America has a serious obesity problem.
There, I said it.
Not that it’s news. Americans have a world-wide reputation for being fat.
One of Hubs’s greatest fears is packing on pounds now that we’re State-side. We seemed to do it every time we visited. Both of us would return to the Netherlands with an extra 3-5 pounds. Despite eating just two meals a day.
Being back in the US, it is painfully clear that Americans are overweight. Morbidly so. It’s sad. It’s angering. It’s troubling.
It’s also no wonder.
I won’t beat a dead horse here. There are books and articles, television shows and experts that will tell you exactly why this is and why this happens. The obvious ones are the unbelievable portion sizes and the ubiquitousness of fast food restaurants.
In the month that I’ve been here, it’s been a struggle, I readily admit. The good eating habits I’ve developed over the last two years have gone almost completely out the window.
I’ve been dieting, so I have lost weight since I got here. But it hasn’t been easy.
We’ve been running around like crazy, buying a car, looking at furniture, collecting appliances, packing, finding a house, going back and forth with the realtor, visiting friends and family, grasping at those precious few remaining seconds to be individuals, a couple, a family.
Kleine Munchkin has eaten so many burger-n-fries meals that I’m on a constant self-induced guilt trip. Hubs has been drinking more calories than he’s been eating, and I’ve had more diet coke in the last month than I had during all of last year.
The crap food is cheap, it’s fast, it’s easy, and it tastes good.
But here’s the thing. And it’s a thing people don’t see or get or realize when they associate America with obesity.
We’re also an incredibly healthy nation.
Organic grocery stores and markets are everywhere. Farmers markets and road-side fruit and veggie stands abound. More and more restaurants are serving fresh, organic, raw, vegan, and vegetarian food. Co-ops and farm shares and locally grown produce are exceedingly popular. Every grocery store boasts an organic section.
You see runners everywhere you go. Five- and 10Ks, half- and full marathons are all the rage. There are almost as many gyms and sports centers as there are Starbucks. Adult and children’s sports and activities are numerous. I see a constant stream of people outside cycling, skating, power walking, out with the dog… I’ve seen some of the healthiest people here. Brands are becoming a lot quicker to forego the harmful chemicals in their products, go easy on the pesticides, ditch the GMOs, and go easy on the sugar.
People are demanding healthier options. People are becoming concerned with the state of things in America and are ready to act. And it’s starting to spread.
Several months ago, I was talking to an American friend in Amsterdam. She told me that she’d never go back to the US. She had her reasons – the majority of them valid and many of them things I worry about now that we’re living here.
One of those reasons was that America was so unhealthy and, unlike the Netherlands, there were no options for those who wanted to lead a healthier lifestyle.
After a little probing, I found out that she had no idea that the organic shopping markets, local produce packages, health food stores, and vegan/vegetarian/raw/organic food establishments movement started in the US. Nor did she realize that those things are only just making their way into the Netherlands with a vengeance.
She had no idea that the US had options like co-ops and farm shares (something that hasn’t yet caught on in the Netherlands).
She was shocked to hear that there were far more options in the US.
“Why have I never heard about this?” she asked.
Turns out, when they visit the US, they stay with her parents or her sister – family that doesn’t share the same attitudes toward food that she does. They eat a lot of processed foods. They don’t spend the extra money to buy organic. They eat predominantly meat. They’re not actively trying to avoid sugar and GMOs and high fructose corn syrup.
And when you’re someone’s guest, you eat what they have on hand. You dine where they take you. The food they serve is the food you eat.
I know all too well because my parents eat in much the same way as my friend’s family. And when we stay with them, we eat it too.
One thing I will say about the US is that if you want to eat clean and have the money to do it, it’s super easy. We are a country of convenience, after all.
And once Hubs, Kleine Munchkin, Turner, and I have found our feet in our new home, things are going to change.
Smart phones tell where the nearest this-mom-approved restaurants are. A quick Google search shows where the organic markets are. Friends and acquaintances can share where the farmers markets and co-ops are. Fliers are posted detailing where to pick your own fruits and veggies.
It can be done. And I would argue that it’s easier in America than it is in most places (though it could absolutely be easier). Unfortunately, there’s still a high number of Americans who can’t, don’t, or won’t jump on board.
But that’s another topic for another day, isn’t it?
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