Oh, the french. They smoke like chimneys, drink like poissons, and bread and cheese is practically a religion there. But I can count on one hand the number of obese people I encountered on my trip— and two of them were from Texas. Now, I’m not suggesting these habits are a path to health. Indeed, the idea of the “French Paradox”— that coronary heart disease death rates are low despite high consumption of saturated fat— has been pretty well put to bed (here
, and here
). Yet still, obesity is not the problem there that it is here. Why are Americans fat and the French aren’t?
You’ve heard it before, but in my observation, it’s true:
- Meals are an event. They are eaten at a table, in good company and with plenty of time. Hardly ever on the go or in the car or at the desk.
Food is high-quality. Organic, fresh, made in farms and shops and kitchens more than factories.
Portions are much smaller than what you get in the U.S. It’s always enough, but it’s less that we’ve come to expect You don’t have to feel completely full to be nourished. Indeed, by lingering over the meal, you often realize you are, in fact, satisfied.
They walk, bike, skate, and otherwise get around using their legs.
Nothing here is surprising, not even a little. But it’s powerful.
I just got back from a week in Paris, and despite my living the vacation life, wine,cheese, and croissants included, I don’t feel gross. I like this food, when I have it. BUT: I like it in small portions, when I’m walking six miles a day and enjoying the beautifully crafted and plated meals. And interspersed with beautiful veggies and fruits, of course.
I don’t have the same love for this rich food that I do for fresh vegetables, light flavors, greens and berries and flowers and fruits. Some of it is in the taste and the aesthetics, certainly, but most of it is in my body, my energy. Maybe my spirit too, if that isn’t too woo-woo (I know. I know. It is). I don’t live the French life all the time— sometimes I eat at my desk, or watching Netflix. Sometimes I’m in a rush. So eating a primarilty plant-based diet works for me, at home. But I sure enjoy the reminder to put that food on a pretty plate and sit down for a few minutes to enjoy it.