well I've been living in Belgium for three months and I've lost quite a bit of weight. The funny thing is they eat all the things that we are told to not eat. They do fries like crazy and I've seen them made deep fried and a huge thing of oil. They love their pastries. Everywhere you go there is bread and potatos. They aren't big on chain places like McDonalds, they have a few but its not crazy like in the states, they do have Quick Burger. They more do individual owned fast food like places. When going out to dinner you have a full 4 course meal and by the time its over I am super stuffed.

Looking at the food I would expect to see overweight people everywhere like back home in the US, but the thing is most people here are pretty small sized. I think they are better at propotioning out their food. They don't eat tons of veggies with the meal, normally its a tiny corner of veggies and there are carbs all over. There is something special going on here and I'm trying to figure it out. I've lost quite a bit of weight and I think my doctor will be happy to see me when I get back to California.

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Re: food misconceptions...?

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    I lived in Germany for a year during college and experienced the same thing.  IMO I think it's because in Europe people may not "workout" but they lead much  more active lifestyles-I walked miles everyday, I went hiking on weekends, people biked everywhere.  If that's what they are doing, they are burning more calories throughout the day.  Also, while the food was fantastic and the pastries delicious, not everything was deep fried (except for the fries of course!) so I think that there's less oil in everything.  When I got home I tried to keep eating "like a European"-it didn't work for me because I wasn't as active anymore.  Enjoy the lifestyle!  I loved it!
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    When I lived in Europe (over a decade ago), one of the major differences I noticed between their lifestyle and North American lifestyle was a) portion size and b) lack of processed food.

    I think the biggest difference was that they ate mostly fresh food, made from scratch. I think we lead a much more "I don't have time to cook a dinner from scratch" lifestyle...I try to make as many of my lunches and dinners from scratch but I still make sauces from packages sometimes, or use frozen processed food on occasion. I really believe that the preservatives that are found in so many foods is what leads to obesity. There have been many books written about fructose and corn products (syrups, etc) being in MANY products that we eat and these additives must be affecting us in some way. 

    I think that if we found more time to plan and organize our food and chose only, or as many as possible, fresh, non-processed foods we would see a huge change in the waist-line average, particularly in children.  Let's be fair...you can make chicken strips from scratch or you can buy it in a box. Which do you think is healthier?  

    I think in our quest for fast, easier, non-fat, low-cal, low-carb, low-sodium, high-calcium food we have lost 'real' food...the food that people ate 75 years ago, when there were no microwave dinners, no need to have meals ready in 20 minutes or less and guess what, there was WAY less obesity.

    Those are just my thoughts though...I could totally be wrong. But somehow I don't think that my curry sauce made out of a bottle that has been sitting on a shelf is nearly as good for me as a curry that is made from scratch...it can't possibly be because it must be full of crap that makes it last on a shelf for months. 
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    When I lived in Italy for 4 months I lost almost 20 pound. I lived with a host mom and had cookies for breakfast, bread and pasta with dinner, and cappuccinos and gelato almost every day. In that time I only had McDonalds twice- both times at the train station b/c it was the only thing open- no other fast food.

    I agree with pp that it's a healthier lifetsyle overall. Lots of walking- my apartment was on the 5th floor of a walkup too - fresh foods, no processed crap.

    Now I really want to go back!


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    I read a study the other day that looked at various combinations of diet and exercise.

    They discovered that ACTIVITY was more closely tied to heart disease than calories. People who were the most active were least likely to have heart problems, even if they ate more calories. People who were inactive and ate low calorie diets were more likely to get heart disease.

    However, it is a fact that what you eat impacts how you look. No matter what you eat, if you eat too much, you will gain weight.

    So portion size is another factor.

    It's so interesting to see how different cultures/lifestyles impact health and weight! Good post, JKeyes!
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    I also agree that there is LOTS of walking in European cities. I live in Los Angeles and of course, we drive everywhere. When I've visited London, Berlin, Prague, etc I've walked more than I ever have in my life! And most European women do that with 3 inch heels! They also languish over their food. In Germany, for example, they eat late at night, which we are told not to do, but they also sit for 2-3 hours and eat very slowly, which allows them to know when they are full. I think a lot of preservatives and additives (like aspertame and HFCS) block the sensors our bodies have telling us when to stop eating.
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    I also think it is a lifestyle of not being in front of the TV and eating slowly and more natural foods!
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    Just like PPs said- when I lived in Germany I lost weight despite lots of beer, bread and brats.  It's the mobile/active lifestyle, the food is homemade (even if it's bread it's not processed like in the US), and- IMO- having your largest meal of the day during lunch and then just a light dinner, really helps to not go to bed so weighted down with food. 
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    I agree with pretty much what everyone else said. I think the fresh food is a major aspect. The first time I spent a lot of time in Europe, I gained a lot of weight when I came back to the US. I really do believe it's the processed foods and the lack of walking everywhere.

    It's so difficult to recreate this here in the US...I've been trying to keep the fresh food pattern going, but so many of our fruits and veggies and whatnot still have so many chemicals and whatnot....
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