Eat and stay slim like the French {day two}

{day two} Eat and stay slim like the French
There is a myth floating about that the French, and French women specifically, are able to eat just about anything and not put weight on.

If you think about it, it’s a little ridiculous as myths go. French people do not have special magical powers, a better metabolism, a secret fountain of youth or special plant that melts body fat. Weight Watchers, Atkins and whatever the latest trend in diets is, have been a feature in France for decades, and show no sign of diminishing in appeal. France is also the second largest market for McDonald’s after the US, and I mean, French people LOVE fast food. Maybe it’s because you can have a beer or a glass of wine with your burger; for me it’s the pistachio ice cream and the fact that the quarter-pounder is called ‘Le Royal’ (because I’m worth it)  that does it. But somehow, a lot of people outside of France can’t believe this to be the case, maybe due to the (mostly media-led) romantic idea that all we do is look glamorous sitting in cafés drinking coffee and wine with a steak and salad.

I’m guessing that the reason French people have been described as slim is because it stands against the notion of traditional French food being rich and often served with sauces. Whilst it’s not wrong (a lot of French food IS rich), it doesn’t tell the whole story. In the last 50 years, people would have been recovering from WWII rationing and a general lack of available food stuff and variety. In the US, the years after the war were of incredible prosperity and both the appearance of affordable kitchen appliances and pre-packaged food had an impact on people’s eating habits. In France, the post-war recovery was slower as the logistical and physical effects of the war were a lot more immediate and wide-ranging. The focus was more on improving transportation and just making food, as opposed to facilitating its process.

This said, it is not completely untrue that French people are generally slimmer than their UK and US counterparts. I can think of three reasons why this may be:

1. Portion control

If France had a motto centred around food, it would be ‘Everything in moderation’. This is why it is not difficult for the average French person to drink a glass of wine with lunch, or to have a three-course meal every day. If you are going to have cheese, you would just have a small slice and leave it at that. The same goes for starters of cured meats, just one or two slices suffice, and you get the enjoyment of tasty food without gorging.

2. Education i.e it’s a cultural thing

Food is important. It is not a simple matter of getting enough nutrients so you can survive until the next task or the next day. The idea of ‘counting calories’ is relatively new to French people. Eating is an experience, it is relational; it is community; it is about enjoying the best life has to offer. As such, learning about food groups and how to eat is a natural part of a child’s education, and the school canteen menus reflect this. I will expand on this topic later this month when I talk about ‘how to educate your kids about food like the French’.

3. Exercise and diets!

In reality, obesity, whilst a recent problem compared to the US and the UK, is very much on the rise. As I said, France is the second biggest consumer of McDonalds after the US, and its effects are very much being felt. A new generation of French people, from the 90s onwards, has grown up with more access to junk food, and the technological changes of the last 20 years have a major impact on habits and lifestyle. Only time will tell whether France will be able to curb the trend.

Concepts like portion control and seeing food as ‘more than fuel’ are affected by culture and education, that is to say, that we are affected by the behaviours we observe growing up, and by peer pressure. It is easier to restrain your snacking habits in a culture where it is not the norm to snack. It is all about mindset, and whilst it is  possible to change a lifelong habit, it is by no means an easy feat in a culture that loves to eat big. But if people have the willpower to change, whether driven by circumstances or by a strong enough desire, I can’t help but think it must be attainable. If anyone can change their personal habits to embrace something like the paleo diet, it must surely be easier to adapt to a diet that says you can have a bit of everything in moderation instead.
31 days button - Frenchify your life # font x400

Introducing: 31 Days to Frenchify Your Life {day one}

31 days button - Frenchify your life # font x400
A few months ago, I was doing so well with the blog that I decided I’d like to take on a blogging challenge. I’d come across the 31 Days writing challenge before and it sounded like the kind of ludicrous dare only a masochist would take on, or, I guess, a wanna-be-writer, but definitely not me. I did like the idea of having a one-subject focus over a series of posts, and it must have stayed with me because here I am.

Here I am, on this fair October 1st morning, to formally welcome you to my 31 Days of writing. As of today I am joining with hundreds of other bloggers to post something every day for the whole month of October. Needless to say, I’m worried. I hate to see my inbox stuffed with loads of uninteresting filler blog posts and I can imagine most people are the same. I’d rather read one interesting, intelligent post a week than seven boring ones. Now I can’t and won’t promise that every post this month is going to feature fascinating writing of the life-changing variety. One thing I can promise for sure, it will be entertaining and I hope you will, by the end of the month, know at least one fact about France and the French that you didn’t know before.

Ah yes, the theme I settled on has to do with France, because duh, check out the blog header. I have chosen a pretty broad theme and so for the next 31 days we are going to look at all the little ways that you can add a little French flair to your day-to-day, how you can Frenchify Your Life, if you will. If you love France and you wish you knew a little bit more about the way that French people do life, the products we use, the books we read and the films we watch, the things we eat and drink and how we think about life, love and the world, this is the month for you.

My intention over the next 31 days is to help add a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to your life with facts, tips, recommendations and a healthy dose of links, so that you too can Frenchify your life with the best of them. Hopefully some of you will be motivated to try your hand at French cooking for the first time, some to read a book by a French author, watch a French film or even pick up your dusty French textbook with renewed enthusiasm. I can dream!

 {day one} Introducing 31 Days to Frenchify your life

This said, if France and the French aren’t your cup of tea, there are still hundreds of other 31 Days series starting today on a huge variety of topics. So if you want to get inspired, check out the 31 Days website by clicking the picture below or in the sidebar on your right, and get reading!