Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thin French Women

So Code Purl asked in the Comments to Paris Monday how French women can eat such delicious pastries and stay thin.

I'm no expert. I haven't lived in France for 17 years (wow, I'm old) and only lived there for a few months anyway. I should've found a way to watch some TV when I there as a student. The little TV HA and I watched in our hotel room was pretty enlightening.

For starters, not all French women are thin. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone big by American standards, but that's true of many countries. I saw an informercial for a girdle with lots of uncomfortable looking boning. It was the sort of thing that was made obsolete with the invention of Spandex. So we're ahead of the french on shapewear technology, but clearly some french women need it. Too much QuickBurger, perhaps?

Another infomercial I saw was for a diet plan. They sent you powder that you mix with water and turned into a unappealing mush. They showed it nicely styled, on a bed of lettuce and tomato slices, but damn, that stuff still looked gross.

So French women do diet.

But that food styling gives a hint as to why many french women are thin. Even their diet slop is well presented. Imagine what they do with real, actual food. If you eat over at a frenchperson's house, you'll get lots of natural ingredients, prepared fresh. From scratch, more often than not. Very healthy and very satifying.

Throughout all the pre-wedding dieting, I dreamed of letting myself go into every single bakery, pastry shop and chocolate shop in Paris I damn well felt like it. But the thing is, I didn't feel like more often than not. Several mornings, I had a beignet for breakfast. A big, honking jelly donut. Now, if I had a donut for breakfast at home, I'd be hungry again before lunch. Maybe I'm just bored at home and mistake that for hunger, but I didn't feel much need to snack in Paris.

That's an important factor. You can find loads of places in Paris to buy a pastries of varying levels of quality, but good luck finding potato chips. Or corn chips. You can find them in the American section of the supermarket, but not really anywhere else. So if the french snack, they don't snack on artificial crap.

But that's not the only reason. I hardly ever eat chips at home, but I ain't thin.

Home cooking is probably also a factor. When counting Weight Watchers points, I always give myself credit (Activity points) for cooking. If you spend an hour on your feet, chopping, sauteing, etc. you're burning calories. And stopping off to buy your ingredients every day or every other day (for freshness) means more exercise as well.

Plus, the good quality food lends itself to portion control. That hazelnut tart we had fit into the palm of my hand and we split it. But it was so delicious that it was satifying. Ever catch yourself eating cookie after cookie when they're so-so, but only a few when they're really good? (Also, food heavy in salt or sugar just makes you crave more food. Not so much of an issue with food that's made, not manufactured.)

The portions in restaurants were pretty reasonable as well. We cleaned our plates without feeling stuffed. In the States, HA can eat half his meal in a restaurant and feel full. (Me, I eat half, decide to have a few more bites, and then decide that there isn't enough left for lunch the next day, so I might as well finish it.)

There's probably loads of other factors, but I suspect that eating quality keeps you from eating quantity. That, and my parents never should've encouraged me to join the Clean Plate Club.


  1. I'm always surprised that it rarely comes up that so many French women smoke...and Lord knows I weighed less when I did. I'm not attributing their slim physiques soley to this, but it is a factor.

  2. Thanks for the insightful reply. I always forget that taking the time to physically shop for and cook meals ends up burning more calories than picking up takeout or pushing a few buttons on the microwave!


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