The French Diet vs. the Standard American Diet (SAD)

Savor Variety with the French Cuisine

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

— Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French writer and moralist.

The French have long known that eating well is a integral part of the whole of French culture. This is reflected in their custom of a set of what is called “global” secrets from an engaging book entitled 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines by Steven Jonas, M.D. and Sandra Gordon. In addition, the French attachment to the finer foods in life has resulted in them being some of the healthiest, leanest,  and perhaps most guilt-free people in the world.

France At A Glance:

  • Moderate drinking – of course moderation is the key. Everyone knows the hazards of excess drinking. The French drink only with food – no happy hours!!!
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • No snacking or dieting – this is important since the typical American eater often binges on snacks when on a very restrictive diet. Chronic dieting has been shown to increase weight gain in some people.
  • They eat large lunches and often extend and enjoy the lunch hour – no grabbing a carton of yogurt at your desk or going through the drive-thru or visiting the vending machine  like  the typical American eater.
  • They resize the supersize. “There is no such thing as a doggie bag in France, since restaurants never give you enough to put anything in it,” one says.
  • They don’t feel guilty about food. One of their reminders about food – “If you eat too much, the next day you eat less,” they say.  They weigh themselves about once a month – if that. However, scale weight can be used as a red flag when weight begins to creep upward.
  • Take the time to cook properly and use fresh, quality ingredients. You don’t need  to be Julia Child, but butter and cream are revered (in moderation, of course). Microwave ovens and can openers are not staple kitchen items.

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Weight Loss: What are the Realities?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

People have been dieting for centuries and the best advice from the so-called experts or fad diet enthusiasts still tell us to – “eat less and move more”.  This in itself is good advice but does not even begin to offer what is needed to keep that weight off and save you from the diet cycle of weight gain, loss, gain, loss cycles. There would not be billions of dollars spent trying to lose body weight over and over again for millions of people.  My own experience with weight loss has been limited fortunately most of my adult life due to not having to diet. But there was a price. More specifically, I was on a continuous reducing diet my whole life to prevent weight gain in the first place.  I remember weighing  94 pounds at a height of 5 ‘ 5 inches tall.  But as a nutrition student, I knew that was not a healthy weight by any account and being in a “starvation” mode for a lifetime is not the way to go.

Eventually as I got older and put on a few unwanted pounds, I finally did “go on my first formal diet” a few years ago. Specifically it was a low carbohydrate diet and it worked slowly but consistently. But it did take a lot of hard work. I have now kept that weight off for the past few years.

But every woman at any weight wants to lose those “last five pounds” and I am one of them. But did I ever learn a lot how our bodies fight against weight loss in order to prevent what it perceives as starvation. So now I know what hard work it is. So many diet programs try to make it seem easy and all it does for a lot of people is to make them feel guilty for not succeeding after each attempt. So here are some truths.

Some basics:

Only about 1/3 of dieters are successful at maintaining their loss. Chronic dieters know it takes vigilance and for some weight maintenance is harder to accomplish than the actual loss.

Weight maintenance requires continued modification of your lifestyle – you cannot let yourself go back into the old habits that caused the weight gain in  the first place.

Some people relax their vigilance too much after they lose the weight, then gain it right back. You can relax a little, but not too much.

You will be tempted by certain foods and certain situations – moderation is the best approach to keep in mind in those difficult situations. Diets are not just about the kinds of foods we eat, but how we eat.

Successful Losers/Maintainers (From The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) of people who have lost at least 60 pounds and kept it off for a minimum of five years). This is what they have found to be successful from their weight loss and weight loss maintenance.

  • Write your food intake down. Keep a journal or visit MyFitnessPal to help you track your typical food intake. This is a must – it is so easy to forget what you ate yesterday or how many snacks you mindlessly consumed.
  • Most losers follow low fat diets and more recently I would suspect low refined carbohydrates,  no gimmicks, special diet foods, or magic pills. Most simply do not work.
  • Exercise daily – walking is most popular and it should be scheduled into your day like brushing your teeth. About an hour a day is practiced by NWCR members.
  • Eat breakfast – all the research supports this, so intermittent fasting was not much of a factor.
  • Weigh in regularly. This advice goes against many experts who say “stay away from the scale”. However, in my opinion, this tool is necessary to see if you are gaining a few pounds, you can then make some adjustments to your diet to get back to your intended goal weight. You be the judge on scale use – if it helps you stay on track, use it.

The bottom line: The longer you keep the weight off, the easier it becomes to maintain the loss. It becomes more of a part of your lifestyle and not just considered a “diet”.  If you can make it for two years, you’re more than likely to become successful. The practice of intuitive eating (mindful) can help dieters keep their weight off – it  teaches you to think of food in an entirely different way. Why repeat the old habits that caused you to gain weight in the first place. Future posts will address intuitive eating more thoroughly. It’s worth it to know especially for maintaining your lost weight.

For now, the basic principles can be  thought of as:

MODIFICATION

 MODERATION

MINDFULNESS

MANAGEMENT

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