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  • Do Watch the Clock

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Thursday, November 22, 2012 11:34 am Email this article

    ​Many years ago when I was beginning to treat obesity, I gave advice that sounded reasonable but had not been tested. For example, I told patients to "eat when hungry and stop when full". Seems reasonable, right? but the advice was wrong. Following it, my patients gained weight. And I told patients not to follow the clock; if it’s lunch time and you’re not hungry, don’t eat lunch, I said. I thought that was a good idea, too, but it was a disaster. I should have known better–the idea is un-French. People reading this blog know the lifestyle of French women is ideal. I have given plenty of evidence. In particular, they don’t skip meals.

    Since not following the clock was bad advice, "do watch the clock" must be good advice per the Seinfeld Principle. You don’t have to munch much lunch if you’re not hungry, but you should not skip meals.

    Have breakfast. The French have coffee and a pastry or an omelette, NOT a pastry and an omelette. You don’t have to eat what the French eat. Eat what you like. But don’t overeat and don’t balance meals.

    Have lunch. In France everyone takes two hours for lunch, eating a reasonable-size portion of tasty food AND talking to friends or making friends or reading the newspaper, enjoying nature or art, in other words, relaxing. Americans never relax. They burn out quickly.

    French school children get two hours for lunch. You say they aren’t learning? Yes they are. They are learning how to be social, and how to cope with life, lessons Americans need. The French educational system is designed to produce thoughtful, happy people. This year on the baccalaureate exam, graduating high-school seniors had to write essays on questions such as "Do we have the obligation to seek the truth?" "Would we be more free without government?" "Elucidate a text from ‘Emile’ by Rousseau." And that was the BAC-S for seniors going into science or engineering! Could an American senior do that? Could an American engineer do that? No. Because to do that, you have to have two-hour lunches. You have to trade ideas with people, debate and dream. The U.S. educational system, instead, is designed to produce thoughtless workers, to make the rich richer. Not to make anyone else happy. Americans are lonely, overworked and miserable. Hence so much obesity.

    Have dinner. French adults have dinner at 10 PM. Again social, reasonable. Young children eat a small meal, called le gouter, around 5:00 since they can’t wait so late to have dinner with their parents. The French do not snack. Snacking is wrong because it keeps insulin high. You need insulin to be low between meals. You cannot lose weight unless the insulin in your blood is low.

    I have to qualify all that. French teens and twenty-somethings and the foreign-born in France are beginning to follow the American example of a short lunch and lots of snacks. A recent article said that 40% of young French people eat lunch in front of a computer or TV screen. Until now I could not find a noun for ‘snack’ in a French dictionary, but now the young are using the word le snack. The older French abhor foreign words so this year they have tried to introduce a new word, la grignotage. Writers add an appositive to explain what the word means since older French people don’t know the concept. Which word will win out, snack or grignotage? You should bet on le snack.

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