I am a French girl living in Dublin now, and in my time here, I have seen a lot of differences in the way we approach food and fitness. Here, it seems, lots of people are on diets where they deny themselves lots of things (like carbs, sugar and dairy) but in France, food is a big part of our culture so we don’t really believe in dieting too much. I mean we usually have a bit of a dieting dip after the Christmas and New Years Eve extravaganza but other than that – we don’t really trust it.
Instead we embrace four course family meals and decide to exercise to keep in good shape. I, for one, am mad for food and have never dieted in my life – I wouldn’t even know where to start, in fact none of my French friends diet either.
When I spend my summer vacation in the south of France in my grandparent’s home we start the day with a lovely filling breakfast: imagine fresh baguette with butter and some beautiful jam, occasionally dipped in your coffee – that’s the French way to do breakfast, and typically we eat four course meals twice a day. And of course we also have our “4 heure” mid-day snack usually consisting of chocolate and more bread with some juice. This may seem like a huge amount of food and for two weeks too, but don’t you worry, I never put any weight on in the south, actually I may in fact lose some. Because during these vacations we don’t use our car. We walk down to the village and go to the market and do the shopping in the morning and we walk down to the river in the afternoon for a lounge in the sun or a walk in the mountains. Everything we eat we burn off. On top of this lovely (you never notice) exercise, all the food we eat is home-cooked with love and care. It’s healthy food which gives your body everything it needs. This way of life is proof that eating a full and sufficient meal doesn’t mean you will gain weight, provided you remember to have a walk and not slouch around trying to get that perfect tan by the pool (which conveniently is right there 10 meters away from the lunch table.)
Eventually though, August comes to an end, and you must go back home to your active life in full swing. Home for me is Paris; busy, busy Paris where you don’t feel like you can get a minute to yourself. However somehow you do find time for that afterwork meet-up with your friends where you inevitably order two plates to share; one is cheese, the other is charcuterie and let’s face it, it goes perfectly with the wine you ordered. Carbs, what carbs?
Even once we’ve returned to our regular routines, if we don’t have time to cook a full 4 course meal for dinner we’ll at least try to have three. Luckily to counterbalance this, living in a city is the easiest way to get some exercising in without even noticing it. Ditch the car for those short trips and start walking. It will be the best thing ever. And an evening walk back from work gives you time to clear your mind and breathe and enjoy the open air as opposed as being stressed and stuck in traffic again. In Paris I walk about 10 km every day just doing my normal errands. (Yes, I had an app that tracked my steps and how far I went – it was very smart, it even knew when I was on public transport).
Even if walking isn’t your thing, set aside two hours every week for some kind of exercise and your body and soul will thank you. Not only will you will feel great and your work stress vanish for a few hours, you won’t have to worry about what you’re eating anymore.