Culture

French women are slimmer: myth or reality?

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Why are French women slimmer? And are they really that slim?

Being slim, I have always personified the stereotype of the slim French woman when I’m abroad since I rarely get overweight. A stereotype is somehow based on reality, right? 

In my opinion, this idea that French women don’t get fat is not true. We do get fat and so do the French men.

But less than other countries, even in our modern days, and I’ll tell you why!

If you are interested to know more about the back scene of a French woman’s diet, I tell you my eating habits in this other post. Before I jump in, let’s just keep in mind that what really matters is to be healthy and that beauty exists in all shapes of bodies!

Are French women really slimmer and why?

First I’ll disappoint you: WRONG, French women are not that slim! 

Even though France is under the OECD overweight average, it is far from being the country with less overweight also including obesity, it only ranked 26th with 49% of people with overweight out of 36 countries. As you can see Chile is sadly ranking in first place in 2017 for obesity and Japan the last place. BTW, Swiss or Italians are slimmer than the French! 

But what is definitely true is that French women have different eating habits that still explain why we are slim overall! And here are the 3 main reasons why:

French women are slimmer reason #1: Food education

Good eating habits are part of French education.

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Ne mange pas entre les repas ! – Don’t eat between meals

Tu te resserviras quand tu auras fini ton assiette ! – You’ll have more when you finish your plate

These are common phrases I’ve heard as a child as many other French kids did!

How French people eat is taught from a very young age and for generations. Learning to eat everything, to wait for the next meal and eat healthy products was the way I was brought up (and that many of my French friends were too).

So the French diet may seem restrictive or strict to you. But it is normal to me because it’s what I grew up with and more importantly, my parents insisted on respecting the food I’m being served.

So for me, it is normal not to drink soda except at the apero and not to snack between meals. Also, the chocolate bar is only for kids’ birthday parties or to have a calorie boost during a hike.

My mum and my grandma are both good cooks. Let me correct that. My mum and one of my grandmas are good cooks. The other one was a disaster and a professional tin opener.

So I never had processed food meals at home, except when my dad was cooking. He took it from his mum I guess 😉 Thankfully my brothers and I took more from my mum!

And I didn’t really like my dad’s food because it was either tasteless or burnt even when it was just about warming up a frozen pizza.

French women are slimmer reason #2: We value Quality over quantity

We are what we eat. 

As I said before, you’ll find every shape of body here too.

But French people give, in my opinion, much more importance to quality than quantity

When I was a teenager I spent 3 months in Ontario, Canada with a host family, I was shocked when I saw the portions people were serving me at the restaurant in Canada. The portion for one was actually for two human beings! No doubt the doggy bag is necessary!

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My parents always taught me to have a reasonable first portion and to go for more once I finish my plate and also that there is cheese and dessert to keep space for. Which I always did because I love cheese. 

At the French restaurant

So, I guess at the restaurant, it is the same, I think the portions are enough in France and it is only about feeding yourself but mainly about appreciating the food. And if I’m still hungry after the main course, there are always the options to have cheese and dessert! Has it happened to you a lot to be hungry after eating at a restaurant in France? Or maybe you skipped the cheese?

Also remember that what you see on the menu in French restaurants does not represent the French people’s daily diet, but more our comfort foot and special occasion diet.

What about the quality

Now, let’s talk a bit about quality! When I say quality product, I mean fresh fruit and veggies. 

I try to go to the local market as much as I can. I rarely buy them at the supermarket and even less pre-cut and packed ones that have no taste. I actually realised these are much more common in the Parisian supermarkets than in the rest of France.

So I guess, it is a way for the busy Parisians to keep a healthier diet.

French women are slimmer reason #3: French food is a way of life

My first food culture shock

In Canada, I discovered a whole new approach to food

I apologize in advance to the North Americans reading this post and to my friends in Canada and the USA. I just didn’t like the local food (except the pancakes with bacon and the pumpkin pie!).

The meals during weekdays were more about filling a physical need and often eating at separate times in front of a screen. But not really sitting down altogether as we were doing every day in my family. This family dinner I had daily in France was mainly for a weekend thing in Canada.

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And I can tell you my mum was no desperate housewife spending hours cooking a homemade meal. It was all about finding easy-healthy recipes for a family of 5!

Can you believe this?

Let me tell you something that may seem unbelievable to some of you: in my entire childhood, the only times I had dinner in front of the TV with my parents was on election night or the football world cup! 

Sitting down at the table together is the norm in my family and from what I can see in many other French families (I would say not all but the majority). Taking the time to appreciate the food, but also to chew, digest and relax is essential. And good for the figure too!

Takeaways & French food culture

Food on the go, eating while walking, is for me a pain! I would do it only when I have no other choice. I’d rather find a bench and sit for 10 minutes to have a quick sandwich than eat on public transport or worse while I’m walking!

Food and socializing for me go together on a daily basis! Of course, if you live on your own, the socializing part doesn’t apply but all the rest does.

If you live in France, have you embraced some of these habits? Or maybe you already had them or you just find it too weird! Let me know in the comments, I’d love to know.

In short

No, French women are not slimmer. There might be more slim women in the chic and touristic area of Paris and still, I wouldn’t generalize.

However, these 3 reasons I’ve detailed help us to keep a healthy diet and then, it depends on our morphology and family genetics to keep in shape.

So, whatever your shape of body, always be proud of it when coming to France! 

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