This morning I read this article posted by @wandsci describing a woman's
struggle journey to become and stay a size 0. I had never really thought about this much, but apparently in the eyes of some men "taking good care of yourself" as a woman means being skinny to the point where it's no fun anymore (unless you really enjoy running 8 miles every morning and exclusively eating iceberg lettuce for dinner. I wouldn't enjoy this much). Also: yikes. I have never been a size 0 but I also have never really struggled to be the size 4-6 that I am. I do however, have some observations to share regarding how easy it was to lose the ~10 extra pounds (5 kilos) that I had gained during both of my pregnancies.
While living in the US when BlueEyes was born, it took me about a year of normal eating and breastfeeding to lose those 10 pounds and fit back into my old jeans. While living in Europe for the past two months (Little Brother is almost 6 months now), I am already almost at my pre-pregnant weight AND I fit in all my old clothes. I could have written a funny blog post about how a stressful transatlantic move is an excellent, but very expensive, weight loss strategy, but instead I think there are three important differences between the US and EU in terms of how difficult it is to lose weight.
1. Added sugar. The first morning back in Europe when I drank orange juice from the supermarket, I could almost not keep a normal expression on my face:"oh my god this was so sour!". This made me realize how much added sugar the supermarket orange juice in the US must have. Same goes for most bread and a whole range of other products. Nearly everything you buy in the US tastes a lot sweeter than in Europe (yeah unless you buy organic super foods at Whole foods, but as a post-doc that means your entire paycheck turns into food).
2. Food availability. On the campus where I work now, there is 1 little supermarket, 1 restaurant (that is too expensive to eat lunch at on a daily basis) and a bunch of cafeteria's that have mostly soup and sandwiches but nothing fancy. The building that I'm in now, does not even have a vending machine! I bring my own lunch every day, because it is just too far to walk to anywhere I can buy food. Also: no free cookies/pizza/lunch or anything with meetings (I would be lying if I said I don't miss that..). But my point is: it is much harder here to find food, and there's much less of a culture of buying food for lunch.
3. Exercise. In the US, I would drive to work, park my car and have a 5 minute walk to daycare and the lab. I could bike to work, but I deemed it too dangerous to bike with BlueEyes, so only one of us could bike at a time. Here, we COULD drive to work, but we would have to park much further away from the lab. Also, because of traffic in the afternoon it literally takes an hour to get home, while it's a 20 minute bike ride. So we bike to work everyday, with BlueEyes and Little Brother in the cargo bike. But also in general, you usually have to walk just a bit further to get to a parking space from a store or to go to the downtown area of most cities. It's a lot easier to get 'free' exercise.
I'm not saying one is better than the other: I love the infrastructure in most US cities that allows you to park right where you need to be, instead of some European cities where taking your car to go pick something up from a store means trying to find very expensive parking for hours (and I realize this is very different between US cities too!). But it does make me realize how a bunch of seemingly small changes make such a big difference (at least for me) in how easy it is to lose weight without having to resort to long daily runs and eating iceberg lettuce for dinner.