It’s amazing to French women how much of the same old things some people will eat. Gastronomic boredom leads to lots of unhealthy eating. If you don’t make experimentation part of your eating life, you are sure to find yourself in an eating rut. French women know the importance of turning a bit of comfort food into excitement. Don’t know your way around the market? Don’t have time to cook? Relax: you don’t have to be rich or a 3-star chef to enjoy a vast world of natural flavors. Once you learn a few tricks, it takes surprisingly little effort to cook with variety.
- Slow and Steady weight loss
There is no lasting glory in rapid weight loss. The key is to make it a pleasant three months. Not a sentence in the Bastille.
No nutritional deficiencies. The answer is not in supplements but in eating the greatest possible variety of good foods. Such variety will go a long way toward compensating you for those things you miss—you will actually find yourself not missing them so much.
Consider this an opportunity to try foods and flavors you have never tried before. A new vegetable you’ve heard of? A fresh herb? What about shallots or mâche salade or celeriac? Or any number of varieties of oyster, one of my personal favorites. Novelty is a powerful distraction. Chose quality over quantity: pick things in season. Usually the best in season is cheaper that the worst off-season!
A final trick of variety: since the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites, eat one thing on your plate at a time.
- Ritual Preparation
French women love to shop and prepare food. They love to talk about what they have bought and made. It’s a deeply natural love, but one that is erased in many other cultures. Most French women learn it from their mothers, some from their fathers. It’s simple: buy only what you need for the next day or two.
At work, it is a great help to make and bring your own lunch. Avoid the unknowns of prepared foods, especially the processed kind. Easier than bringing your scale to work.
Everyone, French and non-French, agrees it is critical and most of us don’t get enough. But it is certainly a boring prospect to gulp down 16 glasses a day as needed. And while many women make a fetish of carrying a water bottle around with them all day, I wonder how many are getting all they need.
If you can’t think of reaching 16 glasses a day, for now add two as follows: Four big glass first thing in the morning. Few of us realize how dehydrating our sleep time can be. (Perhaps this is one reason why a huge glass of juice—an offender by any standard—seems so good first thing.) A morning 4 glass will not only freshen your complexion, it will help perk you up if you haven’t slept well. And a glass when you go to sleep at night. Dehydration is one cause of bad sleep. If you don’t have a taste for water, try slicing a lemon into the pitcher.
- Ritual Eating
Basic survival skills: eat only at the table, only sitting down. Never out of cartons: use real plates, cloth napkins, if you have them, to emphasize the seriousness of the activity. Eat slowly, chew properly. (American mothers tell you this but tend to see it as a matter of politeness rather than pleasure.) Do not watch television or read the paper. Think only about what you are eating, smelling, savoring every bite. Practice putting down your utensils between every few bites, describing to yourself the flavors and textures in your mouth. (Don’t let anyone mock you for acting like a French woman—you will laugh last!)
- Portion Control
Learn it slowly. Portion size has been a losing battle for Americans. Cut back gently, especially if your problem is too much of a good thing As a rule, half a pound of anything in one sitting is too much! You won’t even notice the change in satisfaction, but the bodily change will astound you.
- Don’t keep them in the house
Some foods we eat automatically in whatever quantity we have on hand. Can’t be content with just a handful of nuts? Don’t keep them in the house! Very few of us will go out just to buy a bag of nuts. If you have them, and keep going back for more, try to apply the preceding principle of progressive downsizing. If your first handful is six, make that the limit. The next time consider stopping at three for the day.
Knowing your biggest problem is sweets or salt, substitute with a fruit or a vegetable.
Perhaps you live in a place where driving is the norm. Or perhaps you don’t have occasion to walk every day. That does not change the fact that one’s weight is determined by two variables: what you consume and what you burn off. A twice-a-day 20-minutewalk is a must. Take a half hour walk at lunch or after dinner. A walk not only uses calories, it can be wonderfully meditative, clearing your head and making you less vulnerable to eating for psychological comfort. The key is to add moderately to your daily physical exertion. If you use an elevator, try taking the stairs instead. Over the course of a week the added calories are significant, but the added trouble is minimal.
- “Never be Hungry”
Hunger is distracting and unpleasant, almost as much as being bloated or stuffed. You should no more skip meals than you would skip filling your gas tank—you’ll only be stranded later. Our aim is not to challenge the laws of physics. Feed it reasonably and on schedule and your body’s engine is less likely to answer you with screaming hunger. Strict attention to this principle is key until we’ve tamed our mind.
One vital secret of hunger management is yogurt. Not the sugary supermarket kind, but the real stuff, strained, which is not only of superior texture and flavor, but full of the bacteria essential to health. You can make it yourself once a week according to an incredibly easy recipe. 2 servings a day of homemade one. With breakfast, as a dessert or a snack. A little honey or wheatgerm or fresh fruit is a great pacifier.
What they called “en-cas” (literally “in case”…of hunger attack). It is so simple: always have a little something in your pocket, something your body would register as a “mini-repas” (snack). It’s not only handy but a powerful psychological deterrent. It shuts up your cravings, a few nuts.
- Weekend Rewards
Whether your pleasure is a glass of wine with dinner, a piece of chocolate or a croissant for breakfast, you simply cannot deprive yourself for extended periods of time and not expect your body to take revenge.
Start the new week on the right track. And it made sense in my case. If a glass of Champagne as aperitif and a dessert seem too good to resist, have them but then don’t eat bread. Making choices that are meaningful to you is the essence of the French woman’s secret.
Embrace the rule of the quality over quantity. Enjoy more pleasures and still lose weight.