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Why French women don't get fat, and why you shouldn't either

This is a discussion on Why French women don't get fat, and why you shouldn't either within the December 2007 forums; Like most students traveling abroad next semester, I am not only thinking about how to ...

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Old 12-07-2007, 11:24 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 5,098
Default Why French women don't get fat, and why you shouldn't either

Like most students traveling abroad next semester, I am not only thinking about how to pack long silk underwear or extra contact lens solution but I am also worrying about other necessities-namely food.

Considering a large portion of our Study Abroad 101 subsection discussions focused on the fear of getting fat while abroad, I figured there was no better time to write about the successes of other eating styles. As a major inspiration, I turned to Mireille Guiliano, the author of "French Women Don't Get Fat."

In this book, Guiliano details the "French paradox" of how to enjoy rich meals while still staying slim and healthy. I will elucidate the main points of her book below and remind everyone who is going abroad that though your dining styles and living habits may change when you are abroad, in most cases these habits should not "hurt" waistlines. In fact, they may even help.

Guiliano herself is French, and she has firsthand knowledge of the pain of gaining extra weight while abroad. During a stay in America as a teenager, Guiliano gained over 20 pounds in just one year. After several years of reflecting on her mistakes and developing her relationship with food, she has discovered what works and doesn't work (for her). Keep in mind, the following recommendations may or may not fit your dining style, but they certainly are worth considering and may even be helpful for those staying on campus-especially since these tips were designed for Americans to learn what they should change about their lifestyles.

Savor what you eat. Obsessed with being thin, fit and healthy, many Americans experience tremendous amounts of guilt after indulging in savory roasts or creamy desserts. The French, on the other hand, enjoy the moment while they are eating and do not feel guilty for consuming a few spoonfuls of crème brulée. Because they are appreciating every spoonful and not worrying about the consequences, they are able to eat with all five senses, being aware of not only the taste but also the appearance, smell, texture, etc. of the dish they are consuming. Being aware of what you eat, experts say, often results in eating less overall. So, if you savor what you eat, you might automatically reduce portion size.

Slow and steady wins the race. In addition to enjoying what you eat, speed has proven to be a significant factor. Have you ever noticed that after being very hungry, you eat quickly and often feel full or overstuffed when you are done? This is because it takes the brain and the body several minutes to recognize that you are being fed and send those signals back to the brain so that it can trigger feelings of "fullness" and "satiation." The more slowly you consume your food the more time you give your body to realize it is done before you overeat.

Portion control. The previous two points lead up to the importance of portion control, something that Americans (with our super-sized fries and gallon sodas) have yet to realize is so important. The great thing about this is in other countries, chances are they will serve you smaller portion sizes anyway.

Drink water. This is one piece of advice that, while repeated over and over again, seems to get ignored over and over again. Drinking water is incredibly important for feeling satiated. It also helps flush out toxins that can cause bloating in our bodies. Of course, if traveling to a country with unsafe water supplies, please be sure to drink bottled water. We don't want anyone getting sick.

Walk. French women don't always have to hit the gym, because they do tons of walking. The same is true for the Spanish, the Italians and pretty much the inhabitants of every other country except the United States. So remember, don't fret if you can't find a gym in the country you are headed to, (although I'm sure they all have them, so check with your program adviser if you would like to know more about joining a gym abroad). Chances are you will be doing a lot more walking then you are used to, and those extra miles will mean extra calories burned.

Variety. Sometimes we get stuck in a routine of eating. We eat cereal and milk for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and grilled chicken for dinner. Boring. Ideally, we should be varying what we eat because when bored with food choices we tend to eat more in order to feel the same degree of satiation. Again, one of the great things about going abroad is that you will be exposed to a variety of new foods. It will be the perfect time to try to spice up your menu. Try foods you may never have tried before: doing so will not only expand your horizons, it may also help you maintain your waistline.

Best wishes for a great second semester to everyone going abroad, and also to those of you staying here. Happy dining.
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