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Weight Loss Methods Learned From The French and Italians: Culture

Ah, you CAN eat your croissant and have it too. N’est-ce pas?

italian and french weight loss methodsA French Breakfast: Croissant, Jam and Coffee

italian and french weight loss methods

New Series On Weight Loss On the Blog

This is the second article on my personal weight loss methods learned from the French and Italians. To start from the beginning, you can read the first article by: clicking here and coming back to keep reading.

In this second part, I wanted to give you my weight loss secrets that are based on using a French and Italian meal structure and timing. So this second article will give you a general outline on how the French and Italians eat their meals because that is how I structure my meals now too.

I have lived in France for 11 years and I had to adapt my (our) meal structure to eat like my French neighbors. It is a cultural thing. School ends at 5 pm and sometimes later; years ago I gave up trying to eat dinner early (6 pm), we finally did late dinner like the Frenchies and haven’t looked back. The country next door, the one I love to visit and admire, bella Italia, also structures their meals like the French.

How does France and Italy’s meal structure and eating culture help them to stay lean?

Statistically, the French and Italians have less incidence of overweight and obesity in adults compared to other cultures. This is especially true in the populations that live in the South of France and in the North of Italy. With the exception of Italian children (who rank the highest for obesity in European children), Italians and French are ‘slim.’

French and Italians, as a population, have some of the lowest rates of obesity in Europe and in the rank of wealthy nations. (While this is true for adults, 42% of Italian children are overweight, making this population the highest in Europe. Researchers say the lack of a Mediterranean diet for Italian children, the lack of exercise and bad eating habits are causing this in Italian children). I will discuss this disparity in a future article.

Is it the Italian and French food, the Mediterranean diet, that keeps these two countries protected from an obesity epidemic? Or is it the way these two cultures eat, with their joie de vivre’ or ‘la dolce vita’, having their main meal at lunch?

It might be a little of both.

Personally, I feel more satisfied by the European sweet life, by eating slower, savoring food and enjoying meals that are more rich in taste. And despite my dietary changes over the years from eating low-fat and higher carbohydrate (the diet I was trained in graduate school to tell you all to eat!) to eating a higher fat Mediterranean diet, I have kept my weight stable for years.

I wanted to share with you how you can do this too. Freedom to eat and lose weight.

A Look On How the French and Italians Eat Their Weekday/Workday Meals

Here is the basic meal structure (similar for both countries), and what these meals are called in French/Italian. This is a general structure, because in our modern-day faster pace world there are changes in how some French and Italians are eating. These changes are influenced by dual working parents and more available fast and convenience types of food. In some ways, these changes are affecting children more than adults. In both countries child obesity is rising. In Italy, child obesity is an epidemic.

General Meal Structure

Light Breakfast: Le Petit Dejeuner /La Colazione

  • Coffee and a piece of toast, biscotti (twice baked biscuits) or cereal

Large Main Meal at Lunch: Le Dejeuner/Il Pranzo

  • Hot three-course sit down meal

Afternoon Snack: Le Gouter /La Merenda

  • Light snack of biscuits and hot drink or piece of chocolate

Light and Late Supper Il Dîner/La Cena

  • Meatless easy dishes such as soup, omelet or salad or lunch leftovers without meat or fish

Weekend and holiday meals are structured similarly, except the holiday meal and Sunday lunch have more courses and is longer.

How does the Italian and French meal pattern help with weight loss and weight control?

  1. Breakfast is small and light because the main meal is at midday. This means fewer calories eaten in the morning and a hungry appetite is kept going all morning because lunch is just around the corner.
  2. Eating the main meal at lunchtime means that your body digests and uses the food eaten at midday for the main fuel throughout the rest of the day. Because the main meal (normally) has a good amount of protein and fat, this helps with keeping blood sugars stable, especially in the mid-afternoon when blood sugars tend to drop.
  3. The main lunch meal is a hot three-course filling meal, eaten slowly and sitting down. This helps with meal satiety, promotes a moment of relaxation and food pleasure.
  4. The small gouter at 5 pm helps to keep hunger away until the later and light dinner. Not being hungry before dinner stops from snacking before or while making dinner.
  5. Eating a lighter and later dinner means not being hungry before sleeping. This stops hunger pangs from making you go back to the refrigerator or pantry to eat food or snacks before sleeping.

Why the French and Italian way of eating has helped me to stay the same weight over time

For all the reasons I stated above, this meal structure of a main meal at lunch has helped me to stay slim. But that is not all. The food I eat is adapted to keep my weight in control. My attitude towards food is relaxed and non-emotional. Because I am eating for pleasure and take time to enjoy at least one longer rich meal a day, I don’t crave snacking or eating the less-healthy foods. (I will also speak about sugar and carbohydrate addiction in a later article. These are the types of less-healthy foods I speak about).

My small and light breakfast has a fat and carbohydrate source. Sometimes I add a protein source in the morning too. Fat and protein in the morning help to keep you satisfied until the main meal at midday and stop those mid-morning jitters.

But I have more secrets that I want to share with you. Some secrets even the French don’t know about, and these secrets work to lose weight or to control your weight:

  • I don’t eat any bread after breakfast
  • I don’t snack between meals (This one the French are good about)
  • I don’t eat (or very rarely eat) white sugar
  • I don’t drink sugared drinks – this includes naturally sugared fruit juice
  • I don’t eat biscuits, refined sugars or processed low-fat foods

My secrets might sound too daunting for you. Give up sugar?! Give up bread and biscuits? Ah oui, you can do it! I promise that once you get sugar out of your body and substitute these sugared foods for other natural higher fat or healthier options (like a small snack of dark chocolate), you will feel good and lose weight in the process.

(Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed at this point. I will break down my personal eating plan with details in the next article).

How to make the French and Italian way of eating work for you: for your weight loss methods too

If your main meal needs to be dinner because of your or your family’s lifestyle, here are some ways that you can structure your meals like the French and Italians to make it work for you.

  • In Italy and France, there is one main meal. The other two meals are smaller and lighter. If dinner is your main meal, you can plan to have breakfast and lunch smaller and lighter.
  • If lunch has a healthy protein and fat source (even a sandwich can be filled with good protein and fat) then the quantity of food at dinner can be smaller, lighter and still enjoyed as a main meal by sitting down and taking a moment to relax and enjoy food. (more later on what is a typical menu in a later and lighter dinner). In general, we eat enough protein-we need less than we think! If you are having one good protein source at lunch, you can have a meatless and lighter dinner.
  • With good planning and preparation, lunch can be a main meal, if your work schedule and lifestyle allow it. It just takes some mental adaption to move the main meal to a different time.
  • The afternoon snack is something to be considered. If there is a witching hour in the afternoon for you, when you feel tired, hungry, cranky or jittery, than a small healthy snack may be just what you need to make it to dinner without snacking or eating the food you are cooking for dinner.
  • You can make your snack larger and move the dinner meal one hour later so that you have less hunger pangs before sleeping. By moving the meal later, you can eat together as a family when everyone is home from their activities and work. (One of the blog’s readers, and now a friend, told me that moving over to a later dinner helped a lot with her busy family).

The third part of the series: details on my eating secrets and how to translate this to you

I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information on my weight loss secrets. But I do want to get you my detailed plan of eating in the third part of this series on weight loss. You will have a menu to follow. You will see first-hand how I use a structured meal plan, a Mediterranean diet and add a few secrets to stay slim.

Thanks for your support. Part three will be out in a few days. If you need more information, you can also contact me with any questions at:

If you are looking for one to one counseling via Skype or telephone, I also counsel private clients. Contact me and I can send you a list of my services.

Hope you enjoyed this second part on weight loss. I would greatly appreciate you sharing this article to those who may benefit from the information. If you would like to subscribe to our monthly newsletter and article updates (then you won’t miss the next article in the series) why not subscribe with us? By joining you can download a free 13-page E-report on “How to Eat Like the French Without a Food Snob Attitude.”

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Thank you for your support and here is to a happy and healthy year ahead!



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2 Responses to Weight Loss Methods Learned From The French and Italians: Culture

  1. Lety February 4, 2014 at 10:48 #

    ADORO questi articoli che paragonano Francia e Italia! I love these posts talking about French and Italian eating styles! They’re really useful! Moreover, I’m reading the ebook “the great myth of cholesterol” and I’m really astonished. It’s really important reducing sugar intake!
    Thank you Mary!


    • mbrighton February 9, 2014 at 23:53 #

      Grazie mille Le* ! I agree-we must reduce our sugar intake. Love your Italian culture! Take care and be well.

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