Every year I travel to Europe on business, normally once or twice a year. These trips usually involve meetings with engineers, researchers, and project managers from various European countries; often 5 to 10 countries are represented.
Here are some of my notes on a recent trip to Europe. In this trip I spent time in two cities: Amsterdam, Netherlands and Antwerp, Belgium. Below is a set of the photos I took in Antwerp, of a statue depicting the roman soldier Silvius Brabo holding the severed hand of the giant Druon Antigoon.
According to legend Druon Antigoon had terrorized and extorted the people of Antwerp, cutting off the hands of several people and throwing them in the nearby Scheldt River, until the brave Silvius Brabo came into the scene and not only cut off the giant’s hand but also killed him.
This legend has probably been concocted toward the end of the Roman Empire, largely by the Romans, who first established Antwerp as a Roman outpost.
After this small digression, here are some health-related routines that I followed during this trip, and some of my main observations regarding diet and health issues.
On the plane:
- The meals were a festival of hyperglycemic and pro-inflammatory refined carbohydrates, unhealthy vegetable oils, and sugars – white bread, pasta, various sweets, pretzels, chips loaded with supposedly healthy omega 6 fats, margarine etc. I skipped all of the snacks and one of the meals, the breakfast. At the main meal of each flight I ate only meat, veggies, and some of the fruits.
- The flights over and back were very comfortable since I was water-fasting most of the time. Not a hint of indigestion or abdominal discomfort of any kind. These were 9 to 10 hour flights, from Houston to Amsterdam and back.
At business luncheons:
- The idea of having a sandwich for lunch seems to be getting popular in Europe. At least I have been seeing that happening more and more often lately. At these sandwich luncheons, I ate only the content of some sandwiches (basically cold cuts, cheese and veggies), and left the bread slices untouched.
- Some people noticed that I was not eating bread. I told them about insulin, lectins etc. A few looked at me as though I was insane; others with a disapproving look – dontchano, the lipid hypothesis!? A notable exception was a German gentleman who said that Germans were too pragmatic not to notice that they were getting fat on low fat diets, and are now reverting back to their staple diet of meats, fish, vegetable stews, and cheese.
At restaurants for dinner:
- This was fairly easy. I ate basically fish or meat dishes with veggies, and enjoyed them a lot. I skipped the deserts; again much to the surprise of some of my European colleagues.
- Skipping the desserts seems to have helped me cope with jetlag a lot better than I usually do. On my second day in Europe I slept quite well, and was unusually rested on the next day.
At the hotel:
- The breakfast buffets were a mix of: (a) breads, pastries, sweetened cereals, sugary items, and fruits; and (b) meats (often cured), some fish, cheeses, eggs, nuts, and some veggies. There were also fruit juices. I had solid breakfasts with (b)-type items, with a few fruits added (cantaloupe and berries). I had regular coffee with cream and no sugar, and stayed away from fruit juices.
- I did not use soap, shampoo etc. at the hotel; just plain water. Occasionally the soap used in hotels is very caustic, or rich in other chemicals, causing rashes. I stuck with showers and had no baths, as sometimes the bathtubs are not properly cleaned after their last use.
- At the end of my trip I took a train from Antwerp to Amsterdam, and stayed at a hotel near the Schiphol Airport (which has its own train station) since my flight back to the U.S. was in the morning. I had dinner by myself at the hotel, which was easy. I stopped at a place called Food Village at the Airport (visible from the Airport’s main entrance) and bought a water bottle, a piece of Gouda cheese, a can of sardines, and a box of seaweed. That was a very good dinner, and cost me about 6 euros.
The outcomes for me:
- I had no hint of indigestion at all throughout the trip, in spite of eating way more cheese than I normally do. The cheese that I ate was natural, aged cheese, not the processed kind.
- I had no need for more or less use of the bathroom than I usually do, and remained “regular” throughout the trip. No sign of constipation at all.
- I had no body odor (at least none that I could notice), even though I used no soap. My hair was fine too; I used no shampoo or conditioner.
- Jet lag problems were less pronounced than they usually are when I travel to Europe. The time difference is about 7 hours from Texas. Usually, I tend to feel very sleepy in the afternoon and wide awake around 3 am. Not this time.
- In spite of not exercising for about 7 days, except for walking, I was able to lift slightly heavier weights at a workout the day after my return than I did before my trip.
- According to the scale, I lost 1 pound during this trip. I do not know whether this was body fat or just water. It is unlikely that there was any muscle loss.
From what I could see, Europeans are generally thinner than Americans (particularly Texans), and also seem to be healthier. None of the people I met, not one, was clearly obese. On the other hand, the majority seemed to be somewhat overweight.
My impression was that the Europeans consume lesser amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars than Americans, on a weekly basis, even though they currently consume more of those items than they should, in my opinion.
Consumption of vegetable oils other than olive oil is also lower than in the U.S; consumption of butter and cheese seems to be a lot higher.
From my conversations with several people during this trip, it seemed that the health of Europeans, like that of their American counterparts, is strongly correlated with the extent to which they are overweight. The more body fat, the more common was to hear complaints about pain here or there, fatigue, degenerative diseases, or talk about surgeries.