How French women stay slim

by Khushboo on June 12, 2014

Hey guys!  I am in Paris as this post goes up.  I plan to put up a separate post next week on what I ate/drank/did in Paris…because you know there is plenty of all that going on!  In the meanwhile I want to share a conversation I had over the weekend.  While getting restaurant/shopping suggestions from my French friend Sarah, we went on to discuss the French diet…and how French women stay slim despite eating a diet high in carbs & fat.

photo 2-15

Quinoa Quiche

I found it particularly interesting given the extent that the general French style of eating contrasts with the tips we are constantly bombarded with.  I especially love the mindset French people manifest towards food i.e. it’s not something to be obsessed over or deprived of.  Food is so much more than a certain number of calories. Instead there is a general appreciation and celebration of food in France.   A few other points which stood out include:

  • There is no such thing as “grabbing lunch” or eating on-the go: Eating in France is a leisurely experience that engages all of the 5 senses.  Rather than wolf down their meals in record time, French people are mindful of every bite and therefore are more in tune with their hunger levels.
  • French people tend to eat balanced meals for lunch, as opposed to a mere sandwich or salad. A common lunch would be grilled fish with fresh vegetables, some kind of grain and a yogurt.
Chickpea Tagine with Herbed Couscous

Chickpea Tagine with Herbed Couscous

  • The “3 meals a day” approach is favored over 5-6 mini meals: The exception is a light snack around 4 PM to tie one over till dinner such as a small piece of bread, cheese or dark chocolate.
  • Full-fat ingredients are used in cooking: They taste better & a little goes a long way, which automatically helps with portion control.  From a psychological standpoint, using full-fat ingredients is more likely to lead to increased satiety from a meal.
  • French people tend to gravitate towards homecooked meals, rather than convenience foods or takeaways.
  • They eat carbs…and not necessarily wholegrains.
Oreo Cheesecake

Oreo Cheesecake

  • A food’s nutrition is determined according to one’s body signals as opposed to a nutritional label i.e. how good he/she feels after eating it.
  • They eat chocolate & cake regularly:  When a food isn’t off-limits, it’s easier to stop after a few bites rather than feel the need to binge.

And my favorite line of the whole conversation: When in Paris, eat fruit the Parisian way…in a tart.

How does your culture approach food/diet?

How do you like your fruit?

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Shashi @ RunninSrilankan June 12, 2014 at 3:20 pm

You know what I learned from your post – I think I am a french woman trapped in a Sri Lankans body! GAH!!!! Yes to fruit in tarts or pies or cakes – with the exception of bananas, papaya, mangoes, rambutan and mangostein I am not a huge fruit eater and dark chocolate everyday – you bet I do!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

Wait…you don’t like apples or berries?? Say it ain’t so!!!

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Arman @ thebigmansworld June 12, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I really admire the French way of eating- I actually think out of any country, they could poise as Intuitive Eaters the most. Whomever decided to take advantage of their standard culture and turning it into a worldwide ‘trend’ was onto something- yet the French aren’t doing anything special or extreme. Just balance.

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

I couldn’t agree more! I definitely think the Mediterranean style of eating is in line with intuitive eating…without all the marketing jazz!

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Lucie@FitSwissChick June 12, 2014 at 4:01 pm

I love this approach so much!! They really know how to embrace food and the ritual of eating. I LOVED the apple tarts when I was in Paris, omg.

Swiss People are ‘bon vivants’ as well – though they tend to overeat. But I think we do have the awareness of enjoying food in peace and not take away style.

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:21 pm

“Bon vivant” sounds so much classer than “good eaters”…either one I am definitely one of them :D!

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles June 12, 2014 at 5:45 pm

I think people could learn a lot from the french way of doing things – mainly, don’t overthink it so much! And I find the whole ‘eat 3 meals and 1 snack’ thing interesting, considering how big the 5-6 mini-meal approach is over here.

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

WHile we were in Paris, we actually ended up just eating 3 proper meals and I was surprised at how good I felt, especially since I usually do 3 meals + 2 snacks!

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Karishma Chugani June 12, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Theres a whole book written called ‘French Children dont Throw Food’ mostly on how french kids are raised from birth to develop eating habits that are aligned with what you described in your post. Very insightful!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm

I will have to check it out- love seeing how different cultures approach food & diet!

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Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health June 12, 2014 at 9:29 pm

i am so excited to see your Paris post…those French genes probably play a part too 🙂 and now only if i could eat chocolate and carbs all day long and be slim.

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:25 pm

Haha I think that’s every woman’s dream 😉

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Nikhita June 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I love these tips! Particularly the not eating on the go – I’ve started eating full meals for lunch and they help so much more with energy as opposed to just ‘grabbing’ a sandwich – I also feel like there will be less sugar crashes later in the day then!

And completely agree with you on giving into cravings – if something is off-limits, you will want it all the time! Food shouldn’t cause feelings of guilt, ever!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:26 pm

It’s crazy how much psychology influences diet- the more off-limits a food is, the more appealing it suddenly becomes!

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Parita @ myinnershakti June 13, 2014 at 12:43 am

Oh! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

And I love these point about how the people in France eat. And I’m sad to say that I don’t follow most of them, except the last one! 🙂 But seriously, I do need to learn to eat more slowly and treat every meal as an event. I think that one is really key!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:27 pm

As obvious as it sounds, I definitely found that putting down my cutlery between bites made me slow down my eating…after some time, it becomes a habit rather than a conscious decision.

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Brittany June 13, 2014 at 5:52 am

I love this!! I have a similar approach to eating meals and it’s been wonderful!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Woohoo that’s awesome 😀

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table June 13, 2014 at 9:06 am

I was just telling someone today that I’d rather have a little bit of the real” thing than a lot of the fake stuff. Processed, fat-free cheese isn’t even worth it!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Ick I couldn’t agree more..same goes for low-fat ice cream!

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. June 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

This just ties in to my conspiracy theory that our diet culture is secretly trying to make people fat so that they go ahead and spend more money on diet/fitness products. I’ve always found the food culture in Europe to be so much different and more enjoyable than the one over here, and I think the no-stress approach is one of the best ones there is. That being said, food in Europe is different from the food here… Not as many GMO’s, pesticides, and overall general things that are bad for us 😯

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Your conspiracy theory sounds just about right! So many of these packaged “health” foods packed in so much crap which only get us further from our goals!

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Liz @ I Heart Vegetables June 13, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Their approach to food really does make a lot of sense and it’s kind of a bummer that it’s not more like that there in the states!

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Khushboo June 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm

It is a bummer but fortunately it’s fairly easy to replicate :D!

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P June 14, 2014 at 5:43 am

I think the whole European approach to food serves as a great model. Love that last line!

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Khushboo June 15, 2014 at 12:19 am

I loved it too 😀

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig June 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I always think the same thing every time I see French women, or any European women for that matter, eat. Since I moved to London, I really embraced my inner European and I now do a lot of the things you mentioned. I stopped stressing about food, I only eat three meals a day instead of 6-7, and I liberally use fat in everything. I never deny myself food and I enjoy the dining experience so much more!

That said, we did get some funny looks ordering three mains (for two people) plus starters and desserts. One thing I find really interesting is how difficult it is to get a decent portion of veggies in French restaurants!

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Khushboo June 17, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I love hearing about how your food philosophy has changed- the less I stress about food or eating the ‘perfect’ diet, the better my experiences & memories are!

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Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets June 18, 2014 at 2:29 am

I love the approach to food in Europe. It’s laid back, GMO free, and full of fat and carbs. It’s how I actually eat most of the time. Yet outside of the HLB community, I would actually be deemed as thin despite my approach to food (or really because of it in my opinion). I tend not to overeat though and I really enjoy every bite I take. I also think when you’re eating so much home cooking with full fat ingredients it does keep you satiated which means less snacking on junk and you don’t need to binge because you’re getting it in moderate amounts. Holla for the French and Europeans in general.

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Khushboo June 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Haahahah holla to all the Europeans in the houuuuuse 😉

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