The French culture, to Americans, is often something that is looked upon in awe and admiration. There have been books – Bringing up Bébé, Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Kids Eat Everything, to name a few. We’ve already talked about French kids and food here on Extraordinary Mommy and today I thought I’d talk about French women and food….because for some reason (in fact, lots of reasons) French women rarely seem to get fat.
They don’t go to the gym. In fact, the gym in France isn’t a very popular thing, let alone gyms of the 24 hour variety. And even from my own personal experience, every time I move back to France I drop a good 5 to 10 pounds. On the other hand, every time I move back to the States, I inevitably gain about 5 to 10 pounds! Is it in the air? What the heck? Let’s take a look!
Here are 7 reasons French Women Don’t Get Fat
1.) They walk
French women – French people for that matter – walk a lot. It’s quite common in the bigger cities to not even own a car. Even in cities like ours where public transportation isn’t as common, people ride their bikes. Overall, they are a more active culture and therefore the gym becomes less necessary.
2.) They don’t snack all day
The French are very specific about their food times. Initially, this was foreign to me as I’m a snacker. When I’m bored, tired, or watching a movie, I like to have something to snack on. The French have very specific food times. They eat a small breakfast, rather large lunch and a decent size dinner. When the kids get home from school they have a set snack time and then they don’t eat until dinner. My kids want snacks all day. Hmmm… I wonder where they get that?
3.) Their desserts aren’t really… desserts.
There have been multiple times where we’ve eaten a dinner and they bring out the dessert platter and it’s yogurt or cheese or maybe pudding if you’re lucky. I think my fellow Americans are thinking “That’s not dessert!” This could be part of the reason I gain my 5-10 pounds when I’m in America. We do dessert right! … or wrong?
4.) Fast food isn’t as common
In my city we have to drive 10 minutes to the nearest McDonalds and that is the only fast food place in our city. We live in a smaller city but it’s not as thought it is in the middle of the country. I couldn’t even tell you where the closest Starbucks is located. Whereas in the city I live in the States we have a whole “fast food row” complete with Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, and Carl’s Jr. just to name a few. And although I don’t eat at those places often, the sheer ease and availability of it all makes me do it more than here. Living here, if I’m tired and don’t want to cook, I also don’t want to drive 10 minutes for McDo (what they call it), so I end up throwing something together with what I have.
5.) They cook. A lot.
See #2? Yes, they have their set times for eating and when they eat – they do it right! While breakfast might be small, both lunch and dinner are a more complete meal. I talked about this a little in my post about things we can learn from the French, but even at my kids’ school, which is a regular French public school, they have a full blown lunch with foods like fish, steak, lamb, soups, even ratatouille! So when the school isn’t cooking it, guess who is? The French women. I stayed with a French family last year and I swear she was in the kitchen all day. They used left overs (le reste) quite a bit but it was always a complete, healthy meal. Even living in France I could work on this one a bit!
6.) They shop more often
In France open air markets, or what we would call Farmer’s Markets, are very common. In fact, in our little town there are 3 each week! French women or families generally shop at these markets for fresh fruit often. Unlike the Americans (ehem… me) who like to shop as little as possible. But by shopping more often, even as annoying as that can be, they get fresher foods and that’s generally healthier for you.
7.) They take breaks
This will seem so foreign to Americans, but French people know how to relax. I think this definitely relates to the weight issue. In America, we take a 30 minute lunch break – if we’re lucky. In France, they have a 2 hour lunch break! Enough time to let the food sit & digest before they get back to work. They also often take walks after meals to work off what they just ate.
There you have it! Here’s the thing…these life adjustments aren’t mind blowing. They are actually quite simple, but it would require a few adjustments and a willingness to do so. I think a few simple changes can go a long way!
What do you think? Have you experienced French culture at all? What’s your take on all of this?
**Disclaimer – I have seen fat French women, so this isn’t universal. And with the arrival of more fast food chains here (slowly but surely) their culture is changing a bit so all of this is changing with it. However, we can still benefit from these tips!**