As those of you who have been following this blog have probably picked up, it is no longer active. The existing posts will stay up for reference, but I am no longer adding new content. Thanks for a fun two years! ~Tamara

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Aspiring to Frenchness

The other day I picked this up from the library -->

This book was all the rage a few years back, but was quickly eclipsed by the likes of Skinny Bitch and The South Beach Diet. Few people remember it now, and I didn't either until I stumbled on a reference to it in a body image article the other day. My boyfriend peered over my shoulder as I impassively checked out the description on Amazon: you'll find simple tricks that boil down to...refusing to think of food as something that inspires guilt.

"When are you getting it?"

In order to get the book, I had to apply one of Mireille Guiliano's tenets of Frenchness: walk a lot. At 10:30 on a Tuesday morning every parking spot within a half mile of the public library was taken (thank you, loan-happy banking industry). I maneuvered through the Parisian-scale narrowness of Downtown Bloomington streets for some 15 minutes before finding a place to parallel park. After some brisk exercise and an epic struggle with the "Express Checkout" station (you'd think a librarian-in-training would know how to use the thing) I finally acquired the posh-looking volume. I spent my empty hours at work reading it, and am now about halfway through.

The book definitely has its downsides. For one thing, Guiliano inserts French phrases after every couple of sentences--a tiring affectation after a while. For another, despite the overall emphasis on long-term health ("There is no lasting glory in rapid weight loss," she says on page 33), she incongruously recommends eating nothing but leek soup for two days to kick-start the "Recasting" period. Other than that, she offers a good, solid philosophy towards food and fitness which I always knew I should follow: get some exercise, don't eat things that aren't worth eating, and stop thinking so darned hard about it.

I remember some reviewers expressing distaste at the running tone of snobbery in the book. I must admit that Guiliano sometimes paints with a broad brush: all French women are apparently fruit-canning scarf-wearing goddesses, and car-driving Americans stuff themselves with super-sized greasy cardboard without tasting anything. Now, I have seen a few relatives of acting in-laws thoughtlessly grab five frosted sugar cookies from the shoebox at the family reunion, but, "Surely, that isn't the norm," I thought. Then, as I was driving home yesterday, I heard this commercial on the radio (and I paraphrase):

"Dude! Why does your hand look so small?"
"It's my BK Double Cheeseburger. It's so big it makes everything around it look tiny."
"Hey! Let's put it next to my McDonalds Double Cheeseburger. Whoa! It totally dwarfs it! Dwarfer!"

I kid you not.

Anyway, I thought it would be difficult to wean myself off calorie counting--the first step of my own "recasting." After all, I've been doing it automatically since I was a diet-obsessed 15-year-old. But I was surprised to find that at the end of the first day trying, I couldn't tell you how much I had eaten. I knew that everything I had eaten was wholesome, but because I wasn't thinking about it constantly, I couldn't put my finger on a number. It felt so liberating! My sweetie has been liberated, too, from my incessant whining about how I'll gain weight (though he hasn't escaped the constant stream of "my tummy hurts" yet; only one week to the endoscopy!)

What I have found much harder, though, is eating slowly. I'm not sure when I picked up the habit, but I usually wolf down my food. I have to remind myself to smell and taste each bite. My record so far is a 20-minute life-span for dinner last night. And this morning I finished my mushroom-and-spinach eggs with buttered cinnamon bread at the same time as my sweetie! He was always the last in his family to finish eating, so he's a good pacer for me.

I probably won't be eating pruneaux d'Agen or fraises à la crème any time soon, but I will keep the primary principles of this book in mind: (1) tout est question d'èquilibre (everything is a matter of balance) and (2) live bien dans ma peau (comfortably in your own skin).

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