I recently left the Swanson Health Products office to spend two weeks in England for a school trip. While our topic was literature and creative writing, I had a side topic in mind. Jamie Oliver has recently entered the lives of reality TV watchers in the United States, stating that he wants to make America healthy. He mentioned achieving his goal in England and was now in our fine country to do the same. This piqued my interest. I decided to dive into the British culture and find out what their eating and lifestyle habits are. I wanted to find out if Mr. Oliver truly achieved his goal across the pond.
I had heard of them all before - shepherd's pie, fish and chips, cream tea - but I had never experienced them for myself. As I am a firm believer in trying local grub, as it were, I made a point in trying all three of these courses. I ate shepherd's pie in York, fish and chips at Warwick Castle and cream tea in Stratford-Upon-Avon. While none of these meals can be considered healthy, they can be considered delicious, and that's their appeal. Signs everywhere say "London's best fish & chips" and "Get your shepherd's pie here". The English take pride in their creations, even if they are unhealthy.
Now I must be clear in saying that there are many English people who do eat healthy. Like people here, many families eat at home and keep the tradition of having family dinner around the table. Health markets have fruits and vegetables, organic ones even. I saw an herbal health store in Hye-on-Wye, and most supermarkets sold health and nutrition products. Health does exist in England. I'm talking about something else entirely.
When England thinks of shepherd's pie, we think of Burger King. When England thinks of fish and chips, we think of McDonald's. When England thinks of High Tea time, we think of Starbucks. While this may sound a bit unrealistic, especially considering we do have real restaurants with healthy food, the sad reality is that fish and chips in England may one day be McDonald's. I was on the London Tube train during my second day in the country, and disappointed would be an understatement in regards to what I saw. Imagine a businessman with his suit unbuttoned, standing by the door and shuffling back and forth as the transport moved. It sounds rather standard for London, but what I found upsetting was the fact that this man was eating a Burger King cheeseburger. No, eating isn't the correct word; he was inhaling it. This is normal in the United States. We see people in their cars eating and drinking fast food products all the time. The sad truth is that England didn't always have such a system of living. They're starting to move too fast.
Or are they? Despite the above information, I will stand up for England and say that they are doing a couple of things right that American society has grown apart from over the years. First, people in England take their time when eating. People in my traveling group would grow tired waiting for the bill, because at home it arrives halfway through the meal. Breaking up courses and eating at a slower rate can aid metabolism, and the English recognize that. And second, a lot of England's inhabitants walk everywhere within a city and only use transport for further journeys. I drive everywhere at home because it's embedded in my head as normal. I drive to the bookstore that would take ten minutes maximum to walk to. Is everyone like me? No, but I think you understand where I'm going with this.
There is no debate in saying that the obesity epidemic in America is getting out of hand, and something needs to be done. I'm not going to point fingers and say it's a certain person's fault or that we'd be healthy were it not for fast food. I myself am overweight, so this is coming from an experienced perspective. I said there is hope for England, but there is also hope for America. Is Jamie Oliver that hope? Honestly, I don't think so. I will admit that I adore the work he is doing and that I advocate his cause, but people have to want to be healthy. And as charming as the British can be, not even Jamie can create nationwide health. But I will say it one more time, there is hope. I will explore this topic in a later post.
Until next time, live healthy, live happy.
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