Bon appetit!

Posted on July 17, 2012


Ever since arriving in France, I seem to have spent a disproportionate amount of time tucking into crusty baguettes, divine dark chocolate and calorie-laden feasts that normally I would steer away from. I watch the chic women around me on sun-filled terraces and street-side cafes and see French women heartily indulge in steaming croissants and tempting tartines and I wonder how it is that French women really don’t get fat?  Where is the justice?!

I have devoured the words of Mireille Guillano’s book French Women Don’t Get Fat in which the author states that French women don’t diet and for the most part, are gorgeously slim and healthy. Oh and they love food.  They love grocery shopping, preparing food, setting the table and then sitting down and sharing long meals with friends and family.  It’s almost an art.  Their lives revolve around food yet they are not seeing nearly the same obesity rates as the rest of the developed world.

Mais pourquoi?

Where have we … the Brits, the Americans, the Aussies … the non-French full-stop … gone wrong?

All the reasons come down to fairly obvious, common sense approaches to food, life and living but somewhere along the way, too many people have become trapped in a world of yo-yo dieting and quick fixes, diet drugs and lack of inactivity.

The French way of staying slim includes luxuries such as chocolate, wine and bread. They’re not obsessed with weighing themselves nor sitting in traffic jams to unwillingly drive themselves to the gym to sit on a stationary bicycle. They never go hungry because they don’t need to.

How then do they offset these luxuries?

  • They walk EVERYWHERE
  • They drink water ALL DAY LONG  (no sodas, no sugar-laden coffees, no artificial juices, just good old H20)
  • They enjoy SMALL portions of the REAL THING … think two bites of the most amazingly rich dark chocolate souffle over an entire fat-free, sugar-free artificially loaded frozen yogurt
  • They’re better at connecting with their bodies so that the fitting of the clothes and the tautness of their zips determine how in shape they are, rather than the number on the scale
  • They don’t fall for no-carb this and low-fat that. They know that it’s far better to make small alterations, steadily over time. If tempted buy a pastry mid-day, they might skip the bread basket at dinner … they won’t think, ‘Oh no, I’ve blown it.  I better starve myself until Tuesday’ and so begins the battle of the erratic metabolism
  • They eat what’s in season and is local. This makes it easier to make daily decisions about what to eat. They don’t have the same culture of hitting the aisles of mass supermarkets every week and behaving like we’re returning to the days of war rations

Ultimately, French women seem to live and eat by comfortable shades of grey instead of the black and white world of many obesity-stricken pockets in the world.

French women typically think of good things to eat. Others worry about bad things to eat. French women associate food with celebration and pleasure.  Others associate eating with sin and guilt. French women savour their food at the table and with good conversation.  Others wolf down meals on their laps in front of the TV.

As with most things, it all comes down to a question of balance. I must admit that I will be needing a little balance of my own post the last few weeks and come my return to Dubai, my days will be all about gym-treats and less about gourmet-treats … for a short time anyway.

In the meantime, I remind myself … and you … that we should never forget to celebrate food, love, friendships and our amazing bodies … and French women are living proof of this.

Bon appetit!

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