Expert advice

Ten secrets of slenderness known only to French ladies

Ten secrets of slenderness known only to French ladies

Tourists often wonder how French women manage to stay slim and elegant while eating chocolate with huge amounts of cheese and washing it all down with wine. It’s all the more surprising due to the fact that they are not obsessed with diets or exhausting training sessions in the gym. Their secret is in their attitude to food that is fostered in them from childhood.

All of us women at Bright Side like the way French ladies live. We think we should adopt their habits to stay in shape without too much trouble and even with pleasure.

Food as a sacrament

This is probably the principal secret of every French lady. Treating food with reverence doesn’t let them eat junk or when on the go. You may say that the French are obsessed with food, but their obsession is with exquisiteness and beauty and not with the amounts. French women often have their lunch and dinner at restaurants or cafes, enjoying small helpings, wine, and good company.

’For France, a meal is a very particular moment in which you share pleasure: the food as well as the conversation,’ says Parisian nutritionist Dr. Francoise L’Hermite. ’In many other countries, sadly, food is just fuel to give energy to your muscles. If you have no pleasure in it, you are breaking all the rules of eating.’

A French lady chooses quality

French women prefer the best, the freshest, and the most select. Their principle is to opt for pricier and better, rather than for more and cheaper. There are no alternatives: it would always be a few pieces of quality dark chocolate or a light handmade cake, and never a big helping of inexpensive ice cream (which will most certainly contain harmful transfats); she would always prefer fresh fish over cheap chicken of unknown quality.

French ladies are a living illustration of the universal truth: you are what you eat. Rachel Khoo, the owner of Parisian restaurant La Petite Cuisine, says, ’Even though I was on a budget, I could afford to go to the fresh food market and get baguettes and cheese. I really love that in Paris there is no division (in terms of food) by social class.’

A French lady often puts her fork down on her plate

No French woman will send spoonful after spoonful into her mouth, turning lunch or dinner into ’refueling’ her body. She will eat slowly, swallow every single bit of food with gusto, and make pauses to talk with those she is at the table with, thus making an ordinary meal a celebration of taste and companionship.

She is perfectly honest with herself in terms of food but never forbids herself anything

A French lady fully understands that foie gras or Brie cheese are very fatty foods. She knows perfectly well that she won’t be able to stay in good shape if she eats croissants and fresh bread twice a day.

Yet she will never forbid herself anything. It’s better to let yourself eat a little bit of what you love than suffer from complete abstinence. French ladies don’t regret their petits riens — those little ’guilty pleasures.’ You shouldn’t say, ’I don’t eat sweets,’ and then look into your friend’s plate with eyes full of hunger and jealousy. Why torture yourself so? That will only lead to you breaking the leash one day and then suffering even more because of guilt and lack of will.

A French lady is all about moderation and balance

French women know the difference between a wish to treat yourself to something tasty and self-indulgence. If they want to stay in shape, they won’t eat cakes, cheese, and bread all in one day, says Rebeca Plantier, the author of Lessons From France: Eating, Fitness, Family.

They don’t forbid themselves little pleasures, but they do understand that slenderness can only be maintained with moderation and balance. You can eat a piece of cake today, but your dinner won’t include a garnish then — for example, a duck breast and salad. You may treat yourself to some chocolate tomorrow and some wine with cheese and nuts the day after.

Sophie Marceau, for instance, eats everything, just not too much. ’Not junk food, but I love wine and chocolate, and in that, as in many other tasty things, I don’t restrict myself.’

Too much sugar or salt is not for her

French dishes are known for their elegant flavor, and if they contain spices it is only to highlight the natural taste and aroma of the ingredients. French ladies have learned from childhood that anything ’too much’ is not for them. A piece of cake that is too sweet or too creamy will be laid aside in favor of a light cream and fruit tart, as will any foods that are too salty or overfried.

A French lady will wait for dinner rather than eat on the move

A French woman may, of course, have a cup of coffee with a cookie or two between meals, but she definitely won’t get carried away. She will prefer to wait for dinner and have a good chunk of meat with salad, thinking of light hunger as the best aperitif to tasty food.

If lunch or dinner is too far away, though, and you’re starving, the best option is natural yogurt with no sweeteners. The French eat much more yogurt than any other Europeans. Mireille Guiliano, the author of the French Women Don’t Get Fat blog, writes that consumption of this product in France is about 20 kg (44 lbs) per person a year.

She always eats at a well-set table

French ladies won’t deprive themselves of a pleasure to eat slowly and with taste, sitting at a finely set table. They’re not used to eating at a corner of a table or at their desks, licking their fingers in between eating and typing.

Lengthy lunch breaks are very common in French offices. ’Slow food’ goes down better and lets you enjoy the process too. When we eat with haste we, on the contrary, often don’t pay attention to either taste or aroma. That’s why we want to have a sweet snack after an hour to get our dose of happiness.

Being active is a way of life, not a way to ’shake off’ what you ate

Rebeca Plantier notes that active pastimes are a part of national culture in France. French women go hiking, travel into the mountains,and they love kayaking, playing tennis, running in parks, skiing, and so on. Moreover, they walk a lot. And all that is a way of their life, not a desperate method to ’shake off’ the food they consume or self-torture in an attempt to achieve perfection. French ladies think that any self-abuse is bad for female well-being.

Those who move a lot, prefer walking over driving, eat quality food well and with pleasure — those people don’t get overweight.

A French lady does not worry over excesses or punish her own body

We’re all human, and sometimes we indulge ourselves. That happens with French ladies too, although they care much about themselves. However, even if they let themselves have a bit too much of something and break the rule of moderation, they don’t take it as a tragedy and fall into extremes. They won’t punish their body and say, ’I ate too much yesterday, so now I’ll starve for a bit and work out in the gym for two hours.’

’The ’no pain, no gain’ school of thought never made it to these shores,’ says Rebeca Plantier. And when movie star Eva Green (who is really slim) was asked to go on a diet and lose weight for her first movie role, she gave up quickly. ’Food is so important to me. I couldn’t go on,’ she confessed.

A French woman will soon get bored to death if she has to calculate calories, carbs, proteins, fats, and transfats, and she will get utterly depressed if she has to bring this knowledge to practice with regard to the blessed part of her life — food. She prefers to treat food as a pleasure, but always remembers moderation and balance. This is the art of living with pleasure.

© Zdenko Zivkovic / flickr