You’ve seen them too. The articles entitled The Real Reason the French Don’t Get Fat, How Do French Women Stay Slim, or The Five Rules French Women Follow to Effortlessly Hit Their Healthy Weight. All of them telling us how easy it is for European women to stay slim and fit. And the basic ideas mentioned in all of these articles is the same: eat in moderation, eat real food, eat slowly, walk everywhere, quality over quantity, no snacking, so on and so forth. All of those tips are great and most of them are true, but…
After living in Europe for 15 years, I came to the conclusion that there is one main reason why it seems that most European women have easier time controlling their weight than many of the North American women do. It all comes down to culture. They’ve been raised with these eating habits since birth. It’s much easier for them to continue living that way then to learn new eating habits and rules.
So here are my counterpoints to the most often quoted reasons for French women being slim. Except, that I am making my observations based on European women in general, not just French women.
European Women Have More Opportunities to Walk and Less Opportunities to Drive
European women have more opportunities to walk. More so than the women in North America. That is because most of the distances in Europe are much smaller, and the public transportation is much cheaper and better developed. In addition, the streets are much more narrow and there is much less parking. These factors alone allow women, or at times force them, to walk more.
I work about 25 km from home. It takes me about half an hour to drive there. It would take me about two hours and four different buses to get to work. So yeah, I’m not going to be taking public transportation to work anytime soon. And I imagine, many of my North American friends and neighbours are in similar situation. So no wonder we drive more often than we walk.
European Women Don’t Eat Their Feelings Away
When European women get angry or sad, they reach for the phone and go out with their friends. They talk it out, and they get different perspectives on the issue from different people. European women are there for one another and their friends serve not only as companions to go out for coffee with, but also as their “therapist” when needed. They have less friends, but the ones they have, they can truly trust and rely on.
On the other hand, in North America, a common thing to do when a woman is angry or sad, is to eat her feelings away. She reaches for a carton of ice cream, orders a pizza or some other takeout, or turns to alcohol to drown her sorrows. Bingeing on food or alcohol does not solve her problems, but rather adds to it, as the next day she also worries about her weight. I’m not judging. She is most likely dealing with her problem the best way she knows how. This is how she was raised, this is what she was shown. Dealing with the problem in this way is a part of her culture.
European Restaurants Do The Portion Control For You
If you have ever been to Europe, you have probably noticed, that most European restaurants serve much smaller portions in comparison to those in North America. So if you eat out a lot, it is much easier for women in Europe to eat less and not worry about overeating or portion control. Personally, I don’t feel full after eating a meal in Europe, but if I give it a few minutes and let my brain catch up to my mouth and stomach, my body tends to be very satisfied.
However, this is not the case in North America. Here, I usually divide my food into two portions before I even start eating. I eat one part, and ask for a takeout container for the other. Here, often times you can eat your daily recommended amount of calories in one sitting. This rarely happens in Europe. So when eating out, it is significantly easier to control your portions in Europe than it is in North America.
European Women Eat Real Food.
The truth is, that the real and fresh food is a part of most European cultures. Women go shopping daily on their way home and make dinners together as a family. Most of the cities and towns still have shops dedicated to specific foods such as bakeries, butchers, or mini farmer’s markets in most neighbourhoods. This practice allows them to have daily meals cooked with the freshest ingredients.
Recently there has been a huge movement in North America towards eating organic foods and shopping for local foods at farmer markets. Different types of lifestyle diet, such as Paleo or Katogenic, are also bringing people back to eating fresh natural ingredients. But the reality is, that many of us still shop at supermarkets once a week. We fill our carts with the “food” found in the middles isles or frozen, prepared food section. Farmers’ markets are still far away for many and with all other things going on in our lives, it just isn’t feasible to shop at the farmers’ market on daily basis. Again, the culture we were raised in contributes to the way we eat.
European Women Are Less Stressed
To begin with, in Europe, most employers offer four weeks of vacation starting with the first year of employment. That alone, allows European women to get more time off to destress. They go on two to three week vacations and they leave their work at work where it belongs. In addition, European women take good care of themselves. They are not strangers to spas, massages, or a bubble baths. They take time to spend with their friends and enjoy life. Overall, their pace of life is slower and more relaxed. All of these factors contribute to them feeling healthier, happier and more energetic.
In North America woman work longer hours, have less vacation, drive long-distance is to work, and often bring work home. On occasion they even take their work laptops or cell phones on family vacations as companies expect them to “be accessible.” They are not taught to take care of themselves. Taking a bubble bath or going to a spa, are often looked at as little luxuries and not a necessity to lead a happy and healthy life. So many North American women are stressed, depressed, and overworked. Overall, they are not as healthy as the ladies in Europe.
If you’d like to see some of the ways I like to destress and enjoy life, check out my Why Can’t Mom Have a Summer Bucket List? post for some easy, fun and cheap ideas to destress and become a little bit happier 🙂
So next time you read one of those articles, telling you how disciplined French women are and how easily they are able to stay slim and fit, consider the fact that this is all they know. Their lifestyle is a part of their culture.