This week’s podcast is all about food culture in America and France. There is a huge difference! One thing I’ve noticed about Paris is, despite being a culture of food, wine, cheese and bread, the people here do not struggle with weight as much as we do in the states. For two years, I have wanted to understand why.
Amy Feezor is an American freelance writer living in Paris. She married a Frenchman and moved to France three years ago. Amy and Pierre recently started an Instagram account called @fedbyafrenchman. They dedicate their account to showing people how to spend only 20 euros a week to buy ugly fruit and veggies, almost past their due, to make beautiful and healthy food. It promotes environmentalism and creativity around food. They use organic, non-processed ingredients. It doesn’t hurt that her husband is, of course, a wonderful cook.
This week I grilled Amy about how a culture with the most delicious food in the world seems not to be affected by obesity. Why do they have a crêperie on every corner, but no muffin tops? As Amy learns about food every week from her Frenchman, she passes on his secrets to her followers.
The focus of this season of my podcast is American’s obsession with dieting, which isn’t really working, given the recent statistic that over 35% of American adults are obese. Contrast that with less that 10% of French adults. How can we take the lessons learned by this culture and apply them to our own lives?
Amy explained some key differences in our cultures. The French are serious about the quality of their food, which results in less processed food and greater nutrition. French people want to know the origin of the food and they keep their diets seasonal. Another defining difference that shocked me was that the French do not snack between meals! At all! In America we are told to keep our metabolism going with three meals and two snacks a day.
There are other differences as well. The French focus on digestion, savoring food, and eating with friends. They spend twice the amount of time at the table as Americans do. A typical French dinner in a restaurant takes 3 hours. Lunches are well over an hour. The most shocking thing Amy shares is that French people can eat one or two bites of cheese and be done.
I began to realize that in America we do everything big. We build McMansions, drive big cars and supersize our meals. Excess has become our go to! Perhaps we have brought this mentality into our food culture. We have a love/hate relationship with food because we LOVE to eat all the time and HATE the way it affects our waistline.
Perhaps hearing Amy discuss the French way to approach food will help you refine how you approach meals. I’m not saying that I could have one cheese and cracker, but maybe not quite so many. Thinking about quality over quantity and seeing mealtime as a means to connect might be a healthier headspace. Increasing nutrition and stopping our constant snacking could be real game changers.
Listen in if you want to learn a few health hacks from a food culture that has it figured out. I have learned a great deal about eating slowly and savoring the flavors and my time with others. Amy will give you some real tools to eat more like a Frenchman!
You can listen to me talk through this in the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below or in the following places:
Shannon Connery, Ph.D.