Skinny and Chic French Women: 2 Less-Know Ways To Stay Thin
The mystique of French women. It is all over the media: these slim and fashionable French femmes, raising kids, portrayed in news articles, on television, and in the bestselling books on the market “French Women Don’t Get Fat” and “Bringing Up Bébé.”
There is a certain allure and je ne sais quoi on the apparent easy way that French women seem to have it all together: they work full-time while raising well-behaved kids (who eat everything on their plates) and they do this while wearing pearls, lipstick and a twisty French scarf.
In their thin to normal weight bodies.
I could talk for hours on how this French women mystique cannot be generalized throughout France. What you see in the media often shows French women in Paris, and we all know that it isn’t fair to extrapolate the snapshots of what happens in big cities to all women in the country. Could we say all American women are like those walking around in Manhattan, or English women like Londoners? You get the point.
Two secret ways French Women don’t gain weight
But now the fun part. I can tell you some secrets. I have lived in SW France for 11 years, integrated into my community, I have French friends. They are normal, they don’t all portray this chic and slim stereotype of what is portrayed in the media. Through them, I do know two secrets many French women use to stay within their normal weight.
Cigarettes and strict meal and weight discipline.
The amount of French women who ‘smoke’ is shocking.
A long time ago I was having lunch with 8 French friends. We were sitting at a table just finishing our meal when one of my friends opened up her sac and pulled out her cigarettes.
I am going to go out for a smoke, she said.
I was like ‘what?’
I would have never guessed that this friend of mine smoked. She never smelled like smoke and she never mentioned cigarettes. Meanwhile back at the table, 4 other friends got up to smoke too. Some of which had their own cigarettes, others were going to grab a ‘fag’ from someone else.
Then I started noticing this habit at other times. There was the end-of-year dinner with about 50 French women I go to the gym with. After dinner more than half of the women at the table got up with their packs of cigarettes to go outside and have a puff. Shock shock shock!
In fact, the secret you don’t read about is that many French women either smoke occasionally (or more) for weight control and to ‘coupe-faim’ (cut hunger) after a large meal. One journalist wrote about this in her article on French women don’t get fat myth and noted that “half of French women smoke.”
Some of these French women are not in the statistics as smokers, because if you ask them, they don’t smoke. It is an occasional puff, a few times a week (more or less). They buy the cigarettes, a pack could last a week, two weeks or more.
These puffs help to stop overeating, to increase metabolism, to cut hunger and control weight.
But don’t use this method for weight control. Not only is it unhealthy and expensive, it can show the wrong message for kids (too many French teenagers smoke) and can lead to becoming a real smoker.
Voila, secret number one. And onto secret number two:
Very strict weight and meal discipline
The French seem all relaxed with their long meals and joie de vivre, but actually, the French culture has an air of strictness and self-criticism. Starting from an early age, both at home and school, there is a strong discipline for staying in ‘order’, both in behavior (at the table and the times for eating meals) and in general with schoolwork, neatness, dress, and self-discipline. Although I do not see it directly in my entourage, I do know that French mothers can also be very strict with controlling their daughter’s weight and are not always the best models on being relaxed and feeling well in their own bodies.
And these cultural habits keep the French women (and in general French men too) in control with their weight. It would unacceptable to a French woman to suddenly put on 5 kilo. It just wouldn’t happen (unless there was a medical reason). So the French women stick to the scales and have strict meal times and foods they cut back on, if the weight pushes up a bit. Before it gets too late. Before they have gained too much weight. I have heard so many times, (even from women who just gave birth)
I have those 3 kilo to lose.
And they lose it, even a month after delivering their babies.
Weighing yourself too often and restricting food on occasion are not healthy weight control habits to use regularly, but being a bit strict on weight and meals is not always a bad thing. If we keep ourselves in check on a weekly or bi-monthly basis, by keeping up with regular exercise (as a priority for health, weight and stress) and eating healthy, these can be good things. If we feel our clothes are fitting just a bit tighter or the occasional weighing on the scale shows a few pounds more, then a discipline of adding another hour or two that week of exercise and taking time to eat a few lighter healthier meals helps to bring the weight back to where we normally are.
Maybe we do not have to be so obsessed like the French, but their secret way they always keep their weight in check, can be adapted for a slightly more relaxed attitude.
But just don’t smoke!
If you would like to read more on how the French women eat and stay slim, here are twoarticles from other women like me, observations from the outside! Mythbusters, French Women Don’t Get Fat , Real Reason Why French Women Don’t Get Fat.
You can also read my other articles in the blog or subscribe to updates on new posts. By subscribing you will receive your free E-report on “10 Ways to Eat Like the French Without A Food Snob Attitude.” (Tips on eating for pleasure while keeping your weight in control, using a back to basics eating plan).
Please feel free to comment below, my opinions are my own and if you have something to add or disagree with, please share your thoughts. Bon journée a tous!