It’s the stuff of legends. How French women can seemingly eat all kinds of rich food, [i.e., items confiscated as you deplane in LA –bread, pastry, cheese, chocolates] and of course wine* and yet remain fit, svelte and effortlessly stylish.
Everywhere I went in France I was surrounded by great looking people (French men are less lauded but great looking too), out and about—the vibe convivial, the mood happy, the pace leisurely, and the environment perfect– albeit a tad smoky for my smoke-free; smog-kissed lungs.
Having just come back from a couple of weeks of Faux-French-Living I can attest to the fact that, at least in short doses, it’s true, the exception being the effortlessly stylish part. French women, and men, can tie a scarf better than anyone alive.
My Faux-French-Lifestyle Diet:
Breakfasts: A couple of pastries, some fruit, and soft French-style yogurt
Lunches: Mostly skipped with the exception of eating chocolate.
Dinner: Not to be believed. No less than 3 full courses per night with the high water mark of 20 (but in my defense I only did that once). Dessert, lots of wine and many slices of bread always included. My main vacation rule was to never pass on the bread and butter.
Every course of every meal was exquisite, delicious and beautiful. Briefly I inhabited the otherworldly joyful life of wonderful food, socially consumed while clothed in the style of being comfortable with one’s self.
My first morning back home, I reluctantly flipped the switch back to my LA-lifestyle. Standard issue stainless coffeemaker and daily weigh-in. My U.S. coffee substituted hot temperature and over-burnt roasts for true flavor and I was 2 pounds lighter. Hold up on that lifestyle switch. If I wasn’t already missing the Delicious Coffee + Pastry = Morning Routine, I was now being seduced by the result of joyful experience and scale economics.
Delving into the metric system where lots of high-fat, natural, well-prepared food summed up to more internally and less corporally I initially focused on calorie expenditure. For our part we were tourists so a large part of the day was spent on our feet walking. We walked the city; the museums; we used every staircase we encountered and spent 2 days hiking in the mountains. I happily rationalized that it was the simple math of swapping out an hour at the gym for 5-6 hours of activity every day. It had nothing to do with some kind of magical/mystical French Lifestyle.
But then I started thinking about the French populace. They weren’t tourists and presumably had jobs, families and other time-consuming responsibilities preventing 6 hours of daily walking. Yet with all that they maintained an “old math” rooted in an equation resulting in a joyful life.
Maybe the French Physique Mystique wasn’t about the intake-output equation of Delicious, Natural Food + Lots of Walking = Looking Great no matter what you eat.
Perhaps it was more systemic. A radical, treacherous thought gave root. That our culture’s approach to life was best summed up in a simple linear progression: Birth. School. Work. Death. **
If that’s our elemental geometry, it’s going to take a lot more than using my new French Press coffee maker to change that equation.
* Exception made here given its status a main staple of the celebrity diet
** See The Godfathers Song of same title.