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When Mireille Guiliano wrote “French Women Don’t Get Fat” it reached the number-one spot on the New York Times advice bestseller list. The idea behind the book inspired similarly-themed ventures, such as the Web site French Women Don’t Get Fat.
When you think of the best food in the world, don’t you think of French food? The French are famous the world over for their delicious dishes. They eat cheese, butter, and drink wine. Conventional wisdom would lead one to assume that France would rank high among the most-obese countries in the world. But that isn’t the case. The French can’t hold a candle to the kind of overweight and obesity rates we’re rockin’ in the United States.
That’s not to say that these problems don’t exist in France. They are struggling with a spike in rates, but nothing like we have.
Look at the typical French approach to eating: they go for fresh foods of high quality, eat small portions and savor every bite. They don’t shun dessert; they indulge.
Now witness the American way: Grab any and everything available, no matter the quality, go for the super-sized version and stuff it all in, even if engaged in some other activity, like sitting in front of the television or coasting down the highway. Many Americans don’t believe there is ever a time not to eat. The idea of three square meals a day has been blurred into eat whenever you want throughout the day. Americans have invented meals between meals.
My clients are always telling me about how they notice this difference in the two cultures. And it’s not only France. Another European country, Italy, shares a similar way of life.
When in Rome, I noticed it was not uncommon to see more people walking and using bicycles. In fact, they have a system where you can unlock public bikes, ride where you need to go, and drop off the bike in another place. The Italians rent bikes like we pay parking meters to basically rent a space to leave our vehicles.
Vespa Scooters are a common site. Even though cycling is a focus of this site, I am also a fan of motorcycles. They’re not for everyone, and can be dangerous. But my motorcycle fits into a sliding scale of necessity. My first choice is to take my bicycle, if I can. If I have to go too far, my next choice is to take the motorcycle. I basically go from zero cylinder to two. Next on the scale is four cylinders: my car.
In Rome, there seems to be more Vespa type scooters than cars. Women, men, grandparents…everyone uses them. I’ve seen a man on more than one occasion with his kid on his lap and his gray-haired mother on the back clutching grocery bags.
In southern California, where I live, people buy the most car they can afford. A lot of them buy more car than they should, or even can afford. I know people who make less money than me who buy expensive foreign cars. This speaks volumes about how we look at things here. Everyone wants to see how comfortable they can possibly get.
We’ve set up society so we never have to walk. It’s common to find escalators and elevators in many places. Some gyms, like the Sports Club, have valet parking. Think about how absurd this is. People get someone else to park their car so they won’t have to walk, then they get on a treadmill so they can finally get around to doing some serious…wait for it…walking! Then there are those who take the elevator, not the stairs, to the second floor, so they can get on a stair machine.
Our priorities are in the wrong places. Don’t we see the irony in all of this?
When I was a kid, I was told to eat all of my food so I can get dessert. We were pushed to overeat, so we can eat more. The French have seemed to figure out that it’s not about how much you eat, but the quality of what you eat.
If there is one thing I can come down on the French for, it’s for not using deodorant.