Here is a scary fact for you – it has been over eleven years since the original publication of French Women Don’t Get Fat in Australia. When published in 2005, the book heralded a new wave of French lifestyle advice that dominated so much of women’s literature. Even now, we can still hear its echo. I have often since mused on the subject of French dining habits and sought to apply their reputed habits to my own way of living.
I was 23 when I first picked up my copy in a burst of youthful enthusiasm. If you’re previously unaware, the book advocated a joyful appreciation of food and asked us to see the cheap, tasteless slop we often consume for what it is. As someone who blew far too much of her meager pay cheque on cheese and artisanal bread, this idea made perfect sense. There was of course a hitch… portion control.
From what I could gather at the time, there was an assertion that if the food we ate was of a higher quality, we would be more satisfied and therefore less inclined to overeat. Looking back now, I see references to portion control and even more so now on the French Women Don’t Get Fat website, but somehow the suggestion that portion control might take anything less than stony determination, seems to me like being lead down the garden potager.
The problem with me is when I find something wonderful, I simply want more of it. It makes perfect sense doesn’t it?! Here is something delicious that has my happy chemicals firing – why wouldn’t I want to keep that feeling going? Why wouldn’t I want that feeling again tomorrow? I might sound like a compulsive person saying this, but aren’t we all in the same boat here? Two biscuits instead of one… Three Netflix episodes instead of two. It’s a challenge we all face. Some are simply better at saying no than others.
I think the challenge for myself (and I therefore presume some others) is to self-impose limits without tying it to feelings of self-reproach or shame. If I’m going to say no to another perfectly decadent slice of chocolate cake, it needs to come from a place of love… because I love myself and cake. I can assume any French women would say the same thing.