9/20/16 - The Over-Romanticizing of European Health
Americans are often guilty of glorifying of European lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong. In many instances, we romanticism Europe for all the right reasons. It’s full of beautiful places, gorgeous people, rich, culture, and history that puts our concepts of timelessness to shame. I’d argue that pastimes of the many European cultures worth borrowing at face value are a generally more admirable relationship with food, stronger communal gatherings, and a discerning taste for quality. One area of over-romanticizing, however, happens in the areas of health and nutrition.
Of course, we don’t need to look far to find numerous examples of human efforts to completely miss the point on health and nutrition. We’ve detailed the oddities of human nature before. We’ll do crazy things before we’ll take responsibility for our own health and performance, including spend more money, go under the knife, tortuous diets, and the like. For example, we want to justify eating bread and drinking wine so bad, that we glorify the European lifestyle and say things like, “They don’t have the problems we have.” It’s so self-serving for our desires to be irresponsible that we build up a culture of people that aren’t ubiquitously obese, like we are, and use it as a guiding light for optimal living.
Here’s the deal, I have no intention of poorly generalizing a population of people, but Europe isn’t the pinnacle of human nutrition, body composition, health, and/or performance. They wouldn’t say that about themselves, either. Most Europeans would assume, often rightfully so, that being a Southern California fitness practitioner, that you are the pinnacle of health and fitness. I find it troubling that the American standard is so low when it comes to nutrition and body-type that not-obesity is an idealistic outcome. If not-obesity is the best we can do then, yes, Europe should be our idol.
I’d hope that we’d at least do two things, though. Firstly, I’d hope we’d have enough goddamn pride to set our sights higher than not-obesity as an ideal body image. Secondly, and this is a big stretch, but I’d hope that we could all realize that things are as they are. Fitness and nutrition, though emotionally charged, are pretty black and white when it comes to the numbers.
To continue with our example, like any food, bread has a nutritional make up. Bread’s nutritional profile of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, as well as the corresponding micronutrient profile has the same effect in North America as it does in Ireland and Greece. Regardless of opinion or emotion, relative to other forms of carbohydrate, bread offers little to no nutritional value. Generally speaking, bread is a loser of a food choice when compared to virtually hundreds of other carbohydrates. Similarly, wine isn’t a nutritional power house, either, even if you consider the antioxidants we can’t wait to talk about. It’s liquid sugar, affects sleep, diminishes growth hormone, and won’t help you.
Before the tears stream down your face in guilt, you should know that I’ll drink wine more days than I won’t this year. I’ve had plenty of bread, too, but it doesn’t make it a great nutritional resource. Whether I have abs or not doesn’t change the nutritional make up of these foods, either. Whether they are chewed in Venice Beach or on the Amalfi coast also has no effect. “But, it’s less processed over there..”
Stop it. It’s not broccoli all the sudden just because a guy made it in a thousand year old oven. It’s bread, the cheapest, most basic form of sustenance known to man.
I’m not writing this because I think you should give up either for the rest of your life. I do think, however, we should start being honest with ourselves.
Europe isn’t a magical place where bead turns into lean muscle and wine hydrates your pores. We’re all playing by the same rules of nature and what we need is a little bit of honest accountability before we run wild with fantasies, European or not, when it comes to our health and nutrition.
1 Hang Power Snatch
1 Hang Snatch
3x 5 Wall Walks
3x 100′ DB Walking Lunge