What is it about French women?

What is it about French women?

They aren’t the prettiest women in the world, but they’re so charming that you soon come to think they are. They are naturally petite, and they have great style. Anything else you need to know?

OK, the diet thing. There is no French Paradox. The implication here is there’s a paradox that the French are not fat in spite of the high animal fat diet they eat. This concept is a product of the university Ph.D.s who have learned nothing about nutrition since the USDA came out with its grotesque food pyramid 40 years ago (which has human nutrient needs completely backward).

There is, however, an American Paradox. In spite of billions spent on unsound diet programs and unproductive (actually counterproductive) exercise regimens, the United States continues to lead the way in the obesifying of the world. Yet, in spite of a diet heavy in “rich” foods-animal fat and animal protein-only 10 percent of the French are obese. In Great Britain, 22 percent are obese and 33 percent of us weigh in as obese. But French women are living, beautiful proof that fat does not make you fat.

I’ve been telling people that for 30 years. As I have often complained, it gets discouraging; I keep putting out this good advice on nutrition but nobody listens (except you). It’s enough to make you want to quit-but I like the job.

Enough about my shabby life and back to the people I love to hate-the pinko morons who know nothing about the physiology of fat and think carbohydrates and kale are the secret of life. The petite, chic little darlings lunching in Parisian cafes tell a different story. They put away tons of animal fat (butter, cream, steak tartar, and let’s not forget the foie gras, which is just a fancy name for duck fat) in their lifetimes, and they still finish life where they were at 18-105 pounds.

So here is a part of the GREAT SECRET of French women: They eat fat, but they eat it slowly, and they eat small portions.

Make mealtime an event

French women eat slowly. When they’re sitting at the table, they talk a lot and are constantly surveying the dining room. It takes them hours to eat lunch-it’s a social phenomenon.

I have never seen an American woman who couldn’t eat me under the table. I’m still enjoying my Caesar salad and they’re ready for dessert, and that’s why they outweigh me. They talk a lot too, but they seem to be able to eat and talk at the same time.

And then there’s the portion-size part of the equation.

The University of Pennsylvania has done some interesting and useful studies comparing eating habits in France and the U.S. Portions served in restaurants in the two countries are different, the French being consistently smaller. Here are some telling comparisons from the Pennsylvania study:

Mean portion size in Philadelphia, PA is about 25 percent greater than in Paris. Philadelphia’s Chinese restaurants serve 72 percent more than the Parisian ones. A supermarket soft drink in the U.S. is 52 percent larger, a hot dog 63 percent larger, a carton of yogurt 82 percent larger.

It was in the 60s that food companies in America made the discovery that the larger the candy bar and the Coke bottle, the more candy and Coke Americans would eat and drink. Fatness and diabetes, along with cardiovascular disease and cancer spiraled out of control.

Fight back against the snack attack

Francois Baudier of the French Committee for Health Education divulges yet another secret of the enviable French waistline: “The French, in contrast to Anglo-Saxons, hardly ever snack outside of meals.”

One reason for this is that their fat-rich diet stimulates the production of cholecystokinin, a satiety signal that promotes an extended sense of satisfaction after eating even small amounts of high-fat foods. Leptin, an enzyme found in the stomach, also depresses appetite after a fatty meal.

Action to take:

In her book Chic and Slim, Anne Barone says: “Forget diets they are no fun and don’t work. What I learned from French women is that, ultimately, staying slim is not about counting calories or fat grams. It is not about exercise exhaustion. It is really about personal style.”

So go ahead and order the chicken in cream sauce. Just eat half of it. And take your time. Your food isn’t going anywhere, but if you follow the French example, the extra baggage around your midsection just might.


“Try eating like the french,” Diet News (www.dietnews.com), 1/3/05
Barone, Anne. Chic and Slim. Nouvelles Editions, 1997