France’s Workout Plan

Just before writing this post, I was driving in my car and Lo! – a radio advertisement about a new and practically pain-free way to shed unwanted pounds pulsed through the speakers. A woman’s voice repeatedly said something along the lines of, “Call 1-800-588-SLIM today to get the body you’ve always wanted!”

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

After a silent laugh, I wondered if you’d hear an advertisement like this while driving through French cities and towns. My intuitive answer? Probably not. “Probably” being the key word…

Anywho… whether it’s diets, diet books, diet pills, protein shakes, exercise regiments, personal trainers or the like, Americans seem to have an obsession with fitness in a way that is foreign to the French.

In an article on the author writes, “The French don’t need to don lycra bike shorts or join a gym — exercise is a way of life. And because it is, it seems they can pass the beurre (butter) and secretly laugh at our American obsession.”

(Note: This “obsession” probably has something to do with the popularity of Barbie, GI Joe, Michelle Obama’s arms, and the $33 billion Americans spend every year on diet books.)

So, what seems to be different about the French fitness attitude?

Some call the secret to the naturally healthy French way of life the French Paradox – an idea comprised of about four key cultural differences from the American way of life: a varied diet, portion control, red wine consumption and daily exercise (i.e. riding a bike or walking instead of driving – but no gym)

In a article, Claude Fischler, a nutritional sociologist at INSERM (the French equivalent of America’s National Institutes of Health) says some of the paradox is myth. Nonetheless, he says the French eat “Comme il faut”“As it should be.” He adds that unlike American women, French women eat exactly what they want and don’t spend hours at the gym trying to get in or stay in shape.

However, from one French blog I came across, this American diet/fitness obsession seems to be infiltrating the non-chalante attitude of the French…

Valerie Orsoni, French fitness guru, CEO and Founder of and said on her blog: “Votre coach et vous – blog minceur – maigrir vite et bien” : translation :Your coach and you – slimness blog – lose weight fast and well,” Orsoni discusses her life, companies and most recently, a new television fitness program based on her last book, “Secrets de Coach.”

One of the subheads of this book, as well as her blog is “…sans régime stricte.”

Translation : “…without a strict diet.”

Hmm…sounds a bit like the “practically pain-free” weight loss radio advertisement I heard in my car earlier.

So, to all American women (and men) bombarded with “how to get fit” books, diets, pills and media in hopes to achieve the perfect body, or to perhaps unlock the secret to French attractiveness, internalize the words of one young, French, Marie Claire intern:

I’ll tell you the secret of the French sexy way of being: Everybody thinks that we are. We call it an idée recue, an accepted notion. No matter if we are blonde, brown, tall, or small, from the moment we start to speak with the accent, we become the natural daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Coco Chanel. We aren’t. Really.”

6 thoughts on “France’s Workout Plan

  1. Pingback: Subken’s Blog » Blog Archive » Best Diet Supplement with Evercleans

  2. Dr. Lewis’s reponse to Kyrsten Skulborstad’s post is definitely an important reminder that our first world obsession with weight and work outs is not shared globally. As a specialist on Haiti I’ve long been aware that Caribbean societies tend towards the ‘macho’ and traditional as regards women’s roles. Dr. Lewis: Are the women you write about also working outside the home? Are there any Trinidadian women’s rights organizations that seek to address the inequities that you describe?

  3. Interesting. The Caribbean is a whole other anthropology and biology of weight, size and ‘exercise’. Unending toil in housework, yardwork, childcare, career, eldercare, grooming and ‘marital’ duties is expected ever more absolutely of women by men. Violence toward women and children is shockingly normal in Trinidad 2009 and I think, much of the Caribbean. “Secrets” are starting to come out thanks to a few brave souls, however there is no very organized campaign to end the violence and combat the inertia towards societal change which would benefit all. I am trying to organize a December 10th Amnesty International Global Letter-Writing Campaign event in St. James, Port-of-Spain. There is no one to speak for Caribbean victims who are chastised for even looking tired or saying one word against insane amounts of unending labor while the men (too many) drink rum and scotch, watch sports and ‘relax’ themselves. Caribbean Amnesty in London and Amnesty International USA would be very welcome to set up an office in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Can not one room be found in an embassy?

    It could make a huge difference.

    Regards and Best Wishes,
    Dr. Caroline M. Lewis

    St. James, Port-of-Spain
    Trinidad, West Indies.

  4. Greetings …. since you mention my name in your post I took the time to read it and I loved it 🙂

    If I only read your last paragraph I guess we can call it the “accent un-diet” 🙂

    Also for those readers who cannot read my blog in French there is an English version here:

    and I also posted your blog post to our fan page here:

    Contract your glutes while reading my answer that’s always something 🙂

    Have a great active day!
    Valerie Orsoni

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