How do the French stay thin?

December 21st, 2008 by Paul


It’s commonly called “The French Paradox.” The French eat foods high in saturated fat, drink more, eat later, eat chocolate and pastries and baguettes made from refined flour, and yet obesity rates in France are some of the lowest in Europe.

Even as there is evidence that obesity is on the rise in France, it’s still uncommon to see overweight people walking the streets of Paris. So while the nutritionists can point to the lack of processed foods or snacks in the French diet, perhaps it’s also because of the streets themselves.

Imagine yourself shopping along Rue de Rennes in the Montparnasse area of Paris. Or perhaps walking down Rue Faubourg St-Antoine on your way to the Monoprix. While walking you may have to speed up to pass people who are walking slower than you, or stop because there are people who are going in the opposite direction and there isn’t enough sidewalk space for everyone. Perhaps you have to swerve to avoid a scooter, or a car, or a delivery person, or the lovely and plentiful sidewalk hazards left by dogs. You may suddenly stop because the person in front of you who is talking on his cell phone stops and isn’t paying attention to the people around him (and if he were, he wouldn’t care).

When walking on these busy streets, you are never at a constant pace. You are constantly slowing down, speeding up, stopping and moving again. What you end up doing is something close to what athletes call interval training, something many fitness experts recommend as a fast way to lose weight.

This type of walking, of course, is common to many large cities, whether walking the Champs-Élysées in Paris, 5th Avenue in New York, or Leicester Square in London. So perhaps it’s not so much how the French stay thin, but how Parisians stay thin.

If you’re really wanting to stay thin the Parisian way, then take eating seriously: eat unprocessed foods in moderation, cut out the high fructose corn syrup, sit down and enjoy your meal, and don’t snack all the time. Then go for a walk on a really congested sidewalk.

If that doesn’t work, then take up smoking.

Comments are closed.