|The French nutrition pyramid. You’ll notice it is bracketed by images of exercise and at the very top is a glass of water. Interesting don’t you think?|
As I move into the fifth month of my regime, my attention to the subject is no longer quite the obsession it was, but the process does continue to be paramount on my mind. Every evening I ask myself if I can have two, rather than one square of my latest chocolate find (which has definitely turned into a mini obsession), Citron Frappé from Lindt.
It’s too good for my own good. Some nights I have one square, others two, and always with a tisane to prolong the pleasure.
I’ve decided that excluding the lucky few, the exceptions to the metabolism lottery, most French women are preoccupied by their silhouettes. That being said, my friends and women I’ve interviewed tell me that their concerns no longer apply to the numbers on the scale, but rather how their clothes fit. If they feel some tension with a waist band, they take immediate action.
|The American pyramid from Harvard. Click here for a complete explanation. My question is: Where’s the wine on the French pyramid?|
Because of the preconception I have of the cultural pressure to be slender in France, I decided to do a petit interview with my French niece. Alexandra is a doctor, wife, mother of three daughters ages 28, 25 and 19, active in politics (she can marry couples in the town hall where she is the second in command after the mayor) and holds a prestigious position in the health ministry where her expertise is patients’ rights. She travels the world leading conferences on the subject.
She is trim, not stick thin, and is serious about her “hygiène de vie” or healthy lifestyle. She eats conscientiously, swims, walks miles and miles in Paris and the country, and bicycles on the weekends. Her arms are beautifully, awe-inspiringly toned.
Gently, without nagging, she has raised her daughters to have the same hygiène de vie. Alexandra’s eldest, is voluptuously slender and is now expecting her first baby; her youngest is haricot vert thin — long and very slim — and her middle daughter struggles with her weight. Next to her sisters she is considered, by French standards, to be slightly overweight.
Alexandra recently cautioned her eldest not to gain more than one kilo (2.2 pounds) at this stage in her pregnancy. Her baby boy is due in April. “Anymore and it’s just too difficult to lose,” she told me, “12 kilos should be the maximum gain.”
As for her middle daughter, she admitted that she often wants to tell her to take smaller portions and avoid patisseries and snacking, but she doesn’t.
“I think she is struggling now,” Alexandra said, “and I don’t want to make her self-conscious or unhappy. When she was younger I took her to a nutritionist who explained in a completely non judgemental way what she needs to do to find her ideal weight with diet and exercise. When and if she’s ready, she’ll amend her lifestyle. Until then I have to constantly remind myself not to criticize.”
In our conversation yesterday, I suggested that there is rampant brainwashing — blatantly and subtlety — for French women to be thin, more so here perhaps than in many other cultures.
Interestingly, she didn’t completely agree with me. I’ll tell you all about our exchange tomorrow. I don’t completely agree with her.