Fini (@finieh on TikTok), a Swiss-German woman living in the United States, shared this response to an American tourist’s video. In the original video, the tourist claimed that she is “somehow” losing weight faster in Europe than in the States despite not practicing a restrictive diet on her vacation. Fini stitched the original video to share an explanation of the nutritional differences between both cultures.
Fini grew up in Europe and currently lives in the U.S. as a student. Having experienced life on both sides, Fini states that she has also experienced a “weird” weight loss phenomenon when spending time in her home country despite making no changes to her diet.
While Fini is not an expert, she attributes the phenomenon to how European food industries are generally “so much more” regulated than U.S. food industries.
“I could go into the nitty-gritty, but all it takes is a quick Google [search] on all the chemicals that are legal in the U.S. but banned in the EU,” Fini explained.
Fini then provides a visual example of the impact that banning certain chemicals can have on different food items’ nutrition levels. In this video, she shows how Fruit Loops look in the U.S. compared with the EU. The American Fruit Loops cup is significantly more colorful than the European cup. However, the appealing presentation of the American cup does not make it the better option for humans to consume.
“A lot of the chemicals in the U.S. that make the food look better, taste better and last longer are really, really bad for you,” Fini said.
TikTokers took to Fini’s comment section to discuss more factors as to why spending time in the EU may contribute to a healthier lifestyle and easier weight management.
“American [food] portions are comically large to a lot of Europeans,” a TikToker commented.
“You just walk around a whole lot more while traveling, and the food is less sugary. If you moved more in the U.S., you would’ve also lost weight,” another wrote.
Does the EU really live healthier in comparison to the U.S.?
While the “weight loss phenomenon” that Fini and other vacationing TikTokers experienced in the EU is an interesting discussion point, venturing to Europe is not an be-all, end-all solution to getting fit.
“Weight is based on the simple principle of energy balance. The laws of physics do not change depending on your geographic location,” said Paula Doebrich, MPH, RDN, of Happea Nutrition, based in New York but originally from Germany.
Although the EU’s food industries are generally more regulated than those in the United States, it does not eliminate the possibility of weight loss being difficult for Europeans. According to Janet Coleman, a registered dietician and health and wellness contributor for TheConsumerMag, weight loss speed is dependent on an individual’s personal diet choices and lifestyle. For example, a city dweller is more prone to weight gain due to fewer outdoor exercise opportunities and more fast food access.
“It is true that some countries have stricter food industry regulations than others, but this does not mean that it is easier for someone living in those countries to lose weight compared with someone living in another country with less strict regulations,” Coleman said.
While Fini’s argument that the EU’s banning of certain food chemicals leads to Europeans eating healthier diets compared with Americans is compelling, the truth behind her statement is debatable. For one thing, eliminating unhealthy substances from our diets has long-term health benefits.
“Banning trans fats, for example, can make certain foods a little bit healthier, or at least less bad for health, less inflammatory,” said Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, senior dietitian and assistant professor at UCLA and author of Recipe for Survival. “Inflammation, especially from the foods we eat, can be associated with weight gain or more difficult weight loss.”
However, Doebrich argued that food chemicals do not significantly impact weight loss and clarified specific regulation differences between the United States and EU food industries.
“Any known dangerous chemicals are already banned from the food supply in both the United States and the European Union. The belief that the food supply in the U.S. is unsafe is based on a flawed logic that keeps getting repeated by people without sufficient knowledge of regulations in both countries,” Doebrich said. “Whether a substance is allowed in a country or not says little about its safety.”
Furthermore, the topic of how cultural differences between the U.S. and the EU affect nutrition and weight management is also worthy of debate. Many of Fini’s viewers took to her comment section to share generalized observations of how European culture differs from America’s. Europeans “walk more” and eat smaller meal portions with less sugary foods. Some even noted that the stress relief from vacationing in Europe could contribute to weight loss.
Coleman agreed with a few of Fini’s commenters’ observations but emphasized that they are factors that apply to people worldwide and not just in Europe.
“I would say that the most important factor of weight loss would be eating less sugar. This is because sugar has a high amount of calories and lowers your metabolism due to its effect on insulin,” Coleman said. “I would also suggest walking more often than driving, as this can decrease stress levels and burn calories. It is also important to reduce portion sizes and eat smaller meals, as this will help you feel fuller for longer periods of time, which can prevent overeating in between meals.”
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