Today’s topic will be about health.
The thing everyone seems to be so crazed with these days. But sometimes all this information and “facts” being pushed out to the public can be confusing. Like should I follow a vegan diet? Or is real food diet better? Eating only fruits is now good for you? Buy organic? Follow the 1000 mile rule. Eat only free range meats/eggs/dairy? Do carbs make you fat and dumb?
STOP. Calm down and listen. There is no “perfect” diet despite what each of them promise. I think at the end of the day the goal is basic. Eat real food. Eat fresh vegetables and fruit whenever possible.Plants and beans are real food. Chicken and fish are food. Oats are real food. But make room for moderation, or you’re going to drive yourself crazy. I don’t know about you but I rather be healthy and happy than “super healthy” and stressed. There is no need for constantly striving to be the “healthiest” as can be. If you have have energy, are not deplete in nutrients and most importantly feel great then you know you’re doing something right.
Here is an excerpt from The Omnivore’s Dilemma from Micheal Pollen that I really love that I think sums up this health craze over the years:
“Yet I wonder if it doesn’t make more sense to speak in terms of an American paradox–that is, a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.”(Pollan.Micheal.The Omniore’s Dilemma.pg.3)
This post is going to be part of Confident Monday because I think people should be empowered with the choices they make, and hopefully some of these health myths I’m going to be debunking will help you feel more confident and less scared or confused about living a healthy,balanced lifestyle.
Here we go!
1. I can eat as much red meat or butter because the French do it and they’re always skinny
I’d admit I was always interested in the “French Paradox”, especially during some time last year when I had to do research on French cuisine and culture for a foods project. How do these women have their pain du chocolat,steaks,cheese and wine and stay so slender?
There is different things that could attribute to this common belief. The French probably don’t eat croissants everyday as far as stereotypes go, just like how Americans don’t eat burgers everyday, and the Japanese don’t eat sushi everyday(quick fact sushi is actually considered “fast food” to the Japanese and is not eaten on a daily basis). Croissants are delicious, but also filled with butter and flour, both very energy dense but low nutrient substances. If we’re using the most simplest equation, calories in calories out, eating croissants everyday on top of one’s caloric intake may result in weight gain.
Another point that is often brought up is that the French really enjoy and savour their food. They take twice as long eating in comparison to Americans. Lunch time at schools can stretch to 2 hours. The children are accustomed to vegetables,different types of meats, and cheeses.
There is much less snacking involved when you eat enough at meals and are satisfied. When you eat mindfully and enough you achieved fullness and satisfaction much more easily and quickly. Snacking though in America is seen as a “good thing” that boosts your metabolism is not very common in France. They found that when showing Americans a picture of chocolate cake, the words that they associated with was “gulit” and “fattening” whereas the French associated it with “pleasure” and “celebration”(French Kids Don’t Get Fat by Karen le Billon). This goes to show that negativity associated with food could potentially lead to deprivation and bingeing(eating more of it later on) then just being happy with what you’re eating and having it in moderation.
Thus when you think of French food at a restaurant, you often think tiny tiny portion sizes, but very rich and delicious and pretty. Veganism, low-fat or sugar-free are not things that comes in mind in a French diet. So that means I get to indulge in chocolate cake, butter croissants and red meat everyday as long as I eat in moderate portions right?
Well…not exactly. If that’s the life you want, then it probably is a sign of some type of “diet” mindset or deprivation. If you were truly happy with the “food lifestyle” or whatever you call it, you probably wouldn’t be dreaming of croissants and cheese. If you want it,eat it, be satisfied and that is that.
And the French waistline isn’t as pretty as it’s painted out to be. Over the past few years, obesity has become also a rising epidemic. Though France is still far off from it’s American counterpart when it comes to weight.In 2014 a study showed that 16% of France’s population was obese,46% of the population ate fast food, yet 86% of them thought of their diet as “pretty good”(http://www.euractiv.com/health/european-poor-health-habits-lead-news-534192). This epidemic is most caused by poor nutrition,stress,lack of sleep and economic state.
And for the common belief that was pushed out to American’s years ago, this “french paradox”, the idea that French people can eat whatever they desired in moderation and that dieting didn’t exist, may be false. According to this article, “diet” products like Triscuit products were marketed to France to fight fat and diabetes as far back as the 1900s,and American diet pills were introduced to France in the 1950s, as well as Slim Fast(diet beverage supplementation) and the recent “Montignac diet”(a rewrite of the Atkins diet).
You must understand that women in France watch their weight if not the same amount or even more than American women. In the early nineteenth century, women dedicated their entire lives trying to achieve the right proportion of embonpoint– neither too much nor too little(http://ejas.revues.org/1363// section 12). Today, the belief holds true as French women watch their weight very carefully. A diet plan from Dr.E.Monin in La Sante de la Femme (The Health of Women) prescribed the following for a day’s meals:
at breakfast, 50 grams of toasted bread and one cup of black coffee; at 10:00 am, two eggs with no bread; at noon, 250 grams of rice or potato; at 5:00 pm, one cup of black coffee; at 7:00 pm, 100 grams of bread, 100 grams of lean ham and 40 grams of cheese (http://ejas.revues.org/1363// section 12)
This drastic way of dieting shows that weight is something that the French(especially the women) are preoccupied with.
So no,these women may not exactly be eating the amounts of cheese and saturated fat as you would have imagined.
Obesity aside, heart disease is the number one killer in North America. In 1998 a report came out that showed countries with the lowest saturated fat consumption had the highest mortality rate. France,Italy,Switzerland and Austria were among the many European countries who had the lowest mortality rate, yet the highest saturated fat consumption. This among with the fact that there was no modern study that proved saturated fat was linked to heart disease. But this data did not include different aspects such as levels of physical activity or the nutrition from other parts of the diet. So does it make it okay to eat saturated fat?
The answer is perhaps. If you do not follow a vegetarian diet, eating a diet with moderate amounts of saturated fats products(milk,egg,meat,organs) is okay. Saturated fat like any type of fat raises blood sugar levels and spikes insulin production in the liver, is harder for the body to digest, and may produce a “sluggish” type of feeling after consuming too much.
So to answer the main question today, can we eat an abundance of saturated fat and baked goodies and still stay healthy and slender. The answer is probably not.The image of the constant indulgent lifestyle in France and Europe in general comes with too much complications and different factors that we do not see. Based on just basic nutrition science, and lifestyle habits of generally healthy people, a croissant here and there is not going to be a problem. But eating large amounts of animal products and carbohydrates is going to up your caloric intake by a lot which ultimately can lead to weight gain. Large amounts of fat does have effect on your liver health. The key is moderation. If you don’t follow a strict diet(veganism,vegeterianism..ect) eating a slab of butter with your toast or moderate amounts of meat a few times of a week isn’t going to kill you.Life is short, enjoy the things you want in moderation, be happy ,sane and healthy. Don’t fall for fads too easily because the nutrition world is constantly evolving and changing the information.
And this is a personal opinion of mine, but I have read excerpts from Mrs.Mireille Guliano’s blog(she’s the author of the famous “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, and some of the things she recommends…is well diet-y. She talks about never eating a “whole thing” of something because you have to savour the taste. For example in one post she talked about splitting a banana in half, eating it very slowly to savour it and feel full. Sorry but that sounds more like disordered eating to me. She basically says you can have whatever you want if it’s split into like 1/4 of the serving size or you have to give up something else like bread.
Anyways, I hope this post helped anyone who was interested in the “french paradox” or curious on the topic of eating like the French. Please keep in mind the things I have listed is based on research, and I am by no means a professional when it comes to nutrition.
This was supposed to be a one part post with many health myths debunked, but there is simply so much I had to go over for just one that I’m making this into a multiple part series. Please feel free to tell me how you liked the post, what I could improve on..ect
Thank you! And I hope you can all make empowered decisions on your health, and remember, don’t fret too much about it. Block out all the buzz and go back to the basics. Health is so much more than what goes into your body, but is how you view things and how you feel too.
Until next time,