I travelled to the United States recently.
At first, this trip was meant for me to visit my friends in Chicago (for the BBG Chicago Meet-up). But I decided to make a stop in Weston, Florida before the Chicago trip, in order to visit some family. And then I thought, what the hell, i’ll already be there, I might as well go to Orlando and visit my cousin as well.
I did a lot of shopping, and a lot of eating in the United States. I had a lot of time to study people’s eating habits, which is something that has intrigued me for a while. I thought I’d share a bit about what I learned while in Florida and Chicago.
(Everything written in this blog post comes from what I observed during my stay in these two states. I have never been to the West Coast of the United States, therefore can’t say anything about other states).
I stayed with my aunt for more than a week, before and after Chicago. She’s a mom (to my 9 year old cousin) and she’s divorced. She works independently, therefore has to manage her time very wisely. During my stay there, we ate out, a lot. I think we cooked lunch or dinner in the house about 4 times total, and it was usually because I insisted we did. This is weird for me. In Chile, I’ve always tried to only eat out for special occasions. My mom (aka my aunt’s sister) almost never took us out for lunch or dinner, due to the fact that a. we’re four siblings, and b. we live in South America, where it is normal to have a maid who cooks lunch and dinner for you, daily. Therefore, I understand it’s a common thing to eat at restaurants or take outs in the States.
While talking with my aunt, she told me she tries to eat healthy always, and that she has no time to cook, so when she does, she prepares fast meals (like pre-cooked chicken). She told me she tried to keep her son’s eating as healthy as she could. I guess my definition of healthy is different from hers, because I’d see him eat at least one unhealthy (and by that I mean milkshakes, fried chicken, soda, amongst other things) meal a day.
I thought we’d cook a lot more than we did. But then I realised that for her, cooking was a hassle. It’s so much easier for her to eat something quick at a restaurant, than have to cook and wash the dishes at home.
I guess this is why people are so lazy about cooking. Not only do you have to make time to cook your meals, you also have to make the time to wash the dishes. Also, you have to make the time to go grocery shopping before you do all the cooking.
These are things that entertain me. I love grocery shopping, I love the cooking process. Washing dishes isn’t the funnest thing, but it’s worth it. Knowing what I’m putting into my body is always worth it.
Every time we’d eat at a restaurant, I’d try to order the healthiest option possible. Many times it was hard, and I’d have to say whatever and eat it anyway, and other times i’d find just the right food! Often times this would happen because my aunt wouldn’t take me to the healthiest places, just to places she’d usually go to (she took me to Chick-fil-A for my last dinner haha)
When she did cook at home, she’d use things like butter and I’d have to bite my tongue. Yes, she never ate completely unhealthy foods. But there was always some kind of unhealthy touch to her food. And she’d ask me what she could do to lose weight.
She kept saying she didn’t have time to cook, or time to workout, but then again, she did have time to watch TV at night. It’s just a matter of priorities.
I guess I left my aunt’s house with a weird feeling. She’s Colombian, and I see how much she has adapted to living in the United States. In this country people usually choose the fastest option possible. Whether that means eating from plastic dishes so they don’t have to wash them, or eating at fast food places so there’s no need to cook, people here like to invest their time in the fast route. Making a home meal is not an option. It’s easier to drive for minutes to reach a place where you’ll make a line or have to take an order, then wait for a few minutes, then eat the fast meal, then drive back home. In that same time you can make a meal at home. But people either don’t have the energy for it, or they don’t realise how easy it actually is to make your own foods.
I’m obviously generalising and not everyone is the same. But this is something I observed.
Something that caught my attention was a sign at a candy store in a mall. It said “you are what you eat, and who wants to be a brussel sprout?” with a picture of an attractive girl eating some candy.
This worried me more than it should have. There’s something about the culture in the States that I don’t like, and it’s the straight out foul play. Brands go out of their way to destroy their competition. Instead of convincing customers that they’re a good option, they let their customers know that they’re better than their competition and that their competition sucks. Every time I come to the states i’m amazed by this. This kind of practice is illegal in Chile and probably in many other countries.
So it shocked me to see that a candy brand would do the same. I mean, yeah, it’s not too shocking, but it pissed me off to think that this is what they’re trying to teach kids. Vegetables suck, Candy rules! Yayyy diabetes!! haha as if it wasn’t already hard to make kids like vegetables at an early age. I probably shouldn’t have taken this too seriously, but it bothered me. Maybe i’m being dramatic, but after watching the Documentary Fed Up, I’ve had my mind change completely about sugars (if you haven’t watched it, please do) and i’m just completely disgusted when I see things like this.
When I thought all was lost, I went to Chicago.
I fell in love! There were plenty of healthy options! We went to a place called Protein Bar (which I absolutely LOVED) and we were all so happy eating their delicious smoothies, bowls and burritos – all 100% clean! So good!!
I stayed at my friend Julie’s house (juliemariefit on instagram) and it was definitely a change of scene from Florida. Julie is a working woman as well, but she actually makes the time to be healthy. She has healthy options in her house, and when we’d leave the house, we’d take healthy snacks with us. We’d walk everywhere all day (as opposed to Florida, where you need a car to move everywhere because a. everything is far and b. it’s too damn hot to try and walk haha) so even if we did eat unhealthy foods every now and then, we’d still feel good!
Then I went to Orlando. It was great to have my cousin as a tour guide. We didn’t go to any theme parks, as we’ve both been to them too many times and it wasn’t really what our weekend was about. She’s a vegetarian so she took me to cool vegetarian cafes. I had never had so many vegetarian meals in a week but I seriously loved it.
Going to a vegetarian restaurant is not equivalent to going to a healthy restaurant. There are still some pretty fatty options, always. But vegetarian restaurants are way more conscious about what they put in their food.
I had a great time in the States. I ate way more than I should have but I did not regret any of it. Because when I got back home, I went right back to my healthy habits and routine.
We all have 24 hours in our day. We choose how we spend those 24 hours. Some people decide to eat out everyday, in order to save time. But what are those people doing with that time they’re saving? Are they being productive? Is this fast food helping them lead better lives?
Food for thought 🙂