Too much Food?

(Roger Thomas) #1

A Tale of Two Cultures

There is a downside to living in France and that is the food, Olive oil, Charcuterie, More cheeses than days of the year; wine, red, white, pink and sparkling. These all add up to an increased waistline, fortunately the French also know a thing or two about loosing the centimetres as well.

Mary has a problem with her knees in part due to a lifetime on her feet, not always in the kitchen! She was being treated for high blood pressure in England and needed to continue her medication after her supply of pills ran out after four months over here.
When she visited our Medicine to sign on, after we received our Carte Vitale and signed up for top up from Swiss Life, he went into panic mode over her blood pressure medication.

“We haven’t used those (pills) for years, there are newer treatments. Madam” he exclaimed.

Mary had been assured in the U.K. that her treatment was the latest and greatest and was thus somewhat disturbed.
I had noticed a lethargy that seemed to have started when she commenced her newest cocktail of drugs, this added to our move and early retirement had led to à rapid increase in avoirdupois so much so that it was costing me money for new, bigger clothes and I felt that she was no longer enjoying even mild exercise visiting the glorious area round here and side trips to Italy and Spain. It wasn’t all the lethargy, the strain on her damaged knees was compounded by her weight gain.

Our Doctor here suggested a visit to a local clinic to see if à specialist could help to control her blood pressure using newer drugs.
The Specialist immediately changed the drugs and suggested that à visit to their in house Dietician would be useful who weighed her and dished out the usual diet sheet.

We returned to the specialist after à few weeks to see how the drug regime was working, Mary was a lot perkier in herself but was still hampered by her bad knees.
The specialist wasn’t totally happy with the results of the new drugs and suggested two alternatives to us:
1) She could visit the hospital as an outpatient.
2) She could spend either one or two weeks as an in patient during which à battery of tests could be made under controlled conditions.
She also mentioned her weight in passing, which we ignored. Mary is an expert on weight loss; as I am in giving up smoking, usual old joke I’ve done it lots of times; but they don’t call my wife Yo-Yo for nothing!!

We opted for the two week in chokey option and were pleasantly surprised on being told that a) that was the specialist’s preferred option and that b) the stay was gratuite.
So in September we packed a bag and she entered the Clinic.
Her main worry was that I would be unable to care for myself so she had spent two weeks filling little plastic boxes with food so that I could employ my extensive experience with a microwave to good effect.
The clinic was a revelation, modern, no nasty niffs and a single room with en-suite
She received a visit from the specialist and also the dietician with an hour of her arrival she was placed on a diet that would initially be concerned with reducing her salt intake and would be normal French Hospital food. The diet was healthy and tasty and her report to me was that she ‘strangely’ didn’t feel hungry: this is a girl who could eat 4 slices of Marmite toast at 3am; there was a lot of pasta, fish, meat cheese, and vegetables.
Over the two weeks her blood was tested every two days or so together with a battery of other tests including having to pee into a bucket for 24 hours so that the total amount in could be compared with the total amount out we suppose. The staff were very efficient without being brusque; indeed every departing shift said their farewells and the incomers introduced themselves to her. The drugs regime was changed from time to time until all was well.

Upon her release we were astounded to find that she had lost 10kg in weight and she decided that, in consultation with the dietician, she would try and follow the hospital regime: if not to the letter then at least to suit her English palate; there was no way she was going to eat that strange white vegetable that seemed to crop up every other mealtime!

If you want to see the Regime she followed click here :-blog diet sheet.doc

(To make life simpler I translated the sheets we were given into Franglais there are two tables one for men and the other for women or very sedentary men.)

Her weight continued its downward spiral; still no complaints of hunger, indeed there were (rare) days in which she didn’t finish her quota. We visited a ‘Troc’ and found an exercise bike for €39 and off she went. Because of her damaged knees she exercised without any added load purely pedalling along until she felt tired, she also set herself a target, she would ’cycle’ to the village 1.4 km then back etc.

To check up on her blood pressure she had two sessions with a 24 hr monitor, with an adjustment in between. After the second session she was pronounced ‘balanced’ at long last.
Her weight has continued to fall, she is in regular contact with her dietician, and the subject of final weight came up. When you “Go on a Diet” with ‘Weight Watchers’ ‘Rosemary Connelly’ or whoever in the U.K. there always seems to be a target weight which she has consistently failed to reach……..”Must be for a teenager but not for me.”
Her dietician explained that if she followed the healthy eating regime she had started on her weight would reach a level that her body was happy with and that was her weight, not a BMI of less than…. or a dress size, just where she ended up happy. Revolutionary stuff!

Some of the hints we have learnt over the past six months are :-

Always read food labels. Low fat could mean high sugar. Low calorie could mean high salt.
There’s always a low calorie option.
Butter down to 10% fat (Elle et Vire).
45 Kcal yoghurts ( the norm is 125).
Semi-skimmed milk,
5% fat steak hache (dearer than the usual 20% but much tastier).
Leger Salad dressings.
In fact léger seems to figure more and more in our shopping list.
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, always have a glass of water before your meal and take a break between courses.

I’m a skinny bloke with a BMI of 25 but I haven’t noticed a ha’p’orth of difference in my life after she started the new regimen. OK I eat more spuds, real butter, fewer green vegetables and the occasional bigger glass of wine but essentially we eat the same things. Maybe she occasionally substitutes Lean meat when I have sausages but we try to not make too much of a difference. This regimen is for her life.


Since September 2009 Mary is 36 kg lighter that’s 6kg a month every month, or looking on it from a male perspective that’s a bag of Cement she hasn’t got to support all day every day.

And what happened to the lethargy?

That disappeared with the change of drugs. Thanks NHS.

I specifically haven’t mentioned the names or location of the clinic or the personnel associated therewith in case the information herein is misused.

Should they read this They will know who they are can't thank you enough so to the Health Service over here……..Santé.

Oh and if you are here on the black it would have cost you over €7.000.

(Roger Thomas) #2

Blog edited with the assistance of James Higginson, its OK to paste Text but it s…s up any charts or boxed text. Thanks James!!!

(Roger Thomas) #3

The difference in attitude between the two cultures was a revelation. In France the attitude seems to be to provide treatment to avoid a future problem, in the U.K. our experience has been that you only receive treatment when you are seriously ill. Perhaps another way of looking at it, maybe, is that here the cause of a problem is treated rather than the problem.
My 87year old mother, who has most of the afflictions associated with her age including partial deafness, was recently told that she had rung up on the wrong day to make an appointment. You couldn’t make it up could you?

(Catharine Higginson) #4

Didn’t realise that - about the word thing - brilliant post and really interesting. Well done to Mary for sticking to it. And well done French NHS.