Food Wars: USA vs France

"French women don’t get fat. It’s a phrase forever immortalized thanks to Mireille Guiliano’s popular 2004 'non-diet' book, but as a stereotype I have to admit it’s surprisingly accurate. This is not to say that all Parisians look like size zero fashion models, but rather that in the months since moving here, the only severely overweight people I’ve seen are all tourists. Given that the reputation of the national cuisine is built upon buttery pastries and creamy sauces, the idea of perpetually svelte citizens presents a curious dichotomy. But a closer look at French culture reveals a combination of principles and common sense that optimize both physical health and overall well-being, critical elements that the diet-related disease-ridden and fat-shaming society of America could learn from."

- via Highbrow Magazine

After my editor over at Highbrow Magazine caught wind of the fact that I'm an American in Paris, she asked me to compose an article comparing the two cultures when it comes to food. Now, I previously wrote a semi-serious post about what I miss about America, but food culture is not one of them. What do I mean by this? There are many foods readily available at home that I would kill for right about now (see: peanut butter, bubble tea, yogurt-covered pretzels, extra sharp cheddar cheese, the list goes on), but it's the rituals, stereotypes and double standards surrounding the practice of eating that I can't stand.

Simply put, eating is not viewed as a pleasurable activity by American society. This has a lot to do with the media, I suspect, but there is also the fact that as individuals we tend to place arbitrary restrictions on the foods we eat in oft-misguided attempts to be "healthy." (See: girls who don't eat "carbs").

As a girl I've always found it unfair that, in general, guys can eat as much as they want and no one will comment on or judge them for it. Second and third helpings are totally acceptable for them. Whereas if I, God forbid, finish off a bag of chips, an onlooker would probably say something to the effect of, "Damn, you really went to town on those." (That actually happened once. It wasn't chips but it still bothers me because the obvious implicit meaning was "OMG why are you eating so much, stop it"). 

In that memorable instance it was a guy who said that to me, but girls are equally hard on themselves for what they perceive to be bad tendencies. The conflation of weight and diet is really key here and, yes, the two are related but not as directly as most would like to believe. (Never underestimate the power of genetics, people). I grew up being very sensitive to these issues, having spent almost half my life as a competitive gymnast and then a few odd years as a college cheerleader, and I'm sorry to say that I wasted a good portion of that time being preoccupied with them. But no more.

In the words of Emma Stone, "Life's too short. So eat the damn red velvet cupcake."

Or, in my case, I guess it would be pain chocolat.