In America, mortality rates are increasing; life expectancy is down, and overall we are super unhealthy compared to other first world countries like England, France, Belgium, and other countries across the pond.
I am coming back from a trip to Europe where I spent one week in London, England, Brussels, Belgium, and Paris France on a much much-needed vacation with my mother, sisters, and family.
I highly recommend traveling abroad! Not only is it a fun way to spend time with your loved ones, but it opens your mind to new cultures and ways of living.
For instance, I was hanging out with my close friend Mehdi. He was my French-born roommate in Atlanta while I was in medical school at Morehouse School of Medicine and he was going to Oglethorpe University. He is back in France now but still missing things here in the state that we take for granted.
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Believe or not, one of the things he misses the most is the larger tables in restaurants here in the states…..
In Europe, most restaurants are not the size of a Chili’s or Buffalo Wild Wings, and those that are are the RARE exception. It is honestly quite cumbersome for two grown men to eat on table about 2 feet in circumference.
Other notable but subtle differences in Europe compared to the states are:
1. Tips: Tipping is not encouraged; because of that, customer service can be downright terrible at times as servers have no incentive to make sure the customer is happy.
Example: I was having breakfast at a café across the street from our hotel. I made a simple request for fresh strawberries on my crepe (a thin French pancake), and the server said, “No, it only comes with raspberry jam” then said nothing after. I then asked, “Can you just put some of the strawberries on the side since you serve fruit salads with strawberries, please?” Again, he said “ Only raspberry jam, is that all?” I am like, damn that was cold-blooded…..
2. Cleaner and Greener: Larger cities are much cleaner compared to the US. The people of Europe are serious as Tom Brady in the Superbowl about protecting the environment. Recycling bins are everywhere, people are regularly cleaning the streets, and plastic bags are becoming the thing of the past. If you do not use the reusable bags, you are going to be charged for them, yes charged for a brown plastic bag.
3. Bathrooms: Public restrooms in Europe are gross, like really really gross. You remember how I told you customer service was not the greatest… Well, this extends to the cleanliness of bathrooms too (this is my biggest gripe) as at least half of them looked like it has not been scrubbed since the beginning for football season.
Also, if you like paper towels, Europe is not the place for you as everything is air dry. It would not be a problem if the machines worked correctly.
Example: At a bar that my friend Mehdi and I went to, the bathroom had NO toilet cover or seat, no soap, a mirror large enough for a bird, and urine all over the floor… “Cmon man, are you even trying?”
While Europe does have some short comings, it is much easier to live a healthier lifestyle.
Let me explain what habits Europeans do that help them live a healthier lifestyle, what we are doing different in the United States, and how you can make impactful changes in your life that
The Health Lifestyle Differences of Europe vs. United States
Portion Control at Stores and Restaurants
In Europe, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a Big Gulp, Big Slurpee, or anything with the word “Big.” The drink sizes in Europe are modest at restaurants, gas stations, and stores.
Here in the US the average person consumes 44 gallons of soda per year or about 300-400 calories per day from sugary drinks!
Luckily we are getting better as soft drink sales have declined over the past ten years while sparkling water sales have increased ( I am part of this booming industry).
What about the food, though?
Let’s take McDonald’s in Paris, France compared to Augusta, Georgia. There is no dollar menu or value menu in other countries. The items are a little higher in price, but they are of better quality.
The BIGGEST difference was in the chicken nuggets as the ones in Paris make ours look like imitation chicken (which it may be) as you can feel the meat of the chicken instead of just grittiness of meat that tastes like chicken.
Take a page from their book and when going out do not get the large fountain drink and make sure that you are going to eat something that is not processed.
Better Quality of Food (GMO’s and other preservatives are illegal in a lot of European countries)-
You have to pay a higher price for the food, because it is of higher quality, simple as that.
There are no GMO foods in a fair amount of countries (England, France, Greece). Also popular preservatives that enhance flavors like BHA and BHT are banned in most countries. If you go to a European restaurant, you will find that they will be running out of popular menu ingredients faster due to the fact they do not mass produce food. What do I mean? In Europe, countries have far less people than here in America, so they do not need to enhance their chickens with steroids and growth hormones to feed their people.
Encouraged to Walk More-
Cars are a double-edged sword. On the positive side, it allows us freedom and mobility to go mostly anywhere we need to go. On the negative side, they do harm the environment with greenhouse gas emissions and make us lazier.
In Europe cars are more of symbol of status than a necessity like here in the states. In Europe cars must go through stricter regulations to make sure their emissions, engines, and other components are legal and environmentally friendly. Also gas is much more expensive in Europe. Without most people having cars, the norm is to walk and take public transportation to get from point A to point B.
Europeans are crushing us when it comes to getting steps in.
You better not accept an Ifitness challenge from your European buddy, hahaha.
If you do not have to take your car, don’t and enjoy a nice walk outdoors.
Socialized Healthcare= Government Wants Healthier People
If I am responsible for paying your bills, I am going to make damn sure those bills are as cheap as possible. I do not have money to blow like Drake or Lil’ Wayne.
In Europe, socialized health care means people do not have to pay a lot (if at all) for health care. It is an expense paid by higher government taxes. Due to government footing the bill, they do not want a country full of obese diabetics with all kinds of strokes and heart attacks like here.
They would go bankrupt!
That is why they are stricter on portion sizes, the amount of sugar in drinks, and incentivize doctors by rewarding them for getting their patients to stop smoking or getting them to lose weight.
In America, healthcare is BIG BIG business, so this tip is a little harder to incorporate as our system is much different from Europe.
However, everyone should have a personal goal to be as healthy as possible because those doctors’ visits and prescriptions do add up costing those on fixed incomes financial uncertainty. It is expensive being sick in America!
Europeans get almost Twice the Amount of Vacation/Annual Leave-
Why do we work so hard in America, it is the culture. We are told hard work will help pave the way to the American dream, which is very accurate! The hard-working citizens have helped make America the industrial powerhouse it is.
However all that hard work leads to more stress, which leads to poor diet habits, which can lead to more drug and substance abuse, which leads to us getting sick more often, which leads to higher healthcare costs and missed productivity.
So as Americans we work hard and have no vacation at all
Europeans, on the other hand, are encouraged to take much more time off for wellness. I tell everyone this, no matter if you are sick or not use ALL of your sick days. You do not have anywhere to go with your remaining vacation days, great then have a staycation. No one will take care better care of you than you, take ALL of your allotted time off!All of America left 768 million days of vacation on the table in 2018…. I am wondering how I can get a hold of a few of those wasted days J
While America is the greatest country in the world, there are a lot of lessons in health and wellness we can take from our global neighbors. In summary:
- Watch your portions when going out
- If you don’t have to drive, walk or bike
- The fresher the food you eat, the better
- Use ALL of your allotted time off to prevent burnout and promote wellness.
I will try to upload all of my photos and videos from my trip on my various social media platforms.
Thank you all for reading and be Happy and Healthdy!
Dr. CHRISTIAN-JEVON BRAMWELL MD
Christian Bramwell, MD uses his own weight loss story as teaching for people struggling with their own weight through blogging, teaching, and writing. His mission in life is to promote health and education, that is why he has chosen to be a family physician and found his own nonprofit Project RAK based on education and empowerment.
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