They say that everyone has their own Paris… Mine, partly, was focused on observing seemingly unreconcilable phenomena immediately after arriving here from the US. 1) Most French have slim frames. 2) The food is the freshest, the most delicious I have ever tasted 3) Food is abundant–it is around every corner in the form of a bakery, cafe or brasserie. 4) Many French enjoy wine almost daily, some even starting at lunch. What a way of life and it is in such contrast to the diets focused on deprivation that still leave Americans overweight. Why such a paradox–slender people indulging in delicious food and wine without guilt?
The observation of the bystander to French slenderness is confirmed by the statistics. According to a Swedish study, published in the British Medical Journal, only 9.4% of the French population is obese compared to 30.6% in the US. So, what do the French do to balance out the joy of food and wine with aesthetic physique? The answer is French lifestyle. Here are what seem to be the basic 3 ingredients:
1) Style is everywhere. Women are fashionable, men are fashionable, kids are fashionable, even pets are fashionable!
Young and old take care of their appearance. It is uncommon to pass anyone who does not have some hint onto fashion. In this kind of atmosphere one is motivated to stay slender because being stylish begins with a naked and slender body. When life is surrounded by art–beautiful buildings, beautifully dressed people, beautifully presented food, it is compelling to “fit” into the scenery.
2) Portions are small. It is not in the quantity but the quality.
One get satisfied because food is so flavorful. In French restaurants meals are cooked from scratch. At the French markets the oranges, apples, lemons are not coated with wax and the taste is concentrated because produce is so fresh. Also, eating food is about experience. Food is presented in a beautiful way. When your other senses are stimulated by the energy of life, love and pleasure, there is less temptation to over-eat.
3) Mode of transportation–your own legs. Whatever is the errand de jour and whatever is the weather your two legs are the primary mode of transportation.
French are very much down on cars. Well-lit streets that are busy day and night with life are very inviting for a stroll to see and be seen. Why would one want to drive? When there is so much external stimulation, walking is not a chore; it is an energetic delight and an opportunity to get energy of the city rub on.
What is the lesson from slender French for Americans? The lifestyle of being slim, starts not with dieting, deprivation or a magic pill but with an appreciation of aesthetics, passion for life and having physical activity as a part of life. Strive to walk more, go to farmer markets, cook fresh food at home and make a place in your life for culture, fashion, beauty so you don’t have to compensate with food. It is not easy, but it can be done with deliberate mindfulness of integrating the best elements of European lifestyle into the daily routine.