Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Contrary to popular opinion, there is fast food in Europe

Did you know that French women don't get fat? The French Paradox has just been discovered, simultaneously and independently, by a good amount of the American newspaper-reading public. Goodness! Responding to an article about how it's healthier to eat for pleasure than to drown your sorrows in five boxes of cardboard-like fat-free cookies, commenters recount their experiences in la France, where everyone is a size zero (or its damn ferner equivalent), despite eating nothing but lard rolled in powdered sugar and fried in gravy. So now, a sampling--dare I say some amuse-bouches--of the comments:

One commenter had the original idea to eat as the French do while in France, so as to fit into their teeny-tiny clothing:

"I watched and emulated how my French friends ate -- no snacks at all, no sodas or sweet drinks, no pre-meal munchies, small portions (less than half of what Americans want to see on their plates), and tiny dessert portions which were often fresh fruit. I lost 22 pounds, half of which I have gained back."

And another:

"As an American now living in France, it is clear to me that one can eat well without becoming obese. The lessons I've learned here do not translate well to America, however, because Americans don't have the cultural underpinnings required to support relaxed mealtimes, community dining and quality ingredients."

And another:

"I just returned from Paris, where I indulged in wonderful cheeses, pastry, baguette, ham, chocolate, pastry and wine for a week. Not only did I not gain a pound, I may have actually lost some weight, as evidenced by the fact that I don't have as much of a 'muffin top' spilling out over the top of my skinny jeans now.[....] Aside from that, I should note that I never saw one thing in Paris containing high fructose corn syrup or trans fats - not one soda, not one baked good. I think it's absolutely criminal that those two things have entered our food supply here."

And another.

Italy and the Netherlands are apparently also filled with those who lose weight on the pastry diet, but it seems that everywhere other than America wins this contest: "In Budapest I ate foie gras almost every day - it is so divine there -- and again lost weight."

Comme toujours
, no one considers the possibility that Europe is filled with fast food, diet products, ads for diet products, dieting cookbooks, and (horrors!) some actual, honest-to-goodness overweight people. No one considers that perhaps European (relative!) slenderness has something to do with cigarettes, or with national cuisines that are, relative to the variety one finds in many parts of America, somewhat on the bland side (no offense to spaetzls). Also missing is much discussion of the fact that any self-conscious change in one's diet can be taken too far; apparently Twix-avoidance is, in its extreme form, an eating disorder.

If the whole FWDGF trend rubs me the wrong way, perhaps it's because I'm the only person in the history of the world to have actually gained weight when leaving Chicago for Paris. It's hard to imagine why, but that's what happened. It wasn't much, but enough to convince me that perhaps a deep-dish pizza paradox book was in order. So it's that, but it's also that there has to be a way to convince Americans to eat well that does not involve incessantly insulting all that is American.


Withywindle said...

Incidentally, this relates to the wonderful burger-discussions in Whit Stillman's Barcelona.

Anonymous said...

"I'm the only person in the history of the world to have actually gained weight when leaving Chicago for Paris."

This is a pretty rational reaction, and well in line with the NYTimes piece, given that there is nothing worth eating in Chicago.

Anyone with taste will grow emaciated living in the Midwest.

Arisa said...

This is sillier than silly to think that people actually think like that. Maybe the hopping over and changing your sleep pattern very quickly might jolt your system enough to handle that, but still. I was an exchange student for a year, and 'exchange student weight' was about twenty pounds you'd gain. This wasn't always true for the boys. I semi crash dieted mine off in the last two months, biking 20 clicks a day, eating a power bar for breakfast, a protein shake for lunch, only vegetables and beef for dinner (potatoes, I turned down but they were the completion of a proper Danish meal). Not enjoyable but my body was meant to be at a different weight, but depression and lots of pastries pushed me somewhere else.