Why? Because in France moderation and pleasure are the mantras of choice, the way they have been raised, and the manner in which they stay healthy and live life in general.
Deprivation, negative feelings toward food, cutting out entire food groups, and eating factory-made products are not the norm.
Most French women don't go to the gym to get ripped; they go because they know it's healthy, they've found an activity they enjoy, and they know they will feel better afterward (and look better in their skinny jeans).
But ask your average Frenchie how often they go to the gym? Once or twice a week at most. And unlikely before work, as most gyms won't offer classes before 9 a.m., so forget a five-day-per-week, 5 a.m. workout session.
Working out once or twice a week might not seem like enough, but French women are on the move constantly, clocking many walking hours and stair climbing a lot in any given week.
Taking a family stroll after lunch on the weekend can be the norm, but it's not even counted as "exercise." Nor is walking the kids to and from school, or going up and down the stairs of a seven-story apartment building with grocery bags in hand.
So, although gym sessions or tennis lessons happen only once or twice a week, the French move their bodies daily! If you happen to live in my neck of the woods, near the French Alps, fitness is second-nature with hiking, cycling, water sports, skiing, and more being part of almost everyone's weekend (and often weekday) life.
Just as will exercise and fitness, French women practice moderation when it comes to food, too. No food is off limits for most French women (including full-fat dairy, alcohol, sweets, and breads of all kinds); however, being careful about quantities and opportunities for "treats" is how they balance moderation, pleasure, and well-being.
A French woman may pass up the bread basket during lunchtime, but she is unlikely to say no to that coup de champagne and tarte au citron at a weekend dinner party.
It's never about deprivation or absolutes. It's about being smart with choices, quantities, and opportunities. And it's about eating healthy most of the time. Eating French-style is completely sustainable in the long run because you eat a bit of everything, even though the emphasis is on whole foods that come from nature.
It's all well and good to talk on and on about how French women stay slim. But just like the photos of cafeteria food made the point on how children eat at lunchtime here, I've asked my French girlfriends to photograph everything they ate during the course of one day to provide a visual reference.
These are not fancy food items, simply what is eaten by an average French woman on an average day. I asked them to photograph everything including drinks, snacks, and desserts.
Along with the photos, each friend summarized any food guidelines they apply to eating and well-being in general, in order for us to better understand their food choices as well as the lifestyle and cultural undertones.
They included exercise in a given week and how they recuperate from "overdoing" it on special occasions such as holidays, big weekends, and vacations.