Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Biggest French Secret Revealed

In a nutshell and for free, here it is. The real reason French women don't get fat.

They do not snack. They only eat at set times during the day and the evidence to this truth is as follows.

Ma Fille invited a friend to the Middlest's birthday party. The party was during the lunch hours and so all the children ate their hamburgers and hotdogs, gobbling up chips and punch and cake like any other child.

When everyone left, excepting a few close friends we'd invited to stay for a bbq and grown up party, Ma Fille's friend stayed too.
It had been a couple of hours since the kids had eaten but it wasn't yet the 'gouter' or snack hour of 4 o'clock when I offered her something to nibble. She's nine years old and  has already learned the French woman's rule of snacking because she didn't say 'non, merci' and she didn't say 'yea sure'. What she did was more ingrained than that, more a part of her, more tellingly French.

She looked at the clock.
That's it. When I asked her if she was hungry and wanted a little snack, her first reaction was to see if it was snack time. And it wasn't. So she said no.

There it is. The secret revealed. Simple, huh?


  1. This is definitely true and definitely why I gained 4kg this winter.

  2. I'm a grazer, always have been, probably always will be. Everyday my husband phones me and asks me what I'm eating for 'midday' and everyday I remind him that I don't stop whatever I'm doing and sit down to dine by myself just because it's 12:30. He thinks I'm weird.
    It's funny because he gained weight when he lived in Ireland and was off of his 'French eating schedule' and I've gained weight living here and sitting down to huge five course meals when my grazing stomach wasn't built to hold all that food in one sitting. Me and my ever-growing thighs are desperately looking for a happy medium.

  3. Sometimes secrets are so simple, huh?

    But I don't know. I'm still going to stick to my revolving (and multiple) gouter hour(s). I'm ok with not having that alluring French woman mystique. I'm not French! :)

  4. I kinda feel like the no snacking thing is good in a way but then I don't like watching what I eat all the time and refusing a nibble if I crave it here and there. I could never be this strict about it myself. I do wonder how it's all adding up in my little american girl child's head.
    a x

  5. My mother instilled the same thing in my head and I did the same with my children (none of us has extra fat). This means that we try to eat well at meal time, but doesn't mean that if we are occasionally starving in between we do not grab a fruit or a piece of cheese! I know that one of the rules that boulimcs have to learn in order to recover is: 3 meals a day and nothing in between. This also if they are not French!

  6. Wow - deciding whether you are to eat or not by looking at a clock? I don't get it. I listen to my body, nibble a little throughout the day and have always been slim. Of course the metabolism slows down in your mid-40s (as I'm finding) but by choosing wisely, we don't have to starve ourselves because the clock (or some societal rule) says we shouldn't eat. That's like that silly 5-o'clock somewhere rule that says I can't have wine with lunch. Poppycock. All of it.

  7. That's only half the secret. The other half is that they actually NIBBLE. Et moi, I've eaten the entire apero bowl of olives before anyone else can politely and discreetly remove the first pit from their mouths!

  8. The French women don't get fat mystique has been hit in the past decade by the increased presence of American style fast food. I'm surprised to see a difference, globally speaking, in the countryside, even if none of my own French girlfriends are overweight.

    Having said that, my own daughter at ten is less of a snacker and most importantly has far less of a sweet tooth than her mother. She refuses hamburgers (even homemade) and it took years to get her to like pizza. Fries are a big favorite, though... Go figure.

  9. I am definitely not a clock watcher for food...I lost my weight by eating only when hungry, which defied even the 'eat breakfast' mantra. I still have some lbs to go, but it would be tough for me (at this point in my life) to eat when the clock said versus when my stomach said. But, I find the cultural habits around food really interesting!

  10. I think our family subscribes to the 'eat when you are hungry' rule -- which is complicated because 7 yr old is always hungry, 12 year old is sporadically hungry but never at mealtimes,3 month old--well she 'snacks' around the clock, literally--and spouse could survive on a hunk of cheese and a glass of vino--at any time of the day and me I get so busy most times I forget to eat...and all of us are terrible Americans and eat on the run and don't sit down and relax for a meal often enough. But we are working on it since living here! We really are!


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