Michelle Obama just kicked off a campaign in the United States aimed at addressing the problem of childhood obesity (another example of the American government spending millions of our taxpayer dollars on programs which should be our personal responsibility as families--most of us already know what is causing the problem, we just need the motivation to make the changes). As a person who has struggled with weight issues most of my life, I can relate to the problem that we are facing. I was a normal sized baby and child (my nickname was Twiggy after the popular model in the 60's) until I reached pre-adolescence, then my weight started to become an issue. I was in the 5th grade, and after school I would come home and eat junk food, but there were also underlying emotional issues that caused me to overeat. There was a spiritual vaccum in my life, and I was trying to fill it with food; I wanted to know God, but didn't know how to find him--but even after coming to know the Lord I struggled with weight, so I can't blame it all on that.
Here in Europe they don't have the magnatude of obesity like we do in the states, even in their prosperity. What is the difference? I have noticed a few things--first of all, they have much smaller portions. The average American would be disappointed when going out to eat in a restaurant here, thinking, "is that all I get?" because we are so used to the enormous portions in the US. For the most part, there aren't as many "all you can eat" buffets, or free refills on drinks, or all you can eat salad or rolls.
Americans would do well to eat at home more often. We rarely go out to eat, and it is amazing how much easier it is to control your diet when eating at home. When we were on deputation and traveling all over the US to raise our support, we were constantly eating out and it was a struggle to control our diet. In addition, we would be invited to special dinners, banquets, and you would feel really bad if you didn't eat what people made especially for you. Fortunately my husband doesn't have a weight problem and he is always happy to sample people's culinary delights. But for someone with a health issue like myself, I had to really make a special effort not to indulge.
I am amazed when I read recipes on the internet for baking--Americans have an appetite for sweets, and no longer is it sufficient to bake a simple cake or brownie recipe, but it has to be topped with reese cups, chocolate chips, or have cream cheese added, or even have candy bars added to the mix. The more decadent the better. No longer do Americans just eat a simple ice cream cone of chocolate or vanilla--we add chopped up candy bars and make it a "blizzard." Here in the Canary Islands dessert is often just a piece of fruit, or a yogurt, or a simple custard flan.
The other difference I see is Europeans walk more. Towns are often set up with small stores within walking distance, and it is very common to walk to town and do your business, and they also climb more stairs throughout the day. They don't have as many "drive through" businesses and even if you do drive somewhere, you often have to walk a few blocks from where you parked to where you are going.
As Europeans adopt our ways, they too are seeing a rise in obesity--with the popularity of McDonald's, and American junk food--as well as activities that encourage sedentary lifestyles (computer games, internet, TV watching).