Europe et Fat

meowser-48.jpg posted by meowser

If Brian at Red No. 3 ever does a Fat Hate Bingo 3 card, one of the boxes needs to be “Europeans are so much thinner and healthier!” Because nobody in Europe is “obese,” you know. Nobody. The “obesity” rate in all of Europe — and not just in the spendy tourist areas where poorer people can’t afford to live, but everywhere — is zero. Because Europe is one unified country, consisting of nothing but slender, year-round-bike-riding, never-smoking, never-boozing, never-drugging, organic-veggie-gobbling, sugar-free, walk-three-miles-a-day-in-addition-to-all-the-bike-rides, affluent-because-they-deserve-it, stress-management-genius HEALTH NUTS, who’d never be caught dead in a McDonald’s. Yeah. I’ve never even been on the continent — I got only as far as London — but I must call “80 pound bag of BS.”

Here’s a list of “overweight/obesity” charts from the WHO that pertain to Europe, the first one being the most recent, focusing on adults ages 35 to 64. (Sorry, but there’s no direct link to any of them, they have to be opened as spreadsheets.) Have a gander for yourself. Not one European nation has an “obesity” rate of zero, or even close to it. Not one. (And note that women are more likely to be “obese” than men, despite — or because of? — having more expectation of being thin.) Most of Europe has “overweight and obesity” rates combined that equal about ours. And if America has more who are “obese,” has anyone stopped to think that the difference between BMI 29 (“overweight”) and BMI 30 (“obese”) — or, for that matter, the difference between “overweight” and “normal” — is five shitty pounds? That’s all it takes to go from Lifestyle Role Model to Self-Destructive Carbon-Dioxide-Belching Machine. Even if you smoke two packs a day and the Self-Destructive Carbon-Dioxide-Belching Machine has never had a single cigarette ever.

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12 Responses to “Europe et Fat”

  1. Laura P Says:

    What’s that book… “French Women Don’t Get Fat”. Erm, yeah. One wonders if the author ever went outside Paris, or saw a French woman over the age of 40.

    I’m a Brit myself, living in London, and I’m happy tell you I’m obese 😉

  2. Katherine Says:

    I’m from the UK, and the media here are forever banging on about the dreaded obesity crisis (with the smug-mention- masquerading-as-dire warning that we are still behind/catching up with the US – there’s nothing us Brits enjoy quite so much as a bit of America-bashing). There’s a lot of fuss about how people here have forgotten to cook and rely on processed foods, which is probably true to an extent (though arguably more worrying in environmental/health terms than for its putative effect on our waistlines). I think things in continental Europe are supposed to be a bit ‘better’; certainly people hold up France and Italy as examples of countries that have got it right, with more of a culture of making foods from scratch etc. However, I think it mainly represents that eternal phenomenon whereby people pine for a lost golden age, locating it just over the horizen (hence many American’s confident proclamations about ‘Europe’ as some untarnished foodie paradise, ignoring the fact that obese people exist basically everywhere, or ‘experts’ urging us to cook how our grandmothers cooked, ignoring the prevalence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases in the ‘olden days’ that they paint as a salutary example to us pampered fatties).

  3. wriggles Says:

    To be fair, American parochalism doesn’t help either. I’m sure the endless phrasing as a uniquely US, phenomenon, has a brainwashing effect, causing a trick of the eye.

    I think there also needs to be a this is the death of x (country). Because fatness as a threat to the nation state has gone global, plus for that matter a ‘globesity’ square, fat as a threat to planet earth itself.

  4. Sarah Brodwall Says:

    Hmmm….as an American expat living in Norway, I can vouch for the fact that Americans are way fatter than Norwegians…both statistically and anecdotally. When I get off the plane in the US after having been in Norway for a while, I’m always flabbergasted, so to speak, about how fat Americans are. You just don’t see fat people in Norway. I’m 5’10”, size 24-26, and it’s incredibly rare that I see anyone my size. There are many people who have a bit of extra padding on them, people who would register as “overweight” statistically, but that few would consider actually fat.

    My personal experience is corroborated by the statistics. Norway has excellent online access to national statistics, and I was able to look up the most recent statistics about weight very easily (http://statbank.ssb.no/statistikkbanken/Default_FR.asp?PXSid=0&nvl=true&PLanguage=1&tilside=selectvarval/define.asp&Tabellid=06181). Also check out http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/09/08/healthcare_data/index.html. Norway has 10% “obese” people, whereas the US has over a third percentage-wise (44% of Norwegians have a BMI above 25, about two-thirds percentage-wise for Americans). The US has about equal numbers of “obese” and “overweight” people, whereas Norway has over three times as many “overweight” people as “obese” people. “Obese” people, IMO, are the people who are visibly fat, whereas “overweight” people look mostly normal, to my eyes. This is what accounts for people’s (correct) perception that Americans are fatter (than Norwegians, at least!).

    It seems to me that you’re beating a straw man in most of the first paragraph of your post. I’ve never heard anyone claim that there are no fat Europeans, or that all Europeans are extreme health nuts (smoking and boozing it up are a lot worse here, I’m pretty sure). Making this straw man argument, particularly when statistics and people’s perceptions tell them otherwise, is dangerous because it makes us look less credible, and thus more likely to be dismissed when we want to debunk statistics about how fat affects health.

  5. Too Much Information Says:

    […] had an interesting post today about how fat Americans are vs. what people say about how fat Europeans are. My comment is still in moderation, but here is what I wrote: Hmmm….as an American expat living […]

  6. Blimp Says:

    This is just what you would expect from media controlled by the British financial empire. The nations of Europe are held up as superior to the U.S. because they are more submissive to the global financial oligarchy based in London, especially those nations that gave up their national currencies and sovereign control of their budgets for the European Union and the Maastrict Stability Pact. But even those nations that didn’t join the EU are still beloved of the financial oligarchy when they bailout their banks, especially foreign-owned ones, go along with free-trade agreements, wreck their economies further by going green, promote the Lisbon Treaty, and finally, promote “recreational” drug use, prostitution and euthanasia, as means to raise tax revenues and cut health care costs.

    When Americans revive the spirit of 1776 and stop sleeping with their enemy, and stop sending troops to get into stupid fights that our enemy loves to see us get into, maybe we’ll stop worrying about our weight as well. When we reject the counter-culture, go nuclear, and get serious about space exploration, weight-watching will vanish, and so will the British Empire! Then, at long last, the people of the British Isles will have an opportunity to establish a government of them, by them and for them.

  7. meowser Says:

    Sarah J. Brodwall, you’ve obviously not spent as much time on “liberal” American blogs as I have. I see the “Europeans are thinner and healthier!” meme all the damn time (usually in comments rather than in the original post, but still). And it’s from Americans who are deeply ashamed that we’re not as good-looking as the Europeans they see in their travels (never mind that there aren’t a lot of fatasses in Beverly Hills or Scottsdale, either).

    And 44 percent is definitely a lower percentage of “overweight and obese” than most European nations; usually when people say that they’re not talking about Scandinavian nations where relatively few Americans travel for recreation, but about places like France, Spain, and Italy, where fat people certainly are not statistical anomalies. It would make sense that a Scandinavian nation where almost everyone is WASP (and Nordic WASP at that) would have that happening.

  8. Laura P Says:

    I’m loving Blimp’s bizarre post. The stuff about how all of Europe gave up its currencies to join one… for the British Empire… when the UK doesn’t use the Euro… my brain just exploded.

    Meowser, I think Sarah Brodwall missed your point about Europe being seen as one entity. I totally agree with you on that – I get so frustrated with people saying “I want to see Europe”, as if there’s one homogenous culture. The cultural differences are staggeringly vast even between reratively small distances (cf. London & Birmingham).

    Next up: Africa is one country 🙂

  9. Susan Says:

    Dear Blimp, this is the weirdest stuff I’ve ever read. I’ve never heard that the Euroland countries are ever submissive to the UK – quite the opposite in fact. There is a great deal of financial rivalry between UK and the continent. We consider ourselves part of the anglo-saxon community rather than part of *Europe*, because Europe for us is a totally different culture.

    In the UK, 1/3 people are underweight or normal weight, 1/3 are overweight and 1/3 are obese. I think this is roughly equal to US rates.

    The major difference between the fat people of europe and those of the anglo saxon world is that in general europeans eat much higher quality food. Therefore they suffer from far less ill health even when they are overweight.

    Euthanasia has never been used to raise tax revenue. Only a very miniscule number of people are euthanased in europe so it wouldn’t be raising very much anyway, lol. And don’t some parts of america have legal brothels?

    I do agree, however, that the US should stop starting wars in foreign countries that they understand zip all about.

    • Blimp Says:

      Under the Liverpool Care Pathway instituted in the U.K. in 2008, 16.5% of all deaths in the U.K. are caused by euthanasia. Still more are caused by NICE cost-effectiveness and comparative effectiveness guidelines which limit the use of many medical tests, procedures and medications, which have been in effect for longer, having been promoted by former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair. Euthanasia is not used to raise tax revenue, but to cut public medical expenditures.

      In any country and in any age, the popular culture is a death trap, although there are moments when the people sense that they are being treated like a herd of cattle, and they get the idea that this should not be, so they go on a mass strike.

      The last mass strike in Europe was in East Germany in 1989. Unfortunately, the British Empire succeeded in breaking the spirit of that mass strike, forcing Germany to accept the European Union and the Maastrict Stability Pact as a condition of reunification. A large part of what caused that strike to fail was President George H.W. Bush and his disgusting alliance with the U.K.’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. President Francois Mitterand of France was also part of that alliance. Right at the beginning of G.H.W. Bush’s term, Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. was put in prison, where he remained for 5 years. Coincidence?

      Yes, it is true that some U.S. states legalize gambling, prostitution, and marijuana, and in Oregon, doctor-assisted suicide and living wills are legal. It is also true that many miseducated Americans consider themselves part of the “Anglo-Saxon” community, rather than Renaissance people who speak English (and should learn to speak other languages!) Benjamin Franklin, the intellectual leader of the American Revolution, was first and foremost a Renaissance man! The sooner we begin to think of ourselves in that way, the sooner the weight-watching will cease, as we set our sights upon filling the galaxy with beautiful manifestations of Renaissance ideas. Gambling, prostitution, drugs and all forms of euthanasia and health care rationing will be banned because they are obstacles to Renaissance intellectual and moral development. That’s the way Americans need to think: American patriotism is NOT insisting on English only, or bowing to the Queen, or sending troops everywhere except Londonistan. It’s love for humanity and independence from the enemies of humanity.

      • sannanina Says:

        The last mass strike in Europe was in East Germany in 1989. Unfortunately, the British Empire succeeded in breaking the spirit of that mass strike, forcing Germany to accept the European Union and the Maastrict Stability Pact as a condition of reunification.

        I am sorry… WHAT?!? It is true that Magaret Thatcher did not support the reunification of Germany, but West-Germany was one of the founding nations of the EU, at a time when very few people thought reunification of Germany would be possible – and the UK was not too happy about the foundation of the EU. Plus, I doubt that it would have been possible without the EU for Germany to have the kind of friendly relations with its neighbors that it has today – only 70 years after the beginning of the WWII.

        As for the legalization of “soft” drugs – I lived in the Netherlands for the past 3 years and have only recently returned to my home country Germany. While the Netherlands are currently changing their drug policy and their policy on prostitution the original legalization of cannabis and magic mushrooms as well as fairly open prostitution compared to other European countries was much more a result of the traditionally liberal Dutch spirit than of profit motives (and most certainly not of profit motives of the global financial oligarchy). Profit motives of the Dutch government certainly played a role though, but the Dutch are traditionally pragmatically minded and I do not necessarily see harm in the reasoning that if something is happening anyway and the costs to society are tolerable you might as well make money from it. In addition, the Netherlands always spent a lot of money on drug education and during my time there I read several offical brochures that said things along the lines of “remember, just because it is legal doesn’t mean you have to do it or that it is a good thing”. (I do think though that euthanasia is a problem in the countries where it is legal – but it hardly became legalized for financial reasons. It is much more a result of the not-so-wrong idea that sometimes people become so sick and their quality of life so low that they should have the right to choose to end their lives prematurely. What this idea does overlook, though, is that the cases in which extremely low quality of life is mainly due to the illness instead of to the limited resources the sick person has at hand are few. Plus, there are unfortunately cases when people feel they are too much of a burden for their family or for society to continue living.)

        Getting back to the original post: As a “morbidly obese” European I really, really cannot hear the “there are not fat Europeans” meme anymore. “Obesity” rates in Europe vary from country to country, but there are plenty of countries that have percentages of fat people that are close the numbers in the States. (And Sarah – I have heard quite a few people claim that there are virtually no fat people in Europe. And while “obesity” rates in Europe are lower on average than in States this is definitely false.) I personally DO wonder why we have become heavier – but I think the answer is probably quite complex and I doubt it will boil down to “we eat too much fastfood”.


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