Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why French Women Don’t Get Fat, But The American Women Who Go To France Do

OK, I’ll just speak for myself here.

Why do I get fat every time I go to France?

We know you French women, as a stereotype, are so “plus petite” (and you are) so I ask myself, "Why do I plump up every time I spend more than an hour there?"

I lived in France many years ago and just returned from a five-day sojourn in Paris. Thank God it was only five days! After two, I could feel the familiar lull take over. It goes something like this. “Baguettes and croissants must not be fattening. They’re everywhere and the French women are so thin!” Or maybe it sounds like this. “A crepe here and there won’t kill me. Look at those tiny French women!” Or this. “Butter is real food, not like all those processed trans fat spreads over in America. Can’t be bad. Slather it on! Better yet, carve out a piece the size of a slice of cheddar cheese and wrap that baguette around it!”

When I spent my year abroad in France (a long, long time ago), I gained about twenty pounds. The “year-abroad twenty” was far more shocking than the freshman fifteen. Now in midlife, I only needed five days to gain five pounds. One whiff of the boulangerie and this healthy eating, gym-going, regimented mom of three let the epicure inside of me take over. Taste, pleasure, sensation and enjoyment became the rules of the food game. “Healthy” was implied, right? After all, the food is all real and magnificent and, as we have already established, the French women are doing something right.

But what happens when you put a typical super-sized thinking American into a culture of deliciousness? Five pounds in five days. That’s what happens.

I don’t come out looking French. I come out an even fatter American because I brought my over-sized, “may I have a third café au lait?” mindset with me to the land of small delicacies.

In England, we could order the “big white Americano” coffee. They sympathize with our gross perceptions of food. In France, the demitasse should suffice. But, of course, it didn’t. I needed three to get my eyes open.

So, OK, French women. I get it. I know you're all thin and mysterious about it. But I also know that when you're sauntering around your beautiful Paris, you're not drooling at the fromagerie windows or dreaming about the pain du chocolat you'll be having the next morning. I know you have perspective and balance about your food. 

Maybe someday I will learn to drink from a smaller glass.

I know that's what you do.