European men and women are less fat than American men and women (stop the presses), but why? Well, as far as I can tell, there are four main reasons—and diet is last on the list.
1. Walking. Good luck getting everywhere by car in densely populated Europe. Even if you have a car, it’s probable you’ll have to climb the stairs to your apartment occasionally, something which never happens out in the burbs. In the end, you do a lot of walking and working off your blubber in Europe. Oddly enough, Europeans do less hardcore exercise than Americans (you don’t see very many joggers and the gyms are less full of the well-to-do) but walking around all day burns a lot of calories.
2. Inconvenience. Things are small in Europe. Cars, bathrooms, beds, metro chairs, plates. They all affect your perception of yourself and the amount of space you’re taking up. Being fat in Europe is a true day-to-day trial. Try fitting on a European toilet seat in a tiny European bathroom after going down small European stairs. Which segues neatly into the next one.
3. Shame. Europeans aren’t very fat accepting. Not only is it a pain to get around, but everyone looks at, you have a hard time making friends and people shun you for being fat. I hate to say it, but shame is social tactic that works damn well. Also, since you’re around people a lot more, on the metro, walking around town, you’re made aware a lot more often of how you compare to others, which won’t happen to you in a car.
4. Diet. Europeans don’t eat all that much better than Americans (contrary to popular belief) but they do sure eat a lot less. They also talk a lot, drink with food, and smoke a lot, all of which facilitate the burning of calories. They don’t exactly count calories or go on diets as much, but they don’t mind going without a meal now and then and hardly ever snack when they’re out and about.