France: Sit long, talk lots
The French excel at the leisurely family meal. On average, 92 percent of French families dine together nightly, compared with 28 percent of American families. “For the French, eating is the event of the day,” says Dr. Pescatore. “For us, it’s something we do before heading out to do something else.” Lengthy meals actually encourage less eating, Dr. Pescatore says. Conversation slows down the fork and gives you time to realize you’re full. Incorporate some of these mindful eating tips into your next meal.
Finland: Take up nordic walking
This is one of the Finns’ favorite outdoor activities. It’s not as exotic as it sounds: All that’s required is a pair of inexpensive, lightweight walking poles. Holding these in your hands aids balance, which is great if you’re older or if you’re on slippery terrain. Even better: Because they make you use muscles in your shoulders, arms, and torso, the poles transform walking into a total-body workout that burns 20 percent more calories, according to a study at the Cooper Institute in Dallas. Winter or summer, it’s a simple way to derive more fat-reducing benefit from your regular walk.
Netherlands: Swallow more herring
The Dutch down about 85 million of these slippery fish per year (raw). That’s about five for every person in the country (and five more than eaten here). They’re pickled, then served unadorned as snacks or in soft buns with onions and gherkins for lunch. Oily fish like herring is slimming for a few reasons, says Dr. Pescatore. It contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and cortisol is known to increase the amount of fat deposited around your middle. What’s more, lunching on herring or canned sardines guarantees you’ll ingest far fewer calories than you would if you eat a burger or even fish sticks. Just don’t forget the breath mints. Next, read about the weight-loss breakthroughs your doctor wishes you knew.