Carolyn Chaffey

Today I started to reread the book "French Women Don't Get Fat"
I had read it a few years ago but took the time to read it today, not as a dieter, but as a study in a culture that doesn't have the problem with weight that our North American culture has.

It truly is cultural. There is a lot of detail but several things jump out at me. The French love food. They adore it. It's the most important thing culturally to be able to enjoy the pleasure of food. But, and it's a big but, they eat small amounts of really high quality food. Very little processed, rich with flavour, not fat, they know culturally, as a people who to make simple and rich and they no when to savour a bite and move on. They never stuff themselves and they allow themselves a lot of pleasure and then compensate by walking longer distances. They self-regulate their appetite with their activity and they do it naturally, the don't do gyms much, generally they walk and enjoy the pleasure of it. They raise their children the same way.

The second thing that stood out to me is the idea that dieting isn't discussed. It's just not something you talk about. You eat what you feel like eating, regulate your exercise to accommodate and you learn how do do this from birth.

There is no emotional attachment to food. The French eat for pure pleasure to satisfy hunger, not to deal with emotions or boredom.

They generally learn as a culture how to eat in season, fresh picked, highly flavourful food, they even have gourmet sparkling water, finding our north American water bland. Like the wine they enjoy with dinner, they are water connoisseurs as well. I was amazed at this, although I do enjoy certain water better than others, fortunately right now our filtered tap water is very tasty.

They avoid junk food, their sweets are generally baked pastries, cakes and cookies and they develop a taste for dark chocolate early on.

To get to the mindset of the French culture and their attitudes towards food is likely the ideal. Quality, fresh, in season foods in small amounts and adequate exercise. No punishment, just compensation. No guilt, just guilt-free pleasure. No weight loss groups, just the ability to self-regulate.

This book is a good read. It's not the entire answer but it is a good insight into the thinking of a culture who seems to have a healthy mindset about food, never feel deprived and yet, stay thin somehow. Worth a look.

As to me, I am feeling a bit like I'm getting a cold. It's spring so it may be mild allergy symptoms. It may be not eating after sunset which took place precisely at 6:33pm. I finished my dinner at 6:25 so I'm less hungry now at bedtime. I felt less likely to want to eat anything tonight. Interesting, I didn't really notice I hadn't eaten anything until I started to write about it.


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2 Responses
  1. Liara Covert Says:

    After living in France six years, one grows into a more astute observer of the culture. Reading the book you describe offers meaningful insight into certain cultural preoccupations. Yet, a person needs to be ready and willing to receive messages apparent in such a book. Layers of wisdom exist everywhere and a person decides what to notice. I know someone who bought the book you mention for his wife. Part of his reason is because his wife is overweight. She has no problem with this, but she is also oblivious to her eating habits and how they influence her overall health. Her husband's gesture ended up with the book going on a bookshelf and not yet being read. The binding is colorful. Some people learn useful information also enters mind through osmosis, and telepathy and other means. Books are not the only way to "get through."

    Found your blog through your comments on C.Om's blog. Good stuff!

  2. Breeze Says:

    Very insightful. Of course books aren't the only way to "get through" and while I love to read and explore all sorts of writings it's always with the mindset that living and experiencing is a much better way of learning however, books certainly enhance our understanding. This book is a good insight, 6 years in France, much better..unfortunately I haven't travelled there.

    Thank you for your comments