On my recent trip to France, I become envious of the opulent French culture. They smoke, drink wine every day, and eat beaucoup chocolate and creamy butter galore.
They indulge in Nutella crepes; drink aromatic rich cappuccinos; and eat croissants, breads, and pastries, and yet I didn't see one obese person in France! (Actually, the only ones I saw were tourists from America.)
So it got me thinking, what are we doing wrong here in the states? Why are we all struggling with our weight while they’re devouring what we wish we could?
They walk everywhere.
The French walk everywhere. They walk to work, to the markets, to run errands—and it's part of their daily routine. They're not doing anything excessive, so if they don't do high-intensity exercise, it's because they're already active.
My husband and I did the very same thing—one day in Paris we actually walked over 40,000 steps. Yes, we were sightseeing, but I'm sure the average French person walks more than 10,000 steps a day.
The only time I see Americans walking and more active like this is in larger metropolitan cities like New York, Chicago, and D.C. Our country is large and spread out, so we're used to driving everywhere.
Try getting more steps in during the day by parking your car far away, riding your bike to work, and even taking stairs instead of elevators to make activity part of your daily routine like the French.
They treat food differently.
Simply put: Our food is more processed here. Our country allows ingredients that many European countries do not. They don't use fake sugars like aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup, processed chemicals, artificial flavors, and dyes. They don't allow genetically modified foods in their country while we are now just labeling them.
The French approach eating differently too. They eat smaller portions and stop when they're full. They're always eating fresh, colorful, fruits and veggies, and butcher-cut meats including nutritious organ meats, which we scoff at.
Their largest meal is during the day at lunch whereas the majority of Americans' is dinner. They're burning their food off during the day while we're going to sleep right after our biggest meal.
They also don't snack like we do here and don't indulge in "junk food." The French eat only when they're hungry, and they actually take the time to enjoy their meals—usually with a glass of wine.
We can learn from them by snacking less, eating our largest meal during the day, and sitting down to really enjoy our food.
They enjoy life.
The French are always smiling and are consistently appreciating life's little moments. They aren't stressed out by the hustle and bustle of life. They have figured out a way to combine work and play and do it effortlessly.
They're not looking for their next "fix" with their upcoming vacation or running away to meditation retreats as we do here. They have mastered the balance of life by incorporating the pleasurable things into the everyday.
Leaving the office for lunch, taking a long walk after work, or having a glass of wine each night—they're living that joie de vivre regularly.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who studied family medicine at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Georgia with a bachelor's of science in biology and psychology in 2004 and her doctor of medicine at American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2010. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She is also currently working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Her interests include integrative, holistic, and functional medicine; women's health; preventive medicine; international medicine; and health care reform. She's also a certified yoga instructor and Reiki master. She enjoys writing and educating everyone on important health matters.