According to a recent report in Forbes magazine, a whopping 74% of Americafns over the age of 15 years are overweight (BMI greater than 25) or obese (BMI greater than 30). America came in at an inglorious #9 on the World’s Fattest Countries list. In contrast, France was a more respectable #128.
These statistics are surprising because France is a country where croissants, cappuccinos, and the café culture thrives; patisseries with mouth-watering desserts are found on every street corner; eating refined flour baguettes with meals is popular; lingering over food cooked in buttery sauces is commonplace; and drinking wine is the norm. So what are the secrets about the French and their eating habits that help them stay at a healthy weight, without exercising to exhaustion, and despite a seemingly unhealthy diet?
Paris is not the fashion capital of the world just by accident. The French are vain and fashion conscious. They have a mindset where they like looking good in beautiful clothes. French women take great pride in their chic and slender bodies and don’t “let themselves go.”
The French eat their meals like they have all the time in the world. A typical lunch in France lafsts two hours. They don’t like wolfing down food while multi-tasking. The French have an unhurried approach to food. They savor their meals with all their senses and eat for pleasure, not just nourishment. They also eat at regular intervals and consider eating in front of the television uncivilized.
Even though it seems the French eat a lot of carbs in the form of bread and pasta, their portions are small and their meals are light. Nothing is forbidden, but fatty foods are enjoyed occasionally and in limited portions. A sandwich in France is likely to be a baguette with a few healthy fillings compared to the giant overstuffed cheese-laden American ones.
Eating dessert in France is de rigueur, but rather than denying themselves, they choose quality over quantity. The French know when to stop. Their pastries are mini sized and they stop at one. The words mega, jumbo, and supersized are not part of their food vocabulary. All-you-can-eat restaurants are virtually unheard of in France.They buy healthy food. A French supermarket is likely to have an entire aisle devoted to healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, and snacks like chips, sodas, and cookies get very little shelf space.
The French enjoy a meal at a restaurant as an indulgence, but on most days, they eat real food prepared in their kitchens. Take-out is uncommon in France. They don’t order high-fat convenience meals. They allocate sufficient time in their daily routines to prepare and eat food. Their main meal is lunch. Snacking between meals is also unnecessary as traditionally their meals are well balanced.
In France, they don’t think about fitness all the time, they just make it a way of life. It’s common for people to use public transport, walk, or ride a bike to work.
High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are directly linked to belly fat accumulation. The French know the importance of getting a good night’s sleep and switching off from the stresses of work.
If you want to eat cheese and bread, drink wine, and still be slim like the French, slow down, savor the flavor, taste, and aroma of your food, eat everything but in small portions, and make walking your second nature. And isn’t it time we renamed French Fries to American Fries?