Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

(Half) Frenchwomen do get fat

Or at least this one does.

There has been a lot of talk the past year or two about the "French secret" or the "French Paradox" and how French women stay so slim.  I'm not going to go into that - though I will say that most of the French women I know here are average-sized, and the ones who are very slim follow the cigarette and coffee diet.

But this post is unfortunately about me, and how one day late last summer, I had a wake-up call and realized I'd gotten to be quite fat.  You see, C and I had recently gotten back to the US and we were heading over to 10th to take advantage of the last summer days in Paris and to catch up with a few friends.  As we exited the metro, a guy (who was obviously homeless and drugged out of his mind) did not appreciate us following him up the stairs.  He turned around and started spewing insults, mostly at me, telling me I was fat as a truck and ugly and that I should be ashamed of myself.  This went on for a few minutes. C was preparing to punch the guy, but I convinced him it wasn't worth it (and as an ex-policeman, he knew the paperwork that would lie ahead), so we slowly backed away and just let him continue up the stairs ranting and shouting more insults.

As we finally exited the metro, I looked at myself in the store window across the street and realized what even a coked-out homeless man could see - I was fat.  And I immediately felt utterly and severely ashamed 1) that my husband had to witness that exchange, and 2) that I had sort of let myself go without realizing it.  I remained semi-distracted for the rest of the day, clouded in shame.  Seriously, la honte. Even thinking about it today stresses me out.

The next morning, I went out and immediately bought a scale, and my heart dropped after stepping on.  How did I let things get so out of control?  Sure, I work from home, which makes snacking a lot more tempting, and sure I travel a lot, which means I spend about half of each month eating in hotels and restaurants. But how could I not have noticed?  And my poor husband - he was so handsome and fit, and here he was with a fat wife.  Maybe I was just in denial the whole time, refusing to see what everyone else saw?

A lot of you might not know, but I practically lived on ice skates from the time I was 4 until I graduated from high school.  I've never been a naturally skinny girl, and being in the spotlight in an itty bitty skating costume made me very self-conscious, so I spent the majority of my high school years living off an apple and a bag of skittles per day.  How I ever had the energy to skate several hours a day is beyond me.

That continued on into college, where I studied nutrition.  As a side note, in my experience, 90% of people who study nutrition do it because they are control freaks and manic about food.  Only a minor 10% have a normal, healthy relationship with food, and are in it because they are actually interested in helping people.  The rest all have food issues and/or just want to know how to stay skinny.

When I moved to France and realized that 1) my town did not have a gym and 2) low-fat foods didn't exist (remember, this was 10+  years ago - things have changed a lot since then), I decided to give myself a break.  I ate what my ex and his family ate, and I drank what they drank (which in Bretagne, was quite a bit lol).  And thus began the start of a very slow weight gain.  We didn't have a scale, so I didn't monitor my weight at all, but looking back now, I probably gained 2-3 kgs a year.  Those darn kilos can really get you - when you grew up in pounds, one little kilo just seems to be so much less to worry about.

However I was oh-so-wrong, and it all added up to an almost 25kg weight gain.  There, I said it.  And yes, it still pains me to put it out there.  But if I'm writing this today, it's because I didn't want to make any more excuses. It was time, I wasn't getting any younger, and it was just going to get more and more difficult to do as time went on. So starting at la Rentrée, I put myself on a very strict diet, and combined with a whole lot of exercise, I lost every single one of those kilos plus a few more.  It took me 25 weeks, or a little over 6 months, with an average loss of 1kg (2.2lbs) per week.

So voila another reason posting has been light the past six months - it wasn't just school, or work, or our apartment purchase, it was also the very little free time/energy I had after all the calorie counting, meal planning and working out.  I flat-out simply didn't have any brain power left to think up interesting blog posts!

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Blogger Lil said...

You've taken on the challenge with much courage ma belle - you are (and were) beautiful! Do sneak in a little treat now and then so I don't feel quite so bad about my lack of discipline when it comes to eating healthily and get some sportive activities going ;)

April 1, 2014 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger melinda said...

you looked very svelte in last pic u posted....bravo

April 1, 2014 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Well done, Sam! Hope they stay off now too. :)

I found my weight creeping up a bit at the beginning of the year so took action - not dieting but just a change of eating. Worked a treat.

April 1, 2014 at 5:01 PM  
Blogger Tim Dudek said...

It is amazing how those pounds/kg can just slowly add up. You go into the store and have to buy a size bigger deluding yourself that you will lose the weight soon. Then the next time you have to buy another size. I gained 40 lbs over about 4 years. Eventually I had to just look in the mirror and acknowledge that I had become a giant blob creature. I haven't had as much success losing it as you have but I am working on it.

Confused about one thing, why is this labeled April Fools? If some part of it is a joke I didn't catch it. I still remember the great April Fool's day joke when you said you were getting back together with your ex.

April 1, 2014 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Well done! And thank you for posting this. I really relate...

I had the same realisation at la rentree in 2011. I was naturally skinny all throughout high school and when my metabolism slowed down and the weight started piling on I just. didn't. notice. And moving to France didn't help! Although the French knack for brutal honesty did... I was shocked when my doctor told me I needed to lose weight. I bought a set of scales and realised in the past six years I'd gained 15 kgs. Like you I started eating more healthily, exercising, learning about calories... and within four months I'd lost 10 kilos. I'm not nearly so careful about what I eat these days but I am a LOT more active which has helped me maintain my weight.

It's really strange to see pictures of myself from 3 or 4 years ago and wonder how I could have been so oblivious? At the same time I'm grateful I was able to get to the age of 24 without ever worrying about my weight.

April 1, 2014 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger The Paris Chronicles said...

You have all my admiration on your amazing loss. 25 kgs is enormous, and to do that over a year means you worked hard, each and every day, consistently. That is no small feat but you will feel the rewards of this work for the rest of your life. I'm glad you did this now, while you are young, so you can now go out and enjoy your new body and (most importantly) health and mobility.

Paris is a harsh society for women who fall outside the beauty-norms, and you've just spared yourself more jabs and asides from people who think it is their right to comment on your physical presentation.

I'll bet you feel fantastic and accomplished! You deserve to. Well done, Ksam.

April 4, 2014 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Quantumhollapena said...

Absolutely amazing job Sam! I recall seeing your post-masters pic and thinking "wow, Sam looks great, I wonder if she lost weight?" Kudos for you for putting yourself out there, as women, we've almost all been there at one point or another. I, for one, have never totally lost all the weight I gained in France so many years ago... I've yoyo-ed a bit back and forth, but can't seem to maintain a lower weight, and I'm personally eating and exercising more than I ever have. A part of me has come to terms w/ the fact that I'll likely never be the weight I was in high school/college again...

April 4, 2014 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger Quantumhollapena said...

**eating better :)

April 4, 2014 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger corine said...

Samantha, as we say in France: "tu es quelqu'un d'exceptionnel".

April 4, 2014 at 9:07 PM  
Blogger Sara Louise said...

I put on ten pounds when I moved to France! I always say, "French women may not get fat, but women who move here do!"
Good luck! :)

April 10, 2014 at 11:41 PM  
Blogger Michele said...

I've been meaning to leave a comment for weeks but am just finally getting around to it.

First of all, that's impressive to have lost so much in so short a time!

I know exactly how you feel. I never talked about it on my blog (couldn't get up the courage so I must admit I think you are very brave), but I came to a similar horrible realization shortly after moving back to the US...I was fat. Very fat. Years of 2 week vacations back to the US and trying to eat everything I had missed for a year in such a short time had ended in me gaining an obscene amount of weight. So, shortly after my return to the US, I decided to get serious and fix the problem. It took me longer than you, but in the course of a year I managed to lose 35 kilos. 35...I still can't believe I let myself get that bad! Now I'm back down to the weight I was in my early college years, but I still wouldn't mind losing another 5 kilos or so to get back to my high school weight.

I can relate to so much of what you said. Especially the feeling of shame. I still feel so ashamed I ever let myself get that big. And I hate it when people congratulate me on losing so much or tell me I did a great job or that they are proud of me. Proud of what!?! There is nothing to be proud of...I only corrected a problem that was entirely of my own making and that I let get completely out of control.

But nonetheless, despite any feelings of shame or guilt, it still does feel great to have lost the weight in the end!

May 1, 2014 at 11:34 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Ugh Michele, you took the words right out of my mouth! I had no idea, thank you for sharing (or maybe more so commiserating with me lol).

May 6, 2014 at 12:20 PM  

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