Why are there so many overweight people in America compared with nearly every other part of the world? Weight loss abroad is an almost unknown thing because so few people are overweight.
And in the rare occasion that someone in Eastern Europe (for example) finds his/her clothes fitting a little tight, they usually lose weight fairly quickly.
Having spent some time in Eastern Europe I can offer a few anecdotal observations about why this may be the case.
Weight Loss Abroad: They aren’t into fitness
They don’t go to the gym and do cardio or weights. And they don’t run, swim, bike, or do pilates. And when I say “they”, I mean the VAST majority.
There are far fewer gyms, and the ones that do exist are sparsely populated. And when I’ve gone running I have very rarely ever seen others running.
How is it then that you see so few fat people in Eastern Europe and so many in the U.S.? Maybe we’re missing something about the relationship of exercise to weight loss.
This is NOT to say that Europeans don’t get any exercise.
But they DO exercise
One cannot really live in most parts of America without a car. Our cities and suburbs simply aren’t designed for walking or public transport. So we drive EVERYWHERE. We walk 10 steps to our car in the garage, wait for the closest parking space at the supermarket to open up, and walk 20 steps from the car to the supermarket. Then, best of all, we wait for the closest parking space at the gym and then get on the treadmill and walk 3 miles!
This is all very different in Eastern Europe.
Of course people in Eastern Europe have cars, but many people in cities walk and use public transport. Using a metro (subway) involves a LOT of walking. It’s not unusual at all that one would walk a half mile from their home to the metro station, then a half mile from the metro to their work, then repeat the process in reverse for the commute home. Then add the half-mile round trip walk to the post office or lunch, then the half mile round trip walk to the corner market in the evening to pick up milk and eggs and so on.
Even those who say they don’t walk very much walk at least 2-4 miles per day.
So in the end, while they don’t “exercise for fitness”, they probably get more exercise than the vast majority of Americans.
This also explains the phenomenon of Americans losing weight on vacations there. They walk miles every day as opposed to 30 minutes on the treadmill three times per week.
Weight Loss Abroad: They often don’t eat “healthy”
Another observation from my time in Eastern Europe is that it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find “healthy food”. I dare you to ask where their “organic”, “non-GMO”, or “gluten-free” sections are in the store, or for those items on a restaurant menu. They’ve never heard of that.
They have never heard of almost any of those concepts I mention on the Home page of this site!
But while they don’t eat “healthy”, they also don’t eat nearly as much.
When you order an entree from the menu in most restaurants in the U.S., you often get the complimentary bread or chips and salsa before your meal. You also often get a side salad and 2-3 side items with the meal. Then you get an ENORMOUS portion for the main item. Then they come back and ask if you’ve saved room for dessert!
It’s very different in Eastern Europe where the meals are smaller and rarely is anything complimentary. It’s often even difficult to leave a restaurant feeling comfortably full.
When foreigners want to lose weight
Of course the most important sub-point to this page on weight loss abroad would be a description of what foreigners do when they get a little fat. What is the “diet” for weight loss abroad?
I once met a man there who told me he had lost around 20 lbs in the previous month. I asked him how he did it. Now buckle up for this extremely complex and sophisticated scientific weight loss plan he was following… You ready?
At first he looked a little confused about the question, as though the answer was so obvious that he may have misunderstood the question. Then he just said, “I stopped eating.” Of course he meant that he just ate a LOT LESS.
In his case he didn’t bother calculating and tracking calories. He just quit eating and it worked.
In the TV series “Mad Men”, set in the 1960s, Betty, one of the main characters gained weight. Here is what her Thanksgiving Dinner looked like:
THAT is probably what my Eastern European friend’s diet looked like.
Conclusion about weight loss abroad
People outside America simply don’t eat as much as most Americans. Some argue that there’s something different about the food too – that it’s fresher and more natural. Maybe there’s something to that, but I KNOW there’s something to the fact that they eat half as much as most Americans! So why look for more obscure explanations?
Additionally, many foreigners are simply much more active than Americans, often walking miles in the natural course of their day.
And finally, when people in other countries want to lose weight they don’t read books about the Paleo Diet, they just stop eating!
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