The United States has the highest rates of obesity in the world. Proof that we do not have a fix on the situation is that obesity rates continue to climb each year. What are other countries doing that we aren’t?
Each culture is the result of thousands of years of evolution and a lifestyle that ensures greatest health and survival. Not only do first and second generation immigrants bring to the American table the ways of their origins, but they see the states through very different eyes, like the honest eyes of an innocent child seeing something for the very first time, yet they are adults with language skills and the ability to articulate observations and share.
Most of us don’t have to travel farther than the neighbor’s front door, or to a colleague’s desk to have a meaningful conversation with someone from a different country, or with someone raised in a multi-ethnic home. Start a conversation to find out what typical foods are for breakfast, lunch and dinner in their country of origin. What time of the day are meals eaten? What meal is the biggest? Is snacking accepted or frowned upon? Do children eat the same foods as the adults? What, if any, food rituals do they honor? How does their country view obesity and how does their culture approach weight loss? What are the most common forms of daily physical activity or exercise?
Building bridges from diversity reveals the magnitude of options available
There is no right or wrong way, just different ways
What do they think about America’s relationship to food? Do they eat American food now or do they prefer eating as they ate in their home country? Did their body shape or function change after coming to America?
Be sure to preface your questions with the sincere reason you are asking. Questions sometimes feel intrusive or “fishy” when a person withholds the true intentions of their queries. Sharing the why will welcome people into the conversation in a heartfelt way that will invite them to reciprocate from a more meaningful layer of their person. You may discover your path to permanent weight loss success through the looking glass of another culture’s traditions.
You are bound to smile and laugh if you ask what struck them most in the states about the grocery stores, types of foods on offer, restaurants, social situations, meals and table manners. Everyone I know who has moved to and lived in a foreign country has “laugh till you hurt” hysterical stories. The right questions paired with a safe space will open doors worth opening.
I lived in France from age 21-35. The day to day life there is very different. Not better or worse. Just different. Grocery stores tend to be smaller with fewer options, enough options to provide for needs, but not so many you get buried. They tend to buy less, but shop more often to ensure fresh food. The quality of food is more important than convenience or quantity. Cooking and eating at home are the norm. Sweet beverages and sweet cocktails are considered special occasion beverages or desserts. Breakfasts have a light continental colorful charm to start the day, without weighing them down. They eat 2-3 meals a day. Dinner for children is earlier than it is for adults who often eat much later. It is not uncommon to go to bed after eating the last meal of the day. Time at the store, in the kitchen and conversation at the table are all a part of the art of sharing food and being alive. You will rarely if ever find a TV in a French Kitchen.
Over the many years I noticed one of their secrets to staying their best healthy body size was that they tackle weight problems straight away. They don’t wait until the excess weight becomes too big to manage, and the first things they tend to eliminate are bread at meals and sweets. Socially hardwired into their being is that honest food from Mother Nature is the only way to go. They know that quantity or convenience will never surpass quality. The meal of a person on a diet in France is hard to recognize! They don’t count calories, nor do they skip meals. They make better choices.
Get out there. Talk to people of different origins who are still tied to their cultural ways. If you have the privilege and honor to be invited into their kitchen then jump on it. Some of my best kitchen secrets were learned from friends, their parents and grandparents of different ethnic origins. The older the person was, the more they had to share with me, and the more enchanting the encounter!
When something new feels like a good fit for me I try it out, experiment and make adjustments. My life is a continually updating “best of” from each new perspective, experience and insight that enters my life. Find out what other countries are doing. Adopt ideas that peek your curiosity. Take a field trip to a local ethnic grocery store and interact with real people from different countries. Let your permanent weight loss objectives build bridges in your life to new places.
P.S. I am always around if you get stuck. You are not alone on your unique adventure to your best body size.