How to Eat Like the French: 5 Ways to Throw Caution to the Wind and Enjoy Your Food

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How to Eat Like the French: 5 Ways to Throw Caution to the Wind and Enjoy Your Food

It was the massive bestseller that broke the mold in a world rife with dieting books: French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure.

This 2007 national bestseller – an “un-diet” book – gave the world a glimpse of what French people just know how to do well, which is enjoy food – and thus, life – and not take it all too seriously or too obsessively. French Women Don’t Get Fat author Mireille Guiliano pulled back the curtain on French eating habits for other more calorie-counting cultures (ahem, Americans).

As we approach the holiday season – admittedly, one which will be far more muted than ever before – dishes of all sizes and flavors might lie ahead. This reality may cause anxiety for some. And in a pandemic year already riddled with anxiety, try to do yourself a favor and not stress too much. In taking a note from Guiliano’s pages, here are a few ways to give yourself a break and just enjoy your food, your meal, and your life. After all, life – as German thinker and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says – is not as serious as the mind makes it out to be.

Photo credit © Anna Kaminova

1. Enjoy the Meal Preparation Process

France is a country that honors a sense of process, and that can be time-consuming. (Just ask anyone who tries to open a bank account in France or perform any other bureaucratic task.) One way to eat like the French is to enjoy the process from top to bottom: Before making or buying your meal, find pleasure in time spent gathering the ingredients – or perusing the online takeout menu – because there’s beauty to be found in simply enjoying the journey of eating, not just the act itself. [Here’s a list of some of our favorite outdoor markets in Paris.]

Photo credit © Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

2. Eat Food Slowly and Savor

Comedian Jim Gaffigan, who often talks about his love of food, has a great line in one of his stand-up routines in which he says something like, “I don’t eat till I’m full. I eat until I feel sick and hate myself.” While Gaffigan was joking, it’s a good point to note: Eating to the point of over-fullness presents a diminishing return of pleasure. Eating is a pleasurable act, and generally remains more so when you don’t feel sick.

The French love a long meal – they sit, sip, taste, savor, chat, have a post-meal coffee or wine. Do like the French and move slowly, if you can. As someone who has spent many lunchtimes ravenously cramming salads into my mouth in front of a laptop, I know now that those lunches would’ve been better spent eating slowly, outside, with friends.

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Photo credit © Kate Hliznitsova, Unsplash

3. Go for Quality, Not Quantity

 On the note of savoring – go for quality, not quantity. For friendships, food, and streaming services subscriptions, this is an outlook I subscribe to endlessly. Quality over quantity – insomuch as your budget can afford – because life is too short to short-change yourself and not go for what you want: Be it the nicer bottle of wine, the finer cut of steak, or that one friend who always shows up and cheers you one and is in it for the long haul. In friends and food, quality prevails.

Photo credit © Kayleigh Harrington

4. Limit Your Processed Foods Intake 

In the U.S., we have a processed foods obsession. Favoring quick and easy food gave way to an abundance of microwave meals, drive-thrus, sodium-rich cans of soup, and more. (All of which, I’ll start by saying, I’m a massive fan of.) However, when possible, try to curb the processed food intake for the sole reason that your body will likely thank you for it, by way of feeling better.

French people don’t generally eat a ton of processed foods, and this may – in part – account for their more trim physique (compared to Americans). Size and weight are of no concern here – happiness and health are. By eating a more whole food-rich diet, you’ll be eating a way in which your body will likely feel happier and healthier.

Photo credit © C Technical, Pexels

5. Eat Everything in Moderation 

Where’s the fun in life if you don’t allow yourself a bit of wiggle room? Health-related dietary restrictions notwithstanding, allow yourself that super fatty chunk of cheese, or the decadent chocolate cake, or tempting sugary cocktail. Not to be morose, but – the reality is – we’re all slowly moving towards our death every day; why not enjoy the pleasures afforded by the gift of life? If you want the chocolate cake, eat the chocolate cake. Go for quality, savor, and just enjoy the journey.

Purchase the French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure at your local independent bookstore or via Amazon.

Want to be inspired by more French foodie experiences and enjoy classic French food, wine and recipes? Head to our sister website, Taste of France, here.

Lead photo credit : Photo credit © Tabitha Turner, Unplash

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.