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Why are French people slimmer than Americans?


Author | Shi Donglu
Lifelong Professor, University of Cincinnati, USA NANO-LIFE Editor-in-Chief


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One of my students has never left their hometown, a city in the Midwestern United States. This city, which is very common in the United States, was once one of the top ten “obese cities” in the United States. One day, he came to my office and said goodbye to me. He said that he would go to Europe for vacation with his friends in the summer. This is the first time in his life. I congratulate him and tell him where he should go because I just came back from a French academic vacation. I said that Marseille is fun, because Nice is too touristized. I said that the fish soup in Marseille is original, and when it comes to Nice, it changes according to American tastes. I even complained that the Nice Hotel Manager’s English is so good that I can’t feel that I am in France in the American standard room. So I like the quaint little inn in the south of France, even the keys are cast copper, and the sound of oh yeah on the old wooden floor. Even more appreciate that the Maasai people only speak French, only if you don't understand. I said, go do one thing according to my requirements. When you are in Paris, he is surprised: "Where are you going?" "Oh, it’s very simple, you just have to stand on the Champs Avenue for a while and see Pedestrians, just do it! Unless you want, let's make a trip to Europe!"

The autumn of that year came so fast. It seems that the earth is still not hot, and the leaves turn red from green. I was preparing for the class that day and I heard someone knocking at the door. It is my students to open the door. "Hey, are you coming back to pull, is Europe fun?" I even forgot what he was doing for me. He didn't talk, just watching this, I smiled stupidly. I finally saw that his smile had the kind of reaction and feeling that I expected him on the Champs Avenue.
I remember when I first came to work here, I found that there were many "obese people in the Midwestern city." At first, I thought it was just an unfounded personal impression, but it was no accident that it was an occasional opportunity to argue. When I saw overweight people more frequently, I found that I needed to confirm my observations with my friends. But my local friend denied it. He believes that there is no fundamental difference between local Americans and other places. So I asked him to go shopping at a supermarket. I said let's wait at the door and count the proportion of overweight people. We don't need scales because we only count those people who are obviously obese. I said, "You decide which one is obese." Fortunately, this man and I are studying science and engineering. We have the same experimental experience and analytical methods. As a result, we found that at least 50% of the dozens of people we examined that day were absolutely obese. After the admission, my friend asked me to eat at the restaurant. When he was eating, he joked and said: "If I live here for a long time, I became obese, but I still don't know it!"

My student is still standing at the door with a smile. I know what he is thinking. Because he grew up here, he has become accustomed to everything around him, including lifestyle, eating habits, and even people's "normal" body size and weight. When he first came to a completely new cultural environment, he was very sensitive to various differences, such as weight. He finally spoke up: "But why, the teacher, the French will be so slim, in fact, the whole of Europe is like this, the body is light, thin and chic. And we Americans are so fat and big." I laughed: " When I came back to the United States from Europe, I also asked the same question, but its answer was very complicated." "You know, there are already many experts studying this problem. But as of today, they are not ideal. s answer."

What the experts are most interested in is diet. They tried to find the answer first from the diet structure. The experts found a comparison between American and French recipes, but were surprised to find that the answer was exactly the opposite of what they imagined. They found that the heat in the French food was no less than that of the United States, and their attitude towards sweets and love for chocolate were almost sacred. Americans are always asking how to store chocolate better. Is it in the refrigerator or in the freezer? French humorous answer: The best place should be in your stomach! Because chocolate is like Chinese tea, it can't be stored for a long time. When I was in France, I discovered that the French prefer the original food. They are really incredible for Americans to eat fake food such as fake butter. French feasts have oily sausages, rich foie gras, and tender pork knuckles. The French bread for the meal is often coated with pure butter. Its heat can be imagined.


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I used to have lunch at a French work station, where the restaurant not only had a hot meal every day, but also a variety of desserts, cheeses and cold cuts. There is a wide variety of hot meals there, not limited to French cuisine, with Italian, Spanish and German dishes from time to time. The French even drink alcohol at lunch, including champagne, wine and beer, which is unpredictable in the United States.

I found that the French people did not get as much food as the Americans. Check out my typical lunch in France.

a small pork chops or steak
Add rice or noodles with gravy
Cooked vegetables or potatoes
One or two bun (bread is available free of charge in the cafeteria)
a small plate of salad
Piece of cheese
a piece of dessert
a bottle of soda


Although I don't know how much heat this meal has, the heat and weight of French food will never be lower than that of the United States.

Experts then look for reasons for the way and speed of eating. They think that Americans like to eat fast food, because they swallow too fast, they may eat too much at one time. The French eat slowly and leisurely, good at taste, which is conducive to the digestion of food and the dissipation of heat. Indeed, if you go to the French home for a dinner party on weekends, the time may extend to midnight. If you go to the restaurant, you should start eating after nine or ten o'clock, and you should enjoy it slowly. But the usual meal is not slow. When I was having lunch with my French colleagues, I found that they were even faster than I ate. The most common thing for the French to eat is to wipe the plate with bread at the end. At this time I realized the need for bread in French food.

Since it is difficult to draw convincing conclusions from food calories and eating patterns, experts have begun to find out the reasons for physical exercise and lifestyle. From my experience living in France, I found that Americans pay more attention to their body size than the French. In the United States, not only gyms abound, but also fitness-related advertising and products flooding the US market, such as weightlifting equipment, treadmills, sporting goods, and more. Other weight loss systems, physical nutrition, book videos, countless. If you want to work out in hotels around the world, you are advised to book a large American chain, because European hotels generally do not have a gym. Americans will think about their weight and calories in every move. If China is a "food culture," then the United States can definitely be called "weight culture" or "calorie culture." In the United States, the praise of a person's appearance is the first to bear the weight. Regardless of the appearance, as long as it is slim, it is healthy and beautiful. Therefore, the United States in the film and television magazine according to this standard to establish a variety of cover models for people to follow. But unanimously attracted the opposition and criticism of obese people (these photos are too stressful for them, making them feel unsafe and humiliating).


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But in France, people seem to be indifferent to their bodies. First of all, the French are not as crazy as the Americans to exercise the almost deformed muscles. There is only one small and simple practice room in my unit. After work, almost no one is exercising inside. On the contrary, in the American gym, there are many sweaty athletes every day. And my French colleagues will meet in the pub, often late at night. French and Europeans are more interested in traveling, skiing, cycling, climbing, camping and more. I have seen hordes of cyclists on the high altitudes of the Alpine Mountains. I have also met a Dutch professor in the UK. When he was chatting, he proudly told me that he finally became a "car-free class." He just bought a house near the train station. So he sold his car. He told me that every weekend, he would ride back to the Netherlands from Cambridge, England. This surprised me. But in the United States, some people may show off their luxury, large cars. In Europe, many people have long been car-free. As we all know, most Europeans will focus on public transportation. Thus another theory holds that Europeans walk more and ride more than Americans. But there is no statistical, quantitative analysis. From the general observation, the total amount of American sports may be more than that of Europe, because the American gym is definitely more than France. Therefore, it is very difficult to draw clear conclusions from physical exercise.

If we can't get the conclusion that the French are slimmer than the Americans from the diet structure, living habits, sports, etc., we can only find answers from other places. In scientific research, some scholars can often give a "guess" or "intuition" when the experiment has not yet taken place. But this kind of "guessing" is by no means an arbitrary arrogance. It is a kind of sentiment and judgment produced by people with strict scientific training in accordance with scientific ideas, methods, and personal experience of many years of observation. And this intuition is often the premature thinking of the ideological and scientific experiments of scientific thought. The author has a guess about this weight difference. Maybe someone will be interested in doing a series of experiments to prove it in the future.

This "emulate" behavior can also be found in the animal world because it is a necessary rule of survival. In group activities, all ethnic groups must act in unison to obtain the greatest chance of survival. For example, when most birds take off because of an attack, all the birds will fly in succession to avoid disaster. Their skin color, feathers, shape and weight are basically similar, easy to identify, get signals, and coordinate. If there are individuals who are too heavy or too small, difficulties will occur in the group's actions and eventually they will be eliminated.

If we apply this phenomenon to the simulation of weight, it is easy to find out why the French are slimmer than the Americans. In France or Europe, the “peer pressure” will subconsciously regulate a standard of personal shape and weight, and even appearance. So we will find that the French look like French, and the Germans look like Germans. Even Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans have their own characteristics (see photo). This is not necessarily because of the genes. Because a Korean or Japanese person has lived in China for a long time, it may become like a Chinese. A friend of mine lived in Tokyo for 30 years. When I saw him, it was a Japanese. Not only does it mean wearing, but the characteristics of the face.


Due to historical and cultural reasons, this shape and weight are far less than the American standard. On the other hand, we have even found that this weight standard is proportional to the size of the surrounding environment, such as rooms, streets, cars, elevators, and thus is likely to have an inherent relationship. It is easy to prove that the geometric dimensions of European municipalities are much smaller than those of the United States (including cars), so people's size is relatively scaled down. In fact, this subconscious shape and weight is also an aesthetic standard. For the French, the light body, the moving beauty, and the elegant costumes are really important. This invisible pressure makes most French people subconsciously assume this standard of beauty, and is duty-bound to simulate and approach. Although the author does not have experimental data and biological clinical support, it can be considered that the French can't stand to maintain more than two hundred pounds of weight in the long-term. As a result, the French endocrine, metabolism, self-control will inevitably be adjusted to the greatest extent possible under such extreme aesthetic requirements, so that their weight can be kept in the vicinity of their own standards. Only in this way can they maintain a psychological balance relatively under the pressure of peers.

And this phenomenon has entered the other extreme in the United States. Since the weight of the social consciousness is far beyond the normal level (such as two hundred pounds), in some areas (such as the Midwest), people with this weight are everywhere. Therefore, "peer pressure" has long been overweight and biased. In this way, even obese people will feel very natural, and there is no pressure to lose weight. They even think that their weight is in the "normal" range, because everyone is like this. If the brain relaxes its vigilance, the whole body will be subconsciously disarmed, so more and more obese people. Therefore, the root cause of obesity is not the diet and living habits, but the psychological simulation process. Often the psychological power will be much higher than many external factors, such as the amount of calories ingested. Especially for the world today, the conditions for everyone in developed countries are basically similar. There should be no fundamental difference between genes in Europe and America. Then, the decisive factors that depend on weight are likely to come from psychological, cultural, social, aesthetic and other aspects.

If the above theory is established, then the most effective way to keep slim is not to eat diet pills and participate in weight loss training, but to live with slim people. If you can feel the "peer pressure from the slim people," then you will naturally simulate them based on them, thus maintaining a slim figure. Because if you are obese, it will add a lot of psychological pressure and be confused. Then you will lose your sense of self-esteem and security. You only have the same size as everyone else to ease this pressure and live a stable life.
The phenomenon of “simulation” is very similar to cultural assimilation. As you enter a new culture, for the sake of security, you will gradually be assimilated by different cultures and become one of them. You are more and more similar in behavior and in different cultures. If you are in France, you will be slim forever. However, in the United States, especially in the Midwest, you probably have a tendency to gain weight. No? You may not be able to wear your clothes five years ago! This is not because you are eating better, but that you are constantly "simulating" or "approaching" to the environment.