What is it about Hallmark Channel movies that suck me in like a Hoover vacuum? In Alaska, while we have Dish Network, our remote location and rather large dish left us without some kind of dongle-connector-channel-flux-capacitor that kept us from viewing a select few channels.
(The Alaskan dish setup is somewhat of a phenomenon to me; the dish points down at the ground versus up in the sky. I keep expecting to get interrupted tele- signals from the land down under.)
Long boring story short, I am Hallmark Channel deprived when we are there. So now, being in Florida, I have been a bit DVR happy with the sappy Hallmark movies. However, this does bring me mental happiness and a brain break from my other tasks during the day...very important!
The other night I was watching this one particular movie about a French chef who was struggling to keep her fancy restaurant open. Meanwhile, the firefighter hottie (there is always one of these), opens a casual burger-type joint next door (wildly successful, of course). After some spatting, disagreements, and flirtatious behavior, they finally connect, and ready for it....fall in love (gasp!). Hey, don't be embarrassed if you saw and got enmeshed in this move too.
As I watched the lovely French chef make all kinds of meats, cheese sauces, and full-of-fat butter dishes, I started reflecting on the irony of the overall good health of the French versus the low-fat American diet which has led to obesity, coronary disease, and other health issues. (We call this the “French Paradox”.) This sappy movie reminded me that my own decision to eat more grass fed meats, butter, and healthy fats was probably the best decision I have made in a long time to improve my health issues. I will admit that before, I also trended toward margarines, vegetable oils, and deceptively lower-fat packaged products. I thought this was the right thing to do based on food pyramids and mainstream media advice. I was wrong, and my body hath spoken.
So let's talk French Paradox for a moment. How can they eat all the good stuff and not look like the Michelin man?
1. They eat REAL, fresh food and spend time preparing their meals. Rarely do you see anyone eating something deep fried or from a box.
2. Families eat together and they eat much smaller portions. (Bigger is not better!) Meals are served in courses, thus one has a longer time to digest and note to self when full.
3. They eat saturated fat (cheese, butter, meats), but remember, portion control, portion control, portion control. They also eat a heck of a lot more fruits, vegetables, and fiber rich foods than most Americans do.
4. They mindfully eat and savor their food. That means no TV or reading, taking an actual lunch break from work, enjoying the meal, putting the fork down between bites, and really tasting the food versus inhaling.
5. They eat 3 well-balanced meals a day, usually home cooked.
6. They eat slooooowly and when they are hungry versus being 'bored'. (Not sure the French define 'bored'.)
7. They use a lot of herbs and spices, versus salting to death.
8. Fruit is dessert most days. Every so often a nice French pastry with real butter and cream is warranted, but there are no cookies, chips, and candy shoved in office drawers for snacks.
9. There is some epidemiological data that suggests the protective polyphenols of red wine help explain the paradox of eating more 'fatty foods' while having less cholesterol and instances of heart disease. French people love their red wine, but they know their limits. Please don't decide that if you just drink a lot red wine all will be good. That is not the point! Alcohol is not helpful to many people.
10. Beverage choices are water, coffee, and red wine. Again, think moderation for the latter two.
11. They walk everywhere. Granted, unless you live in a big city, this may not be practical. However, take the stairs, walk around your office building or home, get some exercise every day.
So before you start sending me hate mail about how if life is so wonderful in France, I should pick up and move there, consider that we can learn some healthy habits by observing what is beneficial in other cultures and apply it to ourselves. We don't need to relocate, we just need to make better lifestyle choices.
Until next time...
Health Assist. http://www.healthassist.net/food/french/french-paradox.shtml
Dr. Stephanie Sarkis. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200903/mindful-eating-the-french-paradox
Stefano Vendrame. American Society for Nutrition. http://www.nutrition.org/asn-blog/2013/01/the-french-paradox-was-it-really-the-wine