The observations noted here first appeared as a series of posts at the Talking Low Carb Forums by Ophelia.
Her experiences were so well received that we asked Ophelia to gather her thoughts in article
form so all of our readers could take note of the dichotomy of this occurrence. The cultural
differences are quite striking when seen in such direct comparison.
My 15-year old French godson recently spent two months in America with me; his first trip
ever to this side of the Atlantic. I found it fascinating to observe the difference
between his approach to food and the American (especially teenage) approach.
The contrast was most shocking when my 16-year old American cousin came to spend the week
with us. I invited him because I thought they would hit it off. Instead, my godson spent
more time watching him with curiosity and even disgust, rather than bonding with him.
Here are my observations:
Although my godson was never able to kick the bread habit (they eat it at every meal in
France), he has virtually no sweet tooth.
My cousin loves sweets.
My godson always ate breakfast.
My cousin told me he never eats breakfast at home. But he raids the fridge at 3:00 am!
My godson drank lots of
water. After every course of the meal, he would drink a glass of
water before beginning the next.
My cousin, on the other hand, drank juice throughout the day. If I had had soft drinks on
hand, he would have drank that, too, but I made sure I didn't have any.
My godson drank a single
glass of juice for breakfast and it was usually a small glass.
Super-sizing hasn't really caught on in France, and besides, fruit juice is really expensive
over there. French people are used to drinking juice in small amounts.
My American cousin, on the other hand, drank juice in pint glasses AND took refills, while
my godson looked on in horror. Then he would get up in the middle of the night and down half
a carton while everyone else was asleep. My godson would never have even considered such a
My godson rarely ever snacked
between meals, unless I was late making dinner. If he did eat
anything, it was a slice of bread with butter or cheese.
My cousin raided the fridge constantly — day and night. At home, he grazes on junk food 24/7.
My godson only ever ate while
sitting at the table. He never plowed ahead to the next course
until everyone else had finished what was on their plates.
My cousin eats in front of the TV at home. At my house, he wasn't allowed to, so he ate with us,
but he plowed through everything quickly, then got up from the table before the rest of us had
finished and went to watch TV or play video games. My godson was horrified.
My godson wasn't afraid of
vegetables. He always ate his salad or whatever vegetables I had
My cousin only liked one or two kinds of vegetables; the rest would mysteriously end up in the
garbage when my back was turned.
My godson ate reasonable portions
of each course and stopped when he wasn't hungry anymore.
My cousin gorged himself and was hungry again a few hours later.
When we were among non-LCing
Americans, they were constantly offering my godson sweet
snacks: ice cream, cake, cookies, donuts, etc. Most of the time, he would give them a
strange look, like "Why would I eat that? It's not time for dinner!" Then he would say
My cousin, in contrast, ate anything and everything sweet at any hour of the day, in any
One time, my sister bought
my godson some caramel corn to eat at the movie theatre, since
he had never tried it before. He ate a few handfuls of it, then my sister told him to take
it home, in case he wanted some later. I figured it would be gone by the next day and I'd
have no more sugar in my household. But he never touched it again! It sat on top of my
fridge for a month.
My cousin would have finished off the whole bag before the previews were over!
Back in France, my godson
lives on a large variety of home-cooked foods: Meats, veggies,
fruit, grains, legumes, cheeses and, yes, desserts in moderation. He rarely eats processed
foods, soft drinks, fast foods, trans fats (they use butter & olive oil) or low-fat products.
cousin lives on Top Ramen, corn dogs, frozen burritos and Coke. For the time being, he is
in great shape (he plays a lot of sports), but his little brother is skinny with a big pooch
for a stomach. That says carbs to me. I hope he doesn't become diabetic!
Whenever we were out-and-about
and the weather was hot, my godson would ask if I could buy
him a bottle of water. He never requested soft drinks, juice or any other kind of beverage
during the day to quench his thirst. Rarely, he would order a soft drink in a restaurant, but
it was more of a special treat or a dessert than something to wash his food down with.
My cousin would have easily drunk super-sized Cokes all day long if I'd let him—he does at
home. My cousin's little brother is SIX and his mom lets him drink COFFEE, in addition to Coke,
juice, etc. Can you believe it—
If my godson ever did eat candy
or gum, it was always in small quantities. Most of the time,
he would turn it down, though. He just wasn't interested.
My cousin ate junk constantly.
This is not food-related, but
my godson always helped to set and clear the table, kept the
bathroom floor dry and did what he was told. He was brought up in a fairly strict household,
so this was normal for him.
My cousin rarely lifted a finger, made a mess of the bathroom whenever he took a shower, left
dirty dishes everywhere and raided the fridge without any regard to what was for dinner.
My godson couldn't wait for my
cousin to go home, because my cousin insisted on keeping the
TV on all night.
Back home, my cousin and his six-year-old brother are allowed to stay up all night (even on
school nights) playing video games or watching TV.
I couldn't help but wonder what lies in store for these two boys. What would happen if they
met up again in forty years? Will my cousin be obese, insulin dependent and ambulating in
an electric motorized cart? Will my godson still be trim and healthy, running his errands
on foot? Only time will tell.
Copyright © October 2003 Ophelia Murof and Low Carb Luxury