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Forks, Portland, Lyon - France, Paris - France, Portland and ending up in Bellingham.... the adventures of my life!

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Advice: Staying Fit in France

I remember it well, my first visit to beautiful France.  I was staying with Bri's family, every night was a culinary adventure... I was content with the pastries in the morning... the afternoon snack with sugary aperitif drinks and chips... the huge dinners with crispy baguettes and limitless cheese.

I was in Lyon, France last summer on a visit.  At the beginning of the summer I weighed in around 127 lbs (my average) and left weighing about 143 lbs.  It was incredible.  In about 2 months I had gained more than 10 lbs.

It happened again... in the winter time.  I had came back to the states, and cut out fats/carbs... whatever.  Dropped down once again to 129 lbs; but came back from the visit another 12 lbs heavier!! What the HECK!?

Is it possible to live in France with it's culinary wonders, and not gain weight?  Well.  Here is 10 tips I've come to discover during my 4 months here..

  1. Limit the Fatty Breakfasts:  I like to treat myself on Saturdays.  I'll have that beautiful crispy almond croissant... I'll enjoy it... but only once a week.  I don't stop off at the Patisserie and buy chocolately delights during the week.  I savor it- and it really makes me anticipate it.  My normal breakfast is a small bowl of oatmeal and a piece of whole wheat toast with butter/jam.
  2. Take advantage of Velo'v:  We live in a city in which public transport is rampant, but the Velo'v system is so superior.  Take advantage and buy a week's pass, bike around the city.  Bike through the park.
  3. Visit a Marché:  Buy your veggies and fruits from the marché!  Remember that here the prices are 50% lower than in the States, so take advantage.  You don't have to shop at Lidl or Marché U for everything.  I do Monday super market for the necessities, and then Tuesday marché for my fruits/veggies.  I just recently bought 5kg of fruits/vegetables for €12.  You cannot beat that.
  4. Plan the Dinners:  I sit down on Sunday, when everything in France is closed... and I make a list.  I figure out what I plan to make.  I figure out what ingredients I have/don't have.  In these plans I always ensure there's a vegetable that isn't the potato.
  5. Eat Lunch:  People have told me they skip lunch.. I say don't.  Even if you snack on an apple at 3 pm, eat something.  It keeps the metabolism working until dinner... and when we sleep our metabolism tends to slow, so if we incorporate dinner, we'll be less hungry during dinner.
  6. Alcohol.. Oh Alcohol:  Drinking is so part of the French culture it's forgotten that sugary drinks and beers are packed with calories and carbohydrates.  Limit the drinking.  Maximize the water.  I drink one glass of red wine a night (good for you), if you are at a party, try choosing the clear liquids sans soda or juice.  A vodka on ice.  White wine.
  7. The Bread:  France and bread are inseparable, like lovers that have known eachother too long.  The habit of having a daily bread is normal.. but limit yourself.  Bread tends to be a tummy filler during a meal, but it's better to use it to compliment the meal... not gorge yourself.
  8. The Pyramid:  You know, 5-7 veggies, all that bit.  Maximize the use of lean proteins (veal, fish, turkey, chicken, eggs) and minimize the use of fatty proteins (bacon, steak, pork other than the loin).  Cheese in France is good for you, but heavy in fat... just be aware.
  9. Apple Cider Vinegar:  This is a vinegar made from apples... in it's organic form it has a weird swimmy thing in the bottle... about 2-3 tablespoons of this in a tall glass of water (you drink it) is a great way to reduce water-weight and help keep the system in check.  I drink first thing in the morning, before my coffee or breakfast.  If I get a craving in the middle of the day, I drink it before lunch.
  10. Keep Hydrated:  As always, drink lots of water.  I carry around a bottle and try to promise myself to finish two of them a day.  It's hard in a country where wine dominates the meals and coffee breaks are rampant... but remember, restauarants are required by LAW to provide water when asked... for free.
Well, all the best of luck.. it's absolutely normal to gain weight initially when moving to France.  Our bodies in the U.S. are used to high-sugar, high-fat diets.  In France it's a different way of eating.. so it adjusts.  The 10 above tips have helped me lose about 2 kilos (4.4 lbs) since September... it's a slow process, of course, but it's better than packing on 12 lbs in 2 months!!

A Bientôt..


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