Why are the French so skinny?

There is a myth that circulates among women, or in fact, anyone who is body conscious that the French are skinny because of the small portion sizes they eat. But, mes chers amis, I have lived with not one, but two, different french families now, and I can tell you that that is most definitely not true. I’m trying to cut down on portion sizes but the food is delicious and unfortunately, a typical meal is nothing but carbs and fat. No, seriously. For example, today’s meals consisted of:

Breakfast: Baguette, butter, (homemade) jam, 2% milk with hot chocolate powder. No arguments, no other options, it’s what the entire family eats. EVERYDAY.

Lunch: Baguette, butter, ham, endive salad, celery and potatoes with cheese and crème fraiche. Oh and potato chips and homemade (not non-fat) yogurt.

Dinner: Noodle soup, pasta with BACON, CREME FRAICHE, CHEESE, baguette with cheese.

Did you notice that dinner was actually nothing but fat (cheese, cream, bacon) and bread (pasta, noodles, baguette)???

And every time I don’t have seconds, or turn something down, the mother is astonished that that’s all I’m eating. Meanwhile her skinny arms are piling on more pasta on her plate. I mean, they eat so much more than I do and they don’t exercise either!

Oh and then there are times when we have something like Raclette:         



… It’s similar to fondue except you melt the cheese in separate plates and then dump them over your potatoes (carbs), ham, tomatoes, and walnuts. Deeeeelicious!

I honestly can’t figure it out. It is rather rare that you seen an overweight, and I’m not even talking about fat, just slightly overweight, Frenchy. Meanwhile, I’m about to rip my jeans and my muffin tops are overflowing. I may have to wear yoga pants the rest of this trip. No, I’m exaggerating, it hasn’t gotten that bad but I have definitely put on a little (completely unnecessary) weight.

The one thing that I’ve noticed is that they don’t snack. And they don’t binge eat. Meals are pretty much set. 3 meals a day and the children will have a snack (tartine – bread and butter/nutella and milk or a cookie and milk) an hour or two before dinner. Personally, I’ve always been a crazy snacker. In college, I had breakfast at 8:30, lunch at 12, snack before work at 2:30, dinner at 6, and then post-practice snack at 10. I was essentially eating every 4 hours. Perhaps that’s the problem. The more often we eat, the more opportunities we have to eat unhealthy food or even just eat too much. I think it’s hard to decide how large a snack is supposed to be and I think sometimes, my “snacks” are larger than my “meals”. In addition, some of us (cough cough me) tend to binge eat. As in, if something’s really good, I’ll keep on eating it, even if I’m full. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. I guess what they eat is pretty consistent, whereas we have a million different restaurants and ethnic foods, so it’s not like they’ll never eat it again. So why eat all of it now? There will always be more.

Of course, I realize that things may be different in Paris. I live in the South of France and life is rather laid back. Everything gets done, but nothing is ever rushed. Maybe it’s the relaxed lifestyle that explains such a balanced way of looking at meals. Although, I doubt there are many overweight Parisians.

I for one, am not going to worry too too much about it. Maybe if my pants actually rip (which has happened before… but I’ll save that one for another time) but for now, I’m just going to enjoy the food. Finally! An excuse to eat all the carbs and cheese I want! I mean, I’ve got no choice right? When in France, do as the French do.


– Mag




Filed under New York City

3 responses to “Why are the French so skinny?

  1. Pingback: Got Milk? | Champagne before Breakfast

  2. jacqui

    I was just there and noticed that everyone was rail thin while carrying around bread and eating ice cream. The portions were smaller but they also all seemed to smoke. Everyone I know who stopped smoking gained weight in the U.S. For the most part people in the U.S. don’t smoke and they have gained a lot of weight since smoking became less socially acceptable. I believe it’s snacking, binging and portion size too. Still, I could not eat the meals you describe and be rail thin, I know my body and I’ve tried it (I’m 5’8 too!).

  3. Honestly Jacqui, I don’t know how they do it either. No one in my host family smoked so I truly believe it’s the snacking. The more often you snack, the more opportunities you have to overeat. Either way, their food is DELICIOUS! Hope you enjoyed France!

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