Fact: only 9% of French women are obese compared to 23% of Brits and a shocking 31% of American women. Ever wondered why this might be? Cheese, bread, wine, pastries…these are all things we associate with the French, but surely they’re not the secret to that slim figure we all envy?
Mireille Guiliano’s book "French Women Don't Get Fat" explores the approach French women take towards food, exercise and general healthy living. In my office, here at Ulule in Paris, I work with a waiflike young French lady who seems to eat whatever she likes and is bursting with energy all day long. Sound impossible? Here are a few points I have picked up from Guiliano’s book, and from my experiences living in Paris thus far.
Crash diets are not the way forward
French women don’t seem to interest themselves in losing weight the fast way. Everyone knows that diets only lead to temporary weight loss, and in all probability will result in further weight gain when the cravings return in even stronger form. Instead…
Savour every morsel
Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so why not enjoy it? While Americans and Brits have a tendency to bolt down food before they have time to realise they’re uncomfortably full, the French live up to their reputation, deriving pleasure from every mouthful. Paying full attention to what you are eating will help you to consume less and enjoy more.
Stick to 3 meals a day
Instead of mindlessly eating for the sake of eating, make mealtimes a special part of the day. This way, you will really look forward to your food, and it’s easier to control the amount you eat. It would be hard to find an office in America or England where biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps and the like are not handed round throughout the day, and consumed for ‘energy’ purposes or to ease boredom. This is simply not done in France! Unhealthy snacking is an incredibly easy way to pile on the pounds, so be French and choose quality over quantity; three balanced, healthy meals a day will keep you satisfied and wave goodbye to the unwanted pounds.
Cuisses de grenouilles...mmm (???)
Stay active all day long
And I don’t mean spending hours on end in the gym. In fact, really going for it at the gym can actually lead to weight gain; exhausted, you feel you need to replenish your energy with food and, having burnt off all those calories, deserve a snack or two, right? French women take a more moderate, and frankly more effective, approach to exercise. They prefer the gentler, more regular forms of all-day movement: the (very) frequent trips back and forth to make coffee, walking a couple of blocks to a café instead of being stuck in the office all day with a packed lunch…it may not seem like much, but there is one key difference: they are energetic, not lazy. The point is to be as active for as many moments of the day as possible. Reap the benefits without the effort.
So, to sum up, the secret is to really enjoy your food; by favouring quality over quantity you are not only adopting a healthier lifestyle, but happier one.