Sunday, April 19, 2009
What I Learned in France
I just returned from an amazing trip to Paris France. Aside from all the wonderful things I saw and did, such as going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and seeing real Renoir's at the Louve, I learned some things that actually were very relevant to this blog and I want to share them with you.
I hadn't been in France long when I noticed an interesting phenomenon. There were no fat French people! Okay, maybe there were a couple chubby older ladies, but really, most of the heavier people I saw in France were Americans. It was weird. Almost everyone was thin! After talking with Emilie about this (Emilie is my cousin who has lived in France for over two years) I learned a thing or two about the french food culture and the reasons why most french people are thin. They are Intuitive Eaters!! Their food culture lends itself very well to this way of eating. I'll explain....
The above two pictures are samples of things we ate in France with almost every meal (notice how small the pastries are). Busy pastry shops are on every corner, and the french eat desserts and white bread very regularly, with almost every meal in fact. Dieting is a foreign concept to them, and even though they move their bodies everyday, they aren't generally regular exercisers. So why are they so thin?
They savor their food. Food that is made carefully and with fresh, real ingredients. They eat slowly, and their portions are much smaller.
Really? Is that all?
Yep, that's all.
The french manage food and meal times much differently than we do here in the good old U. S. of A. Above is a picture of a typical French cafe. We would be seated for lunch and two hours later, finally be wrapping up our meal. Meals really took almost two hours to eat. It was wonderful! We would sit down, be served at drink, a little later, be served bread, a little later a meal, delicious, fresh, and smaller, but totally satisfying. No one rushed us through our meal. We would talk, eat, chat, eat some more. We enjoyed the meal, every bite. Then after having plenty of time to finish our food, we would order dessert. Desserts were amazing, but much smaller than the ginormous portions we are served here in America.
At my first dinner in France I ordered chocolate fondant for dessert. Chocolate fondant was exactly like what we would call chocolate lava cake here at home. I received my cake, which was only about the size of a racket ball, but presented very beautifully. I wanted to savor every delicious bite because it was such a small cake. Then it dawned on me. This was one big reason french people are small. They start with smaller portions and savor each bite because each bite counts. As I was enjoying the most amazing dessert I had ever had, made with the finest butter, cream, chocolate, and eggs, I couldn't help thinking about the huge, head sized chocolate molten cake I'm served at Chili's restaurant back in the states. I was more satisfied, slowly enjoying my little french cake, than I ever had been rushing through that chocolate monster back home at Chili's.
The french sit down to nicely set tables to enjoy their food. They wouldn't dream of eating in the car, having lunch working at a desk, or snacking while watching television. They set the table, sit down, and enjoy themselves at meal times. Emilie said she has carefully observed her french mother and sister in law. They don't nibble as they are preparing food. When preparation is complete and it's time to eat, they put what they want on their plates, sit down, and eat a leisurely meal, not going back for seconds, because they feel so satisfied.
French people rarely, if ever, snack, because eating food quickly would be a less than optimal eating experience. I don't know if I agree with the no snacking thing because it doesn't follow Intuitive Eating very well. Intuitive Eating tells to eat when we feel hungry, which is often between meals, but maybe we should make sure even our snacking is done in an optimal setting, not standing up at the counter or driving down the road.
Here's the new book I'm reading. I'll let you know if it's good. The author was born and raised in France, went for a year long study abroad in America and gained lots of weight. After returning to France she resumed eating in the 'french' way and lost her weight, keeping it off for the rest of her life. I'm about three chapters into it and their are many of the same things advocated in it that go hand in hand with intuitive eating. Mainly, savoring what you really want to eat, stopping when full, not dieting, and not restricting certain types of foods. When I'm done I'll do a review. I'm certain there are many things we could learn from the french way of eating because french women don't get fat!