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How do French woman eat all of that and still look so fabulous?

The French Parodox, Why French Woman Don’t Get Fat– we’ve all heard it before. I just read an interesting book written by Helena Frith Powell, a British journalist living in France, called Two Lipsticks and a Lover and got some insight on this. She writes about all areas of what makes a French woman so quintessentially French and alluring, a question I have found myself asking since I have a fascination with the French culture and adore French Beauties like Marion Cotillard more than I can say.

I hate to disappoint but it seems it’s not such a paradox after all if you look behind the curtain, it’s good old fashion sense, portion control, and a relaxed attitude. French women don’t feel deprived since they do indulge on occasion without guilt so they are fine with being on track the rest of the time and don’t have to resort to extremes.

Their approach and what she found confirmed what I already knew but it was nice to see that these women are not superhuman, just really intelligent eaters. If I may summarize, here goes:

Food:

1-Go for quality over quantity

2-Prepare fresh foods

3-Don’t eat past the point of satisfaction, never to the point of fullness

4-Don’t snack

5-At home, be especially diligent and allow treats when out

6-Wine and dark chocolate make the best sweet indulgences, but there is room for bread and cheese too

Helena actually found that many French women will stick to fish and steamed veggies when at home and make concessions in public because if you are going to diet in France you need to keep it to yourself. I thought about the huge difference in America where women talk about dieting constantly with one another. It’s sort of like if you aren’t on a diet here, you aren’t part of the club.

Even the French way of saying you’re hungry and full differs from our own. The literal translation is “I have hunger” and “I no longer have hunger” instead of the American version, “I am starving!” , “I’m stuffed!”. Can you imagine stopping before the point of fullness at “I no longer have hunger” i.e. “I am satisfied”. I have a feeling not many people would have a weight problem if they did this. One of the best ways I have found to do this is to chew, chew, chew, it really helps you slow down and listen to your body’s satiety levels. Putting your fork and knife down in between bites can help you get into this habit, especially if you are like me and tend to eat very quickly when not aware. Sitting down without distractions while eating is also very important, otherwise you will look down at your plate and your food will be gone, and you will think “hmmm where did that go?” You might even go for seconds because you didn’t register what just went into your mouth.

Movement:

Helena’s section on exercise was also interesting. The French seem to like maximum result for minimal effort.  They make moving a part of everyday life. They walk, they cycle, they may even do toning yoga or calisthenic moves, but they do not do weights. They use every chance to move as a reason to stay fit. Here in America, we love grueling fitness classes, run marathons, do Barry’s Boot Camp and 2 hour yoga in a room heated at 104 degrees, and take classes like CrossFit that become a lifestyle. Would we need to go to these extremes in exercise if we weren’t so sedentary the rest of the time and if we didn’t feel the need to punish ourselves for our numerous overindulgences? I wonder.

Attire:

French women also put a lot of effort into their appearance,  they put on lip gloss just to walk the dog and don’t leave the house in unpresentable attire. They value taking care of themselves and take pride in their appearance. They would never wear their Lulu Lemon yoga pants unless in an actual fitness class unlike most of us here who live in them most of the weekend.

With clothes it’s much like food, it’s about having a few really nice quality pieces and mixing it up with accessories. I mention this because it’s important that wherever you are in your journey you take a minute to take care of yourself and put your best self out there into the world. The effort will make you feel better than you have felt in ages!

My take away, self care is really important. Taking time to actually prepare your food, picking out an outfit that makes you feel great, and moving your body in ways that make you feel alive are actually valued in this culture and the results speak for themselves.