Staying Healthy the French Way

To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.

Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680’s) French writer and moralist

“In a study of four countries, food psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania found the following:

The French are the most food-pleasure oriented and the least health-oriented. In contrast, Americans had the worst of both worlds: They had the greatest worry over their health and had greater dissatisfaction with what they ate. Americans scored the highest on worrying about the fattening effects of food.

Interestingly, Rozin concluded that the negative impact of worry and stress over healthy eating may have a more profound effect on health than the actual food consumed. Indeed, it is widely accepted that stress triggers a biological chemical assault in our bodies, which is harmful to our health.”

“More information about the French reveals that the US currently has twice the incidence of overweight people compared to France for both adults and children. The French have a longer life expectancy, take less medication, and have a markedly lower rate of heart disease. Yet the French eat a diet that appears to be less healthy this is popularly known as the French paradox. Notably, France has the highest per capita dairy fat consumption up of any industrial nation (think cream, butter and cheese.)

Just as important, the French have fewer eating disorders and don’t engage in dieting as much as Americans. It has been speculated that wine consumption and eating smaller portions of food may explain the French paradox, we believe it could be the relationship that the French have with food the French have a more positive attitude toward eating dash it is viewed as one of life’s pleasures not his poison. Food is something to be revered.

 Even when the French eat fast food, they take more time to eat compared to the eating pace of Americans.

“According to the calorie control council, 43% of dieters in the United states say that they that snacking too much is the reason they haven’t sustained their desired weight. Unlike north Americans who typically consume as many as three snacks a day, the French don’t usually partake in this between meal ritual this non habit may contribute to the comparatively higher proportion of slimmer figures found in France.

“French children may have an after-school snack which can be a croissant with a hidden dollop of dark chocolate to tide them over until dinner, but regular snacking just isn’t part of the adult French culture. Their substantial lunch often usurps the need for an afternoon snack. Snacks are a novelty in France where in America snacks appear to be a necessity.”

Sources: Steven Jonas, M.D., Sandra Gordon. 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines, 2000.

Evelyn Tribole, M.S.,R.D.and ElseResch, M.S.,R.D.,F.A.D.A., C.E.D. R.D.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, 2012.

NOTE: Although this data may seem a bit dated, the numbers reflect how the French ate a few decades ago. Unfortunately, many of the younger French population has been influenced by a more current French Diet that has incorporated many characteristics of the Standard American Diet leading to a loss of some of original health benefits. For example:

  • Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in the OECD , but have been increasing steadily. About 1 in 10 people is obese in France, and almost 40% are overweight (including obese). OECD projections indicate that overweight rates will increase by a further 10% within ten years.

Reference:

Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat – France

Health Indicators in France Versus the United States. Tribole and ElseResch

 IndicatorUnited StatesFrance
Obesity and Overweight (adults)62%32%
Life Expectancy78  years81 years
Medication costs per capita$897$607
Heart Disease death rates per 100,000 -Women7921
Heart Disease death rates – Men14554
Incidence of Dieting26%16%
Use of snacks and beverages76%48%
Use of low-fat products68%39%
Duration of minutes eating at McDonald’s14 minutes22 minutes

Source: OECD Health Data, 2009-2010; Calorie Control Council National Surveys 1992. Rozin, 2003.

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