Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March "Minceur" Madness

Every March, French magazines are filled with "it's time to lose those pesky pounds (kilos in this case) before we peel off our winter camouflage layers and slip into our maillots (or bikinis)" articles.

They always fascinate me and I can't help hoping there will be some tiny nugget hidden in the information we all know so well that will be a life changing "click" or trick.

The theme this year seems to be, "enjoy life, eat what you like -- but not too much of it and not every five minutes -- and relax." Certainly I would like to believe and act on this advice, but then I see the models who animate the pieces and think, "whatever."

Still, I did unearth a few tidbits that are sort of different mingled amidst the tried and true and therefore thought perhaps you might like to hear about them as well.

First a reality check from respected French studies: It's easy to lose weight (ha!), every woman knows how. It's the aftershock that is driving us to distraction -- 95 percent regain the lost weight and often with a few extra kilos added on. In 2012, l'Agence National de Securite de l'Alimentation predicted one of every two women will be on a regime (diet) even if their weight is normal.

"To follow a regime is a way to live, to exist," Dr. Jean-Michel Lecerf, endocrinologist and nutritionist at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, said. "It's a way of juggling anxiety and abundance. The more strict the regime, the more successful it will be. In an epoch when almost everything is permitted, losing weight has become the new moral code. . ."

Interesting, but let's get down to basics, the counsel upon which we can act. Here then are a few tips we might incorporate into our March Minceur Movement. Oh yes, don't forget movement is exceedingly important -- but you knew that.

1.) From the "famous" food notebook we've been urged to create for decades now, we will be able to ascertain and then highlight (you get to use a fun marker if you would like, personally I love them) any food that is not indispensable and which you would find easy to live without. That's the first small, painless saving of calories.

2.) In the notebook all of our "weaknesses" should appear -- if we're honest -- this is when you decide what to eliminate to keep the things you love in your new diet. For example, if you are drawn to cookies (in moderation remember), forget about cheese. On the contrary if you like salty foods, do the opposite. In other words, make choices that give you pleasure. It's easy to make these individual choices because, as the doctors point out, everyone of us is different and diets should accommodate what we enjoy eating.

Under investigation. I'll be back to you on this.
3.) Another product is mentioned -- I'll have to ask Christine about it before the week is out -- a teaspoon of Cacticia Nature et Ligne mixed into salads, yogurt, etc. It's a melange of fibers and figs that leaves one with the impression of fullness without water retention. Exciting, non?

4.) STOP and THINK before you eat for comfort.

a.) You're stressed and you need to eat something to quell the sensation. STOP: do a three minute breathing exercise. Breathe in deeply and quickly and breathe out sloooowly. Repeat.

b.) Now, decide. Do I want the chocolate or not? If so, take a square and savor it while concentrating on its melting in your mouth. You made a decision, you are not guilty, move on.

c.) Repeat. The point is you become conscious of your state of mind and you take control, not your emotions.

French magazines always recommend a dose of pampering with any regime. Within one's means this translates into massages, spas and any small reward that is not food related. Cellulite products are inevitably part of the package. I'll let you decide what you think about them. They do smell delicious. I've been told if they're used twice a day, every day (!) one sees some improvement. It's your call.

In the last 10 years the French have gained on average 1.3 kilos ( one kilo = 2.2 pounds) which by my measure is remarkable. The country's culture, experts maintain, is a major reason why most French people remain slim. They call it the trinity of the trois repas : some 96 minutes each day are devoted to eating three real meals, seated at table. On average 15 percent of a family's budget is devoted to food compared to five percent of an average American budget.

Furthermore, a recent study noted that eating with family and friends in a convivial atmosphere combats obesity. "To nourish the body is not only a biological function, it is also social and relational," Dr. Lecerf tells us.

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