The French are masters of moderation. The French paradox really isn't a paradox at all. As a culture they generally eat less and move more than North Americans. The math is simple.
The difference is they have a food culture. They tend to eat proper meals at designated times. They don't snack. They don't follow extreme diets or feel the need to cut out entire food groups.
Yes they eat butter, mon dieu, and bread, pastries, dairy, meat and even heaps of frites. Washed down with wine no less. But this food is savoured in small quantities and I rarely see someone here eat beyond their comfort level or drink themselves drunk.
As someone who is constantly striving for balance in all areas of my life I am fascinated by this. I tend to be very good at balance and being in tune with my body, but when my life is off my habits tend to follow suit.
In the past year or so I have become a bit of a yo-yo detoxer. One month I am sober vegan, and the next month I am out pounding cocktails and waking up with a pounding head. I'm not proud of it, nor do I encourage it. And while I don't want to give up detoxing, I do want to give up the need to indulge to a point of discomfort. Wether with food, alcohol, or other frivolous things.
Being in Paris has been great for that. I am inspired by the well mannered Parisians around me who slowly sip their aperos after work with a cigarette or two, then enjoy a simple but luxurious supper. They indulge in all of my favourite things in moderation.
I made a personal decision to celebrate at least one sin a day. To take something I would normally consider "naughty" or "bad" (two words you should never apply to anything you enjoy) and regale in it. It might be an espresso or two in the morning, a Diet Coke or a couple of rows of dark chocolate in the afternoon, or on a night off maybe a cigarette and a glass of wine. If we go out for dinner I order exactly what I want. Steak tartare and frites are a personal favourite and I find I'm perfectly content to eat half my portion because it satisfies me so much.
As long as I don't overdo anything or have too many stimulants in one day I feel great.
It's silly, but encouraging these small luxuries adds a lot of pleasure to my daily life and keeps me feeling balanced. I find it easier to listen to my body intuitively when I have something to look forward to.
If nothing else, it makes me feel a little more Parisienne and reminds me that life is meant to be enjoyed.