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Why French Women Aren’t Fat! – My firsthand experience with the French “Paradox.”
By Carol LeBeau
11/11/2013 3:13:11 PM


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It was our first trip to Paris.  So much to see and do…the Eiffel Tower…Notre Dam…the Louvre.  Amazing!

But as Tom and I recently experienced our first trip to the “City of Light,” we quickly learned the main Parisian attraction isn’t a cathedral or museum.  It’s the food!   And for nine days, we made it our goal to taste it all.

We indulged in crepes, both savory and sweet, swimming in rich cheese and cream sauces – fresh, buttered baguettes stuffed with ham and Gruyere, buttery croissants slathered in orange marmalade and steaming cups of cappuccino with creamy, whole milk. (Don’t even think about insulting your French server by asking for non-fat!)

We literally ate our way through the streets of Paris.  From curbside vendors and colorful sidewalk cafes to charming bistros with white tablecloths, we dined on steaming bowls of cheese-covered French onion soup, spaghetti bolognaise and melt-in-your moth beef bourguignon.

I won’t even begin to describe the delightfully decadent French desserts in this space.  Words are completely insufficient.  But I will say this much.  Last night I dreamt about one of those divine desserts…the rich ice cream, whipped cream and dark chocolate sauce confection known as the “blanche dame.”   

For the record, I didn’t work out one day.  Oh well, when in France…

But the day of reckoning finally came back home as I stepped on the scale to assess
the damage.  Unbelievably, the digital display indicated I had lost nearly a pound!  

And then it hit me.

I’d just experienced a touch of what’s known as the French Paradox…the country’s low rate of coronary heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fat.  It’s the basic premise of the popular diet book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat.”   Author Mireille Guiliano advises eating only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions and savor every bite.

And it fits our French dining experience to a tee.  Rather than wolfing down a hastily prepared PB and J running out the door, our meals were not rushed. In fact, they were an event unto themselves…consumed slowly while visiting and sipping the local Bordeaux.

As Guiliano explains, “From chocolate to champagne, eat slowly, with all your senses, and make every dining experience pleasurable so you will be satisfied with smaller portions of delicious food.  No food is off limits, only large portions.  No counting calories, no skipping meals – just control what you eat.”

It truly is a paradox.  Lean and fit, the French aren’t into low-fat, low-carb, low-taste and low-calorie.  Their diet is full of flavor and high in satisfaction. (And the majority of Parisians don’t have cars.  They walk as did we – often miles a day!)

When it comes to food, we could all learn a thing or two from our French brothers and sisters.  With their low rate of obesity and cardiovascular disease, the French way may just be the way to go!  

Bon Appetit!