Friday, 22 July 2011

French women don't get fat...

Ok, you know when you say 'i'm going to start eating healthily tomorrow' when you're on the way to eat some scones and it never happens? Well, I said those words yesterday, and then ate my absolutely enormous scone, got home and really started thinking about it.

The thing is, I enjoy scones, I love jam and I really really know I could never stick to a routine diet or exercise plan because I have no discipline or motivation in that area. I'm happy with the size I am at the moment, but just want to feel more healthy and fit.

So when I came home I started researching lifestyle patterns and turned once again to my favourite culture, the french. French women don't get fat. Seriously, I've been there a few times and the only overweight people you see tend to live in the provences and are old men! This is due to a number of reasons, firstly, the french are taught from a very young age to savour their food and the taste of fresh produce. In our culture (British) we have followed the american belief that 'more if better', when I visited San Fransisco a couple of years back, we ended up at every meal asking the waiter to box up our food and giving it to the (countless) homeless people wnadering the streets there. There is this expectation that even if you don't want to eat that food, if it is placed infront of you you must eat the whole thing...

In the light of the Somalian famine, perhaps I can understand the 'waste not want not' attitude towards food, but this attitude is breeding a culture of obesity that I see so many children in Britian now following.

Let's think about this, I luckily have been brought up in a christian family who believe that eating meals together is an important part of daily life, whilst we are quick eaters, we make it into an 'event' and reflect (or argue) about our day together. The French also do this, their meals often lasting hours as opposed to the minutes we take to eat our food. But it is not that they eat more, it's just that they take their time, put their forks down between mouthfuls and appreciate the produce they are eating. Britian is now becoming an 'on the go' nation, we are so busy that we eat prepackaged food in the car, in the office, or sat in front of the TV. When we don't appreciate our nourishment, we are more likely to mindlessly overeat, and snack far more often. The French eat ALL the foods that we are told is bad for us, bread, cheese, wine and pastries, but still only have a 10% obsesity problem, as opposed to the 1 in 3 americans who are overweight today.

Then I started reading about Mireille Guiliano's story, a frenchwomen who went to go and live in America and piled on the pounds after dsicovering cookies, and bagels and reeses and everything else that is great about American food. It took her returning to France and learning the hard way the benefits of a French, as opposed to American attitude towards food. She wrote a book, and formulated the 'manifesto' of french women...

  • French women eat three meals a day.
  • French women adore fashion.
  • French women are stubborn individuals and don't follow mass movements.
  • French women avoid anything that demands too much effort for too little pleasure.
  • French women balance their food, drink, and movement on a week-by-week basis.
  • French women care enormously about the presentation of food. It matters to them how you look at it.
  • French women choose their own indulgences and compensations. They understand that little things count, both additions and subtractions, and that as an adult everyone is the keeper of her own equilibrium.
  • French women do stray, but they always come back, believing there are only detours and no dead ends.
  • French women don't care for hard liquor.
And most importantly.....

  • French women don't diet.
I could really write a whole thesis on the differences between our cultures, but here are just one or two observations. When I go to university (hopefully) in October, there will be an expectation that I should go out clubbing and get drunk very frequently. I have seen countless numbers of friends go and do this and pile on weight, becoming rather miserable. The French tend to have up to 1 or 2 glasses of wine per day with their food, but don't go out 'on the lash' in the same manner. Seeing women degrade themselves in such a way is a strange concept to the French.

I am going to try and cultivate this type of living, whilst it is costly and time consuming I believe that the benefits of enjoying food, coupled with an active lifestyle will prevent me from ever having to enter the perpetual cycle of mid life dieting....The first thing I'm going to do is to record every meal I eat for the next three weeks to see where my potential 'black holes' are, in order to assess whether the quantity and manner in the way I eat is appropriate...

Image from here

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