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It’s Thinner in Paris

Most people, dieters and non-dieters alike, are aware of the fact that the French seem to have more of a handle on their weight than the average American. And we often wonder why. This is a place known for decadent, fattening foods: rich pastries, cakes, cheese, baguettes and heavy cream-based sauces. What gives?

According to Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Overeating, he draws the conclusion that French women rely more heavily on internal cues (such as feeling full) and not external cues (“But there’s still a little more bread left – somebody should eat it!”)

He questioned 282 Parisians and Chicagoans and discovered the following:

Parisians reported that they usually stopped eating when they no longer felt hungry. Not our Chicagoans. They stopped when they ran out of a beverage, or when their plate was empty, or when the television show they were watching was over. Yet the heavier a person was – American or French – the more they relied on external cues to tell them when to stop eating and the less they relied on whether they felt full.

Another study claims that just 11% of French adults are obese compared with 22% in Britain and a whopping third of Americans.

Nutritionist Dr Francoise L’Hermite says the French secret to staying slim is to…make sure you sit down with friends or family for a meal, eat three times a day at regular intervals, don’t snack, don’t eat in front of the television, and finally – eat slowly and savor both the food and the company.

So the French stay slimmer because they know when they’re full and how to eat at regular intervals. They also limit snacking and take their time to savor a meal. Not rocket science but something we Americans seem to struggle with a great deal.