Creating a healthy lifestyle sometime takes community support and in some European countries that support is as prevalent as mosquitoes in the summertime.
Europeans have long been known for eating habits that lead to optimum weight maintenance (French women don’t get fat, you know) and health (the Mediterranean Diet). Lately though, I’ve heard about new initiatives and laws in Belgium and France that, when added together, make a real impact on the well-being of individuals and the planet.
First let’s go to Belgium for the initiative.
- The Foundation against Cancer and the Flemish expertise centre for alcohol and other drugs, VAD, launched an initiative that called for Belgians to give up alcohol during the month of February. They had only hoped for 15,000 people to accept the challenge. In the end there were over 125,000 participants. They included government officials and a past director of the Belgian Brewers Federation who represented the drinks industry. This period of abstinence will lead to better sleep, increased energy levels and weight lost amongst the participates.
Now to France for the laws.
- Last year (2016) France banned plastic bags, while kind of. Basically this means that you no longer get the little plastic bags you used to get in grocery stores and the ones that you used to put fruits and vegetables in. This does not apply everywhere, though, and there are some plastic bags popping up which are marked as reusable. Still people have started using paper bags and carrying baskets and reusable shopping bags more often. They even carry small purchases in their hands. This law helps both the planet and humans as plastic bags litter the land and oceans and are eaten by fish and other food sources.
- In 2020 France will ban all plastic plates and cutlery. This will add to France’s efforts to eliminate plastic in general, thus giving us a cleaner world and eliminating the death of animals who ingest plastic. It also gives humans a cleaner food source as we often eat creatures who have eaten plastic.
- In January 2017, the French enacted a law that gives employees the right to disconnect during agreed upon hours if they work for a company that employs more than 50 people. Imagine knowing that you can disconnect and focus on yourself, or your family and friends, without worrying that you are going to miss an important message. I’d say that this is a victory for the work/life balance camp.
- In January of this year, Paris implemented an anti-pollution scheme aimed at cutting down air pollution by using stickers to identity when owners can drive their cars. While owners of cars of a certain age have pretty set rules, others may not be able to drive in the city if the pollution level is too high on a particular day. The law is too new to predict driver behavior, but I know that if I had car that had constant bans, I would learn to love public transportation, my bike, and my two feet. As someone who has not owned a car since the late 1990’s (even in the States), I speak from experience. If you live in a city with good public transportation and is walkable why not walk, or bike, as opposed to spending your time looking for parking spaces or your money on car repairs and parking.
Now to France and Belgium for general habits that lead to a healthy lifestyle.
- Eating at the Table
The key here is the focus on eating sitting down and without distractions. I know Europeans who even eat like this when they are eating alone, something that I have to get used to doing.
2. Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season
Sometimes in France you don’t have any other choice because that’s all there is. And if you happen to find what you want that is out of season, it is so expensive (comparatively speaking) that you’re willing to give the seasonal products a try.
Now it’s time for you to create your own community
It’s easy to mimic the ways of the Belgians and French. Do it on your own or get others to join you. It simply takes doing the following:
- Choose to stop an unhealthy eating habit for a month. I’ve found that when I do this, if I start again, I want whatever I stopped consuming less often than before. I stopped putting sugar in my coffee, for example, and now I can’t stand coffee with sugar. The same goes with eating milk chocolate. Give me dark chocolate or nothing!
- Stop using plastic bags. Take reusable bags to the grocery store. Also, when possible, buy water in glass bottles. It is hard to do in some places, but opt for glass when you can. Glass is much healthier.
- Walk, bike, or take public transportation if you live in a place where it is feasible. I managed to do it in Orlando, Florida of all places.
- Sit down when you eat, and eat without distractions.
- Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Disconnect after a certain hour or on certain days (like the weekend) and communicate this habit to others. My friends know, for example, that I treat my cell phone pretty much like a landline. If I’m out, I’m usually only available to the people I’m physically with. Since they know this, my friends don’t get upset if they can’t reach me when they text or call. They know that I will get back to them when I can.
Implementing these habits in your life will lead to a healthier you and a less polluted planet.
Originally published at medium.com