What I learned about the “French Paradox” while in ParisPosted: April 7, 2012
I am sitting in the Charles DeGaulle airport returning from a great 10-day trip in Paris with my family. We saw so much of the city and lived like Parisians for this time. We ate like them (my son even tried escargot and frog’s legs!), and walked the city like them (we clocked in an average of 8 miles a day!).
While sitting in cafes, walking around, and riding the Metro, I had a lot of time to observe the notorious lack of overweight and obese people. Everyone seems to have heard of the French Paradox, whereby the French maintain their lean bodies while eating fat and drinking wine. (Any of you who have been reading know, I lost weight largely by embracing fat in my diet like the French.). One statistic I read has the average French person eating 1 pound of fat per day! Take that low-fat diet gurus.
So what do the French have that we don’t? A food culture that’s what. They learn how to eat very well, naturally–and good food is all around them. I noticed that the eggs in the convenience store on our street were all organic, with yolks of deep orange. I couldn’t buy a crappy egg if I tried.
They also learn from a very early age to eat protein, carbs, and fat in balance to keep themselves satisfied and lean. Meals also are lingered over and enjoyed, unlike our fast food culture.
So people like me, who gain weight easily, never really get the chance to do so. Instead of the largely processed and corn-based I ate for years, a diet that “turned – on” my fat genes, these potential fat French people are surrounded by a food culture that supports them staying lean.
All this said, I am fairly certain that I have gained weight on this trip. Despite my expectations that living and eating like the French would have the exact opposite effect. Right? Despite all the walking and good food, another dominant French tradition–the boulanger and patisserie shops on every corner (bread and pastry)–caused a tidal wave of cravings for me. Unlike those potential French fat people, my craving cycles are almost as old as I am, and eating well is still a relatively new thing for me (3 years out of my 40). I don’t know how to eat bread and pastry in moderation.
So, I return to my life and I will do what I preach; get back on the low-carb wagon and begin again. Each of these food relapses gives me a chance to rediscover what works for me in losing weight and keeping it off. It is as if I am teaching myself a foreign language. Just as I stumbled when I used my French in Paris, I am going to continue to stumble on my weight loss journey.
I would love to hear about how travel has changed your perspective on food and eating.