Friday, November 25, 2011

Life, Liberty, and more food...the American way

Welcome to the holiday weight-gain season. Depending on the source, the average American will gain 2 to 12 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. That's a lot of weight in 5 or 6 weeks. The problem lies in the fact that many of us will hold on to some, if not all of that weight, and then continue the pattern again next year, which contributes to the statistic that more than half of American adults are overweight.

All the talk about holiday weight gain reminded me of an article I read while on vacation this summer. In a London newspaper article (sorry, can't remember the name), the writer lists the holiday vacation destinations where Brits gain the most weight. Topping the list - United States! Brits vacationing in the U.S. for a week can expect to gain almost 8 pounds. The article went on to say how that shouldn't be such a surprise based on the size of the average American citizen. What? I was a bit offended, but as we traveled around, I came to the conclusion that the folks on the other side of the Atlantic, may, in fact, be smaller than those of us in the new land.

There was nothing that blatantly stood out about the difference in size, I only have my family's experiences as my research data. Now, for reference, we are average size people. Yeah, my husband and I could miss a few slices of chocolate cake and not starve, but, well, anyway. I submit the following evidence.

- in Westminster Abbey, there are tombs (a great "eeeww" factor for the kids) and they are kinda short. We wondered are the people actually in there? Did they fold them up upon burial? Why are the tombs so short?

- In Harrod's department store, there is a sign at the escalator warning parents not to take the baby stroller up the escalator. You've seen those mothers - they try to balance 2 wheels of the stroller on one of the steps, then baby starts to wiggle and mom gets all panicked that she and a baby are going to roll down the escalator. In the U.S., the store posts the sign, then leaves it up to you to follow instructions. At Harrod's, they put a metal pole right in the middle of the landing so that the stroller will not fit. Clever. But - it also restricts a person who cannot pass that pole - someone wider than a baby stroller - to get on the escalator! I don't think we could have such a pole at Macy's.

- The hotel elevators are teeny! In our hotel in Paris, it took our family 4 trips to get up to our room when we checked in; without luggage, it was 2 trips. In Amsterdam, my six-year old and I squeezed in with my tote bag and her backpack to get to our rooms.* Rome - the elevator was 1 person wide, 3 of us could get in single file.

- European serving sizes, from a cup of coffee to a full meal, are smaller and more reasonable. But the American meal serving sizes and calorie counts do reach to the level of ridiculousness, when you consider one of our popular restaurants has a fried mac & cheese appetizer that's 1500 calories. The meals I could get used to, but I thought I was going to go into caffeine withdrawal since a 16 oz. cup of coffee was non-existent n the land of cafe au laits and cappuccinos (small, but delicious).

As a proud American, I did my best to refute the article. In conclusion, I found that if you make a concerted effort to find the best ice cream in Europe by having a scoop every day and tasting the signature dessert of the country, from Belgian waffles to cannoli, an American can gain almost as much weight in Europe as vice versa. I do what I can in defense of my country.

*by the way - Hotel V in Amsterdam is a nice, boutique hotel. Obviously used to accommodating young, hip guests, but was great to our family. One night in fact, the young lady at the front desk came over to D and I and said , "the bar is closed, but I know you are traveling with 4 kids, so we will open if you'd like something."

Join the conversation on Facebook: Just Piddlin' with Frances

No comments: