How Do the French Stay Slim? (cont.)
It's hard to figure out the nutritional value of many of the foods in the French markets. Nutrient labeling is optional.
Judging from the foods I saw, the average French consumer appears to be more interested in added vitamins and minerals than reduced fat or calories. I found some foods whose labels boasted 0% fat, but not nearly the number of reduced-calorie and fat-free products that line American grocery shelves.
Walking a Way of Life
"French women don't work out; they walk," Guiliano has told WebMD.
This daily physical activity is one of the reasons they tend to be thinner. Having a car in any European city is a challenge. As a result, city folks do plenty of walking, and in the country, they walk or ride bicycles. And when French people walk or drive, they usually are not eating, drinking coffee in cardboard cups, or talking on cell phones.
Another thing I noticed is that it's virtually impossible to find a non-smoking zone, in the city or the country. Smoking is a way of life, much like sitting in the cafes.
Perhaps all that coffee and cigarettes helps dull the appetite and helps explain why the French are slim. Of course, we all know that smoking is unhealthy and certainly not a good way to get weight under control.
Viva la difference. My unscientific mission inspired me to slow down, savor the flavor, taste and aroma of my meals, eat whatever I like in small portions, and keep on walking.
Published May 19, 2006.
SOURCES: David Benchetrit, MD, director, Clinique du Poids, Paris. Mireille Guiliano, author, French Women Don't Get Fat. WebMD Live Events Transcript, "French Diet - American Women," with Mireille Guiliano, March 10, 2005.
Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD and the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.