Getting Fit - French Style


(Helen Aurelius-Haddock) #1



I get to visit my GP more often than I’d like, but that’s my lot and I have to accept it.
The magazines are old and tired, and I have read the Jocasta Innnes food piece in the ten-year old Country Homes more often than I’d care to mention. As the only English reading matter, it has been well-thumbed by me.
From necessity, I have moved on to the wall posters now.
As my doctor is a Basque, I have learned that Jai Alai (Basque pelota) is the fastest game on earth, that money is sorely needed for dogs for the blind, and that young children need to go to bed early.
My latest fascination is a large visual poster linked to the French get initiative entitled Manger – Bouger – literally translated it means “Eat and Move”.
It is a country-wide initiative to get the nation fit in nine easy steps.
I have to admit that overweight French people are not too common where I live. Country life with all its attendant benefits seems to keep most of my neighbours in hale and hearty form.
Given the age of some of them, they must be doing something right.

The Nine Steps that are advised are as follows.
1. 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
2. 3 dairy products per day.
3. Carbohydrates to be eaten at each meal, according to appetite.
4. Meat, Fish or egg – two portions per day.
5. Fats – in limited amounts
6. Sugar – in limited amounts
7. Salt – in limited amounts
8. Water – unlimited both at meal times and in between
9.Do some daily exercise.

It seems a simple plan, and reflects the French style of eating by and large.
I like its simplicity – no points, calories or portion sizes. No fears about the dreaded carbs, no glycemic index to consider, and a discreet absence of the mention of alcohol – so happy days in the Land of Wine.

The French do have an almost slavish order to their meal times and eating habits. Breakfast is a meagre affair – a milky drink with some bread or pastry. Lunch is the real deal with ritual and respect paid to four courses more often than not.
Gouter or tea time, very often aimed at the children can be a biscuit, small cake or yoghurt, and supper is an affair that encompasses at least two if not three courses.
They seem to be highly disciplined and avoid nibbling between meals – the logic is that each meal will fill you enough to get you to the next one, which is no bad thing.

I have often watched in amazement at restaurants when diners polish off a plateful of high fat meats in the guise as an assiette de charcuterie, only to be followed by a fish or meat course, cheese, and dessert, not forgetting a hearty helping of bread to clean the plates of any trace of sauce and the like.

I suppose like most things, it is about choices.
A cheese course can be followed by a piece of fruit as a dessert, and often is. A first course can so often be a mountain of greenery and vegetables with a hint of meat, fish or eggs. Main courses come so often with a generous helping of one single vegetable, so often fresh and in season. Sauce is not always served either.

Whatever the science, one thing is clear: The French adore their food – every single mouthful of it, but at the same time they make sensible choices throughout their week to balance out the good and bad in their diet.
Perhaps Manger-Bouger might be worth a try, so I’m off to oil the chain on my bike.

(Jane Williamson) #2

When I am feeling in need of dieting I try and use the Montignac method, this does mean more cooking and cutting down on the wine, especially white. It is a low-glycaemic index way of losing weight, better than the Atkins diet and, being french, is much more exciting.
Jane