When I was 30, I moved to Paris to live and write for a year. It may be a complete myth that French women don’t get fat (obesity rates are rising across the Channel, just as they are in the UK), but it’s certainly true that some French women seem to enjoy fine food, yet maintain their slim figures. You know the kind of women I mean — those elegant creatures who epitomise Parisian chic. I used to watch them each morning as I sat in a café on the Rue du Bac, sipping coffee before beginning to write my columns and books. And I came to realise it’s the way French women eat, not just what they eat, that makes such a difference.
French women stay slim by taking time to relish their food and being conscious of what they eat says Jane Clarke. Just follow my rules, set out below, to start your journey to a healthier you. The only thing you have to lose is the excess weight.
FOR SLIMMER HIPS, TAKE SMALLER BITES
So often, we rush an evening meal so we can flop on the sofa. But what if we spent more time anticipating what we were going to eat, selecting the ingredients and then sitting at the table to enjoy it?
Even if you have only 15 minutes for lunch, you can switch off your phone, power down your computer and focus on the food and all the sensations it brings alive for you — the textures, aromas and tastes.
Take small mouthfuls and pause between each one. The more you lift your fork to your mouth, the greater the satiety you will experience.
Your brain notices every movement you make. Smaller bites mean more forkfuls, which, combined with you savouring your food, will make you feel more replete. If you eat a chocolate bar while you’re driving, you’re too busy controlling the steering wheel and watching the road to concentrate on what you’re putting in your mouth, so your brain won’t register the food you’ve put in your body. Instead,
if you’re going to eat chocolate, really enjoy it! Have one square at a time. You could have some unsalted nuts alongside to juggle the textures, too.
After each mouthful, have a small swig of water to cleanse the palette and help you notice that you’re enjoying the second little square.
The more we feel that physical and sensory satisfaction, the more we enjoy what we eat and drink, then the happier we feel about ending a meal when it feels right, not when we’re overstuffed.
If you make eating like this a habit, you will slowly but surely need less food to feel replete — which means you will consume fewer calories and lose the excess weight that is putting your health at risk.
FORGET ABOUT STRICT PORTION SIZES
In my clinic, time and again I see that so much obesity comes from boredom and thoughtless eating.
When you have the same meals again and again, the same go-to bowl of pasta, or relying on processed foods, and eating your meals without thought or sense of enjoyment, then your body simply doesn’t know that it’s eaten as much as it has and it wants more.
Pause a moment: think about the foods that you really enjoy and which make your body feel nourished and well looked after. Ensure there are at least three flavours on your plate (and, ideally, five or six) and eat them individually, rotating between the flavours with each mouthful so your body, brain and emotions have a chance to register them.
Don’t measure portions but eat slowly, putting your cutlery down between each forkful, so the stretch receptors in your jaw and gut process how much you’ve eaten.
TREAT YOURSELF — AND EAT FOR PLEASURE
One of the problems with low-fat, low-sugar, low-salt plans — the foods many diets encourage — is that they just don’t taste good.
Don’t be afraid to use some delicious olive oil on a salad, or a little sea salt or touch of honey in the food you eat.
Excerpts - JANE CLARKE BSc (Hons) SRD DSc is a dietitian and the founder of nourishbyjaneclarke.com for