Thursday, October 21, 2010

The American Stereotype

I work in a job that is heavily involved with international clients.  Frequently, these clients will fly in from their country for a visit to our site.  Sometimes, I will fly to their country for an installation.  All in all, it's given me an opportunity to see things from a different perspective.

A couple of years ago we received a visit from one of our partners in the Netherlands.  It was her first visit to the US and we decided to show her around Salt Lake City.  You probably don't know it, but Salt Lake was recently voted the fittest city in the US.  Our access to the mountains and beautiful parks keeps our population fit and healthy.  However, when I asked this associate what her thoughts on America were, she hesitated for a while before being brave enough to speak the truth:

"Everything they say about America is true...big roads, big buildings, big vehicles, big food portions, BIG PEOPLE..."

I looked around at my beautiful city with the eye of an outsider and realized that she was absolutely correct.  Our roads are much wider than European roads, our four-wheel drive vehicles that can drive through the snow are huge compared to the compact smart cars, and our gigantic food portions lead to big people.  I didn't know what to stay to her other than a very professional "yep...".  

As I've traveled more I have thought about the differences in our culture that perpetuate the obesity problem.  When you order food and drink in a restaurant in Sweden or Italy, the portion sizes are much smaller than what you will find in the US.  Doggie bags don't exist because there is no extra food to take home.  If you order a coke?  Well, you will get a can of coke with no refills.  Can you imagine how much of a difference this would make to our society?  No refills?  How many calories do you think the average American consumes in soda alone during a meal?  

Unfortunately, our society is not following the example set by Europe or anywhere else.  In fact, in speaking with various contacts around the world I have been told countless times that more and more restaurants are trying to follow the American example of larger portions, more fried food, and unlimited soda.  How terrifying is this thought?  I know that America is the champion of the Obesity epidemic, but how awful is it that we are spreading this to the rest of the world? 

I want it to stop.  I want us to break the cycle.  We as individuals deserve more.  We deserve the right to a long healthy life filled with smart food and exercise choices.  We deserve the right to raise our kids in a society where healthy is the norm, not the exception.  Did you know that in Mississippi 22% of our children are OBESE?  Not overweight, but obese.  I can't imagine how much pain and suffering those kids are going through because of being heavy.  My heart breaks for them.  I don't want my kids to have to suffer through the pain and humiliation that comes with being overweight.  For a society that is filled with heavy people, we have no tolerance for it. 

This is partly why I started my weight loss journey.  I want a better world for my future children.  If I don't make the right choices and learn to eat healthy and make exercise a part of my daily life, my children won't.  I can stop the cycle and give the next generation a fighting chance by doing my part.

Will you join me? 

Please check out this article released in June of this year that breaks down obesity rates by state.  It is eye-opening and worth spending some time reviewing.  Let's change the American Stereotype into something different and better.

For any of my international readers--what are your thoughts on this?  Have you noticed it as well?


  1. You have hit the nail on the head. I know from having a majority of my family that lives in Italy as well as my own travels through Europe. When I go back to visit my family, we walk every where and are much more active as a family then we are back here in the states. Meals are spread out over longer periods of time, they are smaller, but you actually take the time to enjoy what you are eating. My mom has conformed to this American way of life since she has moved here. Of course that was long before I was born, but her brothers and sister will acknowledge her life style change. Bigger does not always make something better. And it is sad to see what is happening to the youth of this country. We are the melting pot of the world, but one thing America has not adopted from the rest of the world is their healthier eating habits and lifestyle.

  2. It really is sad! I live in MS and I devoted an entire blog to the obesity epidemic. The ridiculous thing is, most people just flat out do not care! I was never overweight as a child; my mom refused to feed me the garbage kids eat now, and she surely did not let me sit in front of a TV all day. I am losing weight and creating a healthy lifestyle for myself and my future children, but hopefully I can influence at least one person down here to do the same.

  3. When I tavel to USA, I'm always surprise by the meals sizes in restaurants! We don't have that in Canada, portions are much more smaller!

    I also think that the cycle needs to be break because health is so important!

  4. You know, one of the reasons my husband and I started our journey to a healthy lifestyle, was not only for our own health purposes, but to show our children they can eventually create one for themselves as well.

  5. youve nailed it all.
    having lived abroad a few times for different reasons we just DONT YET GET IT HERE (she shouts :)).