If you actually want to say "goodbye" to your belly, you should take a lesson from the French.
Despite a diet stuffed with cream, butter, cheese and meat, just 11 percent of French adults are obese, compared with America’s 33 percent. The French live longer too, and have lower death rates from coronary heart disease. They don’t diet and they don’t spend hours panting round the gym.
Is it really possible? How a nation of alcohol-quaffing, croissant-munching gourmands stays healthy and slim, while a disproportionate number of health-obsessed Americans are obese and at cardiovascular risk? Here it is:
1 Food for pleasure – savor the flavor
French enjoy and savor their food. They are more gourmets than gluttons and tend to taste foods individually. They think of food more as a source of pleasure and less as a way to improve the health. In an international study, the group associating food most with health and least with pleasure was the Americans, and the group most pleasure-oriented and least health-oriented was the French.
Americans eat in a different way. It is quite common to observe how people gulp down hamburgers and fries while being busy with other activities like driving the car, making phone calls, watching TV. Unlike a majority of Americans, French are eating until they are sufficed, not stuffed.
Even when it comes to McDonald’s, French eat their food slower. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found ‘from observations in McDonald’s, that the French take longer to eat than Americans.’
2 Small portion size
Size does matter. If food is moderately palatable, people tend to consume what is put in front of them and generally consume more when offered more food.
French portion sizes are notably smaller than American portions. And although the French eat a lot of butter, cream, pastry and cheese, the research demonstrates they still consume fewer calories, resulting in decreased number of overweight and obese people.
For example, the standard size individual portion of yogurt in France is 125 grams compared to 225 grams in America. A joint French-American team of scientists from France’s National Scientific Rresearch Institute and the University of Pennsylvania, among other, found out that the average portion size was 25% larger, the same candy bar was 41% larger, and a soft drink was 53% larger in Philadelphia than in France.
3 Red wine
France produces more wine than any other country, only Italy is close. The French habit of moderate red wine drinking with a meal is probably the most known French paradox contributor. Indeed, Louis Pasteur (a French chemist and microbiologist), said: “Wine is the healthiest and most hygienic of drinks.” It is well established now that moderate alcohol drinkers live longer than abstainers or heavy drinkers.
Antioxidants called flavonoids, natural chemical compounds found in red wine, may promote health of the heart and blood vessels.
4 Quality over quantity
Open-air markets are very popular in France. It is common for French to buy cheese from the fromagerie, bread from the bakery, meat from the boucherie, and fruits and vegetables from the open-air market. Surely, it is more time-consuming and sometimes more expensive than at the grocery store, but the products are fresher and of better quality.
Frozen sections in American grocery stores are much bigger than in France. The market for prepared food is not as large in France and TV dinners do not reside in French diet also.
5 Home-cooking tradition
French cook at home more than the Americans. French food is real food – prepared in the kitchen, with time taken to choose, buy and prepare meals. Cooking at home is the best way to reduce the use of preservatives and trans fat, avoid excessive sugar and salt consumption.
6 “No snacking” habit
Americans who snack on sweets and refined carbohydrates raise their glycemic load and, in turn, their risk of heart disease. The French tend to snack much less than Americans, instead, they try to eat more regularly.
7 Water vs sodas
French drink a lot of bottled water instead of sodas. According to the statistics[6, 7], French drink on average 37.2 litres of soft drinks and 146.6 litres of bottled water per person annually. Americans drink 216 and 46.8 litres respectively.
8 Naturally active life
The French are more physically active by simply walking a lot. Daily walking is part of their lifestyle. The streets in France are much more walker friendly than in the US and are full of pedestrians. People, especially in cities, walk or use public transportation.
It’s true that the French deny themselves very little when it comes to food. But they also eat very little of it: a piece of dark chocolate after a meal, as opposed to a large piece (or two) of cake. They know that denial isn’t healthy, but it has to be moderated.
The French have a culture of caution after a period of excess. Eating more one day makes them be more careful the next.
Sources & References
- 1. Rozin P., Fischler C., Imada S., Sarubin A., Wrzesniewski A. Attitudes to food and the role of food in life in the USA, Japan, Flemish Belgium and France: possible implications for the Diet-Health debate. Appetite (1999) 33:163Ц180
- 2. National Center for Health Statistics FASTATS – Overweight Prevalence
- 3. International Obesity Task Force EU Platform Briefing Paper
- 4. Rozin P, Kabnick K, Pete E, Fischler C, Shields C. The ecology of eating: smaller portion sizes in France Than in the United States help explain the French paradox. Psychol Sci. 2003 Sep;14(5):450-4. PubMed
- 5. Wannamethee SG, Shaper AG. Type of alcoholic drink and risk of major coronary heart disease events and all-cause mortality. Am J Public Health. 1999 May;89(5):685-90. PubMed
- 6. Soft drink consumption by country. NationMaster
- 7. Bottled water consumption by country. NationMaster