Why The French Don't Get Fat

Why The French Don't Get Fat

For the French, playing outside and eating healthy is part of their cultural blood to maintain a healthy diet and enjoy nutritious foods. It's imperative to know that French people sincerely enjoy food and nutrition. It's seen as a pleasure, not a chore. That's why I'd like to shed some light on Why The French Don't Get Fat. Of course, we're being very general here as we cannot speak for ALL French people, but we can invite you into a few secrets of how the French stay so skinny. Sit back, get cozy, and enjoy the read. Who knows, it might just inspire a few new healthy habits just in time for fall?

Some of you might be thinking how unfair it is to travel around France only to be surrounded by slender, form-fitted fashionistas divulging in butter-soaked croissants and delicious whipped cream patisseries... none of them seeming to gain an inch of fat during the aftermath. In order to understand this 'phenomenon,' it makes most sense to start at the very beginning, to dive into what French children are taught at very young ages about food. Let's consider the school cafeteria as our starting grounds.

School lunches in French are often considered a pedagogical tool in which kids are fed a wide variety of dishes, fruits, vegetables - all monitored by the strict Ministry of National Education which ensures that fried foods are not served more than once per month, for example. Kids are taught to only drink water during their lunch and to use condiments, such as ketchup, only with dishes that require it. Vending machines are banned from schools which mean that soda pop and processed foods are not over consumed. Sweet treats, such as a chocolate mousse, are only served once per week in the cafeteria which teaches kids that a treat is a treat. French adults, parents and teachers believe that a child can be taught how to eat properly, just like learning to read. Thus, it is considered one of the most important skills to develop during childhood.

In addition to having strict policies regarding food consumption for kids, cultural etiquette plays a big role into food schedules for kids. Parents are expected to teach their children to eat only 3 times per day, with 1 additional snack permitted under a strict schedule each day (called 'the goûter'). Portion sizes are much smaller than the U.S. and children typically eat the same foods as the adults (complaining is prohibited). This includes eating items like radishes, grated carrot salad, endives, plenty of fish, and stinky cheeses. For the 'picky eaters,' research shows that in order for a child to accept eating something new, it must be tasted at least 7 times. Further tasting is necessary in order for a child to learn to like the food item. As this knowledge has quietly weaved itself into the French culture, parents and school teachers take the necessary steps to teach kids to love healthy foods. Instead of forcing a kid to eat something healthy, they simply incorporate the food item into meals 7 times + at a young age. This has proven to help kids learn to love healthy foods.  

As children grow older, these instinctual habits help to form a respect and understanding for food. This is why French culture allows for food to be consumed under a 'pleasure principle,' meaning that food is seen as something to celebrate and enjoy rather than something to feel anxious about. A study done by Paul Rozin (a University of Pennsylvania Psychologist) and Claude Fischler (a French sociologist) surveyed 4 countries - France, Japan, Belgium, and the U.S. In the survey, they found that the U.S. associates food with 'health,' not 'pleasure,' and worries the most about food choices in comparison to the other countries in the study. When shown a picture of heavy cream, for example, the Americans associated it with the word 'unhealthy,' whereas the French associated it with the word 'whipped.' When shown a picture of a chocolate cake, Americans most frequently responded with 'unhealthy' and 'calories,' whereas the French associate it with the terms 'celebration' and 'pleasure.' The idea here is that focusing on the joy that food brings, French people are able to appreciate the foods they eat and savor them as something pleasureful. 

Food education starts at a very young age in France and thus it the common thread for Why The French Don't Get Fat. There is a great book that you can read called 'French Kids Eat Everything' by Karen Le Billon, who inspired this article. Check it out and continue to read more about ways the French are a good example of great eating habits.

If you would like to learn more about French culture or how to speak French, don't forget to check out our Private Lessons & Group Classes taught by native instructors at www.jplinguistics.com. Also, we'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so leave a comment below and share this link with others using #jplingo @jplinguistics. Merci!