The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
One day I was speaking to a friend, a gorgeous yoga teacher that really embodies the generous, empathetic, radiant yogic ideal. She is someone you want to be around because she makes you feel good. Our conversations have always been frank and playful.
I was confessing to her that I wanted to lose a few pounds, unhappy about weight that I had put on during a difficult winter.
Without blinking, she told me that it was pretty normal for her weight to fluctuate in the range of 10 pounds.
In the grand scheme of things, 10 pounds is nothing.
I think what was most shocking for me, was her acceptance, that hey, it’s normal for our bodies to change, no big deal. Sometimes forgiving yourself helps you to make the changes you want to make, instead of just focusing on what’s wrong.
If all you do is think about the ways you are lacking, or ‘bad’, then you block your progress to realizing a better potential for yourself.
Now that I am older, I recognize how my mother’s bingeing affected me, and became my own defense during periods of extreme stress. Inevitably, you always feel worse afterwards, which can sometimes makes you binge more.
If depression is anger turned inwards, then throwing food on that fire is a combustible act.
5 Ways France Cured My Food Addiction
Moving to France has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
There have been many moments where I have been angry because I struggle with the language, the culture, the day-to-day, and myself. When I recognized that I was abusing food again, eating not for pleasure or for nourishment, I stopped. Probably some of that is the abundance of good food here.
You might not believe it, but the novelty of endless French pastries wears off.
My mother faced the same challenges as a foreigner in America, and probably felt at times, the same helplessness, loneliness, and frustration that I do now.
I started this blog as a way to connect with my new home, to understand, experience and celebrate the differences inherit in French food culture. I started this blog to find a place for myself.
If you eat like the French, you will come to understand the global fascination with the “French paradox“, or the cult behind best-seller and Mireille Guiliano’s lifestyle brand French Women Don’t Get Fat.
This is not a quick results diet, it’s a common sense approach to actually enjoying and celebrating food.
I find what works best for me is a combination of french food, and a whole foods diet, all prepared and eaten with a French attitude.
Here are 5 of the most common elements of French style eating, but I encourage you to find your own.
I rarely ate dessert before moving to France, to the amusement of my French husband and the puzzlement of French friends and dinner hosts. Usually dessert was a destination like Veneiros for cheesecake, not as part of the meal.
I prefer salty to sweet in most instances, but the value of dessert is that it officially signals the end of the meal. Consider it a bookend with the apéritif, a necessary part of the experience. Of course we don’t have desserts and apéritives all the time. And dessert doesn’t always mean a gigantic slice of cake, but it could be a piece of fruit, a square of dark chocolate, some yogurt, or cheese.
This is a signal to your brain that the meal is over. Eat smaller portions throughout the meal, and save room. Stay away from refined sugary things, and eat good full fat desserts, not artifically flavored, hydrogenated oil things. Savor what’s on your plate.
The French don’t count calories.
This is practically a no-brainer in France. Produce from the open markets is better, fresher and cheaper than at the supermarkets. The marché is central to French culture and puts you in a closer relationship with your food, and the amazing people who grow and produce it.
You can eat a carrot that was just in the ground that morning, still with the dirt on it.
From the producteurs you can learn history, recipes, and jokes. If you don’t live in France, try to find a farmer’s market near you, or participate in a community garden, grow herbs in your kitchen, or sign up for a farm direct coop.
Don’t eat strawberries when there is snow on the ground, or buy imported when you have the option to buy local.
Eating seasonally guarantees also that you will eat fresh food and appreciate the time and energy that went into growing it and then transporting it to your table.
The French go to the marché pretty much every day, buying only what they need for a few meals. Compare this to some Americans with a spare freezer in their garage packed full of frozen TV dinners.
It’s not always convenient to go to the market in the morning, but as I’ve mentioned before, French life is not built around convenience.
Eat with respect to your food.
It took time to grow the food on your plate, to make the wine in your glass, the cheese, and bake the bread. And if you’re eating the French way, it took time for you to plan and prepare your meal. Hopefully not just a matter of opening a few jars and cans and reheating the contents, but actually washing and chopping, sautéing and worrying about the sauce.
Cooking the meal is almost as important as eating it, since the French seem to love the journey almost more than the destination.
So after you’ve spent the energy to shop and prepare your meal, why gulp it all down like a wild dog?
Sometimes in France I have anxiety about if I am pointing my knife the right way, but exercising etiquette helps you to be present in the experience of eating too.
Eat without the television, chew slowly, toast to your health, enjoy all the flavors, don’t load up on seconds, and eat dessert.
Stop when you are satisfied, not full, not bursting. Take pleasure.
Eat in good company.
Share meals with people you love.
I used to feel like I would overdo it every time I got into a social eating situation, grabbing pretty much everything and stuffing it into my mouth, along with too much wine.
The happiness I felt being with my friends would mean overindulging, or more recently–the awkwardness I felt being lost in multiple French conversations meant more time eating Picard hors d’oeuvres.
But the point of eating is the experience, which means savouring the company too.
Meals seem easier for taking your time and enjoying the conversation. In a cocktail setting, I’ve started to follow the lead of other friends who nibble and drink slowly.
Eat the right portions, and eat quality ingredients. Eat three meals, limit snacking.
Everyone says the French don’t snack, but they do-remember the goûter and apéro? Be reasonable.
Eat well and eat to be well.