Monday, August 30, 2010

The French Paradox

Obesity Rates Around the World
#1: The United States at 30.6%,
#2: Mexico, our neighbor to the South at #2: 24.2%,
#3: The United Kingdom, the loins from which our American culture sprang, at 23%. 
#23: France at 9.4%, trailing behind in one battle they can be proud to lose.  Heh, heh...OK, sorry, that was my one obnoxious comment about France for this post.  The point is, the French are significantly less obese, and considerably healthier.  
Funny Face
If you have never heard of the French Paradox, you ought to look it up here.  The French Paradox means that in spite of smoking more, drinking more (wine, anyway), and consuming four times as much butter and lots more saturated fats in general, the French have less coronary heart diesese and frankly enjoy their own daily lives much more than Americans.  This makes that 70 year old Tweedy man sucking on an unfiltered cigarette, swilling scotch while cutting into a rare steak saying, "I say, if this is going to kill me, let it kill me, but I am going to enjoy it while I am alive" seem much less cantakerous and more like the wiseman on the mount, does it not?  There is much to be said for the intuitive health found in doing what you enjoy.     

Sometimes I really wonder what the hell Americans are doing to themselves.  Americans have the most insane habit of forcing themselves to do things they do not enjoy because someone told them it was the most efficient/healthiest/most enlightened.  Please explain to me why anyone would force themselves to aquire a taste for diet drinks, or give up butter for magarine, or start eating tofu, or spend two hours staring at the wall of a gym on a treadmill rather than walking outside, or eat any food that has "fat free" on the label?  Americans turn everything, even things that are meant to be leisure, into work.  It is awful.  We work during vacations, we stuff down food while multi-tasking (responding to emails, reading, watching a show, standing, etc.), and view food more as fuel to continue working.  We are obsessed with gyms, dieting and working out, but we do not even enjoy the means to get there.  All work and no play means a lot of unfulfilled and bored people.  Or Jack Nicholson manically chopping through a door.

The French Paradox involves a mentality of leisure and moderation.  Americans have a bad habit of believing leisure means lazy.  The reality is that often the very things that naturally bring you joy and relaxation are the things that also keep you healthy and happy.  The French culture is about a genuine enjoyment of life.  Taste your food when you eat.  People are far less likely to overeat if they eat slowly, eat a variety of delicous food, and actually take the time to taste it.  Walk because you want to enjoy the activity and scenery, not because you are enviously envisioning Jennifer Aniston legs.  The French smoke because they enjoy the excuse for leisure and conversation it provides.  They drink wine with every meal, taking pride in learning what wine to pair with what entree.  This list just savors of moments of real pleasure in daily routine.  What are you paying attention to?  What is your focus every day?  If it is just to get through the day so you can sleep and start all over again, you might want to reassess lifestyle.  The French lifestyle facilitates what I think is the most valuable part of daily routine, and that is the ability to spend time of genuine enjoyment with people I love.

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