When you walk the streets of Paris, it is not unusual to see French women over 50 with the same slim figure they had when they were 20. And yet in the city of light, you can literally smell fresh bread and buttery croissants wafting out of every street corner bakery. Chocolate and wine shops abound as do superb restaurants that serve divine, decadent dishes. So how do French women supposedly break every rule of modern “diet” books and remain slim? And more importantly, how can you do it too?
As a self-confessed foodie and former yo-yo dieter the last thing I dreamed I would lose when I moved to Paris was 25lbs. Yet surprisingly, I not only lost weight that has stayed lost but the experience revolutionised my relationship with food. Living with a French family taught me how to eat a little bit of everything without eating too much of anything, which is essentially how I lost weight eating camembert, French fries and quality chocolate.
1. Euro Size It
Eating for the French is a sensual experience, not a fearful or guilty one. The French revere the quality of their food and believe that the way to lose weight is to eat less of it. It’s an easy formula. No pills, shakes or fake food. They will simply balance out their meals and eat a little less cheese, a little less wine, a little less baguette and a little less chocolat. But they will never go completely without their little indulgences.
2. Choose What Matters Most to You
For French women, weight management is not an either/or proposition, and they are not big fans of black and white thinking – they prefer shades of grey. Therefore maintaining balance involves the daily practise of consciously choosing what matters most to them. For example, if they go out to dinner, they may choose the camembert or the sauccisson, but they won’t have both. A Frenchwoman naturally knows how to “edit” her choices and savour every bite.
3. Impulse delay
French women generally only eat at mealtimes, sitting down at the table without distractions, which eliminates a lot of mindless grazing and autopilot eating. By delaying the impulse to eat due to environmental triggers, French women know how to wait for authentic hunger and therefore enjoy the ceremony of the meal more. By not acting on the impulse to eat immediately whenever you see or smell food, you develop the essential life skill of patience, which helps you avoid eating something you don’t really need.
4. Lifestyle Exercise
While French women are not big fans of the gym, they certainly walk a lot, especially in and around Paris. This includes up and down stairs in the metro and often, six flights of stairs just to reach their apartment door. She is also more likely to stay fit doing simple household chores like vacuuming, mopping and active cleaning. She may even take a dance class too, just for fun. Even though the French eat late, many are fond of an after dinner stroll to aid digestion, and are not likely to sit for hours watching TV.
5. Non Food Rewards
French women take self-care seriously. It’s not considered an indulgence, but a necessity. While she loves good food, she also knows that there are many good rewards other than food. If she is stressed or bored, she is more likely to go window shopping or meet up with a friend at a café terrace for some people watching. She may soak in a lavender bubble bath, light some scented candles or read an absorbing book, but she is less likely to find relief in a family size packet of potato chips. Being attuned to her true needs means that when it’s mealtime, she eats, and when it’s not, the typical French woman is living a full and pleasure filled life.
The French “a little of what you fancy” approach to weight management is very popular in France and can be practised wherever you live. When you feel satisfied with what you eat and choose real, quality food, you realise that “enough” is as good as a feast.
About The Author
Sally Asher is an author, health scientist and healthy living blogger. After losing 3 dress sizes 12 years ago while living in Paris, Sally now helps women globally reach their happy weight and stay there using the techniques and habits she learned from slim French women.