If you know me, you know that I have one HELL of a sweet tooth. It is my greatest pride and my funniest flaw. I never go to bed without dessert and I never share the last bite when I go halfsies! (Apologies to anyone who has ever split a sundae with me.)
In French, one would say Je raffle du chocolat or rather, I am a literally a chocoholic. But I’m not the only one. You probably wouldn’t believe it by looking at the classic French waistline, but in France, everyone has an extra sweet love for dessert. This is the land of cheese, wine, crêpes, pastries, and baguettes after all!
During my stays in France, I indulge in the most wonderful boulangerie treats paired with the softest, fluffiest baguettes and elegant Sauvignon-Blanc. And still, whenever I am in France, I manage to lose weight. That’s right, you heard me. I LOSE weight while I’m here.
It seems like a great paradox, but if you’ve lived in this country long enough the mystery begins to explain itself. And, no my dear friends, the answer to keeping a healthy BMI is not cigarettes. It’s simply this: The French are really good at eating.
Mareille Guiliano covers the subject well in one of the best books I have ever read, French Women Don’t Get Fat. If you are like me and constantly struggling to tame the sugar monster within, I highly recommend it!
So without further ado, the following are some tips I picked up from all the French women in my life, especially Madame Guiliano.
In France, the poor still eat organic food.
I used to use the fact that I’m broke AF as an excuse to buy the quick, cheap stuff. Fortunately for me however, that excuse doesn’t really fly in this country. Frozen food is a joke, and eating fast food on the Metro will only come with unwelcome whispers and stares.
People here are all about quality. When it comes to mealtime, food is never ugly or rushed or slapped onto your lunch tray. Even pastries are decorated with intense details and creamy accents.
Fruit and vegetable markets are the heart and soul of French culture. Everyone, rich or poor, buys their products at their morning market, where it’s not a luxury activity to buy ORGANIC goods from LOCAL farmers at a cheap price—even cheaper than at grocery stores! (America is a bit upside down in this regard…)
In France, I don’t have to sacrifice quality for price. Even if I did, French people know that it’s worth it. Paying a little extra for unprocessed, natural, and beautiful produce makes preparing and eating it THAT much more enjoyable.
Don’t eat en cachette (in hiding).
France has taught me to not be embarrassed about what I’m eating. “If you love something enough, there is room for it in your life!”
Where in America, we have all been taught to love our diets and our detoxing, the French laugh at that stuff. They have never been the extremist types. They don’t weigh themselves constantly and aren’t about the latest fad diet or P90X. Instead, Frenchies find it easy to say “no” because they have the intention of saying HELL YES to something later.
The trick is to fill the day with petits riens and petits bonheurs —little nothings and little joys.
When the French feel their diets are off-balance, they make slight adjustments. They don’t cut the things out that give them the most happiness. They make small and easy sacrifices knowing that these small choices add up over time, using their clothes as a gauge rather than scales and other crazy measuring contraptions.
Make every meal a ritualistic and gourmet experience!
In America, I live life on the run. I grab whatever is fastest so that I can fit more into my schedule. I’m eating while standing up, eating while on my bike, eating while on the phone. I’m just trying to cram a million things into one short day—eating is just another task to me.
In France, eating IS my day. Meal times are as serious as Sunday mass is to the Pope. Breakfast is between 8-10AM, lunch 12PM-3PM, snack at 4PM, and dinner between 7:30PM-10PM.
Try eating outside of these hours in France and you are (excuse my French) s*** out of luck, mes amis. Moreover, try getting any errands done during these hours and you will also be out of luck, because everyone else will be on their meal break.
Frenchies, in honoring their mealtime so strictly, are thereby also honoring their bodies and their health.
I wish my American life was more allowing of me to sit and revel in my meals, treating food as a necessary enjoyment instead of a 30 minute clock-in-clock-out rat race to the closest access point.
Lay off the liquor and let IN the wine.
Admittedly, I’m not much of a drinker and I’m especially not one for hard liquor. But one of my favorite things to do over dinner is split a bottle of wine with a dear friend. Not only because it loosens us up and has infinite health benefits (when taken in moderation!), but also because there is something so chic and fun about eating with a glass of wine.
It condones true enjoyment of my food at another level by pleasing my eyes, ears, and taste buds all at once. MOREOVER, wine has been proven to SLOW DOWN the rate at which we eat.
When I learned this, the clouds parted and the angels sang hallelujahs. I eat SO fast that any tip I can get to slow myself down makes me go #YASqueen #omg #praise.
Bonne dégustation! Bon Appétit! et Au Plaisir!
France has taught me that food is not a means to make us all miserable. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Here, I finish each day with rich, dark chocolate and have treats throughout. I also have amazing salads for lunch and fruit bowls for breakfast.
Tout est une question d’équilibre. Everything is a matter of balance. It’s not about cutting things out! (My American self forgets this a lot.)
Bon appétit, mes amis.