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The French Paradox Explained

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Many jealous North Americans have wondered how the French can consume foods that are known contributors to weight gain - white bread, cheese, rich sauces, and red wine - yet never seem to gain a pound. Scientists have coined it the French paradox.

Many jealous North Americans have wondered how the French can consume foods that are known contributors to weight gain white bread, cheese, rich sauces, and red wine yet never seem to gain a pound. Scientists have coined it the French paradox.

When thinking of the French paradox, we imagine lean French women sitting at an outdoor caf?ating large quantities of brie on baguettes while sipping Merlot. Yet the French not only benefit from lighter body weights, their rates of heart disease and stroke are also significantly less than in North America.

Scientists from France's CNRS (national scientific research institute) and the University of Pennsylvania investigated the winning weight loss ways of the French. Researchers weighed portions at 11 similar restaurants in Paris and Philadelphia and found that:

  • The average portion size in Paris was 25 percent smaller than in Philadelphia.
  • Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia served dishes that were 72 percent larger than in Parisian Chinese food restaurants.

A comparison between local supermarkets found that:

  • A candy bar in Philadelphia was 41 percent larger than the same candy bar in Paris.
  • A soft drink was 53 percent larger and a hot dog was 63 percent larger in Philly than in France.
  • Although the French diet appears to be higher in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, the research demonstrates they consume fewer calories, resulting in decreased numbers of overweight and obese individuals. In other words, unlike a majority of North Americans, our Parisian friends are eating until they are sufficed, not stuffed!

You Too Can Eat Like the French

Many North Americans have become completely alienated from their real hunger and dietary needs. We eat not for nourishment but from boredom, sadness, and frustration. We are bombarded daily by fast food advertising on TV, in the print media, and even in our schools.

To be as healthy as the French, we need to get back to the basics of eating with conscious awareness and mindfulness. By implementing the following steps, you can change the way you and your family look and feel.

  • Slow down at meal times. It takes the stomach at least 20 minutes to register a full signal in the brain. Instead of wolfing down your next meal or snack, try to make it last by focusing on chewing, using your utensils, and having a conversation with those around you.
  • Let yourself get hungry from time to time. Don't let the clock dictate when you should eat. It's okay to hear a little grumbling in your stomach.
  • If indulging in an occasional treat, watch portion size. Have a bite or two of cake instead of the entire piece.
  • Avoid eating in front of the TV. Mindlessly munching down foods will cause you to eat more.
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