How Do the French and Italian Weight Loss Methods Translate Into an Eating Plan?
Weight Loss Series
This is the third article on my personal weight loss methods learned from the French and Italians. To start from the beginning, you can read the first and second articles by: clicking here for the first article on time and here for the second article on culture and come back to keep reading.
In this third and critical part (the one that some of you have waited for), I wanted to outline my general eating plan. So this third article will give you a general plan on how and what I eat for meals. I have to state general because with eating ‘what I want’ and not having emotional attachments to food, there are days when I may eat more because it is a restaurant meal, holiday season, Sunday lunch, or a party. And that is the joy of free eating because when you eat just for being hungry and stop when you are full, when you eat because you have cooked and sat down to have a slow and nice meal, when you don’t need to snack out of boredom or stress (or grab some tidbits while you are making dinner because you are hungry), you won’t have a problem to lose weight or keep your weight stable.
This has been my way of eating for years and it works.
I need to state a disclaimer: what works for me may not work for you because all of us have our unique bodies and genetic body types. (Although I do believe this eating plan will work for you, I don’t want to set you up for disappointment). If you take certain daily medications this can increase your weight, certain periods in your life you can also gain more weight than usual (as example: end of teenage growth years and menopause) or even your bouts with regular mental stress or depression can influence our weight. Sometimes you may need more personal counseling to meet your weight loss goals. You can seek advice from a registered dietitian (some of our services are covered by health insurance) and/or if you like to have my personal support you can contact me for a list of my services.
What I like about my personal eating plan is that it really detaches me from food ‘addiction’, cravings, mood swings or eating out of boredom because I feel satisfied (I will explain more later about the effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup on mood swings and food addiction) and do not snack or eat when I am not hungry. So even if you are fighting an uphill battle against your hormones, genetic type, or side effect from the medication you are taking, wouldn’t it be nice to feel that your struggle and potential guilt with eating is lessened or gone?
Essentials to follow to make your weight loss plan a success:
- Doing this weight loss plan because you want to do it for yourself, to feel better and have more energy, not because you or someone else thinks “you should just lose a few pounds”.
- Making changes in your eating plan: phasing out eating processed sugar+fat or salt+fat foods such as store-bought biscuits, cookies, chips, cakes to just a bare minimum.
- Cutting out white sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your eating plan (this may take a few days to get used to-but to make your weight loss goals a long-term success, you need to flush out from your diet white and high fructose corn syrup sugars which cause cravings, mood swings and over-eating). Homemade cakes and cookies can be enjoyed in moderation for pleasure eating.
- Adding a regular form of physical activity as a part to your weight loss plan (a separate article on fitness and a workout schedule is coming in the next article).
- Tracking your eating plan and success (I will write a separate article on ways to track your eating plan and progress via smart phone applications and other methods. Although I do not use a tracking plan, I believe that these tracking tools can help you to be successful towards your weight loss goals).
- Taking time as a priority to make your weight goals a reality. Without enough time to sit down and eat or take time to exercise and have a balanced life, this weight loss plan won’t work. If you don’t have time in your life now, do this plan when you do have time.
My Basic Weekday/Workday Meal Plan
Here is my basic meal structure. I work from home and have more freedom to cook in my kitchen and eat meals when I am hungry. When you are working away from home it takes more effort to plan and cook meals, but these efforts pay off.
General Meal Structure
Wake up half sleeping and drink a few sips of coffee with light cream( because it helps me to wake up)!
Light Breakfast: (eaten when I am hungry-usually after the kids go to school)
- Mug of coffee (12 ounces) with light cream (called half and half in America) and two pieces of toasted whole-grain or dense baguette smeared with 2 tsp. of salted butter and 2 tsp. of jam.
Large Main Meal at Lunch: (eaten with my kids, usually all of us very hungry)
- Hot three-course sit down meal that I have prepared for midday.
- First course: large portion of green salad with French vinaigrette , eaten à volonté (as much as I want).
- No bread: my portion of carbohydrates is the small portion of pasta, rice or potatoes and the large portion of vegetables.
- Main course is small portion of lean protein (such as chicken, fish, beans, cheese, red meat) served with large quantity of vegetables and small portion of grains (rice, pasta, potatoes).
- Piece of fruit after meal and then a yogurt (not a fat-free yogurt, sometimes a full-fat or half-fat yogurt).
- Meal finishes with a small coffee (called espresso in Italian) and a piece of chocolate (a symbol that the meal is over).
Afternoon Snack: (usually around 5 pm)
- 2 squares of dark chocolate or (sometimes) it is milk chocolate with nuts and /or raisins.
- Or a piece of fruit and some nuts.
- Glass of sparkling water with lemon.
- No biscuits/cake.
Light and Late Supper: (sometimes this is very late because my rule is that I don’t eat until I am hungry).
- Large salad made with homemade vinaigrette.
- Bowl of soup or a few slices of cheese (usually cheddar), or a light pasta dish with vegetables
- No meat, fish or anything heavy.
- No bread.
Water: sparkling or filtered tap water, often with a sprig of fresh lemon. Besides coffee in the morning and a rare English tea in the afternoon (sweetened with honey, 2 tsp. of fruit juice or nothing) I only drink water. Some evenings, especially during festive periods and on the weekends, I enjoy either a glass of wine, a dark or craft beer with my late dinner, or just finish the evening with a plain (no sugar added) herbal tea before sleeping. Weekend and holiday meals are structured similarly, except the holiday meal and Sunday lunch which have more courses and is longer.
How does this meal pattern help with my weight control?
- My diet has very low amounts of added sugar and processed foods. This stops cravings, mood swings and over eating.
- My main source of hydration is water. I do not drink sugared drinks or artificially sugared sodas (except for an occasional Schweppes Tonic water for a summer gin and tonic!)
- The main meal at lunch is my main source of calories and nutrition for the day. It is a large meal filled with lean protein and good dietary fats, as you would see in a Mediterranean diet.
- My main source of carbohydrate for the main meal and late dinner is fruit, vegetables and the small amount of complex carbohydrates like pasta or rice. I do not eat a lot of bread or baguette (I consider bread empty calories unless you eat whole grain cereal type of breads). In fact, on most days bread is eaten just for breakfast.
- I use a large amount of olive oil in my cooking and on my salads as part of the vinaigrette. Most foods I eat during the day have some source of dietary fats, but usually these are the healthy kinds, like in olive oil and omega 3 rich sources such as salmon. I also eat lean protein at lunch which helps with keeping blood sugars stable and my stomach full until the next meal.
Portion sizes are important too
It isn’t just what I eat that helps me to stay slim but it is the portion sizes and the way of eating:
- Always eating sitting down at a table
- Eating salad as the first course for both main meal and late dinner (read why I eat salads for the first course here)
- Eat slowly and mindfully and take small portions of the main dish and re-serving if still hungry
- Finishing the meal with something such as a fruit, yogurt and occasionally a small espresso coffee or piece of chocolate (read here how the French finish their meals with a symbol “I am done eating.”)
- Not leaving the table until I am pleasantly full. (I encourage my kids to do the same).
- At restaurants asking for a doggie bag for what you didn’t finish eating (I still do this even in France where the doggie bag option doesn’t exist), or just ordering an appetizer, or splitting the meal with your partner or friend. But if you overeat one meal does it really make a difference? No! If you listen to your body it will tell you to slow down the day or two afterwards. The key is having no guilt attached to your food.
The fourth part of the series coming up: details on my work out plan and how you can fit in exercise in your busy schedule
All good health and weight loss plans include a physical activity part. This part is as important as what you eat. Physical activity is not only important for losing weight, but even more importantly, it helps to feel good in your body, for helping stress, for moving your muscles, breathing, sweating and slowing down the aging process (YES!).
Part four in this series will outline what I do for my physical activity plan and how you can add a good chunk of exercise to your schedule. As always thanks for your support and enthusiasm on this weight loss series.
If you need more information, you can also contact me with any questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are looking for one to one counseling via Skype or telephone, I also counsel private clients. Contact me here.
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