French Women Don’t Get Fat

Bonjour from Paris! I’m currently in Europe with an artist I work with, Ledisi. For those of you who are new readers, I’m a marketing & artist relations manager at a major record label. I love my job…most of the time ūüėČ Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of traveling with artists/bands. If it weren’t for my job, I’d probably never travel except to see my parents. While traveling the world is great, it’s HORRIBLE for a LeanGirl who’s trying to lose a few pounds and live a healthy lifestyle. No matter how prepared I am with nuts or a small bottle of water in my purse, eating on the go, not eating at all, poor gym hotels, lack of sleep, and limited access to water takes a toll on one’s body.

Last night I went to dinner at Cafe Justine with a few French associates, all women. Most of them didn’t order food, which got me thinking about the belief that French women don’t get fat.

1. French women really are not fat. While in Paris, I have yet to meet an overweight French woman. That’s not to say that there aren’t any overweight people. But statistically, 11% of French people are overweight compared to 67% of Americans. None of my French dinner guests were fat.

2. The French are low-consumers. Their cars are smaller. Their living spaces are smaller. Hotels don’t give extra towels unless you’ve been there a few days, thus using less water. They use less electricity – public restrooms are not lit when they are unoccupied. They even have small toothpaste ūüôā

Most important, the French eat less. One contributing factor is that their plates, cups, silverware, and platters are all smaller, thus serving less food. This morning at breakfast, my plate was the size of a saucer. While I had two saucer-sized plates of food this morning it was considerably less than a normal meal back home. And you know what? I was satisfied.

LeanGirl Lesson Learned: use smaller plates and cups. If eating from a to-go container, set a place for self. 

3. While the French are “skinny” they’re not all that healthy. While they weren’t eating dinner, my French colleagues sipped on diet coke, smoked numerous cigarettes, and later admitted they were going to McDonald’s…and they eat at McDonald’s quite frequently. These girls were tiny compared to me! How are they so skinny??? Skinny doesn’t mean you’re healthy. One of the reasons I named my blog Lean Girls Club and not something like Skinny B*tches is because of this exact reason. Lean means less fat, more muscle. Skinny doesn’t reflect how healthy my heart is or how strong I am or how I can run a mile in 7:39. (YES, you read that correctly. I ran the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile this past Saturday and ran a 7:39 mile…this from a kid who use to run 13+ minute miles in school!!)

In society and even in my head sometimes, people view being a size six as being healthy. But it’s not necessarily the case. There are lots of unhealthy and out of shape size twos and fours while there are healthy size sixteens. I’m not saying that to justify some women’s ¬†being overweight. I just mean that size and weight aren’t everything. Ask yourself and answer honestly. Are you healthy?

LeanGirl Lesson Learned (and still learning): weight and size aren’t everything. Celebrate the accomplishments along the way like fitting into clothes better, running faster, lifting heavier weights, joints not hurting, etc.

4. The French like white. Not just white pants because I’ve seen lots of women here wear them past the first weekend of September, but I’m talking about white flour, white rice, cream, mayo and white sugar. It was extremely difficult for me to find browns: brown rice, wheat flour, whole grains, brown sugar, etc. The one place I did find wheat bread?

LeanGirl Lesson Learned: White is not the devil. Just eat less of it! Or this may go back to point #3, maybe they consume white and have high cholesterol?

5. They don’t exercise? In NYC, I always see people outdoors running, biking, etc. I went to the park and didn’t see a single person doing any kind of aerobic physical activity? Again, this is not to say that the French don’t exercise at all. But like Ariane Hundt says: “nutrition is 80%” of the battle. Justin says it. My health coach Melanie focused more on the nutrition rather than exercise. I’m learning that what we put into our bodies greatly determines what it gives out.

Something to consider: In 2009 43 million Americans belonged to a gym, up from 23 million in 1993. Americans also spend more money and time in gyms and yet obesity has been on the increase. Something’s not adding up.

6. The French take their sweet ass time eating. When you walk through the streets of Paris, you’ll notice that outdoor cafes set their chairs facing the street. The French people watch, lounge, talk, and often sit in silence.

My ONE French colleague who did order food, ate her dinner in the same time I ate my dinner, finished coffee, and talked my butt off. Eating quickly ultimately leaders to over eating. 



Again, I don’t think the French are necessarily healthy but I do believe they have healthy practices.¬†¬†It’s not a coincidence that I usually lose a few pounds after a business trip to Europe (I gain weight on domestic business trips).¬†¬†These observations and lessons will be the best souvenir I take back to NYC…or at least it’s better than a cheap replica of the Eiffel Tower!

I’m off to London now! Follow me on Twitter @gracekelle for Live updates. Ciao!


photo credit: gracekelle

5 thoughts on “French Women Don’t Get Fat

  1. Hey i like your post. I hope you had a good time in Paris. ūüôā
    And as for my thoughts on the French,
    I’m all for eating in small portions but as far as the French thinking workingout as a bad thing that just blows my mind (Oh mon dieu -__-T) lol . To be healthy its both about your diet AND physical exercises.

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