Do you see what that sign says? CURVES. Yep, the very same sign that hangs in my little hometown hangs all over France. This photo was taken of a Curves in a tiny village about 20 minutes outside Toulouse. I assure you, these things are springing up everywhere over there!
Why is this touching a nerve? Well, first of all, let me preface this by saying I have not read all of Mireille Guiliano's book French Women Don't Get Fat. But I did see an interview of her on Oprah and something she said to Oprah has stuck in my head, waiting for my next trip to France to prove she was fabricating the lives of typical French women. She said that women in France do not go to gyms...and I am pretty darn positive she implied gyms don't even exist in France.
But I am here to reassure y'all that this is just not true. While I completely agree that there are many more fat people in America than in France, women in France are not as skinny as they used to be, in general. My French Friends also talk about weight and diet as much as my American friends. And can I just admit that at one dinner, I was the only person at the entire table to partake of the glorious cheese platter? Stunned, as the platter was passed to me last with a clean knife and un-cut cheeses, I asked why in the world was I the only one?! The women laughed and said, "Oh, we bought the cheese for you, ma cherie. We don't eat cheese anymore, because it is much too fattening!" Shocked, appalled and horrified, I took a slab of each of the 5 fromages. So impressed were my lovely dieting Frenchie friends, one of them sweetly said, "You are a real French girl, CC! Ok, I will have some cheese with you! You are so brave!"
Here is a quote from French Women Don't Get Fat that directly conflicts with all the real French women I know:
At the outset, let's state that French women simply do not suffer the terror of
kilos that afflicts so many of their American sisters. All the chatter about
diets I hear at cocktail parties in America would make any French woman cringe.
In France, we don't talk about "diets," certainly not with strangers. We may
eventually share a trick or two we've learned with a very close friend -- some
cunning refinement of an old French principle. But mainly we spend our social
time talking about what we enjoy: feelings, family, hobbies, philosophy,
politics, culture, and, yes, food, especially food (but never diets).
women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while Americans typically
see it as a conflict and obsess over it. French women don't skip meals or
substitute slimming shakes for them. They have two or three courses at lunch and
then another three (sometimes four) at dinner. And with wine, bien sûr. How do
they do it? Well, that's a story. That's the story. One hint: They eat with
their heads, and they do not leave the table feeling stuffed or guilty.
I asked my French Friends about their eating habits. The typical modern French family has either a heavy lunch or a heavy dinner. NOT BOTH. They call it "their main meal." I was asked several times by people when being invited for dinner, "Oh, will you have had your main meal at lunch? Or will dinner be your main meal?" so that they could decide if they should prepare something light or heavy.
I saw many more overweight people on this month in France, than I ever have. I such much more prepackaged and processed foods as well. And I also saw lots of dieting campaigns, calorie totals on packaging and diet food and drink.
In our town, Wal-Mart has a certain genre of customers. Pajama-wear is in at our Wal-Mart. Bras are not usually worn under PJs at home, so why would one put one on to go out? And you can't go out in PJ's without yer slippers. When we were in France, my dad kept saying "I don't see any Wal-Mart shoppers here!" Finally, I saw one at the Casino Marche' in Revel. In France, it's true that normally people dress up to faire les courses, or go grocery shopping. So this was a shock to see someone in giant sweats. But it's just another testament to me that French women can and do get fat, Mme Guiliano! And they also like their Curves!
Being someone who has struggled since I was a teen with "food issues", to put it in a nutshell, I really am disgusted by the notion from someone who has lived longer in America than in France (Ms. Guilliano said it herself) that there is a nation of women who just somehow "get it" and are perfect in form and mentally do not have the need or capacity to worry about their figures, nor what they put into their mouths. Though I don't wish anyone to have the relationship with food that I've had, I also am glad to see that women are women, no matter where they live.
We all worry about how we look, we worry about what we put in our mouths, and then there are times when we don't give a rip and we eat what we want and we just worry about it later.
French women aren't perfect and they come in all shapes and sizes. There, that makes me feel better. Ms. Guiliano needs to quit contributing to American women's complexes that are already there because of the media.
Now...anyone want to send me a box of macarons? I've got a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to wash them down with. :)
*Photo taken by moi, Cassoulet Cafe.