- The French diet is traditional and mostly unprocessed. People eat meals at a table, not while walking, driving or watching TV.
- French people eat small portions and appreciate quality over quantity.
- The French like drinking red wine and eating a dessert.
- Paris has been a fashion capital since the 17th century.
- The French style is minimalistic, yet chic. Essentials are: trench-coat, men’s wear, white shirt, great flats, not too-tall heels, Breton top, neutral colors and little jewelry.
- The fit of the clothes is very important. Relaxed look can also be very chic.
- Hair and makeup are understated and natural.
Ah, France. Home of the Eiffel Tower, great food, many kings, the fries, wine and fashion. And living in the moment. And eating in the moment.
I went to Paris couple of years ago, and I didn’t see one person eating on the streets or while driving. Parisians were gracefully seating on the chairs in the restaurants. Clothes were quite simple, but polished. No “multitasking”, only enjoying every minute of the meal through conversation, if they had company. It seemed like eating food represented some kind of a ritual. They enjoyed it and respected it. And paid good money for it.
I also visited Fontainebleau. It’s located about 55 and a half kilometers (about 35 miles) south or southeast from the center of Paris. It’s a beautiful place with a beautiful and rich local market. The French love their local markets. The smell of the fresh produce was amazing. I mean, you could buy anything – fresh veggies and fruits, fish and – of course, flowers.
We sat down to eat in a restaurant and portions were small, quite expensive, but delicious. It’s true what people say about the French food – it is good. And it got me thinking – why are the French people healthier (lower incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD)) than the rest of the world? What do the French people do, that the rest of the world doesn’t?
I will tackle the diet first, as I think the fashion thing is a bit individualistic – some people may like it and others may not. But, when it comes to healthy eating – I think it’s safe to say that we’ll all jump on the wagon.
Here are few “secrets” (they are not really secrets), that I have learned about the French diet:
EAT YOUR MEALS AT A TABLE, NOT WHILE WALKING, NOT WHILE DRIVING AND NOT IN FRONT OF THE TV.
As I said above, to them eating food is a ritual, they respect the food. They sit at the table, especially with friends or family and eat.
I can almost hear your thoughts: I have kids, mortgage, car, job, two jobs, three jobs, uni, classes…No time!!
Well, there’s a simple solution for your busy life – MAKE TIME!
It is a myth, that being too busy leads to poor nutrition and bad eating habits. The only problem here is – when you come home and you’re wiped out hungry, anything that might resemble a meal is a good idea. So, what to do?
Well, like everything in our busy lives – planning comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan. I mean, so many people meticulously plan every aspect of their lives – except when it comes to eating food. The best thing to do is to plan the whole week, so – seven days, seven meals and don’t forget to include leftovers, which can be incorporated in the next day’s meal.
It is one thing to come home, hungry, but without an idea of what to eat and attack the fridge; and another thing to come home and to know exactly what you will eat, according to your meal plan. Buy the groceries the previous day, and if you’re up to it – prepare whatever you can for the next day.
When I come home dead beat and hungry, first I make myself a cup of tea – because it’s something that relaxes me and I really enjoy it, and then I prepare dinner. It’s really not that hard, it just has to become a habit. It doesn’t take long to grill a fish or take frozen veggies from the freezer and put them in boiling water or the microwave.
So – plan and execute. Next: sit down and eat. Slowly! It helps digestion and maintaining weight. A research has shown, that energy intake was lower when the meal was eaten slowly, and satiety was higher at meal completion. (1)
EAT SMALL PORTIONS
This one’s a no brainer and repeated time and time everywhere – blog posts, books, lectures, etc. It seems that the French are eating smaller portions (less food) for a longer period of time, and hence have more food experience.
Multiple laboratory studies, supported by data from free-living settings, demonstrated that portion size has a powerful and proportionate effect on the amount of food consumed. Of particular importance is that rounds of overeating associated with large portions are sustained and not followed by a compensatory reduction in energy intake. The positive effect of portion size on energy intake was demonstrated for different types of foods and beverages, and is particularly pronounced with energy-dense foods. The habit of overeating in response to large portions is common, and occurs regardless of demographic characteristics, such as socioeconomic status, age, body mass index, and sex. (2) (3)
If you want to read a bit more about portions sizes, psychology and appetite, you can visit one of my older blog posts.
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Good food is expensive, right? I currently live in Central Europe and the food at the local market is expensive. So, I make a plan what to buy from the local market and what to buy from a supermarket. We all have certain lifestyle needs, but is good quality food included in those? It should be. Buying seasonal produce is healthy and actually cheaper than buying foods that aren’t.
Produce from the local market tends to be fresh, unprocessed and packed with nutrients. Depending on what you like to eat, make a list of what you can buy from the local market and elsewhere. With good planning quality food can be on your table, too.
CHOOSE TRADITIONAL DIET
This is where the French paradox comes to mind: how can someone eat products made with white flour, that contain white sugar, saturated fats, red meats and drink alcohol, and have lower incidence of coronary heart disease??
Well, there’s a difference between saturated fats in unprocessed foods and saturated fats in processed foods.
The French diet is heavy in fat, sugar and salt—but from wine, salami, cheese, bread, red meat, grains and desserts. Skip the salami and red meat if you are a vegetarian and you’re still good to go. Portion control, wide variety of foods and other factors are also in the game.
Results from different studies about the association of the antioxidant resveratrol, found especially in red wine, and cardiovascular health, cancer or inflammation are mixed. Some studies point out that there’s no correlation between the antioxidant (found in red wine, chocolate and grapes) and cardiovascular health. (4)
Despite the considerable preclinical evidence, human clinical data are very scarce, and even though the compound is widely distributed as an over-the-counter human nutritional supplement, its therapeutic action has not been well characterized. (5)
Other studies suggest that resveratrol requires red wine polyphenols for optimum antioxidant activity, and that a combination of the compounds exhibited synergistic antioxidant effect, and made resveratrol effective both at lower and higher dosages. (6)
Alcohol consumption in France is smaller than in many places (Luxemburg, Germany, Croatia, etc), but we don’t see lower incidence of CHD in those places. The French predominantly drink red wine, therefore the alcohol in wine might be a factor in the French paradox.
FORGET THE GYM AND DO WHAT YOU LOVE (IF YOU LOVE BEING IN THE GYM, THEN MORE POWER TO YOU)
French people seldom go to the gym. Instead, they opt for walking, cycling, dancing, tennis, etc. Those activities are part of their daily lives.
Enjoying what you do will determine if you would keep up with your plan to shape up, lose weight, gain muscle mass or simply release stress. If you hate what you do, how can you relax and release stress? Let’s not forget that stress is a huge factor in weight gain and weight loss. There are people who are stress eaters and stress non-eaters. Each suffers the same fate – they can’t reach their goals because of their stress levels. So, do what you love!
EAT THE (VERY SMALL) PIECE OF CAKE OR DARK CHOCOLATE
Yes, you read it right. Eat the piece of cake. Eat it slowly and enjoy the experience. Ending a meal with a small sweet treat, helps cut cravings and we do not have to snack afterwards. (7)
If by any chance you choose to snack, then opt for fresh foods (fresh fruit, yogurt). No processed garbage (I say that to myself all the time!) and again – small portions eaten slowly.
I think I’ve covered everything in the “diet” part of the post. Most important message is: eat what you love and love what you eat…In small portions.
THE FRENCH STYLE
Paris has been a fashion capital since the 17th century. Modern haute couture also originated in Paris in the 1860s. Fashion in France began its domination together with the reign of Louis XIV.
A man named Jean Donneau de Visé further popularized fashion with his marketing of designs to a broad public outside of the French court. He was like a mix between Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) and Oscar Wilde. Someone who wanted to connect fashion to the “outer” world, and who was a journalist, royal historian, publicist and a very stylish playwright.
Fast forward few centuries, Paris is still the heart of the fashion industry. Parisians are chic, polished and relaxed. Here are few style principles:
STICK TO NEUTRALS
One thing I have noticed, is that Parisians are laid back, but not boring. They don’t wear “loud” color hues, but they grab attention with their poise and confidence.
WEAR YOUR CLOTHES, DON’T LET YOUR CLOTHES WEAR YOU
This can only be achieved if you own your look. It means, if you don’t normally dress provocatively, don’t do it. You have to feel good in your clothes. What’s the point in wearing a really short gorgeous skirt, if you stop on every 5 meters to pull it down a bit, because it makes you feel uncomfortable showing too much skin? Sexy can be many things to many people, and if you don’t feel sexy and confident from the inside, it’s not gonna show on the outside.
DON’T BE A TRY-HARD
Leave your house looking beautiful, comfortable, but not too done up. French style is simplistic, but classy. If you wear really chic clothes, easy on the makeup. If you wear a simple black dress for the evening, a red lipstick will effortlessly steal attention.
USE LITTLE TO NO JEWELRY
If you wear a statement piece, then it should be on its own. Otherwise, the look becomes unpolished. The French style is minimalistic, yet not boring. Jewelry is usually understated, but always completes the look. So, less is more.
AVOID FLASHY LOGOS AND BRAND NAMES
Parisian fashionistas don’t follow trends. They like having their own look, their own personal style, through which they shine. Be in your chosen clothes because you feel good in them, and not because they are marked by a name.
WEAR FLATS AND NEVER TOO-HIGH HEELS
Rarely you would catch a Parisian chic lady with too-high heels. Shoes need to be good and polished. You can learn a lot about a person only by glancing at their shoes.
MENSWEAR, NO PROBLEM!
A blazer or a tux is always stylish and slick. You can thank Yves Saint Laurent for that one. It’s timeless and makes the look sophisticated.
With trench-coat you can be very creative – you can dress it up and you can dress it down. It’s a trans-seasonal piece, that works with any outfit.
When paired with something unexpected (wide legged trousers, high waist jeans, etc.) it looks modern and fresh.
DON’T FORGET THE FIT
No matter what size of clothes you wear, they have to be the right fit. Everyone looks polished in clothes that fit their body well. It is also essential to find a great tailor, that will make sure your clothes fit just fine. There’s no need to look for too-form fitting clothes or overly structured clothes. Relaxed look can be very chic, but avoid looking baggy.
This one’s a no brainer, really. It’s versatile – it looks great with everything.
PERFECT, YET NOT SO PERFECT HAIR
I suppose, now you will yell at me to make up my mind. Which is it – a perfect hair, or not so perfect hair?
Well, we’re talking about the perfect bed-head look. Hair is kinda tousled, yet sexy and chic. It portrays effortless elegance.
So, there you have it. Most things can be bought for a reasonable price – except the shoes, trench-coat and the blazer. A good shoe is definitely worth to invest in. Same goes for the blazer and trench-coat. Those pieces are classic and can last you a very long time.
Till next time! Au revoir!
- A.M. Andrade,G.W. Greene, K.J. Melanson: Eating Slowly Led to Decreases in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 108. 2008 (7): 1186–1191. Online source: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000282230800518X (04.12.2016).
- , K. Kabnick, , and
- R.D. Semba: Resveratrol in Red Wine, Chocolate, Grapes Not Associated With Improved Health. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014. Online source: http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/resveratrol-in-red-wine-chocolate-grapes-not-associated-with-improved-health/ (04.12.2016).
- G.Cavallini, S.Straniero, A.Donati et al.:Resveratrol requires red wine polyphenols for optimum antioxidant activity. J Nutr Health Aging (2016) 20: 540. Online source: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12603-015-0611-z (04.12.2016).
- WebMD. Online source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-french-diet#4 (04.12.2016).