When it comes to weight, there are certain principles that Chinese girls hold as sacred: they should not eat after 19h, they must avoid any form of starch, most sugar – even chocolate is a deadly sin.
Yet a French evening meal breaks all these rules. Apart from families with young children, the French typically eat at around 21h. After an entrée, a main course (invariably served with high-starch potatoes) comes the cheese plateau. And, just when you think you cannot eat any more, you’re tempted by a sugar-laden dessert, before a coffee. And there’s always a glass of wine.
Most Chinese girls I know have put on weight since they’ve set foot in France, an inevitable result of Chinese stoicism giving in to French gastronomy.
But the French never appear to make sacrifices when they eat, unlike the British actress, Elizabeth Hurley, who once said; “It’s either the cookie jar or the size six jeans”. French women find a way to have both. Every French family has a jumbo size tub of Nutella (a sweet, hazelnut spread) in the kitchen – as calorific as American peanut butter, yet most French manage to stay thin.
Mme Bonnal, a mother of four grown-up children, is a perfect example of the age-weight-defying French woman. Not only is she strikingly fit and elegant, but so are all her children. I had the chance to discuss with her, how French women eat, drink and stay skinny.
The secret, as Mme Bonnal sees it, lies in “moderation”. Yes, the French are the most hedonistic people of the world, sensitive to every kind of pleasure that life has to offer: French cuisine is full of delicacies that make your heart melt. Yet they never lose their good sense in front of all these temptations. Nothing is too calorific as long as you eat it in small portions.
Family meals also help. French children have regular meal times and are taught not to “grignoter” (snack) between each meal. In fact it’s almost forbidden. There’s a website for promoting healthy living: www.mangerbouger.fr (which literally means eat and exercise). On the list of unhealthy food, it describes: fizzy drinks, ice-cream and sweets. It advises eating at least five different fruits and vegetables every day. Even food advertising adheres to these principals.
Mireille Guiliano, a French author, has already pondered over this subject. Her book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, was a world-wide best seller and is available in Chinese. She’s a big enthusiast of ‘incidental’ exercise – the exercise you don’t know you’re doing – like walking to work or climbing four flights of stairs without thinking twice – Chenchen Wang