While Americans have experienced an unprecedented rise in weight gain and cardiovascular disease in the past 20 years, Europeans seem to be immune from this epidemic.
In France people eat an extremely high fat diet; in Germany and England, meat is eaten at every meal; in Italy they enjoy a high-carb diet rich in wine, bread and pasta. All four countries have low rates of heart disease and obesity.
In America we have condemned all these foods as unhealthy when we eat them in excess — yet in Europe they seem to eat them with impunity.
It seems the biggest risk factor for weight gain and heart disease is ... being an American. So let’s take a look at what we do differently as Americans that may be contributing to our out of control weight gain and heart disease.
In Ayurveda — India’s traditional system of medicine based on living a balanced life in harmony with the changing cycles of nature — there are three factors that rule how healthful your diet is: What, when and how you eat.
Clearly, for the past 30 years we have put most of our attention on what to eat with very little attention on when and how to eat. We have been counting calories, reducing fats, increasing proteins, eating more, cutting out carbohydrates and basically experimenting with every possible weight loss plan and dietary variation ... with little or no success.
In 1992 the National Institute of Health reported that 99 percent of all people who go on a diet gain all the weight back in three to five years. In addition, most diets leave us craving what the previous diet told us we shouldn’t eat if we want to lose weight.
For example, 30 years ago Dr. Atkins first introduced his high protein diet to help people feel good and lose weight. It was called the “hamburger and cottage cheese diet.” This diet was basically a “no carb” diet; the body was forced to burn fat because there was no available energy from carbs.
Soon, just like the mice during a recent MIT study, everyone began to crave carbs. When the MIT mice were reintroduced to carbs in their diet, they gained all their weight back and then some.
What is most interesting is what happened next. While America was craving carbs after being on a high protein diet, the next-best-selling diet offered relief from these cravings. Pritiken came along and announced his 80 percent carbohydrate diet, which claimed to make people feel good and lose weight — the same claims as the high protein diet. It was an instant success. Americans were craving carbs and it was too good to be true that you could lose weight eating the exact foods you were craving.
Most diets since have offered little more than symptomatic relief for what the previous diets have left us craving. What is interesting when we compare our eating habits with the Europeans' is that we find that the European diet is similar to the Ayuvedic approach to eating - it's a more have a balanced perspective on the how, when and what to eat.