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Americans are fat?

  1. Aug 10, 2003 #1
    Well, in Europe there seems to be this stereotype of Americans being fat. As much as I hate to admit it, the average American does seem to be a bit heavier than the average European. For a while this statistic bothered me because I couldn't figure out what causes it.

    It's not the food we Americans eat. I mean, you can't buy anything in an American grocery store that doesn't advertise reduced fat or fat free. If you've ever been to Europe you'll notice that Europeans eat like pigs compared to Americans. I mean, first of all the servings are quite larger, secondly everything in Europe seems to involve fried meat, whole milk, and cheese. Plus, although they won't admit, Europeans like American fast food WAY more than Americans. I've gone to the McDonald's restaurant here in Germany, and I've actually seen pretty girls (I'm talking about girls who look like models) there. I mean Europeans will actually go to McDonald's for fun. The only time an American will go to McDonald's is when he / she wants to fill his / her stomach with fodder and not spend too much money doing so.

    Then I thought, maybe it's the amount of exercise. Well, it seems to be the case that Americans drive around in cars more while Europeans take the public transportation system more. I wouldn't say that taking the train is exactly exercise. So, I have since disregarded this factor.

    Finally, I realized what causes this phenomena. It's the leisure time. Americans seem to work about twice as much as Europeans. Seriously, at the place where I am here in Germany, nobody works on Saturday or Sunday. And, they only work a maximum of eight hours per day during the week... and really, I shouldn't say eight hours per day because they seem to take an hour lunch break and hour coffee break at some point during the day. So really, from what I've seen, I would say that Europeans only work about 30 hours per week. Can you imagine that?

    When Americans get a break from work, they are usually so tired that all they feel like doing is relaxing and watching TV. Whereas Europeans seem to have enough leisure time on their hands for pursuing more active hobbies.

    Well, so it goes. I guess in the end, Americans wind up being rich and fat, and Europeans wind up being poor but healthy. You can't have everything.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2003 #2
    In the view I get from this, I can see that people who would be "working twice as much" should be getting "twice the exercise", hence should be the 'fitter' of the too.

    I suspect you thought you had it right, but I suspect that you missed the real reason.

    Then again, if it isn't physical work, well, the rest explains itself.
  4. Aug 10, 2003 #3
    I never go to McDonald's since I heard some rumours about the real *ingredients* they use in the burgers...
  5. Aug 10, 2003 #4
    Who, I ask you, does physical work in America anymore? There is no traditional labor force in America anymore. We are so fiscally advanced compared to most nations that we can't afford to keep any market that has been technologically saturated. It is just far more economical to export all real labor to countries with a weaker economy. Actually, anything that can be done in a very predicted, routine fashion is being exported to other countries. We are even starting to export all of our application programming jobs to countries like India and Malaysia.

    How long has it been since a television set has been manufactured in the USA? Thirty years?

    Even labor jobs we can't get rid of, like construction work, don't involve nearly as much physical activity that they used because of mechanical automation.

    Now for my digression:

    Although, no other counties hate to admit it. The strong point of America is that we are streamlined for economic gain. We are simply better at business than any other country. One day, I asked myself why this is. Well, the truth of the matter is that Americans are motivated by money more than any other society. We are taught from a young age that the value of a person is defined by his/her job and his/her ability to produce wealth. Unlike other countries, our education system doesn't require us to learn the languages, religions or histories of other cultures. When I think back on what courses I was required to take during my years of public education, I remember taking classes with an emphasis in civics, communication, mathematics, computer science, and business. Notice something? All of these types of classes encourage financial prosperity.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2003
  6. Aug 10, 2003 #5
    Physical exertion at work doesn't carry the same health bebefits of leisure exercise.
  7. Aug 10, 2003 #6
    Really? I cant talk for the rest of europe but in the UK im sure the average person works over 40 hours a week in my first week of work i worked 45 hours from monday to friday, thats starting at 8:30am and finishing at 5:00pm with half hour lunch break (the extra time is overtime). I am pretty sure that most people in the UK work similiar hours to me.

    As for americans being fatter, i have seen this statistic many times before and all i could put it down to is the amount of time americans spend watching TV and using the Internet. I am being very general here and i am not trying to say that ALL americans are fat.
  8. Aug 10, 2003 #7
    Agreed, but a person 'pounding nails' for a living, gets lots more excersize then a 'paper pusher'.

    Really, no one building housing, no one repairing roads, sewers, city maintenence systems, infrastructure repairs, no new "Buildings building" going on, no new manufacturing sectors what-so-ever, No new (or old) physical laborers working in the United States of America.

    Hummmm, personally, I find that just a little difficult to accept, as 'truthfull description', more perhaps as generalized observation of a "trend" perhaps.
  9. Aug 10, 2003 #8
    Yeah, see... in America 8:30am to 5:00pm with a half hour lunch break is called 40 hours per week. I remember my first job when I was in high school. I was paid to take bolts out of large boxes and put them in small boxes so that my employer could jack up the price per unit volume and make a profit the American way -- without actually producing a product. I remember well that during the summer-time I was paid for exactly forty hours per week, and I had to work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. I was allowed to leave the premises from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm for lunch.

    Most American professionals and others with careers work at least 50 hours per week. Anyway, in my opinion, the UK is less European than any other country in Europe. So, I don't think your example would illustrate my point as nicely as Germany, Italy, Spain, France or any country in Scandinavia would.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2003
  10. Aug 10, 2003 #9
    Umm... if you would have bothered to read the rest of my post you would have seen the part where I mentioned construction workers in America.

    Seriously, thanks for attention. I really appreciate it.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2003
  11. Aug 10, 2003 #10
    I think it's combination of factors. I have to agree on the TV/leisure time spent by american. Also portions of food- I haven't been to a european country, but I do know that by comparison most asian countries have much smalls portions at meals. Couple that with the fact that fish and rice are a huge staple, and are high in carbs and more filling for less calories and that explains why you rarely see asians who are fat, let alone obese. I will say that I've been to numerous german restaurants where the meal will consist of at lest 4-5 courses, and all fatty- chicken, brautwurst, bread- lots of high fatty content fooods. I know french food well, and it is the same, though I can't attest to the portions.

    And the work week. I too have heard the rumor of 30 hour work weeks. Also europeans typically get about 6 weeks of vacation time while americans get 2-3. UK may be different. In the US there ARE still a decent amount of labor jobs- contruction, industrial, agricultural. However many of those jobs ARE being either eliminated by technological advances or removal to offshore hiring- it's just not as complete as you would think.

    Also the technology jobs are moving offshore. Originally it was the manual labor, repetative jobs that left. Now it's turning to the more advanced jobs due to the higher cost of hiring tech industry jobs locally, when you can pay someone in say, india half what you pay them here for the same quality of work.

    Anyhow, I can also say it's a regional as well as national thing. California is the land of the thin. fat people are rare here. But if you go further east people are fat, imo, because of the seasons. In the colder seasons people tend to be less active and stay indoors more. Activities like "football" don't help. It's essentially the couch potato syndrome.
  12. Aug 10, 2003 #11
    So you don't think that those people work as hard, or as much, as they used to because of all of the mechanizations?

    Have you tried it, recently?
  13. Aug 10, 2003 #12
    I don't think that most Americans are construction workers. Therefore, I don't think that they contribute to the statistical of Americans being fat. Although, if you've noticed, many construction workers are fat. There isn't much physical activity involved in operating a crane.

    Have I tried it recently? Honestly, I haven't done any construction work since my junior year of undergraduate study. I was 20 years old then, and for few months I helped construct a high energy physics experiment. I laid cement, I put up some structure, I did a little welding... I can't tell you exactly how physical it was because that was seven years ago. I have different metabolism now that I'm older.

  14. Aug 10, 2003 #13
    Apparently you have never operated a crane.

    Metabolism doesn't usually change drastically in anyone lifetime, sooo, you are probably on the same path we all took/take, you have simply slowed down.

    As for your (the US's) "labor force" stats, I don't have any either, as for the "Weight" stats, none of those either, sooo........MOOT!
  15. Aug 10, 2003 #14
    Yea thats what I and most Britains like to hear!

    And i am entitled to 3 weeks holiday per year, only 9 days this year but thats because i have started work most of the way through the year.
  16. Aug 10, 2003 #15
    Jesus Christ! What are you complaining about? A job of that nature in America would give you NO holiday time, NO health benefits, and you would have to start at minimum wage as well.

  17. Aug 10, 2003 #16
    I never meant for it to sound like i was complaining but i am only earning just above the minimum wage, the holiday time is cool, but i ahve already taken up all of those 9 days plus 1 more for when i go on holiday to Menorca in september.

    And its good to have you back entropy, was getting a bit boring around here.
  18. Aug 10, 2003 #17


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    I have to say that in my opinion Americans ARE in general more heavy as Europeans and I have never seen an obese person (in my eyes) in Europe, while I see them everyday in America. I think it is very sad.

    As per the portion size, Entropy, I think Germans generally have a large portion size compared to the rest of Europe, where the portion size is really small..

    I have been to American restaurants in the US and it is just absolutely AMAZING what size plate and how many pieces of meat I am served.. enough to last me three days (seriously). While if I go to a restaurant in Amsterdam, it is REDICULOUS how little food I am served :)

    It is also the spectrum of food that is available.. I had the hardest time shopping for food in the US.. all the sweets are incredibly sweet and the rest is inedible for me (I actually lost a lot of weight being the US).. more healthier things are available in Europe, in my opinion.

    And for the issue of exercise.. I don't mean to insult anyone, but it is a funny story: I notice that the leg-hipjoints in American girls are really close together, while in European people I never saw this. My theory is that Americans don't use the bicycle routinely, while European kids/teenagers bicycle alot (myself 12-16 km a day at least). The saddle of the bike forces the joints to be further apart?

    Anyway, there are a lot of factors, my whole family is very thin, except my sister who is quite big an lives of candy.. every pound goes through the mouth.
  19. Aug 10, 2003 #18


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    An btw, it is very true that Americans work very hard:

    Get to work at 8.30
    at 10.00 half hour coffee break
    at 12.00 whole hour lunch break
    at 14.30 half hour coffe break
    at 17:00 time to go home!

    While in the US people come to work as early as 5 am and go home as late as 1 am, lunch break: half an hour (not even paid!) and no coffee breaks.. it was a big shock to me.. the first thing I asked my first day at work: when are the coffee breaks? I received a weird look :)
  20. Aug 10, 2003 #19
    If i understand this correctly then you are saying that you havent seen anyone obese in europe? are your eyes in backwards, i have seen obese people all over europe the only difference between europe and the US is that the US has a higher percentage of obese people living in it.
  21. Aug 10, 2003 #20
    Have to agree with Andy. If you come to the west coast in america, I believe you'll find a very low percentage of overweight people. Saying that a lot of americans are fat is only a generalization. I've seen tons of fat germans. Granted I don't have first hand experience in europe either.

    People say americans are lazy, but the average white collar work week does indeed run about 50 hours on average. Americans are workahaulics. It is true that we are driven to suceed, but what about the rest of the world? What the priorities in europe?
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