Have you ever wondered how immune non-Americans are to falling into the super-size me society upon moving to the U.S.? These Europeans open up about their health journeys.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: No Go
A Dutch person who moved to the U.S. says living in America has taken a toll on their health and weight. They blame processed food and how eating out is filled with unhealthier options compared to their country.
2: Monthly Sickness
A British citizen said they noticed a “big difference in my health immediately” upon arriving in the U.S. Getting sick every month became the norm, and they had several health issues and inflammation. They said pre-made foods like Trader Joe’s freezer meals and other “lazy meals” lacking nutrients were the issue.
3: Leftovers for the Win
One of the first health-related lessons one European learned was how big restaurant portions are in the U.S. Instead of eating all the food in one go, they box it up for a second meal. While they admit that being healthy in the U.S. is harder in their country if money and time are issues, they believe people with money and time to cook can live a healthy life.
4: 8-Kilogram Nonsense
A European says they gained about eight kilograms the first time they moved to the U.S. The reason? A big snacking culture and little walking since their suburban home meant they had to rely on a car. They’ve since turned the situation around by cooking from home, making food from their home country, and walking at least 10,000 steps per day.
5: Don’t Get It
One European says they “personally do not get this whole experience of gaining weight in the U.S.” They explain they’re diligent about checking ingredient labels and avoid processed foods. The kicker many of us need to hear? “I don’t think you can generalize and say all restaurant food is greasier.” It’s about taking personal responsibility for your choices.
6: Slow Game
A person from the United Kingdom who’s been living in the U.S. for 30 years says their weight gain was slow but steady. It took them almost falling into the borderline obese category for them to change their tune. Two years later, they’re at a normal BMI for their body size, saying they did so “by cutting out almost all processed food, eating normal sized meals and taking lots of exercise.”
7: So Expensive
Fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. are far too expensive for one European to regularly afford, and they blame their poor health for it. Furthermore, since they travel around the U.S. a lot for work, they say unhealthy options are the norm. “I can’t find healthy wholemeal sliced bread without added sugar,” they say. “Burgers and fries and hot dogs are seen as a normal lunch item.”
8: Options Galore
An Eastern European says the U.S. is much healthier than where they’re from, causing them to lose 20 pounds during the first few months of their arrival. “The content of sugar is explicitly displayed on the package, so it’s very easy to shop and not buy crap,” they say. They’re also amazed by the variety of fresh plant and animal products.
9: Sugar Is the Culprit
One European was stunned when they gained nine kilograms during their first year living in the U.S. when they never weighed more than 50 kilos—and that was without limiting dessert and pasta in their home country. They blame hidden sugars and high fructose corn syrup in American food for their weight gain. To undo the damage, they walk 15,000 to 20,000 steps per day and are making better dietary choices.
10: Forced Into Health
A European living in the U.S. describes the surcharges (presumably tips) as making eating out “ridiculous.” They chose to cook at home, noting that while the U.S. has its fair share of healthy options, it’s expensive. “My food budget was much higher in the States with a lot of cooking and eating at home.”
11: Exotic Snacks
A foreigner reasons that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be challenging regardless of where one moves to. “You need time to settle, figure out when and where you’ll work out,” they say. Plus, newbies “want to try all the new exotic snacks the country has to offer.”
12: Smart Student
A European student watched fellow colleagues go to the U.S. and return home “seriously fat.” When it was their turn to visit the U.S., they ate mostly sushi during the week and Indian food on the weekends. They lost weight as a result while reflecting on this frequent conversation: “People asked me ‘Don’t you get bored of eating always the same?’ while holding the same pastry they ate every morning.”
From an Australian
An Australian jumped into the conversation, describing the discussion as “insane.” They explain that food in the U.S. is “insanely cheap,” with their grocery bill being 50% or less of what it was in Australia.
“There’s an internet rhetoric that everything in the US is processed or jam-packed with sugar. The difference between the US and other countries is that it has every option, it has every processed food you can imagine, and it has dedicated organic stores like Whole Foods, Central Market, Natural Grocer, etc.”
The bottom line, according to this Australian? “If you come to the US and you start eating more processed food, that’s on you.”
The Flip Side
An American who moved to Europe for over a year says they “lost a bunch of weight” during their stay. So, what happened when they moved back to the U.S.? “I gained it all back within a matter of weeks. I can with almost 100% certainly tell you it’s the walking. Back in the EU, I was clocking 9k steps on a slow day. Now I’m lucky to break 5k on a busy day.”
Another American says they had a similar experience. They didn’t notice a huge change in their food consumption between the U.S. and Europe since they were a “reasonably healthy eater in the States.” However, they hate the gym, so their 9,000 – 10,000 steps a day walking in Europe helped keep them slimmer compared to the average 4,000 steps they walk in the U.S.
This or That
An American living in France sums up their health experience in two sentences: “I can keep my weight under control if I eat like the French do. If I eat like I did in the US, I gain weight pretty quickly.”
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