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.)

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