(Since the popularity of my last post about the Parisian lifestyle, I have decided to create a series of “how to” guides for Parisian style, life and look)
We all look to the Parisian women in envy. How can they look THAT slim? How? When every day they’re tempted by wine, cheese, pastry, and macarons? There must be some sort of “Parisian gene”? Surely! That is how they all stay so thin and eat what they want – right? Wrong. Like everywhere in the world, the Parisian woman comes in every shape and style. The most common “archetypal” image of a Parisian woman tends to be gamine. This is the reference to “boyish” figure, slim, with fewer curves – think Audrey Tatou. While this is certainly the image that the media (French and International alike) love to portray about French women, it simply isn’t how all Parisian women look. However, Parisian women are in fact healthier, slimmer and fitter than most women in the western world. Why? They have willpower. You, too, can have that same willpower. It just takes a few subtle changes. First of all, dispell the gamine myth… secondly, read ahead.
- Breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, Parisian women (or any French people for that matter) do not eat crepes, French toast, hot chocolates and several pastries for breakfast every single day. French Toast was invented by America, and crepes, pastries and hot chocolate for breakfast are a rarity. The most common breakfast a Parisian woman will have will be; a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a croissant or some bread and a cafe au lait (coffee with milk). This well-rounded breakfast starts the day off with all the things she needs for that “get-up-and-go” attitude we all wish we had! You do not need the added sugar and fat of cereal, jam, cake, pancakes, bacon etc. that early in the morning. A healthy breakfast is where it is at.
- Snacking. Yes, there are cafes, patisseries, and cake shops everywhere in Paris. It must seem impossible to think that anyone could pass on having a macaron, a pain au chocolat, or a flan. This is where you need your willpower. Yes, I am sure the Parisian woman does crave a delicious pastry when she sees them. But she knows exactly where that extra food will go – straight to her hips, thighs or stomach. She will allow herself to indulge once a week, perhaps on a Sunday. But not every day. There is no need to snack in between meals. This will be hard, but once the habit is broken, you’ll wonder why you ever needed to snack in the first place.
- Dinner at Lunchtime. Like most Mediterranean countries, French people tend to take their main meal at lunch time. This gives it the whole rest of the day to digest and is, therefore, better for your metabolism. This may be difficult in Anglo-oriented countries. If you cannot have dinner at lunch time, then at least make it a universal rule that you will not have dinner after 7.30 at night. It will be better for you to have a less full stomach when you go to bed.
- Portion sizes. This is a big one (pun unintended). In America, the average restaurant portion is 3x the size of a meal you would buy in Paris. That is NOT a good thing!! Even at home, we cook way too much food for ourselves than we need. Food wastage is huge. Reduce your portion sizes by at least half. That is how the Parisian woman can have such delicious food for meal times – she has significantly less of it. If you’re unsure what a correct portion size for you should be, check here: https://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Healthy-Living/Weight-Management/Article-Viewer/Article/348/Correct-Portion-Sizes-How-to-Keep-Portion-Distortion-in-Check.aspx
- Wine. Yes, the French consume more wine per person than any other nation on earth. But wine is some of the most healthy alcohol. The French drink very little in the way of beer or hard liquor. They also drink in moderation. A bottle of wine will last the entire night, a glass, the entire meal. Red wine is much more common to drink than white wine. If you’re not a fan of red wine, ease yourself into it by adding a small amount of water to dull it down. French children are often eased into wine this way.
- Eat by the seasons. Have you ever had a delicious strawberry in winter? Or a lovely pumpkin in summer? Of course not. They’re not in season. The Parisians are very in tuned to what is in season and what foods should be eaten when. Supermarkets will stock anything at any time if they can just to make a profit. Supermarkets are not an indication of what is seasonal produce. The best way to get in season fresh produce is from a local market. Paris is full of local markets. You will look very chic buying fruit and vegetables from your local market – plus you’ll help support local farmers and producers! It’s a win-win.
- Coffee. You may think coffee is all about personal choice. Well, it may be like that in the West… but in Paris, the rules around coffee are VERY strict. You may have a cafe au lait – but only before midday. After midday, it is strictly black coffee. If you go into a cafe in Paris after midday and order “cafe”, you will get a black coffee. Mochas, Chai Latte, Cappucino, Flat White and Frappes, do not exist. If you want something sweet you order a hot chocolate. These are usually reserved for children, however. After dinner, if you want a coffee, you order an espresso. Not only does this look chic, but by having less sugary, less fat-filled coffee in general, you will also help your waistline.
- Always eat at the table. The kitchen table is the heart of the Parisian home. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, she will eat at the table. Never on her lap in front of the television. But at the table, with a glass of wine, and relaxing music. Even if she lives alone. This cultivates a sense of occasion in the meal. Too often in the West do we rush through dinner like it is a mild inconvenience or a pit stop in the day. Eat your meal slowly, enjoy every mouthful and sip your wine.
- Cook more, take out less. Yes, the Parisian loves eating out in delicious restaurants and bistros. But when she is at home there is one thing she does: cook. Take outs such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Curry are available everywhere in the world – even Paris. But she does not buy into them. She NEVER gets a Big Mac. She never thinks “I can’t be bothered cooking tonight, let’s get some greasy KFC”. No way! The Parisian knows how to cook a meal that is quick, simple and healthy. She also knows how to prepare a meal that is the perfect dinner party meal. Yes, on your best friend’s birthday you might order in Thai and watch Gossip Girl, but these occasions are the exception, most certainly NOT the rule.
- Combine all these tips with an exercise regime. Pretty simple really. Eat a bit less, and move about a bit more.
- Don’t buy into fad diets. Paleo, Atkins, Weight Watchers etc. they are not popular in Paris. Parisian women see diets for what they are – marketing ploys. All these diets do is create a calorie deficit – nothing more, nothing less. Parisian women also don’t buy into the concept of “super food” or “healthy alternative”. Coconut oil? No thanks, olive oil is fine. Kale? Unnecessary to go crazy over one vegetable if you’re eating a balanced diet. Diets are games, they come and go. Yet the Parisian… she has remained exactly the same.
To conclude, there is no “secret” Parisian diet or Parisian gene that will make her thin and beautiful. Like everything, it takes work to look a certain way and be healthy. But you are perfectly capable of doing it! We won’t all look like Audrey Tatou overnight (or ever…) but we can cultivate a Parisian, healthy lifestyle. To be honest, it is actually very simple. Just don’t let the Parisians hear you saying that….