Lessons from another culture

I’ve spent the last 9 days in the UK, visiting my family. I have a few observations about the differences in the culture surrounding food and exercise in the two countries.

  1. People in the UK get more exercise as part of their daily life.
    Every day my sister walks her twin girls to school and back twice.  She probably gets 5,000 step a day just from that.  It is less than 10 minutes’ walk away, so it is easier and quicker to walk than to strap the kids into their car seats, drive, park, and get them out again. There are plentiful sidewalks.
    My mum lives within walking distance of the train & bus station and most of the shops in downtown Shrewsbury, and doesn’t own a car.  As a result, she gets plenty of exercise just from the activities of everyday life.
    In America I frequently spend all day in the car or the office and I am lucky to hit 3,000 steps unless I intentionally exercise  It seems much harder to have a completely sedentary day in the UK.
  2. Bigger meals, fewer snacks.
    I was stuffed after every meal in the UK, but noticed that I was rarely offered a snack between meals. In America I tend to eat smaller meals and graze more throughout the day. This may actually be leading me to consume more calories overall.
  3. Eating out is expensive.
    There are no free refills on drinks, and eating out is still a treat. We went to a pub for dinner and ordered 3 entrees, 1 kids meal, a glass of wine, a pint of beer and 3 soft drinks – no appetizers or desserts. The bill was the equivalent of $100. A small latte is ~$4.50. The cost of gas is also much higher, so people are less apt to drive long distances.  As a result, people tend to eat out far less in the UK. On several occasions we packed a picnic lunch at home and brought that with us, instead of eating out.

There are some lessons to be learned here. When I move to New York state next year, I am very keen to find a neighborhood with sidewalks.  Even better if it is within walking distance of downtown shops, services and the station.  This will make it easier to do errands on foot, and to walk around the block to meet my new neighbors. Maybe I will also make a effort to snack less, and to regard eating out as a treat, not an everyday occurrence.

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