By David O. Williams
Gut check in the USA
January 15, 2008 —
Working and living most of the year in Spain, I always experience intense reverse culture shock when I return for my annual holiday visits. Call it the ex-pat is back factor.
When friends visit me in Spain, they marvel at 1,000-year-old churches, Roman ruins and packed tapas bars. Back home, itís immaculate lawns, triple-car garages and drive-thru Taco Bells that floor me.
The biggest shocker for this Europhile growing ever accustomed to the lithe beauties of Sevilla and Barcelona is Americaís expanding girth.
I read a stunning statistic that no less than 65 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Thatís more fat people than Spain, France and Italy combined.
A recent visual survey at the local Wal-Mart confirmed this ballooning epidemic. Entire herds of flabby moms, super-sized dads and chubby kids waddled by as I counted out no less than 71 of the first 100 people were at least on the chunky side. Even the dogs had a paunch.
Perhaps itís no surprise that most Europeans arenít so gargantuan. Save for the occasional beer belly, most Europeans are relatively healthy. There are no triple-size happy meals. Wine is the drink of choice, not Double Big Gulps. Comfort food in Spain is olives and jamůn serrano.
At Wal-Mart, people will drive around 20 minutes looking for a parking spot just so they donít have to walk an extra 50 yards across the lot. My Spanish hometown of Leůn was built a millennium before anyone heard of Henry Ford, so you walk everywhere.
On the opposite extreme of this excessive corpulence are the fitness freaks, a vocal minority who huff and puff their way toward physical perfection.
It seems American is dividing again, this time along its waistline. Just as the political landscape is fractured between red and blue states, thereís a growing fat gap between the obese and the super-fit.
A trip to the local gym gave me a glimpse of this wannabe Adonis elite class.
I saw more sculpted breasts than at the Rodin museum. Lost among this Mount Rushmore of chiseled abs, pumped up biceps and bulging pectorals, I looked down at my flabby arms and realized I indeed belong to the Marshmallow Majority.
I got busy hammering out some curls and realized that in America, itís either get pumped or get fat.
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