Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Riddle Of French Eating

This is an interesting topic. People who have been to France often wonder how the French (or actually all of Europe for that matter) can eat the way they do and for the most part stay so much leaner than Americans.

I didn't want to say lean overall because France has its problems with obesity as well. I think also as tourists, you spend more time in the nicer more affluent areas and the affluent areas of every country is skinnier than the rest.

With that said, the riddle lies in the fact that a lot of people, if they ate the same foods as their counterparts do in France, they would gain weight. Actually a lot of Americans eat very similarly to the French but gain weight doing this. There are several diet books about how to eat like a French person. Even when the French come to the US, they eat the same and begin to gain weight. So what gives?

Fortunately I have several French clients and have met a lot of French immigrants in different social circles. So I decided to ask them. So what gives? How come you can eat so much pastry and sweets and be skinnier than the Americans? I could say the same about Italians in Italy compared to Italians in the US.

They all stop to think about this then they gave some answers. There is no one thing, it's not simple black and white but they gave some of their own impressions.

1. Spend more time outside. From eating to walking to going out on dates, they spend more time outside. This is good for hormones that regulate weight, you don't eat the same way outside, and being outside means you are more active. Something New Yorkers also have over Angelenos.

2. Eat slower. I don't know if Europeans eat that much slower or Americans eat fast, but even compared to Asians, Americans eat fast. And in Europe it is normal to sit and eat for hours in a restaurant, and the server won't give you any dirty looks.

3. Quality, they have better ingredients. It's why a lot of native cultures who cook the same foods, once they start to use the cheaper American brands, they begin to gain weight. It's often why Europeans also shop more often at farmer's markets. One of my good Russian friends said, the first thing his family complained about when they came to the US was the taste of produce. One of my doctor clients who is also an online health expert said, if you ever want to see where they have the best, freshest, and most organic produce is, follow where all the old European ladies go.

4. In France they eat French food. In the US, we eat... Actually no one really knows what American food is. In Japan they eat Japanese food. In India, they eat Indian. In the US, it's a free for all. Eating the most popular and most fattening foods of all the different cultures. And of course the fast food versions of every culture. Its why people from other countries gain weight in the US. They want to try all the different foods because in their home country, they ate at home or ate their own regional foods that they were used to.

5. Because obesity isn't as common, when they notice weight gain, they are much more quick to act on it.

6. This was their main answer and most common one: Don't have so much corn, soy, hormones, and GMO in their foods. Basically Americans don't really eat food. They eat things that represent food, things that are present as food, the promise of food, whether if its bread or ground meat, but often times its mostly corn or soy.

It will be interesting to see if we learn from the Europeans or they learn from the Americans. Everyone wants convenience. Including food to be convenient. No one does convenient food better than the US. It is also our chief export.

Note: A reader pointed out that smoking is much more common in France and in Europe. If true, this could also factor in, but will of course lead to other health problems.
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