Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From My Board

**I am on a French Chic board on Yahoo.  I have enjoyed the women there, and actually that's how I got some readers and met other bloggers.  However, I noticed that there seemed to be some anti-American thoughts when it came to food and I felt the need to respond.  After writing it and reading it, I decided I felt strongly enough about it that I've decided to post it here as well.**

I will be the first to stand up and say I sometimes over-generalize statements about Americans.  I'm a Francophile, Europhile, whatnot, and I know that things can be different.  However, I'm a little disturbed by our tendency as Francophile to over-generalize to the point that it comes across as all Americans  eat too much, are too lazy to walk anywhere, and don't eat enough of the "right" foods.

I'm an American.  Born and raised.  I've been lucky enough to have lived in Europe and to have at my younger age already done some extensive traveling around the world.  I've studied different cultures, both European and Asian and I have seen things that I think we as a country have seemed to have lost a bit.  But I'm also seeing studies showing that these same countries I admire, with every generation, are having just as much trouble as we are, though they're late to the game.

France and Italy both have more fast food, more cars, and more sugary drinks and desserts.  They're all seeing obesity levels rise.  Pretty much every major industrialized country is beginning to discuss how to change things as our health is beginning to fail at earlier ages.  A big problem in not just our country seems to be government protected/subsidized things like corn products.  As well as the fact that we as a world need to slow down and stop trying to be everywhere all the time.  Eating in your car seems like the only option when the only time you're at home is to sleep for a few hours.  But we've created a rat race that no one can win. 

I think it's incredibly important to eat smaller, more proportionate meals, taking our time to enjoy them.  We need to remember that vitamins and minerals come from things like fruit, vegetables, real meat and whole grains, not from a pill bottle.  And we need to learn to move more and start fighting for the right to not be sitting behind a desk so many hours of the day.  However, I'm hearing these same things from France and Italy.  And having lived in the U.K. I can assure you that we are not the only country who needs to put down the constant fried chicken and move more.  My husband and I actually got used to seeing overweight British people everywhere.  Not obese to the extent here in the U.S......yet.  But it's coming if we don't all begin taking our lives into consideration as a priority over cheap food and "getting our money's worth."

So, I don't mean to upset the apple cart, but it has become something I've noticed and was bothering me.  How can we support one another, American women (and yes, I know there are non-Americans as well), and just women in general, if we're saying, "well, Americans just eat badly.  They don't know how to eat right."  If that is the case, then perhaps it's time we step up and go out into our communities.  Volunteer to teach a class at a public space (like a school) on healthy, delicious foods proportioned correctly.  I think if we beat ourselves down it will be harder to get back up.  And as a world, we need to get back up.

**Yes, I do believe as a country we've been self-indulgent for far too long.  But just speaking negatively about our country's food habits isn't getting change made.  We need to be more active in our own health, and slowly expand that outward.**


  1. Well said. Mirielle Giuliano (hope I did not butcher her name too badly) always mentions globalization in her books and how the same problems are coming to other nations known for eating so well. I think we were the first to experience it, but it definitely is pun intended :)

  2. I try to be like the "food fairy" with my friends. Forever encouraging people to eat delicious REAL food. Not fake, junk.

    This is a great post.

    Tell me what you think about this - I think some of the problem is that we live in a time when everyone is encouraged to "be themselves" (whatever that means) and there is... and this might sound "shame" for lack of a better word in being obese.
    I might not be saying that very well but hopefully you catch my drift.

    The knee jerk reaction is to think, No, no, obese people feel a lot of shame BUT have you ever felt like you could sit down with a friend who gained 15 pounds in the last year and sincerely say, "Hey, I worried about you. Is everything OK. Are you eating for the right reasons, etc?" Probably not.

    If a girl is sickly and disgustingly thin from starving herself we look down on that and rightly, quietly think, "why would she DO that to herself?". Perhaps if its a friend or family there is an intervention...But the stigma to being overweight is fading fast. It's totally socially unacceptable to address it on an individual level.

    I love your idea of encouragement. It's really a global think like you have said but/and I think
    stigmas sometimes keep us in line. I don't mean beating ourselves/someone down like you say I just mean getting back to the point where we respect our bodies and getting fat, like other faux pas is "just not done."

  3. This has always been a sensitive subject to me. Yes, I am a small person. Only 5'2 and naturally small framed. But I'm not one of those people who can completely sit on my arse and stay the same. Ever since high school I have eaten extremely healthy (not that I NEVER indulge, dessert is my favorite food group) and have been very active. When I first went to college I gained 20 lbs from lack of both. I lost 10 of it rather quickly when I realized I would have to buy an entire new wardrobe. Since then I have been very conscious about trying to eat healthy and go out running. Again, I am not a health freak but I want to punch everyone in the face who says it's easy for me to talk about weight when I'm so tiny. HELLO! Why do you think I'm still small? When I was in Spain I was just an average size girl. And honestly, my weight is right in the middle of what I "should" based on my height. Not even at the lower end. Looking back at pictures of my mother and my grandmother when they were my age and I would have been the norm. And I agree that it isn't just in America and it's unfair to paint that picture. It's everywhere. In Italy I took a picture of a McDonald's delivery car. Yes... how sad! The world needs to wake up and start taking care of ourselves!!! I hate that people act like I'm the strange one because I already do. It should be the opposite. Good topic Kalee! =)

    (Just as a disclaimer- I hate that people base things on weight, it should be about being healthy. And yet throughout my entire rant that's exactly what I did. Shame on me.)

  4. great post and very well-written. As a short, thin girl as well, French people tend to say "oh you are not a good example of North American eating habits!!" It really annoys me they say things like this because not everyone in the US and Canada are overweight at all. And I actually think I ate better when I lived in Canada because it was easier to find whole foods stores and organic things, as well as a bigger variety of international food. The "international food" aisle in the supermarket here in my suburb is limited to some Asian noodles and taco kits.

    Would it be ok if I printed this post to use as a reading text/discussion for my students? I think it's a very good topic and I'm interested to hear their opinions on what you wrote.

  5. I agree with you. It saddens me so much to see adolescents here in Italy much chubbier than when I was their age... And I think, seeing the problems US was having with obesity, EU governments should have been warned about it.
    I am afraid most of the work is still left to the families and their good will to educate childern to a correct way of eating. Which is not easy, given that now most parents work and can't spend as much time with the youngs...
    It's a pretty controversial problem!

  6. I read your post over on the FC board, also Kalee, and I thank you for it...present company exceptee, but I'd be most happy to see the group get away from the tendency to say "Americans don't do this or do that" as well as the Europeans. Perhaps that is the case, but, as we ourselves work toward treating ourselves well and encouraging others to a healthier lifestyle, let's not inadvertently bash the country that's given us the freedom and wherewithall to have these conversations.

  7. It's a worldwide problem. We're getting pretty fat here in New Zealand too. Just today I saw a young girl who I'd guess would be about 7 or 8. She was so overweight she actually had breasts and I wanted to cover the poor girl up (she had a tshirt on that had quite a loose neckline). It was awful to see and I can imagine her being teased at school.

    When I was a kid, junk food was a once a week treat, not an everyday, everymeal thing. We would have a glass of Coke on a Friday night, a little bag of sweets maybe. My mum would buy a small chocolate bar and my sister and I would share it. All our meals were homecooked and takeaways were a treat too, maybe 2 or 3 times per month. And we weren't different, we were just like all the other families that lived near us.

    It's sad that fizzy drinks and chippies are now staple items in a child's diet, and it's up to the parents (usually the mother, who does the grocery shopping) to feed their family in a healthful manner.

  8. Back in the early 70s, my mother went back into the workforce as a substitute teacher. She was horrified to see kids coming to school having had a Coke and a bag of potato chips for breakfast. Mom and Dad, rather than buying ingredients for a decent breakfast (heavens, it just takes too much time to make breakfast at home!), just gave the child money to purchase food. This is 40 years ago, and dietary habits worldwide have only gotten worse.

  9. I just clicked over from my Reader and I can't find your French Friday post. It must be in revisions or something. I hate that when I post a post and then later decide I don't want to post it but it is already in everyone's (all 5 of them, lol) reader. Or when I post a post and then realize I want to edit it and they've seen the unedited version. Ugh.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to ask about frozen foods at TJMaxx - craziness! I had no idea they have gone the route of grocery store. Kind of weird.

    Lets talk this weekend. <3

  10. Kalee,

    This is a very serious problem and I'm glad you're addressing it. I think when American women talk about problems in America, it's kind of like having children - you might criticize or correct your own but you wouldn't dream of correcting someone else's child. Since the U.S. is leading the way in this issue, I tend to address the U.S. problem.

    As you said, we need to get involved in solving the problem. I live in a low-income area of the South where the overweight/obesity rate is staggering. It is not uncommon to see 300 pound women. It breaks my heart to know they are ruining their health, damaging their self-esteem, and probably shortening their life. One project I've started is a cookbook for clients at our local food pantry. My team is working on simple, healthy recipes as alternatives to all the fast food that is consumed in our community in the mistaken belief that it is faster than cooking and all that they can afford.

    I've been told by specialists that many low-income people do not even know how to cook. They don't know how to make something as basic as oatmeal and consider putting a poptart in the toaster as cooking.

    Thanks for encouraging your readers to get out there and make a difference.

  11. Kalee- I'm just getting caught up from my hectic things last week. I'm really glad you posted your article from FC on your blog. We each harp on how bourgeois Americans eat - forgetting that these are our fellow countrymen and women.

    Missionaries are supposed to spread the good news, either by public address or by not being afraid to share the creed by which they live.

    I say, no more moralizing on boards until each of us have shared the Gospel of Eating with at least one person who is abusing/misusing food.