Let’s talk about American Food and Health

I know this is a travel blog and I created it to mostly discuss overseas travel, and this post won’t directly concern travel, but I will be making comparisons I’ve found /because of/ traveling.

So these past two years I’ve been around the block or two. I’ve lived in Kansas, Oregon, Reunion Island, back in Kansas, France, and back in Oregon. They all have vastly different cultures, and most apparent to me is the food culture. Another component is life/work environment (ie, access to cars versus walking, how time is used, heat and humidity, etc). This all seems boring, right? But let me tell you, my health REALLY cares about this stuff.

Overall I find I am much healthier, losing weight, clearer skin, fewer headaches when I am living overseas. Now I’m a month back from my last trip abroad and my skin is on a rampage, I’ve already had a debilitating headache, and I’ve gained weight back, and here I am TRYING to be healthy here.

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My reasoning for jetting off to France was spontaneous and a mix of several thoughts. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the political climate was getting to me and I wanted an escape from having to watch it on every channel. Building on that I felt I was too tied to social media and I wanted to go where it just wasn’t an option to constantly be on my phone, and wow it was refreshing. But also, I could tell my health was not good. In May I returned 40 pounds lighter than I was before I went to live on Reunion. There, I walked and hiked a lot and ate fresh food for the most part (though I also ate more than my fair share of frozen fries and chicken nuggets). Then January came around and I’d gained all of that if not more back and other health concerns were popping up too. I knew from memory I generally felt healthier while living abroad so I wanted a sort of 3 month cleanse with fresh food not packed full of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. It made a difference. I don’t know all the comparisons of food between America and elsewhere, specifically France, but I know that I feel better and lose weight (without crazy amounts of exercise) when I am eating food outside of America.

When I look at their yogurt labels, of which it’s basically all the same companies, the first ingredient is NOT high fructose corn syrup as it is here. Yogurt is supposed to be this healthy, great for you food, but in America it’s packed with sugar and I really can’t figure out why besides the fact that it’s a cheap filler. There are some ‘brands’ in America where this isn’t the case, but hilariously it’s probably a sub-brand of the major brands (ie, Dannon, a global, french company). American yogurt doesn’t taste better, that’s for sure. French yogurt, or yogurt from other countries too (iceland also has great yogurt), is thicker and more flavorful and based on the nutritional facts, doesn’t have as much added sugar.

Another difference is preservatives (don’t say preservatives in French, it means condoms, it’s conservatives). They just aren’t as much of a thing elsewhere. I got frustrated a few times in Reunion because it’s hard to buy for one person and use it fast enough that it lasts and doesn’t mold or spoil even while in the fridge. I didn’t realize how quickly it happens because it’s not really something I worry about, except for fruit and veg, in America. Things just last and last and here I was always thinking wow refrigerators are amazing! But really I think it’s all the preservatives in our food because I could by the same product (example, spaghetti sauce) and it last an unbelievably short time, so much so that I didn’t even think there was an opportunity to go bad. So there are pros and cons because I wasted a lot more food since I was only one person and couldn’t physically consume the items fast enough. In America I just throw it in the fridge and don’t worry, which now that I’ve seen the other side, is a bit worrisome. I’m not saying America is trying to kill us, but I am paranoid a bit that Monsanto (the largest supplier of produce) and Bayer (Big Pharma) are now one in the same company. That could be an entirely different post though. All I’m saying is cheap fillers in America, even in our “health” products might be letting us down. And it’s sad that it’s so hard to find things without them in it, and when you do they are outrageously priced. It’s a challenge to be a healthy eater in America, and abroad it’s not even an afterthought.

Another huge difference is I drive a lot more in America. When living abroad I’m in situations where I don’t have a car and sometimes I have to carry heavy groceries an hour back home. Sometimes the weekend fun is walking an hour to town then hiking up the hill to the castle and view. Sometimes I couldn’t rely on buses and walked an hour to work in scorching southern hemisphere sun, 80+ degrees, 90% humidity because it sounds like a good use of time. So even when I’m not actively choosing to hike mountains (which actually I did choose in Reunion), I was in situations where physical activity, at least walking a lot, wasn’t really an option. This coupled with the nutrition and I didn’t even have to work out like I would here in the states and the weight just came off. (to be fair in Reunion I think I sweated most of that out from just existing. I drank like 3 times as much as I normally do in America just to avoid dehydration from sweating and the heat.)

What are your thoughts? Have you felt differently health-wise living abroad? Do you notice food quality differences?

 

Best,
Amy

(ps, this wasn’t a fully thought out blog post, I kind of just wrote in the afternoon and didn’t edit or add in everything I was trying to get down. I just had thoughts and I needed to write. I’ve been enjoying writing more frequently and I think it’s a good practice to begin, so I apologize if the coming posts are very frequent and not the greatest quality.)

Let’s talk about camp

I have returned from my overseas camp adventure that I may or may not have jumped into spontaneously because I get itchy about staying in a place too long and it just happened that that limit was fast approaching KC and I needed to run. I ran, or flew rather, to France to be a camp counselor and live in an extremely tight community setting. I mean tight as in relationships but also space. It was the experience of a lifetime. I learned more than I could have ever imagined from people I would have never been able to imagine up myself. I was immediately hooked and jealous of all the other places and camps my new friends were going to set off to after we finished with this camp. I’ve been home a month and though I’ve been able to throw in a few funny camp stories here and there, as with other travels no one really wants to hear about it. I need to talk about it because this experience provided me growth and recharging in a much needed way. I will never know if it was because of the people, the setting, the job, or the kids, but I am thankful for all the hectic days and long nights, all the laughs and frustrations, all the memories and moments. Thank you to everyone who was a part of this experience with me.

So camp life. Remember when I said space was tight? My first camp room had three single beds lining the walls, two wooden shelving units, a sink, and a shower. The three of us in there always made it work and it surprisingly never actually felt too cramped, probably because we were rarely in there for long periods of time except to sleep. We shared our toilet room (remember france does this thing where it’s just a toilet in a tiny room with a door. expect to feel claustrophobic and paranoid that everyone can hear everything) with 4 or 5 people depending on the week, but during meetings, which also happened in the building/cabin where are bedroom was, that things could attempt to support 7 people at a time. I say attempt because it took like 10+ minutes for the water tank to refill, so things got interesting at times. As hilarious and frustrating as this all was at times, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There was never a dull moment. I spent almost every night chatting and every weekend playing ping pong and card games. I was surprisingly social (as I sit alone in my new bedroom writing this) and I loved it. Being around people helped me to put down my phone and live. I didn’t have time to overthink things as I so often do. I think this is why it was such an important experience for me, it was a detox almost of the internet and social media and a good distraction from everything that was/is happening politically. By no means am I saying that I completely stopped, but as my coworkers can vouch, I lose my phone a lot and it was to a point where I could just not care that I was too busy to scroll and I’d rather sing baby shark annoyingly ha!

The days are long and draining. It takes your whole self. But I never once regretted it or thought “hey maybe let’s not try our best today”. Every time a kid smiled up at me or laughed it made every ounce of effort worth it. And honestly it was fun. There were days I got tired and grumpy at night meetings, but really it wasn’t bad. More often then not I stayed up past our meetings by choice to hang out with my fellow counselors. There is not really enough time to think about much else besides camp, which is either a good thing as it was for me or a bad thing if you have a different perspective. Life morphs into a weird camp bubble and you relive jokes of the camps and hear stories all day and nothing else in the world exists with the same intensity at the time. I thought it was hilariously fun. We would take family trips and scream camp cheers walking along a river or inside Roman ruins. This separate world intensifies bonds and I was lucky to be with awesome people who I honestly enjoyed spending all my time with, because there really wasn’t an option to be alone for long ha!

I encourage anyone who think they might like teaching and laughing with kids in a fun setting to jump into it! The pay is not great, but you are eating good food prepared by french chefs and don’t have to pay rent! Also you laugh and smile all day. I genuinely have never gone that long with continuously being in such a good mood. I might have gotten sick a lot, but man the days were fun! Know that teamwork is a HUGE part of the job and if one person is slacking it makes things that much more difficult for the rest of the team. The whole point is to have fun, so if you aren’t one to throw yourself into silly situations and be up to do a stupid dance or get a water balloon popped over your head, then this maybe isn’t the job for you. But I never was that person before camp, so if you are up for growing and trying new things, give it a whirl. Who knows how it will change your life!

 

(I might add more to this later)

❤ with all my love.

Best Wishes,
Amy