Kudos to Mireille Giuliano for writing a global best selling book based mainly on her opinion and personal experience. French Women Don’t Get Fat is a clever representation of how a French woman’s philosophy of food and eating keeps her trim. It amuses me because Giuliano is french opinion personified, but I agree with her that above all, the pleasure of eating and tasting food is the most important thing.
This book and my time in France so far, has convinced me that French women “get” fat. They understand it. They get plenty of natural fats in their diet from the likes of duck meat, foie gras, cheese, nuts and fish. They eat in moderation the bad fats in their glorious pastries. When I first arrived, I couldn’t understand how they could resist the incredible displays they undoubtedly walk past everyday. It’s very hard to avoid a peek in the windows in our local town’s four patisseries – let alone the many other boulangeries! But after three months, I have arrived at a place where “too much ice cream” keeps me from over indulging. Don’t get me wrong, when we entertain, we make sure we show off our local “specialties of the region” (a favourite marketing term over here) but day to day, feeling strong, healthy and bien dans ma peau (good in my skin) is more important.
I am here to tell you that the myth that “all french women are skinny and gorgeous” is simply not true. What is true, is that I could count on one hand the number of obese people I have seen in France. I’ve travelled to many cities in France including Lyon, Bordeaux, Grenoble, Paris, Montpellier, Nice and Narbonne, and I definitely noticed the lack of very overweight people that I had become accustomed to seeing back home in Australia. Weird huh?
Another truth: you can sit in the main square of any town and several stunning, slim, typically french young things will walk past and you’ll marvel at their perfect red lipstick, the way their scarf matches effortlessly with their tailored look and their shoes and handbag … and their little dog. Yes it’s mind boggling sometimes, but I simply put that down to sheer population. France can fit inside Queensland itself and has triple the population of Australia, so of course there will be a concentration of these coquettes, right?
But let’s get back on topic … the point is that overall, French people are healthier than we are and I think Guiliano hints at the main reason why: they have a much healthier relationship with real food. They avoid fast foods because they have so many other wonderful options. Their rich history of gastronomie has left them with a plethora of cafes and restaurants in every city (even our local village has over eight places in which to dine, just in the main square) and a bounty of fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins are available at local farmers markets every week. And here’s the thing: it’s all very affordable. The French social welfare system even provides “lunch cheques” for some low income earners which is literally a voucher they can redeem for a meal at a cafe.