I don’t know about you, but I’ve been indulging in a lot of sweets recently. My partner’s love language is definitely desserts, and he brings home a treat a day like a proud outdoor cat. Gaining weight is one thing, but the most obvious change I’ve noticed is increased breakouts. I’m not a disciplinarian by any means, but I’m ready to eat cleaner and feel and look my best… without sacrificing joie de vivre.
So how can you have your vegan cake and eat it too—without getting breakouts? I turned to the world experts in this particular quandary—the French. My years of francophilia has taught me that contrary to the popular myth, French people (of all genders) are secretly quite conscious of maintaining their physiques. French exes have surprised (dazzled) me with their lean muscles—and then by blurting out that those vegan chocolate cookies were breaking down their willpower, or mentioning that smoking curbs appetite. I didn’t know that “naturally lean” young men were even conscious of calories. Women, likewise, were more intentional about their “la routine wellness” than they gave away on the outside. These TikToks glorifying French people eating croissants every morning—such lies!
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The real French secret isn’t that they can eat and drink without consequences, but that they pay attention quietly and follow a mix of traditional, cutting-edge scientific, and New Age holistic advice. Here are some new healthy eating tips that are trending in France.
French tips to lose weight without “dieting”
Hydrate before meals
Back in 1954, Jacques Courtin-Clarins founded the celebrated beauty brand Clarins on the then-revolutionary idea that beauty, well-being, and health were one and the same. His descendant and medical doctor Olivier Courtin-Clarins, author of Beauty on the Plate (La beauté dans l’assiette), recommends drinking a tall glass of water 20 minutes before your meal. This sends satiety message to your brain so that you’re not tempted to overeat. Most of us are less than ideally hydrated, anyway. For best results, get up and try to drink a glass of water every hour throughout the day. Note: scientific research on this topic has yielded mixed results, with some studies suggesting that pre-meal hydration doesn’t affect energy intake. Personally though, I can definitely see how I mistake thirst for hunger all the time. Oops.
Move throughout the day
“Le sport ne fait pas maigrir mais il y contribue,” says French naturopath Mary Capelle in Vogue Paris. Translation: working out on its own doesn’t make one lose weight, but contributes to it. Take the stairs, walk to the grocery store, do your workouts at the gym or at home. My favorite is to take a walk or go on a bike ride with friends rather than automatically assuming we need to get a meal or a coffee to catch up.
Don’t eat if you’re not hungry.
Unpopular opinion alert! That means you shouldn’t eat breakfast unless you’re actually hungry. This is probably the most controversial advice on this list. Personally, I’ve found that this feels right for me. If I’m really hungry, I’ll make and eat pasta even at 10 in the morning. On the other hand, I might just have tea until noon or 1 p.m. if I’m not especially starving. And when you do sit down for a meal, wait a few minutes before having another helping—so you can decide if you need more food or you’re just stressed. (Guilty!)
Cook with less oil and drizzle it on at the end
According to Capelle, not vilifying oil and fats is important. Camelina (false flax), walnut, olive, hemp oil are healthy oils that can be consumed moderately. And heated oils that are used in cooking are worse for the body than oils that are added at the very end—for example, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on soup, gazpacho, or salad. Think: Buddha bowls with steamed vegetables and tahini sauce, roasted beets (no oil) sliced and drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some fresh mint leaves.
Set your GI with a low-sugar breakfast
A sugary and fatty breakfast sets up the body’s glycemic index at a high point. Then the body will try for the rest of the day to return to that set point. (The horror!) Instead of tartines with jam and fruit juice, try avocados, fresh red fruits, and chia puddings.
Don’t forget—if all else fails, sticking to a whole plant-based vegan diet is the best way to stay lean. It’s the most effective diet for weight loss compared to other regimens that don’t restrict calories or mandate exercise. Keep it simple and keep it plant-based!
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Photo: Laura Chouette via Unsplash