I had you at the title didn’t I? I think this can certainly apply to both men and women and all ages so listen up if you don’t want to be labelled the ‘fat anglais(e)” in the village. Okay so if you are planning a move to France you’ll probably think, like many before you, that the weight if you’re carrying a few extra pounds (who isn’t right?) will just fly off.
You will come to that assumption based on all the ‘running around’ you’ll be doing prior to the move and after. I always find this expression quite farcical it’s normally banded about after you’ve had a baby. People say “the weight will soon fly off what with all that running around after the baby”. Sorry what? Please show me a new mum that ran anywhere after giving birth and specifically after a baby that can’t move for the first 8 months. I digress.
I hate to break it to you but you won’t be running around anywhere in the UK or in France – okay maybe if you do the move yourself which we did. And if truth be told my arms were aching for about 3 weeks after and I’m sure I lost about 6lbs. That’s as good as it gets I’m afraid. If we hadn’t moved ourselves then I’m pretty sure all the farewell lunches and get togethers would certainly have taken its toll. Alarm bell number one.
There is no running around in the UK or France. There’s a lot of mental running around in your head but not so much the physical kind. There is no French magique baguette. Did you know that’s what the French call a wand? How cute is that?
Yarp there is no French magic wand that sprinkles its weight flying powers over you whilst lugging boxes and renovating. There is no magic that means by simply moving from an urban UK setting to the rural French countryside and all that fresh air, clean living will equate to “whoopsie look at that I’ve lost 2 stone.” Oh gawd how I wish it were true. How I wish I could say that this is going to happen but nope and I quote…
.…”oh everyone puts on weight when they first come over – I put on (enter amount) when we first arrived. We all do it.”
– Everyone I have ever met in Normandy –
So why? Why god why does this happen? Well let me tell you. Firstly, even if you don’t have kids you are going to be in your car a lot. Prior to our move, I walked pretty much everywhere. Everything was on my doorstep and I probably spent no more than £80 a month of diesel. A few months ago (when Master Normandy was still cycling) I worked out that I did just under 400 miles a WEEK in the car.
That’s a school run and back and then back to collect and back again. That’s a weekly shop following on from the school run and back. That’s a day out somewhere at the weekend or a cycling training session and a cycle race. Admittedly this has now been cut back a bit but your body will not be used to this if you weren’t already doing this sort of mileage. If you do then as you were.
And no we don’t all buy our local produce at the daily market with a wicker basket. I couldn’t think of anything worse. We do a big shop like the rest of you because it’s cheaper. So please get rid of any visions of you skipping out everyday to your village’s daily market because it’s a weekly market and you’re not getting toilet paper and all the other stuff you need here.
We frequent our local market infrequently and if we do its to treat ourselves to the French culinary delight that is a sausage in a baguette with chips. You will need to say how many portions you want about five times whatever your level of French is. I can phone various appointment type scenarios in French, manage myself quite well but when it comes to ordering a portion of chips no French person is letting you have them until you are humiliated into shouting out 3 with your fingers held up and muttering how f*&”!*! hard was that to understand? You may also find this problem at the cinema. I digress. Again.
Almond croissants. If you haven’t had one then fill your boots with them now. I had never had them before and to be honest they weren’t even on my radar. I just happened to get one at the best boulangerie in town. I cannot begin to describe the sheer amount of pleasure I got from the taste of this bad boy. Sorry Mr Normandy. I mean it was right up there with where have you been all my life.
However, I didn’t stop there. I began to ‘treat’ myself every now and then – except it was (I think it started in July last year) not a treat and started to become a couple of times in the week, breakfast and at the weekend. I was an almond croissant addict and there are no support groups for this out here. I suddenly realised the error of my ways in about November time when all my clothes had to be shoe horned on. Since then I am pleased to say I have gone cold turkey on the almond croissant front but I came dangerously close to getting to the point of no return. You have been warned.
But that’s just it – it’s all new. The supermarkets and their array of cakes. Now, if you like custard then you are in BIG trouble because every cake more or less has that stuff in it. I don’t even like custard and I still got fat! I tried the creamy paris brest’s instead or the ones that had squirty cream in. I mean who even likes squirty cream in the UK? No one! It’s like a last resort isn’t it when you’ve run out of the good stuff. Oh and you can’t get proper thick cream here even though we are in the land of the cows. Everyone drinks pasteurized milk and the fresh stuff is a treat and not consumed in 6 litre bottles.
Then there’s the crisps if you’re a crisp addict – tick! Oh, try some of these why don’t I. And yes I have and now that’s gone cold turkey as well. Plus prior to moving I had a personal trainer, worked out and also had a great eating plan that in no way involved bread or butter. By the way, the French do not have butter on their bread that is why they are not fat. If you get the traditional baguettes it’s all crust and no bread inside – again that is why they are not fat. Granted it’s coming to them fairly soon but at the moment they’re doing alright on the ratio of fat v slim people.
Now, I’m not a drinker really. If truth be told I rarely drink but lo and behold I discovered my love of panache – Shandy no less?! Yes good old-fashioned lemonade and a touch of larger. Like who even am I? Who is this woman? So yarp that’s gone. The pananches are out of it. I so wish I could say my weight gain is all the drinking but I can’t. Someone I met said, for the first 2 years they felt like they were on holiday, so had a drink most nights like you do until the buttons started popping off their clothes.
Before I forget this one, oven chips in France just don’t cook like they do in the UK. And they certainly don’t if you have a gas oven which has one setting = burn. So, a deep fat fryer is required to cook chips to taste anywhere near decent. Now would you be having deep fat chips in the UK every week? Probably not. My deep fat fryer broke and I now buy potato wedges from Aldi for our Fish and Chip night. If you need a fryer get the healthy version otherwise you to will be shoe horning yourself into clothes.
Yes renovating is using up energy etc but I am of the opinion its damage limitation. So much is going on – if you are a mindless snacker like me when things are going full pelt then it’s very easy to gain weight. The whole taking care of yourself kind of goes out of the window. My priority was moving into 3 rentals in 6 months, getting the kids extra French lessons, getting them settled in school, helping in the day at the house, adjusting to cooking here and all the new stuff, learning French and sorting out services.
Also you think “oh we’re in the countryside – lots of walking” but don’t forget you can get shot walking through the forest from September – Feburary if you’re not careful by the Chasse (hunters). In their defence it does seem here that they are very well organised – high viz jackets, signs etc but it’s not that easy just to go for a walk. You need to find your local safe places chemins (bridle paths), lakes, disused railway lines and the like as round here the roads are bendy and they’re hacking past you at 50/60mph.
I am happy to report though, after my rooky errors, that things are back on track. I do make sure I walk, I do go to a Zumba Strong class (even though I drive there and back!), I do go swimming with the kids in the holidays and I do just take myself off before lunch to have a walk up some steep hills. I do get out on my bike as I find it really safe here and I duck when out walking in the woods if I hear gun fire.
I have become a proper lunchtime French pumpkin when the church bell strikes 12pm. I down tools and have a lunch that does not involve bread. The best of all approach to losing weight here is to immerse yourself in the French way. Ask yourself would a French person be chugging down a bar of Cadbury’s at 10.00 am?
They’re not snacking on crap before 12pm because they know it’s their 2 hour lunch of starter, main, desert but small portions. They may have a snack at about 4ish well kids will but they’ll have their dinner later.
My friend always says make sure you don’t get a doll’s house cup of coffee of course she is referring to an espresso that you will get if you just ask for a coffee. It is a tablespoons worth and you’re meant to sit with that for a good half an hour. But even if you order large white coffee it’s still very small by UK standards and quite frankly that’s a good thing. There is no coffee and cake at 10/10.30 a, as who’s going to do that when they know lunch is not far off?
So there you have it basically don’t do what I did if you don’t want to get fat in France and do what the French do – small portions, eat 3 x day enjoy and eat whatever you want. Go for your walks, your clubs and get moving.
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