American Lack of Portion Control, The French Method

“By 2030, America’s obesity rate could be 42%,” says USA Today. WOW.

In yesterday’s article “What would you do to lose weight?“, I put forth a few questions; one of which was:

How can an American learn to change their eating habits when everyone around them is stuffing themselves at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet?

“We are slaves to our environment,” says researcher David Levitsky. He suggests that if we have huge portion, big packaging and low prices, we are doomed to have no will power to resist. Sure we can be on a diet or a new exercise plan but “once treatment is terminated and people return to the ‘free’ environment, their weight returns to pre-treatment levels.”

It’s happened to me. It’s probably happened to you; however, are we not in control of how much we eat? Apparently not.

American waistlines grow as the portion sizes get bigger. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute put forth a few examples:

  • Bottle of soda for a single serving 20 years ago was 6.5 oz. Today is 20 oz.
  • Coffee was a normal 8 oz 20 years ago. Now, it’s 16 oz.

It’s satisfying to look at a big plate full of food–home cooked or otherwise. It seems we are spiraling out of control. Eating and eating our way to more medical problems and bigger bodies. Perhaps American culture is to blame, perhaps not. We like to get more bang for our buck (at least, I know I do). More food for less cost.

As I look at other cultures and how they view food, I instantly think about France. It’s no surprise. Their culture is known for their food and wine. Perhaps, in a grossly romantic sense.  Still, they are one of the countries with the lowest obesity rate (although this is rising).

Look at the numbers

  • 2010 American obesity rate was 36%
  • 2011 French obesity rate was ~14%, up from 8% ten years ago

With this 14% rate, the French are, to say it mildly, freaking out. It’s said that they are moving to eating more American-type fast food and drinking more soda. Even though they are gaining weight, they are still one of the thinnest countries in the world.

When I look at those percentages, I think about how vastly different their food culture is compared to the typical American culture.

French viewpoint towards food

  • No snacking – I never see people walking and eating or driving and eating.
  • Grocery shopping everyday for the nightly meal
  • Larger portions are at lunchtime
  • Meals are at a table and over a longer period of time

In 2003, researchers looked at the American and French food culture differences. They compared similar establishments in Philadelphia and Paris. Here is what they found:

  • Portion size in Philadelphia was 25% higher than Paris
  • “A candy bar sold in Philadelphia was 41 percent larger than the same product in Paris”
  • “A soft drink was 52 percent larger” in Philadelphia
  • “A carton of yogurt was 82 percent larger” in Philadelphia

Perhaps I am not giving the American population enough credit. People can control the amount they eat, it’s possible; however, do these people do this all the time? Do they have more will power?

Related Reading

USA Today, “Obesity could affect 42% of Americans by 2030″

NPR, “The French Are Getting Fatter, Too”

Bliss Tree “Researchers: When It Comes To Portions, We’re “Slaves To Our Environment”

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Science Daily “Smaller Food Portions May Explain The ‘French Paradox’ Of Rich Foods And A Svelte Population”

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4 responses to “American Lack of Portion Control, The French Method

  1. Pingback: The Pleasure of Cooking | Losing Ambition·

  2. Pingback: Top 4 Ways to Stop Eating Processed Food | Losing Ambition·

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