[First post in this Experiment (thread):Pounds Be Gone: A Recalibration I]

“Is it because of our small modern apartments or because of the population explosion ? (The thinner people are , the less room they will take up.) It is difficult to say. However, it is ironic that the thinner we are suppose to be, the more fattening modern life becomes, for nervous overweight is certainly one of the maladies of the century. (And because overweight is so often a form of malady, you should consult only your doctor for advice on reducing diets.)”

  • Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

I have spent much time musing and doing research on how to recalibrate the extra pounds that I have accumulated…

Much has been written about why Americans are obese. All sorts of variables are blamed: portion size, non-stop eating in private, mode of transportation, antibiotics, livestock chemicals, pesticides/endocrine disrupters, diet foods (sugar substitutes, low fat, low carb), fast food, stress/cortisol, depression, workaholism, supersizeism, fast food, dieting, fake foods (hydrogenated fats, corn syrup, soda), poverty, high price of real/unprocessed food, too much meat, good television / computer entertainment, genetics, not getting enough sleep, non-mindful eating…

While being skeletally slender is currently the culturally preferable silhouette and fashion in the global media, entrepreneurs have developed a multi-billion dollar industry that has transformed fatness into an international public health “crisis” resulting in the marginalization of, and discrimination against, many. (Abigail Saguy (2013): What’s Wrong with Fat?: The War on Obesity and its Collateral Damage.)

Some of these entrepreneurs have even been MDs and PhDs… buyer beware.

A recent science study found that “ …those who are overweight or moderately obese have a higher or equivalent life expectancy respectively than those who have a normal weight.” (Steensma et al (2013): Comparing life-expectancy and health-adjusted life expectancy by body mass-indexed category in adult Canadians: a descriptive study. Population Health Metrics: 11:21.)

Granted that, for an individual, obesity can be a health/quality of life concern, a few extra pounds is a not a health issue. In looking at international statistics (e.g., life expectancy / obesity / wealth tables and their correlations), the data do not demonstrate a clear link with national obesity and life expectancy. For example: the countries with the longest life expectancies are wealthy, have great health care, and with the odd exception have small populations and small geographies (Monaco, Japan, Andorra, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Marino, Iceland…).

 “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

  • Benjamin Disrailie, often misattributed to Mark Twain

Of recent infamy,  Mireille Guiliano’s (2007) French Women Don’t Get Fat has focused significant media attention on French diet and lifestyle gurus.  Many of these advertorials offer restrictive eating plans or transformative ways of life promising that if you adopt them you to will become slender.

In developing CE&C Renovation Experiment: Eight – Pounds Be Gone: A Recalibration, I have read and synthesized the points made in 100 articles and books on why the French are more slender than their American counterparts.

Please note There is NO scientific validity to this list – however, it is at the very least a cultural oddity that encapsulates various narratives of life in France (mostly Paris).

What to eat:

  • eat everything – no foods are intrinsically evil (except non-foods) – nothing is forbidden;
  • eat real food… defatted chemical-laden products are not food;
  • lots of clear liquids (water, tea, tisane, soup);
  • moderate wine drinking;
  • small portions with a number of separate courses on separate plates;
  • meals are very colorful and seasonal;
  • food is lightly dressed;
  • lots of fresh produce;
  • fermented foods (yogurt, cheese, wine);
  • one slice of cheese at the end of the meal – not with crackers or bread;
  • a large variety of artisan products (cheeses, salamis, wines, fruits, veggies, meats);
  • balance between raw and cooked foods (adds texture, flavor, nutrients);
  • local seasonal food;
  • horrible coffee;
  • whole milk dairy, eggs, butter are good for you;
  • more fish than meat;
  • small breakfast (coffee and bread with jam, yogurt), lunch vegetables, meat and starch (main meal of the day), light dinner… coffee and yogurt at end of meals to get diuretic effects;
  • eat mostly low glycemic index food;
  • great quality and taste (pleasure in the short term);
  • take time – slow eating;
  • cook at home; and,
  • formal dining – even alone (mindful eating).

When and how much to eat:

  • three proper meals a day;
  • mid-day meal is the main meal – and takes two hours;
  • each bite is savoured – so it takes more time to get through a meal;
  • each plate and each bite of food is considered a small sensory pleasure;
  • plates are never served full – portions are small;
  • no seconds (not even squares of chocolate, a second slice of bagette);
  • mindful eating (chew, rest and digest);
  • no snacking;
  • take food very seriously;
  • when a zipper is tight eat less until the zipper zips easily (don’t be a slave to a scale);
  • don’t count calories; and,
  • talk about it and think about it all the time to the point of obsession… it’s harsh and competitive.

Societal norms not directly related to food:

  • work less;
  • lots of walking;
  • public transportation is great and parking is hard to find and stupid expensive (particularly in Paris) so there is a public disincentive to drive;
  • elevators and escalators are not the norm, probably due to the retrofitting of old buildings, so significant stair climbing is de rigueur;
  • no need to diet with all that walking and stair climbing;
  • go to markets every couple of days in part for quality but mostly because living space is very limited (in Paris a decent sized apartment is the size of a north American suburban master bedroom);
  • live in the moment, do one thing at a time… (eating-walking… eating-watching TV… is doing two things at a time)… that being said, French TV is awful;
  • sleep more;
  • have sex (or at least talk about it) more; and,
  • have a great public health system that is essentially free and extensively used.

Special notes:

  • people notice and comment on how you look and don’t tell little white lies in this area;
  • weight loss pill popping and creams are common; and,
  • smoke.

[Next post in this Experiment (thread): A Recalibration III]


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