It appears, some French women do get fat and they go to Weight Watchers meetings.
Upon my return to Paris a couple of weeks ago, I decided there were a few things I wanted to change as I settled back into some semblance of a routine, and my eating habits were among them. See, despite what everyone thinks about walking a lot in Paris and or living in hilly Montmartre, an American girl can easily gain more than a few extra pounds when faced with vast varieties of cheese and baguettes at literally every turn. Somehow, all that I’d learned as a one-time Lifetime Weight Watchers member—Choose between bread, wine or dessert when out to dinner! Drink lots of water! Eat filling foods! etc.—had been packed away in storage with the rest of my former life.
All bets were off as I became a growing gourmand: out for dinner and lunch at least three times a week, choosing the prix-fixe menu when offered—appetizer, entree and dessert!—buying cheese and bread from places where there’s no nutritional information, leaving me absolutely no choice but to consume without calculating. Furthermore, while this “interest” was adding to my waistline it was also seriously decreasing funds from my bank account. Something had to shift.
Before I go any further, I know what many of you are thinking: “You’re in Paris! C’est la freakin’ vie!” Also, “You’re so small! Stop your complaining.”
Well, Paris is now the new New York. At least for me. For others, Paris is the new London or Melbourne. Or Paris is just Paris, meaning an ordinary (OK, extraordinary-ordinary) place to live and try to get by and feel good about oneself. A place one maybe takes the metro instead of walking, or the elevator instead of the steps. A place one doesn’t necessarily grab a croissant on the way to the metro everyday, just as New Yorkers wouldn’t grab a dirty water dog on their way from the subway at day’s end. That said, there’s no, “When I get home I’ll do a cleanse.” While I may not be in Kansas anymore, I’m pretty sure cleanses are not the norm at this here new home in Paris.
In terms of the “small” comment, this is true. I am a vertically challenged person. But that’s the thing: People don’t grow taller after a certain age. They can, however, grow wider. Or cushiony-er. And as a “small” person who likes to eat cheese, bread, and chocolate while (comfortably) wearing “skinny jeans,” this can become troublesome. Lastly, it isn’t necessarily about the number, but feeling physically comfortable and having an emotionally stable relationship with food. Really, really good food. And some of us have metabolisms that require some guidance in that department. (And to all those who don’t: I HATE YOU.)
Alas, pants and tops have become tight and I recently woke up to discover the reality of a bad dream I had about how much I weighed. Despite my love for shopping, I’d always told myself I wouldn’t succumb to defeat by buying new clothes for an expanding waistline. Plus, I figured signing up for Weight Watchers here in Paris would present me with results in various forms: weight loss, comprehension of the metric system and French lessons. After all, the meetings would be in French, oui? Oui, bien sur.
And therein lies the first problem.
While many of you who have heard me speak French think I know the language well enough to understand the weekly theme or express why I had trouble refusing the chevre at a recent soirée, you’d be mistaken. To give you a better idea of what I heard during the meeting, consider it something like this:
“Blah blah blah blah blah carrot cake blah blah blah a lot of sugar blah blah blah but what about the flour? blah blah blah carrot cake blah blah blah it’s American blah blah blah.”
Essentially, I hear words and phrases as opposed to complete sentences. By the time I’ve managed to string them together into some semblance of a coherent statement, they’ve moved onto something else.
From the aforementioned mishmash, I surmised that this person had a recipe for this American treat called carrot cake that she seemed to think was delicious and low in points because while there was a lot of sugar, there was little flour and, of course, carrots—a filling food (hurrah!). I wanted to pipe in and say a true carrot cake likely wasn’t light on flour, and also had delicious cream cheese frosting, but my attempt to call myself “une membre de vie”—a lifetime member—when checking in didn’t go over well, so I didn’t think “fromage sucre” would settle for frosting.
Instead, I sat in the meeting not saying a word, attempting to gain some insight from their discussions on how to lose Parisian pounds. Sorry, grams.
And therein lies the second problem: conversions.
While I said I wanted to learn the metric system I lied. I feel as if I should learn the metric system, just as if I should watch local TV instead of streaming American shows, or I should learn how to properly tell time via the 24H clock and state the weather in Celsius versus Fahrenheit. It’s all just too much math for me. (Though, I actually have adjusted to the latter two.)
Speaking of numbers, I didn’t even weigh in! When I arrived, there was a line, which I waited on. But by the time I got to the front, the meeting was starting and my attempt to explain my situation in Franglish (longtime member, not French, don’t have the app or a plan, etc. etc.) to a woman who only understood French was taking too long. Furthermore, I was dismayed by the fact that everyone was weighing themselves with their shoes on! I was so shocked that I even Google Translated what was written on the scale to make sure it was, indeed, required to step on the scale avec les chaussures. (Despite the fact that I was watching everyone in front of me get on with their shoes.) American “weight watchers” know shoes add a significant amount of weight, which will likely vary each week depending on what shoes one’s wearing. (Cause it’s always different right? RIGHT.)
Needless to say, while my intention to rejoin Weight Watchers was pure, it will not be realized. (Sorry, Oprah—but YOU GO GIRL!) I did buy a “Best of 2015” cookbook (en Francais), which clued me into some portion sizes and suggestions for ingredients since trying to decipher between the “low fat” milk and “full fat” milk is a process in and of itself. And going forward, when eating out (not as often!) I will definitely try to be more cognizant of how much I’m ordering and eating in addition to what. So overall, the experience wasn’t a total Fail. If anything, going to the meeting confirmed that things aren’t always as they say in the magazines or books, meaning that not all French women are perfectly thin with incredible skin and impeccable wardrobes and the ability to have restraint over that caramel with salted butter eclair. Turns out they may be eating carrot cake, but they’re counting their persos (points) too.