If you are looking to develop a healthier lifestyle, draw some inspiration from the “French Paradox.” The French have much lower rates of heart disease and obesity than Americans do – despite the fact that their diet is full of butter, cheese, chocolate, and wine. Why is it that the French are thinner with a much lower incidence of heart disease than Americans, despite the fact that they eat three times as much fat as we do? Let’s talk about how to follow that example.
Eat Less Food at Once
Even though French foods are typically fattier and much richer than American foods, the French stay healthier by eating smaller portions, according to this article from Psychology Today. Did you know that even pre-packaged single serving food items, such as chocolate bars and yogurt cups, are much larger in the United States than in France? This is also very true for fast food restaurants, where American serving sizes are 25% larger portions than their French counterparts.
In the American food system, many selling points are based around bargains. Americans love all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants or “two for one” specials. In France, no matter what the restaurant, the mindset is about the quality of the food, rather than the quantity.
How can we control our portion sizes in restaurants? It’s not as hard as it may seem. Ordering for two? Get one entrée and maybe a small side dish to share evenly between the two of you. Ordering for a large group? Get a few entrées and maybe some smaller appetizers. And never underestimate the power of bringing home your leftovers – there’s no reason to eat what you can’t eat now if you can still have it later!
Enjoy Your Food More
For the French, eating is something to be enjoyed – every time. Dining takes time, and this is all a question of enjoying what you eat.
This is a simple exercise in taking care to enjoy your food more. Eat slowly and intentionally. If you chew each bite with full attention to what you’re eating, with a pause between bites to relish in the flavors, you’ll find that you’ll be satisfied much quicker. Pay attention to your food: don’t eat in front of the TV or while reading.
This is simple science: it takes about 20 minutes for food to pass through your stomach and reach your small intestine – which means it takes just as much time for your brain to receive the message that it’s time to stop eating. If you eat too quickly, you’re much more likely to overeat as a result!
Make It Yourself
In this Morning News article, several French women are interviewed as to how they do it. Other than portion sizes, one consensus is that processed foods are a bad way to go. For many French people, processed foods are simply unsatisfying and much less enjoyable than foods that you make yourself. For the French, this means buying good quality ingredients. In France, many people still buy their produce right from the source. They go to a cheese shop for cheese or a butcher’s for meats. When it comes to baked goods? The French are, as always, much more interested in high-quality foods. A box of Oreos is simply not as interesting as a homemade croissant.
When you make your own food, you know exactly what goes into it. In France, TV dinners and instant pre-made foods are something of a foreign concept. If they don’t have time to cook, the French would much rather make do with something quick, like pasta.
High in Fat – But What Kind of Fat?
American food is extremely high in fat, but so is French food. So what’s the difference? According to this AskMen article, the key is the type of fat. In France, the fats are not processed (think: hydrogenated oils); rather, they come from natural sources like dairy and vegetables. Dairy is a surprisingly healthy form of fat, especially because dairy products make you feel full more quickly – so you’ll be more inclined to eat less.
Don’t Forget Exercise
Diet is not the only aspect of a healthy lifestyle, and any doctor can confirm this. Whatever you eat, it’s important to get out and exercise. In France, much of the culture is such that people walk everywhere, even when the option to drive or use public transportation is available. If you’re spending your leisure time lounging around being a couch potato, then it doesn’t matter what you eat; it’s simply not a healthy way to live!