French women are famous for being able to achieve and retain a slim physique. Well I can tell you, I live in France, and not all women are slim. But, statistically French women are slimmer than British women – so how do they do it?
Is it iron will power? Is it a Mediterranean diet? Or perhaps it’s something else? When I moved to France I gained weight almost from the first day. All those fresh cooked croissants, cakes like little works of art and the fabulous wines take their toll. So I asked my slim French women friends, particularly those “of a certain age” as they call ladies over 50 here – how do you do it?
Here are 5 tips for how French women stay slim – and some of them may surprise you.
- Always allow 20 minutes between courses
This, say my friends, gives your brain time to acknowledge “the food has arrived in your stomach.” It’s something that mothers teach their children in France. It’s a simple rule and because most kids accept what their parents tell them (French children are generally well-behaved and French parents are stricter), it’s a habit that stays with them when they’re adults.
- Drink water with your meal
Another very basic rule. Yes French people do drink wine with their meal but they tend to pour a smaller glass than we’re used to in the UK. Drink a big glass of water, small glass of wine.
- No snacking
Actually, snacking is becoming more popular with young people, and kids are allowed a snack after school, usually a very small cake. But on the whole, French people don’t snack and they teach their kids to leave at least four hours between meals. One of my friends told me, “When I go to Britain I am truly shocked to see people eating in the streets, we wouldn’t dream of doing that here”. They avoid the need to nibble between meals by eating breakfast, a large lunch, often three courses (even at school) and sensibly sized dinner.
- Use Smaller plates
French women who are on a diet use smaller plates. It’s an old trick but a good one. They also make the food look beautiful. A lettuce leaf, tomato and wedge of cheese won’t cut it. Dressing, nut sprinkles and shaped cucumber slices don’t add many calories but enhance the eating experience because the food looks good.
- Never drink coffee or any hot drink with cheese.
One of my French friends assures me that the cheese solidifies in your stomach. “Surely everyone knows that, don’t they?” she asked as I looked astonished. The cheese course in France is served before dessert which comes with coffee. It doesn’t help digestion she says and if there’s one thing French women are hung up about – it’s digestion.
If all else fails, I did once see a woman forego the dinner menu and order a bowl of lettuce and a bottle of ketchup in a very posh restaurant in Paris!
Janine Marsh is the editor of www.thegoodlifefrance.com