So here was my theory: eat, drink and walk everywhere like the French do and start looking like the French. You know the look. Long thin arms with a delicate bra strap exposed that somehow just looks so sexy; gangly legs looking so perfect in colored skinny jeans; dresses that seem to just lightly drape on their bodies and hair swept up so effortlessly and little makeup that adds such a touch of chic. Sigh.
Almost three weeks into my experiment of living like the French and I am finding major flaws with my theory. My reality is this: my arms are still wiggly and my wide bra straps aren’t very sexy; the skinny jeans I brought are now difficult to button and I can continue leg press a small truck with my legs; my dresses are far too conservative and rather boring; my hair still looks like I just pulled it back in a pony tail and when I go sans makeup, I look like I just woke up.
I decide to reflect on my days since arriving to this country where people appear to be eating bread and drinking wine with every meal. How could it be that I wasn’t resembling those svelte and ageless French women?
Let me take a brief inventory of the past few weeks.
I was rather jet lagged the first couple days after arriving to France and rather hungry, but not sure of which meal to eat. Therefore, I just nibbled on bread, cheese, chocolate and wine throughout the day. We were walking and exploring the town. I was burning calories. I was sure of it.
Over the course of the next couple weeks, I began to comfortably and happily adjust. Breakfast consisted of a simple cup of strong coffee with cream, whole milk yogurt and a slice of fresh baguette lightly toasted with some myrtilles (blueberry) jam. I can’t seem to find the skim versions of dairy here, so I decided to ignore my slight lactose intolerant problem and indulge. After all, breakfast was always followed by a pretty decent walk somewhere and I wanted the full on French experience.
Ahhh…lunch. This became my favorite meal. The French take time to enjoy and relax with their lunches. Two hours, in fact. A shared carafe of wine, basket of bread, thin crust pizzas with mushrooms or salad with French fries followed by a touch of shared dessert started to become my norm. It’s okay, I would tell myself. The hike around this Medieval town was rather hilly. Aperitif time rolls around about five o’clock and it’s time for a Ricard, an anise liqueur, served with water and ice, or a kir, white wine with cassis, a liqueur made from currants. If the French do it, then so can I. So I do. Every day and enjoy it.
Seven o’clock is nearing and it’s time for dinner. We decide that dinners should be “light fare”. So we eat four different cheeses (2 types of goat, sheep, and Roquefort, to be exact), a rotisserie chicken, a baguette, half a bottle of wine and a couple squares of chocolate. We did walk to the market to get all of the items, so calories were burned.
Then there were the three days of meals of pure decadence that I had at a family friends’ home that consisted of drinks and several courses at each meal. But if I remembered correctly, we walked those days, too.
I am suddenly reminded of my Weight Watchers days. I need to walk a 3.5 miles in an hour and a half to burn 500 calories. Hmmm. There are about 125 calories in a glass of wine and almost 500 in a bottle of wine. This doesn’t count the cheese. Or the bread. Or the chocolate. Time to reevaluate my French eating habits. Then I had visions of my female French counterparts at the restaurants and at our friend’s meals…they ate small portions, sipped their drinks and made the meal last with conversation and savoring the flavors. I believe I may have inhaled my meals.
Will I ever look like the French? Most likely not. My German and Scottish heritage plays a stronger role than my desire to be French. According to an article by Elise at Fitnesstreats.com, German women “have thick bones and muscles. When wearing skirts, few have lean “top model”-looking legs. At the gym, they have good muscular strength and coordination but low speed and poor flexibility.“ That’s so me.
“Northern European women crave fatty foods or salty foods in addition to ‘classic’ female cravings (chocolate, sweets etc). Dutch, Belgian, German people all love potato fries.” Again,me. While the French women’s ”bones are light and their muscles are small. Fat get stored mainly on the butt and thighs. Usually these women don’t get fat in the face, forearms and shins. Looking really overweight is rare for these populations, simply because a lot of them store fat only on their lower body. Definitely not me.
My genes make me work extra hard to maintain a size 6 (not there yet), my style sense right now is “casual and conservative empty nest mother” (but wannabe “chic and sexy childfree and independent”)and the expensive French face creams are out of reach for now.
So for now, I will enjoy the wine, the bread, the chocolate and my wonderful strolls through ancient villages and to the markets. However, I will savor each bite and limit my portions a bit. I know that I will have plenty of time for running and eating vegetables when I return home to my nest.