Health Cultures Select a Culture the United Essay

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health cultures select a culture

The United States vs. France

American culture is extremely individualistic. The ideal of 'pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps' that is so popular in America is also manifested in the American attitude towards health. Americans believe in the ability of personal willpower to conquer illnesses such as obesity, and manifest a belief in complete self-transformation through diets and exercise. This can be seen in the continued fascination with fad diets in America, and the many success stories that are popular on television depicting celebrities and ordinary people who lose weight (and gain weight). The French, in contrast, view health as a social responsibility. Children receive guidance at home and school to learn to eat 'correctly.' Americans also view the ability to obtain healthcare at all as a personal choice. People can 'choose' to buy health insurance, or to make vocational choices that govern their ability to obtain healthcare. France's social welfare system of healthcare is based in the view that healthcare is a responsibility of society, and that all of society benefits from having a healthier populace.

This view of health as an individual vs. A social act can be seen most starkly in the two cultures' differing views of how to curtail obesity. One common cliche is that 'French women don't get fat.' It is true that on average, Americans are far heavier than Europeans, despite the proliferation of diets and health clubs in America. However, Americans have far more low-fat and low-calorie products on their shelves then the French. The
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French eat heavy cheeses, cream sauces, and wine in greater quantities than Americans. So why are they, on average, far slimmer? "The U.S. adult obesity rate now stands at an appalling 20% or higher. By some measures, 60% of Americans are at least somewhat overweight" (Peterson 2001).

The typical American 'feast or famine' cycle of eating may be partly to blame. American culture has tended to see food as medicine. Food as divided between what should be eaten for health (apple slices) versus what is supposed to be eaten (French fries). The view of food as fuel is one reason that meals are often eaten 'to go' as take-out in the U.S. Even the packaging of food is designed to increase ease of consumption, with squeezable yogurts and pre-sliced 'Lunchables.' In France, food is viewed as something to be savored and eating is a social occasion rather than valued for medicinal purposes. "In France, eating is a religion, like a Catholic Mass: At a fixed hour, for a predetermined amount of time, with an unchangeable ritual, we sit down to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the U.S., people eat whenever they want -- which is all the time -- and whatever they want" (Peterson 2001).

In France, quality of food is valued rather than the quantity it is served in -- for Americans, quantity is often seen as translating into 'value.' The desire for 'value' at all costs, even the costs of over-indulgence may be why Americans tend to ricochet between over-indulgence at fast food restaurants, which are then atoned for on punitive diets such as Weight Watchers. The French view food as something to be eaten consistently, in moderation. From an early…

Sources Used in Documents:


The French lesson in health care. (2001). Business Week. Retrieved December 8, 2011

Peterson, Thane. (2001). Why so few French are fat. Business Week.

Retrieved December 8, 2011

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