FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

The French Are Getting Fatter and What Are They Doing About It?

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Obesity Campaign Poster

Obesity Campaign Poster (Photo credit: Pressbound)

France is often looked at in contrast to the U.S. in terms of their obesity and heart disease rates.  The previous post presented the traditional French way of eating as contributing to their maintenance of slimness and their healthy outcomes.

But as all things come to an end, the French are gaining weight but the rates still are below those of the U.S. and other European countries. Due in part to urbanization, immigration and globalization, the younger people are abandoning some of the traditional food ways that kept their health statistics favorable.   They are beginning to emulate the U.S habits of eating everywhere and anytime. It has been reported that about 14% of French people are obese, up from about 8% a ten years ago

French people regard food as one of the pleasures of life.  The French enjoy every bite while the Americans (especially women) keep tabs on calories, fat and carbohydrate grams. The author of French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, Mirelle Guillano offers her opinion:  “Americans eat 10-30% more food than they need. When you see people eating pasta, it’s a half-pound a person or a pound of steak a person.  When you go to a steakhouse, it’s gross”.

French women don’t obsess about weight, constantly talk about their diets, skip meals, substitute “slimming” shakes for meals, snack frequently, eat while standing or on the run, gobble fast food or weight themselves constantly.

One criticism of the French claim to slimness is that they smoke and that’s why they are thinner.   Actually it is estimated that 21% of French women smoke and 33% of French men, compared with 20% of American women and 25% of American men according to the American Cancer Society.  Michael Thun, Vice-President Epidemiology and Surveillance Research for the cancer society says:  “The French eat real food, not faux foods like chips, sodas, Fruit-Roll-ups and cheddar goldfish.”  He also says: “a very small portion of the recent weight gain in America can be attributed to decreases in smoking”.

What are the French doing about their recent obesity problem?  They are very concerned about the current trend.  The French national obesity plan is being implemented as soon as possible and has already been put in place in some areas. They are using television ads to help people choose the right foods, take the stairs, and not to snack between meals. They have already removed vending machines from schools.  They are still encouraging that their young children as early as day-care age learn proper culinary habits like eating together around a table wearing napkins and being taught how to use cutlery.  They often are fed foods all freshly prepared from the day care’s or school’s own kitchen by trained chefs.  They are being trained how to cook.  A previous post reports that 28% of Americans don’t know how to cook.

France is trying to return to its traditional ways of cooking fresh foods instead of relying on high-calorie processed foods with the hope of turning around their rising obesity rates before it’s too late.

In the next post, what is America doing to turn around their “growing” obesity problem?  Stay tuned.

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One thought on “The French Are Getting Fatter and What Are They Doing About It?

  1. Pingback: Sexism in France | Dreams in Reims

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