Diet and Eating Habits-The French Paradox
The French Paradox is simply the phenomenon that the French eat high-fat food, drink wine, smoke, rarely participate in structured exercise, but remain thinner and have less heart disease than other countries. I have already discussed the effects red wine on this paradox in my hub, The French Paradox, Red Wine and Resveratrol. Now it is time to look at eating habits, diet and exercise.
Now, I don't mean diet as in being on a diet. As far as I can tell, the French do not go on diets. I mean diet as in the types of food eaten. There is a big difference. The French seem able to keep a running total in their heads, eat more one meal, eat less the next. Seems it is a learned skill, kids learning from parents how to adapt their eating to their needs. I wonder if my kids are too old to learn...or if I am?
Eat Fresh, Real Food
The French like to eat fresh, real minimally processed foods. For example, here in America, how many of you eat cereal for breakfast? Many, I bet. Remember that old Wheaties commercial, cereal is the "breakfast of champions". Well, this may be one more advertising lie in a very, very long list. We'll do just about anything in America to make money, won't we? Including poisoning ourselves, while convincing us it's good.
The French will eat a little yogurt, some fruit, fresh french baguette, eggs, ham. Real food made from real ingredients. None of the super processed, frozen and fake-fat-filled foods we eat in America. When the French eat fat they eat real fat. Cream and butter, the types of fat that send your mind a signal of satiety. That tells your mind you are full. And of course, all things in moderation!
The French rarely snack between meals and if they do it is something fresh or freshly made. They do not buy prepackaged snacks to give to their kids, nor frozen foods for convenience. Food is a French tradition. They like to savor food, not just eat for eating's sake.
In America we have developed the perfect blend of salt, sugar and fat that stimulates a pleasure center in our brains making us want to eat more and more. Food scientists have studied this for years and are continually refining the combinations to make food irresistible. So it is best not to even have one cookie or chip because this will start the cravings.
Savor Your Food
The French savor their food. They notice how it looks, how it smells, the textures, the taste. Each morsel is an exquisite experience for their senses. They take a bite and enjoy the textures, the blending of flavors, chewing completely they relish each bite. Good food is one of the most enjoyable pleasures in the world. It doesn't make sense to bolt it down without enjoying it.
Take Your Time-Break It Up
The French like to serve their meals in separate courses, unlike Americans who put it all on the same plate. This can serve two purposes. It takes approximately 25 minutes for you brain to realize you have eaten. Breaking the meal up means it takes longer to eat it. This gives your mind time to realize you have eaten.
You are also less likely to eat as much if you are eating one thing. The French eat much smaller servings and are more likely to stop before they are full. Of course, if you know you have 2 or more delicious courses coming you won't want to fill up on the first.
Sit at the Table-Enjoy Each Other's Company
The French do not watch TV while they eat. They eat with others and sit at the table. Meals are a time to spend quality time together as a family. It is the time to eat, drink and find out how everyone's day went. Savor the food and good company. And don't talk with your mouth full.
Even alone you can employ some of these techniques. Read a book. Don't read while you eat. While you eat, enjoy the food. Then put your fork down and read a little more. Eat a little more...read a little more. Enjoy your food.
Walk, Walk, Walk
The French walk much more than we do in America. They take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. Walking ensures the additional health benefit of getting enough sunlight. Sunlight is necessary for Vitamin D production. Insufficient vitamin D can contribute to high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic conditions.