Wednesday, September 20, 2006

French women do get fat!

Despite what Mireille Guiliano wrote in her book, French women DO get fat. Worse, this morning a study (French, English) revealed that more and more French women - and men, let's be fair ;) - get fat... Thus, almost 30% of the French (roughly 14 million people more than 15 years old) are overweight and among those 12,4% are obese. Within 9 years, the French population has gained on average slightly less than 5 pounds (2,1 kg). Does this make you feel better?!


  1. hmm...
    anyway,i want to keep fit~~~
    lovely view of her back...

  2. Does this make you feel better?! Hmmm... a loaded question, isn't it, Eric? ;)

    On the plus side, if everybody's gaining weight globally, maybe the airlines will consider giving people a little more room in economy, especially on these long haul transatlantic flights... Now THAT would make me feel better.

  3. Eric, watch my lips: I said hot gendarme not fat gendarmette...

  4. Hope she doesn't have to run after too many crooks!

    Curly's Photoshop

  5. No, it doesn't make me feel better. In fact, I think it's mean spirited. Being overweight seems to be the only acceptable physical attribute that it's okay to mock and make fun of. Obesity is a serious health issue.

    Would I feel the same way if I weighed 100 lbs. (@46 kilos)? I don't know. I do know that I can't imagine a book titled "French Women Don't Get Cancer."

  6. It's true though. We recently had a discussion about obesity becoming a problem in France. All those figures were brought up. It's still not as bad as America though.

  7. I will make all those Americans traumatized by Guiliano's thesis [and the myth of the perfect French woman] better.

  8. I LOVED that book - it was witty and light-hearted, and best of all, encouraged you NEVER to weigh yourself - it's all in how you feel! Maybe, like John Travolta says in Pulp Fiction, it's all those "La Royale Cheeseburgers"...

  9. I must admit, this posting did make me feel better. That is until I remembered a study that just came out last week over here saying that 2/3 (that's right, 66%) of Americans are considered overweight or obese and a whopping 1/3 of American children are as well! Yikes! Of course I question that since 5'4" and 125 lbs (an average American woman) is considered overweight. Jeez, what I wouldn't give to be that healthy!

  10. Eric, definitely not the same genre of gendarme, but some interesting facts with this photo.

    If I read from the link you posted from Mireille Guiliano's book... her tips seem obvious, and I manage to follow just about all of them. But somehow, I can never stay fit:

    Keep A Food Journal (Ok, I don't write it down, but I'm so sloppy I usually remember what I ate as I bring home a little bit of everything from the restaurant on my shirt...)

    Savor What You Eat (Is she kidding? I barely have time to swallow before grabbing for the glass of wine!)

    Slow And Steady (Not sure what she means, but I'm usually too full to jump from the table!)

    Variety (No problem with this one. I'll eat anything.)

    Drink Water (As long as it's red, white, or rosé - I can manage this tip too)

    Ritual Eating (Yes, I make it a ritual to eat wherever and whenever. I only save the big eating for the normal holiday rituals - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Groundhog day...)

    Portion Control (Ok, so just because I bring home a doggie bag to reduce my portions, doesn't mean I have to give it to the dog, does it?)

    Walk (I can do better, I run to the table!)

    Ritual Preparations (This tip I'll keep private. How I dress when I'm fixing my meals is personal and private s'il vous plait!)

  11. Eric, let's just say when we arrived back in the States on our flight from Paris and exited into the Dallas-Fort Worth airport to catch a connecting flight, we were keenly aware that we were NOT in Paris anymore. The obesity of the general population in that airport was astounding.

    Genes do play a big role in adult weight factors, as does childhood obesity and even "baby fat." The woman pictured in your photo appears to be of African-French ancestry. Many African-American women struggle with genetic predispostion to metabolic disorders and diabetes. In the south and on the east coast of America especially, it seems regional diet and eating habits had already affected millions of Americans--then came the last 20 years of marketing larger portions of most ready made foods and the high calorie content of mass produced stuff. I don't think it's a myth at all that on the whole the French population is leaner and has a better relationship with food than Americans. It looks like our marketers are getting to your cultures food, so watch out! Yikes!

  12. Most of the modern world seems to be getting fatter. Too much of a good thing perhaps?

  13. Pardon my question but how do you justify the role of genes in weight factors if this become a problem whereas the population stays "genetically" the same all in all ? Another point that interested me in that study revealed yesterday that overweight (in France at least) was inversely proportionnal to wealth level. So areas with "poorer standarts of leaving" (sorry, I'm not sure this formulation is correct) like north of France know more overweight problems. The same with people of humbler conditions versus wealthier ones.
    Is it the same in other places/countries ?

  14. Pardon my question but how do you justify the role of genes in weight factors if this become a problem whereas the population stays "genetically" the same all in all ? I'm not sure I completely understand that question gg, can you try this again or in French, maybe? The second question you ask "is this the same in other countries" I'd say generally, it's probably true in the States as well, but "generally" is the keyword here. :)

  15. Well Eric...Maybe there are a few "fat" French women, but nothing like the amount of obese women[and men]in America, who seem to think there is nothing wrong with their situation and act like they had nothing to do with it! Not to mention the amount of young women that are really quite "fleshy" as they say...and still insist on dressing as if they were some stick thin model. How vulgar..and sad! Guess I had better give up those late night bowls of Ice Cream!! I'm sure this photo will start another long discussion, are you doing this on purpose?? ;-)

  16. Hello Tomate !
    Eh bien je me demande juste comment on peut expliquer les problèmes de surpoids par les gènes, comme évoqué par Kim, et surtout leur évolution, au sein d'une population par ailleurs plus ou moins constante. S'il y a -mettons- 15% d'obèses en plus en 10 ans, cela ne signifie pas que les personnes concernées -et leurs gènes- sont arrivées dans le pays durant ces 10 ans.
    Ou alors j'ai mal compris Kim, ce qui est fort possible. Et je dois bien reconnaître que nous ne sommes pas tous "égaux" face à la nourriture et au poids. J'en sais quelque chose !… C'est juste cette question du rôle des gènes au niveau d'une population qui me laisse perplexe.

  17. >GG. Yes, there is a direct correlation between wealth, education and obesity.

    Some say it's because poor people cannot afford to buy healthy food.

    I think it has more to do with education: the more educated you are the more you learn to control yourself and follow rules that tell you not to think of your immediate pleasure first.

    That includes "finish your homework before watching television" but also "limit your food intake", "don't stuff yourself with candies", etc.

    In France, as you probably noticed it, there is also a very very strong social pressure on fat people (and when I say fat, I include simple overweight people).

    Finding a job when you're fat is fifteen times harder than when you're not (it's been proven!) not to mention finding a special someone!

  18. this is an impossible sight - great photo though!

  19. To answer Louise, the white thing fixed on back of belt are a pair of handcuffs in their special holster.

    And to join the discussion, I would'nt say this cop is obese ;o) neither fat up to an unhealthy point
    Let's not get trapped into the trendy obligation to be skinny, which leads to other health problems such as anorexy

  20. Here in the land of obesity this gendarmette is slim (by comparison). The portions in U.S. restaurants and the types of food served lead to this condition. Forget genes. This is the land of comfort food. What an expression! The photo is one I don't want in my Eric Album.

  21. Michael! Oh you made me laugh. Now I also feel as though I know you way more then I want! :o)~ You definately peaked my interest with your secret cult ritual preparations... You know what they say, you can't bring up something juicy and not reveal the details! Come on, out with it!

  22. Some very good discussion over here! I am still rolling from Michaels comments hehehe ;p

    I'll just keep my thoughts to myself...of i'll end up giving everyone a hint of my waist line! LOL!

  23. Eric, this picture is totally wrong of you! :) Yes, I do feel a little better. Believe it or not whenever I travel abroad, I lose weight. My eating habits abroad are totally different compared to what they are in the US.

  24. I read over everyone's postings and I find the discussion very interesting...and a necessary one.

    first off, Michael, i laughed OUT LOUD at your comments. :-) merci

    second, i think the bottom line here that we all need to keep in mind is that weight is a personal thing, and although obesity is a serious issue in our modern world, we should also realize that we also have a serious issue of "body image" and how we view ourselves in comparison to what we see in the someone mentioned, problems with eating disorders etc.

    ....just to remind us, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12/14 (European size 44/46)....she was the epitome of beauty not SO long ago....

    very interesting...let's keep the dialogue going but let's please all bear in mind that this is an extremely complex and sensitive issue.....


  25. Eric has done another great job of getting us all thinking. And worrying, from reading some of these comments. For me, I eat a lot--and worry it off. Is that healthier than gaining weight? Your call.

    The image question is entirely separate from the health question. If you are comfortable with your body and are not unhealthy, then the hell with what anyone else thinks. If it bothers you that somebody else doesn't like how you look, then that's your issue to deal with. (Not necessarily by eating something!)

    Michael: Sante! Un ver vin, rouge, s'il vous plait. Sheesh. Chill out, folks. Take care of yourselves, please, because you're all important.

  26. I guess she can't go running behind robbers. But she has a big presence. lol

    Greetings from Perú

  27. I'm not fat. :o)

    But a lot of people I work with are. What are you going to do? Some of them don't like vegetables. They think it's rabbit food. Most of them don't know where their food comes from anymore. They've lost the connection. The marketers have stepped into the void of their perception by supplying them with junk food. The pharmaceutical marketers then sell them medication to stem their health problems. It's again a lack of education, which works to the marketers' advantage because it's easier to market/manipulate an uneducated public. Another reason why Bush people like tax cuts. And now it's coming to France. You should resist.

  28. gg: Desolee, j'arrive toujours pas à comprendre ou tu veux en venir. La population n'est homogene ni en France ni aux Etats Unis alors pour comparer tout le monde, c'est pas facile ... Ceux qui viennent des pays latins, par exemple, sont en general plus petits de taille que ceux qui viennent des pays anglo-saxons, (ce qui explique en partie aussi pourquoi les Francais restent plus minces, ils sont aussi plus petits) Mais bon, tout ça c'est des generalites...

    Les gens qui se sont penches sur le probleme d'obesite ici on trouve plusieurs facteurs:

    1) predisposition genetique
    2) comportement (combien tu manges, activite physique)
    3) diet (ce que tu manges)

    En plus, y'a des variantes comme disait Kim, par ex., les grossesses, etc.

    Does this help?

    (MICHAEL: ROFL!... )

  29. Hi Eric, are you talking only to american community on this blog ? I am from Malaisia and do not really feel concerned...

  30. YES, I do feel better!!! When I was in PAris in april, I only two two women who really were fat, and no men. Maybe the fatties stay at home, eh?

  31. Ok. Je ne parlais pas d'homogéneité, Dieu m'en garde ! mais de constance de certaines données // évolution des comportements. Je réagissais à ce que j'avais compris de l'intervention de Kim (put the blame on genes). Mais bon, visiblement je ne l'ai pas comprise et ne suis pas clair. Donc j'abandonne. Il s'agit d'un terrain sur lequel il serait aisé d'être taxé de tout et de n'importe quoi . Ce à quoi je ne tiens nullement. Après tout, ce que j'ai à dire sur le sujet n'est pas si intéressant. J'essaierai de faire mieux une prochaine fois !
    Bon, et puis c'est l'heure d'aller faire mes courses pour dîner ! ;o)

  32. LUGGI: ROFL!!! Yeah, let's blame it on Bush! Good one!... ROFL!! (just kidding Luggi)

    Anyway, I just came back to give a rough translation of my conversation with GG - I know most of you understand French, but maybe not everybody does...

    I was saying to GG something kind of like this:

    Sorry, still don't understand what you're driving at. The population is not homogenous in France or in the States so making blanket comparisons with regard to the population as a whole doesn't work. People coming from Latin countries are generally smaller than the Anglo-saxons - that also explains in part why the French tend to be slimmer: they are also smaller all the way around! Anyway, we're just bouncing generalities, here...

    Those who looked into obesity found 3 factors:

    1) genetic disposition
    2) behavior (how much you eat, physical activity level)
    3) diet (what you eat)

    And then, like Kim was saying, you have to add all the variables, pregnancies, etc.

    A complex problem, really.

    OK, I'll shut up now...

  33. My personal experience is, I spent 6 days in Paris and lost 4 lbs, with 3 meals I think there's something about the cooking that makes French women don't get fat easily ;-)

  34. Trust me. If you knew me, you'd appreciate how difficult it is for me not to tell a lot of you commenters to f-off. But instead, I'll refer you to my previous comment...and calling names "fatties" isn't constructive.

  35. Lisi: No, no, no, Leslie it's not the cooking! My guess is, it's probably all that walking around that did it. How many miles do you think you walked when you were in Paris?

  36. Tomate: With a little imagination everything can be blamed on Bush boy. (And you probably wouldn't be far off.) ;0)

  37. Michael, you are a hoot! (as we southerners say). Too funny! BUT - no one has mentioned the clothing! Please! As anyone anywhere ever seen a woman looking good in those god-awful police uniforms?? NO! She's a beautiful woman in an ugly outfit. (And those uniforms don't do much for men,either). Can't you all get the French fashion police on this issue? :)

  38. GG: T'inquiete pas, on discute, c'est tout :-). Si, si, je crois moi que la predisposition genetique est un facteur tres important.

    GG: No worries, we're just chatting, that's all :-). But I really think that genetic disposition is an important factor.

  39. buzzgirl,
    i agree with your last posting about constructive conversation....

  40. buzzgirl,
    i agree with your last posting about constructive conversation....

  41. Okay, now I'm worried. I'm going to be in Paris in a few weeks, and I'm about the size of this policewoman. I'm concerned that the kind of instant judgement and disdain that I face here only in certain situations now (e.g. upscale stores) will be much more widespread in France. And I agree with buzzgirl about the comments so far. Sigh.

  42. Louise: Don't worry. As Bono said, the French (OK, I'll say Parisians) are way too into themselves to take notice of anyone else, generally speaking. Besides, the woman in the picture is not fat at all. I don't like the word "fat" either, and I shouldn't have used it. She's of a sturdy build, and what's wrong with that? My concern is more with people eating healthy food and not junk, which is bad for their health. You'll have a great time, for sure.

  43. Louise: If anybody gives you attitude in Paris for WHATEVER reason, just ignore them or give it right back to them! Sometimes when I read all the comments from the francophiles it makes me wonder if I'm the only one, ever, to experience "attitude" when I go to Paris... but I know better, because I used to live there.

    Go to Paris with the same mindset as if you were going to Manhattan: if someone's rude to you, just tell yourself, that guy/woman probably has his/her own set of problems and DON'T take it personally! There will undoubtedly be a...holes there, and your path might cross theirs. But you may also find incredibly warm-hearted people, there, too.

    For example, last June, there was that bus driver who stopped the bus to pick me up BETWEEN 2 stations (!!!) because, like he said, I "obviously looked like I needed the ride" ... ask any Parisian, that is NOT customary! And I was clearly dressed "like a tourist" that day, even wearing an Eiffel Tower T-shirt, camera, and everything ...

  44. Well, when I got home from work tonight and saw 50 comments (at last count), I was amazed! I think some of you are being hard on Eric for this post, when I think it's cool that he found an interesting, and very timely, way to illustrate a survey that just came out here in France. I know Eric, and he would never intentionally try to hurt anyone, especially over THIS subject.

    Luggi, I half agree with you, but you have to also admit that most people who leave Paris thinking the French don't like (insert nationality) are really reacting to the way the French don't pay much attention to people (live and let live). Of course, there are exceptions to every rule (as I learn daily when trying to use my French language skills).

    So, to not stir up anymore controversy, I'll leave it at that. I have some more "Ritual Preparations" to make and no soosha_q, I won't be sharing those with anyone!

  45. I agree Haxo! I hope you know I meant that positively!

  46. I agree with Michael. Eric's photo may be offensive to some, but I re-posted it on my [U.S. Based} blog because I get so many American clients/contacts intimidated by the myth of the "French woman". It's good to put things in perspective. "Malbouffe" and obesity are creeping into Europe and France, and it needs to be told/denounced.

  47. i know this will totally piss somebody off, but do you really think this cop could actually stop somebody from committing a crime?

  48. I just want to say, it's not Eric's photo that bothered me at all, in fact I didn't realize it was a woman at first (that's how unflattering the uniforms are!), it's just a good photo. It's just the discussion about "fatties" and "most of them..." etc. - it's dispiriting.

  49. Eric, sigh, you're just intent on stirring things up, aren't you?

  50. Michael: We know Eric is a nice guy, otherwise he wouldn't be going out of his way to post all these different pictures every day, but you gotta admit that the sentence Does this make you feel better?! is bound to trigger some response, no? :-)

  51. Irredento Urbanita, neither can half the cops around here! Perhaps that's wh we were the 4th most dangerous city in the US a few years ago?

    ok, michael, if you insist!

  52. Oh, and since I haven't contributed too much of interest to tis discussion, I'd like to mention that I've been eating less and exercising more and have lost a healthy 5 pounds in the past two weeks. A total of 7 for the month, I believe. At least, my doctor says it's healthy to loose a pound or two a week. Since she holds the PhD I tend to trust her. Anyways, working my way to healthy (NOT skinny, mind you. Healthy. That's what's most important.) Yay me!

  53. Alright Tomate, don't drag ME into this! I didn't read too much into it, but then again, I'm the kind of commentor who uses the word "cool" way too much which almost sparked a big fight here. LOL!

    Soosha_q: in this string of comments, is it politically correct to say "congratulations"?

  54. Hey - I don't know about you but I've been on a diet that only makes me gain weight. I call it the Fatkins diet and I love it.

  55. Hi everyone. First of all Michael's right. Of course I did not intend to hurt anyone (and certainly not you Buzzgril ;), on the contrary I wanted to show that the common idea that French people don't get fat is totally wrong.

    French people are just like anybody they gain weight if they don't pay attention to their food intake.

    Having said that I know how hard it is to restrain yourself from eating (I spend half of the year losing the pounds I gained during the 6 previous months!)

    And I really firmly disapprove of some of the dreadful words that have been used here.

    Anyway. Here are a few ansers to some questions.

    Louise. Yes we do get these stupid reality shows but I don't think they are very successful. And don't worry too much, people won't be nasty to you if you're a little overweight.

  56. Well, Michael, I wasn't gonna say anything (especially since we both know that me addressing you in the English language could be viewed as offensive and totally uncool, ahem...) but ... I'll admit that I'm very curious and join Soosha: what are the rituals ?!! Come on, now, out with it! Inquiring minds want to know! :-D

  57. I think it'sd about time we put an end to the myth that "French woman don't get fat". We [at least French people] know that it's untrue. There are tons of reasons why the French population is getting fatter: genes, diet, lifestyle, you name it. Eric's post -- and accompanying study/stats -- were a good "mise au point". There was no malicious intend there. Just the perfect photograph of a keen observer.

  58. Well I'm British, so I think I'll make a few sweeping observations. First, by medical standards the entire English rugby squad are clinically obese, so don't take too much notice. Second, maybe it's to do with our (waves a hand around vaguely) childhood - our parents wanted us to have the things they didn't. Third, in France, sales of snails and frogs legs are dropping and eating is becoming more popular. Coincidence? I think not.

  59. Michael: Yep, you may congratulate me!

    tomate: ha! Yes, thanks for backing me up! That's so COOL of you!

    ham: Wait, does the fact that you're British give you the right to make sweeping observations? ;o)

  60. Eric said "Yes we do get these stupid reality shows but I don't think they are very successful."

    Are you crazy? I think they reap millions with all of the toll-not-free telephone calls people make to vote somebody "off" the show. I guess it depends on how one measures success, but I know that Star Academy is on tomorrow night and I'll have to watch it. I won't call though, I promise...reallly!

  61. Ham, I don't think that any doctor would say that professional rugby players are obese. According to their BMI (body mass index) they are probably overweight or even maybe obese, but the BMI does not take into account that muscle weights more than fat. BMI is meant to be used as a simple means of classifying sedentary individuals with an average body composition (extracted from Wikipedia), not athletes.
    There are other ways of "deciding" wether someone is obese (body fat measurement, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, etc), but usually, it can be seen "by eye".

  62. I crusade against the myth that Parisians are rude and nasty. My favorite response is to ask "Have you been to New York City lately?". Wow! They shut up quickly. We spent at least 5 weeks each year in France. We love the country and the people.

  63. Merci MacDonald's et la malbouffe !

    Cette dame est très jolie je trouve, a part l'uniforme, saoufé !

  64. Johnny Parsons: I crusade against the myth that Parisians are rude and nasty.

    Well, I don't. Sorry, JP, I wasn't gonna say anything at all, but I just can't let that one go by without throwing in my 2 cents...

    Many people I meet in the US seem to think that Paris is some kind of romantic, friendly town out of Disney World or something. Now THAT would be a myth.

    In reality, Paris is a big city, very much like NYC, very dense in population and relatively spread-out, and many of the people living there are very stressed for many reasons.

    Yes, there are beautiful drop-dead gorgeous buildings, historical streets, gardens, many museums, a rich cultural life, the food is great, etc., etc ... Just thinking about everything that's good about Paris really makes me kind of homesick.

    But life is hard there, too, for many people, believe it or not, and you if you stay there long enough, you'll see attitude and stuff you don't like, I guarantee it.

    I realize that we could both debate that one for hours and hours and still not agree ... and we probably should, too, in front of a nice glass of wine at a Parisian terrace ... maybe next year...

  65. But really Tomate, how do you REALLY feel? LOL

    Seriously, wouldn't you rather be stressed, chic and with an attitude in Paris next to the "beautiful drop-dead gorgeous buildings, historical streets, gardens, many museums, a rich cultural life, the food is great, etc., etc ..." than maybe, let's say, Omaha, Nebraska?

  66. Looks like this « gros plan sur un imposant derrière » is a big shot :-) !

  67. I agree megan. michael is definately a funny guy.

  68. How do I really feel, Michael? Well, I traded Paris for San Francisco (NYC was my first choice, though, but hey, take what you can get, I suppose), so there is your clue :)

    You wanna hear about the negative sides of Paris? OK, I think life is pretty expensive, there, traffic is incredibly congested while people still manage to drive like maniacs, the notion of service is ...well.. quite different than what we're used to in the US (would it be so bad to have clerks to bag groceries instead of having the cashier send them flying through?) let me see, common transportation go on strike when you least expect it, let's see, what else ... I don't know. I'm sure I could think of more if I really tried. ;)

    Anyway, I still think we should have that conversation over a glass of wine or something, maybe next year, what do you think?

  69. Yes, on the conversation over a glass (or two) of wine. And I definitely agree on the grocery bagging thing, but there are so many good things to think about, I'd rather drink over that!

  70. There are good and bad things about ever city, town, and unincorprated patch of dirt with 12 residence in the world. The best thing we can do is try to make the bad things better, and enjoy the good. Of course there are things that we just can't fix no matter how hard we try, so I just try to make the good things even better to kinda cosmically even it out. Like when I encounter rude checkers in line at the grocery store I'm extra nice to them, and if I can afford it I donate a dollar or two to whatever charity they have advertized at the register, which is usually the Children's Miracle Network at my local Shop n Save. That way the rest of my day doesn't go bad and hopefully I've rubbed of a little nice on them!

  71. Hello! Former lurker here....I guess I'm reading this thread late.

    But I must "second" what anonoymous said above. I know that it's a sensitive topic but at the same time.....let's be real.

    There are A LOT of fat people in America. And of the three causes of obesity, genetic dispostition is the least common. I mean honestly, did the majority of Americans' genetic code change that drastically? In less than two generations? I am certain that the primary cause of the increase is due to portion size. The amount of food you get in most restaurants is almost obscene. People who are thin eat any kind of food they want but they eat so much less food in general.

    Bottom line, you can SEE how big people and most horrifying....children are getting. For overweight to be more "socially acceptable" than to speak the truth about the dangers is the most sad.

    By the way, 5'4 125lbs is not considered overweight.

    That's my two cents...and I don't mean to offend anyone...just be honest. It's better I think.

  72. Susan said, "...just be honest. It's better I think."

    I second that girlfriend.

  73. "People who are thin eat any kind of food they want but they eat so much less food in general."

    Well, I'm not sure that's true in all cases. I see a lot of people larger than me eat a lot less than I do. I also see a lot of people (guys usually) eat a lot more than I do and completely get away with it whereas I fall in the category of people who really need to exercise in order to maintain my average weight... easier said than done, too, with the crazy lives we live but that's another story.

    I also see a lot of people stuff their face all day long with Cheetos and other kind of crap; many are very overweight, but some are much smaller than me. Go figure.

    I think I understand better what GG was trying to say, now, because of your comment, so thanks for that. The problem I have this reasoning is that "American people" come from different places and therefore are not a homogenous population physically. We don't all look alike to start with.

    While diet and behavior (sedentary lives, how much you eat) seem to play a very important part (I remember that study about the rate of obesity among Japanese Americans in the US v. the rate in Japan), we still can't discount the genetic disposition, metabolic rate, etc.

    Let me ask you this: we are 3 kids in my family. None of us eat the same thing, we don't even live in the same countries. But we all the same size, on average, not obese, not thin. How do you explain that, if not by genetic disposition?

  74. Very interesting analysis Tomate. We could say the same thing about a lot of other genetic tendancies, non? Maybe one day the scientists will figure us all out.

  75. Actually, scientists HAVE figured it out. There are a lot of factors responsible (sedentary lifestyles (turn the TV off), overeating, types of foods being eaten, etc.). What is not being addressed, even though NUMEROUS studies have shown that peoples' perception of correct portion size has increased dramatically in just 20 years! I see it myself, especially in chain restaurants, fast food places, and convenience stores. For example, When I was a kid, a Coke was either 8 ounces or 12 ounces. Now, the typical bottle of Coke is 20 ounces! Almost DOUBLE the calories. The "small" version of french fries DOESN'T EVEN EXIST anymore! What used to be the "large" size at Wendy's is now their smallest option! That's two sizes bigger than the smallest was less than 20 years ago! The fact that we often sugar-coat the truth only exacerbates the problem.

    For example, I read a fascinating article a couple of months ago that informed me that the U.S. government has an official term for overweight children: "at risk of being overweight"!!! AT risk??? That blew me away. Parents of a child who is ALREADY OVERWEIGHT is told (if they are told at all), that their child is only AT RISK. That's just crazy to me. I couldn't find the exact article I had read but found this:

    Also, study after scientific study shows that our PERCEPTION of what is an adequate portion size has increased between 25 and 70%!!!,,1028800,00.html

    Everyone in my family is overweight. My mother is 5'2" tall and weighs about 185. My brothers are both overweight (one is 5'8" (we are all short) and weighs 200), my dad also (but not as much). My aunts, uncles, many of my cousins (and I have a lot) are also overweight. So if you go by that, I should be overweight as well yet I am not. I eat fatty foods at restaurants (lots of pasta with cream sauce)....but there is a huge difference I see when I go out to dinner with them. For one, they ALWAYS choose a baked potato (usually with sour cream, etc.) at those chain restaurants. I choose the vegetables. They clean their plates (which I think is the biggest factor of their weight) and I always leave food on my plate (my mother has always kidded me about it)...portions are huge! I never have chips, cookies, ice cream at home....never. But I do eat desserts sometimes....the key is sometimes. But in my childhood home, we always had a smorgesbord of oreo's (best cookie in the world), chips, cheetos, Little Debbie cakes and ice cream. They were always mother bought them weekly as she did with a CASE of soda (a case contains 24 sodas). We had a big family...5 kids. Back then, we were all thin (except my mom) because we were always outside playing and my mother cooked a nutrious home-cooked meal 6 nights a week. No microwave meals with God knows what kind of chemicals in them (I sometimes wonder if what they do to pre-prepared foods makes people fatter...don't know). I grew up on McDonald's like everyone in America. So, it's not McDonalds' per se....but it is if you eat there every week....especially since a typical meal today is roughly TWICE the amount of food you got in the 1970's.

    Anyway.....does denying the problem help anyone? I can't see how.

    I mean, no one seems to have a problem with talking about the ills of smoking....and obesity has been proven to drastically increase diabetes, blindness (this came out recently), and early death.

  76. "going to Paris and not seeing fat people..."

    Well, yes - in tourist Paris, for sure.

    Same can be said for Sydney. Walk down the street in Tourist Sydney, and apart from fat tourists you won't encounter too many fat people. Go to schools in wealthier areas and you won't see many fat people.

    Now get on the train and visit the shopping malls in the poor suburbs of Sydney.

    Now get on the RER / metro and go and visit the Paris banlieus and my guess is the result will be similar.

    I was surprised at the 30% sdtatistic of obesity in France - which is not so different to Australia.

    I agree prtion control, corn syrup and fat and sugar overload is a huge problem in the US.

    Oh, and too many people lack education to know what's what about diet [sugar isn't fat, so it can't be harmful....etc].

    Says me, who had battled the bulge all my life, and for whome it is a monumental and conscious effort thru exercise to keep a small lid on matters and avoid the fate of diabetes, etc that eventually killed my dad...

  77. PS "The sugar isn't fat" myth is so prevalent, despite the best efforts of all th wonderful nutrion teaching that goes on in our schools now. I overheard it on the train again the other day. I just wanted to turn around and say ; "But, it's energy, and if it's unused, it is STORED AS FAT in your body!"

    Ham - this is one of the funniest things I've read on this thread:

    Well I'm British, so I think I'll make a few sweeping observations Taking a stereotype (grounded in reality), inverting it, or whatever,. and regurgitating it. No wonder the Poms are such great wordsmiths!

    Also, I don;t regard fat as a dirty word. The more we start reclaiming proper, ordinary words - and I don;t mean sexist and racist epithets - and shucking off stupid euphemisms - maybe the better for addressing the major health problems.

    Again, I emphasise, I'm no skinny-minny (just look at the chins in my pic) and I certainly don't locate blame in the individual, and I don't feel the least offended by Eric's pic.

    If you're worried about the "attitude" in Paris, well, leav ethe white running shoes and baseball cap at home! (that's a light-hearted comment meant not to offend, but to say "IT DOESN'T MATTER" [Have you ever looked at a crowd of French package tourists anywhere - strangely enough they stick out like sore thumbs just as much! And guess what, they don't care! Neither should you!]

  78. Ok, since this string of comments seems to be getting quite heavy, I thought I'd share a little clip I found showing how the French also need to watch their weight. Here is a link to Bonjour America's Episode #28 . It's a bit long, but maybe you'll get the idea. Enjoy!

  79. I was wondering today how come we don't find many "all you can eat" restaurants in France...mostly Chinese buffets if any. Other than the U.S., do other countries have this kind of eating style?

  80. It's no use to point fingers to persons or country's. I'm sure it has all got to do with prosperity in combination with trying to hold on to that by being afraid of losing it. It would be better looking at the third world for breaking the myth of this wealthy western world. Borders can not prevent the growing of strange fast-food-habbits coming with more money as you can see all over the world. It's a global problem as I see it, coming slowly up but spreading all over.
    Don't have answers, but looking outside instead of inward could be a start.

  81. Susan: I'll admit that you make a compelling argument for "behavior."

    It's true that when Marylou Retton stopped dieting and exercising on a competitive level, when Brooke Shields went back to school to get her degree (I assume she stopped dieting at the time, or simply became more sedentary), they both got fat.

    But they got fat, not obese! So that'll be my lame argument for "genetic disposition" and I'll stop now because I really don't have any answers one way or the other anyway. :-)

    No doubt in my mind that whoevever solves the weight problem will become richer than Bill Gates!

    I should also say that I do applaud your effort at watching it constantly, not "cleaning your plate," etc.

    By the way since I'm here, I'll throw in my 2 cents about something else that bothers me.

    I noticed that the LOW CARB diet that's been so popular in the US over the past couple of years has gained popularity in France, too, lately. What worries me about that diet is that complex carbohydrates are necessary for our health (not the processed kind like twinkies, but pasta, bread, etc.) It's not the baked potato that's doing it to people, but all the "tasty" stuff they pile up on it. Pancakes are fine, but maybe the 3 large scoops of butter along with the half-gallon of maple syrup restaurants throw on each plate might need to go ... but hey, what do I know.

  82. I was wondering today how come we don't find many "all you can eat" restaurants in France...

    Oh, I'm sure if you open one up, people will come! :-)

    * * *
    I was wondering why you can't have a doggy bag when you go to the restaurant in France. Many people actually do have dogs, there, and also, why not be able to take the rest of the meal home if you're not going to eat it all? They'll just throw it away if you don't eat it, no?

  83. I noticed that the LOW CARB diet that's been so popular in the US over the past couple of years has gained popularity in France, too, lately.

    I'm sorry, I meant NO-CARB diet.

  84. I have an idea....since we've covered the weight issue, now we should talk about politics! And after that....religion! lol!

    Did you know that in addition to all the complex transformations going on in young childrens bodies, one is the creation of fat cells? All the fat cells you will ever have are completed when you are a child. And once there, they can expand (due to over eating) or contract.....but never go away. Kind of like a balloon. They can fill with fat and get bigger and bigger or they can deflate but always remain.

    That is why it's so important for parents to feed children the right amount of food....otherwise, they are doomed to a lifetime of dieting and extreme exercise if they ever hope to be thin. More self dicipline than I'll ever have!

    This man I met at a business meeting told me that his 3 year old REFUSES to eat anything but cheetos and something else (can't remember) so that is what he and his wife feed him. I was horrified! It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut. Borders on child abuse in my opinion. Ok. That's all I have to say....promise.

  85. Did you know that in addition to all the complex transformations going on in young childrens bodies, one is the creation of fat cells? Yeah, I think they call it "La mémoire des cellules" in French or something like that. I think I have a few books you might like, here, Susan, just a feeling :-)

    A lot of people told me the same thing; they, too were made to clean their plates as a kid.

    At the Farcie's house, we had to clean our plates because children in Biafra were starving. Later, it was Ethiopia. What was the equivalent where you grew up?

    I never really understood the logic behind that one, by the way; maybe somebody could enlighten me and explain to me how my overstuffing myself at dinner will solve the problem of the starving children in Africa, uh? Mom, are you there? Anyone?

    But hey, starving children in Africa are a really serious problem, even to a little kid in France, when you put it that way, Mom, it's really hard not to comply, I mean honestly who's gonna want THAT over their shoulders for the rest of their life, right?

    So anyway, I made a deal with the dog (we had one that was an absolute born-again garbage disposal): if he could hide under the table, then two of us would see to it that my plate was perfectly clean and the children of Biafra would no longer starve...

    Pfewww, that was a close one, I don't know how the leaders of the Worlds haven't figured it out yet. Clean your plate, people, and thus end the food shortage in Africa.

    By the way, here is Biafra:

  86. Woah Eric, do you think you'll reach 100 comments on this blog? It might need a photo of its own!

  87. Michael, I was wondering the same thing :-)

    By the way, I forgot to say that I never needed the dog's help to clean my plate whenever my mother made ... tomate farcies! :-)

  88. Wow, this is amazing, I hope you hit 100 comments….here is one more!

    I must admit when I take photos of crowds in the street here in Indianapolis there is always at least 1 if not more or many more heavy people. I hear these statistics about fat America and I think it may be true. Anyone interested in this strange phenomenon should read the book Fast Food Nation. It shows the evolution of Fast Food and becomes very obvious how people have become obese. It is such an epidemic and I think the amount of comments really shows how concerned everyone is about this problem.

  89. Do you think this policewoman will ever read this blog? Hmmm?

  90. What do you win if you're #100?

  91. Here I am, number 100 with 2 big fat zeros. Heu.. sorry, not funny...

  92. Two words are all you need to know: Weight Watchers

  93. I came back to see if this link ever reached 100....and it has!

    For the overweight people: forget all the crazy fad diets....just eat a lot less! A whole lot less. But the sad truth is....if you overeaten so much that you've gained 40 or more extra pounds.....only a major, long struggle of exercise and eating LESS than and a thin person will get you thin. Sad, but true. "An ounce of prevention (excuse the pun) is worth a pound of cure."

    Best thing you can do is not allow your children to get fat in the first place. I think it is a sad state of affairs that our government has to run TV ads to promote families having dinner together at home. That is really sad....

  94. Eric, to answer your question.

    Yes, we have all sorts of buffet in Singapore. If you visit Singapore, there's a kind of buffet that will suit your taste.

  95. Eric,

    Funny enough, there is a video on CNN about preventing obesity in American immigrants. Quite interesting given this post.

    Note: I have no idea how long this link will exist. If you have a pop-up stopper, you may have to hold Ctrl to let the video launch.

  96. This is too funny...especially the comments.

  97. Love your blog! I live in Paris. Have a look at this guy jumping off la Tour Eiffel in 1912 with a homemade overcoat/parachute -

  98. A letter I received from Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat:

    Dear friends,
    Greetings. I hope this finds you bien dans votre peau.

    Here in New York the high-energy fall is well underway. And I know it has been too long since I've said hello, but I am coming off an intense spring and summer and am fully reengaged. The French have a word for this "rentrée," which is what kids do when they go back to school, like returning to earth from outer space. I've been mostly working in Provence and New York. The good news is that because of that final push many of you will soon have answers to your questions on October 31st when you will get more stories, more recipes, and more secrets and pleasures as my next book will be out, entitled French Women For All Seasons - A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasure.

    I hope you will like it: the prepublication response has been terrific, and there are already a number of international editions planned. The British edition also launches in November. I've put a lot in it because I had a lot more I wanted to share on the art of living. Also, in today's complex world I see too many people living on autopilot, and I want to help them embrace the seasons and seasonality and make savoring life a more intense experience. If French Women Don't Get Fat enabled readers to enjoy a healthier relationship with food then I hope French Women for All Seasons will enable readers to enjoy a healthier relationship with life.

    So, as we say in France: a vos marques, prêt, partez (ready, set, go). Starting late October, I'll be out and about across the country and globe and in the magazines and media much more. It's fun and inspiring to meet and speak with readers. I expect my calendar (posted on my website) to be full.

    I continue to read each and every e-mail. What I write is often inspired by what you ask and say. Thank you for giving me a chance to share my passion and at the same time give me the opportunity to keep learning and growing.

    A bientôt (see you soon),


  99. I am about the same weight as this police officer and now I know how people must view me. I really try but never have any luck resisting good food. I do think it is genetic, but that has alrady been said.

  100. goodness, it's a little cheeky, to photograph this unsuspecting woman and then call her fat, isn't it? poor woman is probably still living it down. Interesting facts though.

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