When thinking of French culture, the image of the chic, demure and svelte female never fails to spring to mind. Whilst I realise that this is a heavily idealised and overtly shallow perception of French women, which has resulted largely from years of exposure to the beautiful ladies of Chanel and Dior perfume adverts, it must also be noted that since arriving in France, I have been surprised by how many woman live up to this image. Whilst not every woman effervesces the timeless elegance of Audrey Tatou, the majority of women I have seen dress not only femininely but have enviously trim figures when compared to those on the average British high street.
Evidence shows the obesity rate of England to be more than double the rate of that in France, affecting 23 % of the population in 2008. These statistics have led me to ask; how can two countries separated by, in parts, just 20 miles of the English Channel have such vastly different physiques? Since moving to France I have made certain observations which may help to answer this question. Firstly, diet. On the whole France appears to have less of a fast-food culture than England. Not only is there a smaller range of establishments, but much of the fast food there is, is often accompanied by a healthier alternative; for example the Mac Cafe’s which now run alongside many MacDonalds outlets. Snacking itself also appears to be less widespread and less socially acceptable; indeed it is very rare to see somebody eating in the street, let alone eating fish and chips from a paper wrapper.
In addition in most English cities we have become accustomed to the proliferation of chains such as Starbucks offering drinks ranging from the ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ to the ‘Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino’, offered in the Italian ‘Grande’ size, to ease the blow of ordering such an indulgent drink in our own language. Whilst in France, the hot drink of choice still appears to be the simple Expresso; at least half the size of a standard coffee and taken without milk; effectively minimising the fat and calorific content. In essence, in despite of the abundance of croissants and baguettes in every French Patisserie in sight, the average French diet appears to be based on simplicity and small portion sizes. And it is this sense of minimalism which we British could arguably benefit from.
How does your country compare to the eating habits Francesca describes in her post?