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How do French women stay so slim?

petit fours france

How to have your cake and eat it…How do French women stay so slim?

One of the things I am often asked is “How come they have such great cakes, cheese, bread etc in France and yet all French women are skinny”.

Okay, first of all, let me tell you that is a myth. Not the bit about great cakes and food, the bit about all French women being slim. They’re not. They’re normal people just like everyone else.

French women do not survive on a diet of lettuce leaves and dust. They don’t have medication that keeps the calories down. They don’t run a marathon before they go to bed. On the whole though, they eat well.

And there is the answer to the question – on the whole they eat well.

Here’s what I’ve observed amongst my slim French friends:

It’s not a normal habit to sit and eat in front of the telly every night – the majority of families still sit at a table and eat and take their time. They don’t fixate on a TV programme and lose track of what they’re putting in their mouths.

Street markets are a fact of daily life. Shopping at markets for fresh, seasonal produce is normal. This promotes a keener interest in what is available and how to cook it and enjoy it more.

The majority of the French people I know don’t snack between meals.

A big lunch is normal. Although on the whole breakfast is not a healthy affair – think croissants and pain au chocolat – lunch is often 2 or 3 courses. Knowing they are going to have a big lunch keeps them going in the morning and means less chance of wanting to snack before dinner.

Lunch is not a hurried event. It is still common to take a 2 hour break for lunch in France. This makes lunch a pleasant, looked forward to episode in the day, rather than a sandwich in one hand while typing with the other. Gone in three minutes it’s no wonder the rushed eater hankers for something more and reaches for chocolate.

Cake share. Yes the cakes are fabulous in France, and are integral to France’s tradition – think of cakes like Madeleines, the St Honoré and the Finger of Charles Quint (yes there really is a famous cake called this in France!). If it’s a big cake, many of my French friends will share though most patisseries make mini versions of cakes, known as petit fours, and a small macaron now and again won’t do any harm.

That’s how French women have their cake and eat it. 

See our Photo Gallery of French cakes

Lots of fabulous French cake recipes here

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