Relaxed Eating-The French Paradox

Posted by Marjolein Brugman on Monday, July 5, 2010

Why are the French able to sit down to meals with tons of rich foods and plenty of wine and cheese without gaining weight?  Research has shown that if you eat in a relaxed manner you will not only lose weight and increase your metabolism you will improve your health and possibly even lengthen your life span.

Studies on the French, who seem to live longer and healthier lives, show the following statistics. 


  • Only 7% of French adults are obese
  • They consume only 7-pounds of added sugar per person, annually, compared to the US who consumes 152-pounds per person, annually.
  • When comparing Parisian portions to American, the American serving size is 25% LARGER.
  • Most French families eat together and it has been shown that socialized eating that focuses on relaxation and enjoyment, improves digestion and increases metabolism
  • Research shows that positive attitudes associating pleasure with food, definitely supports digestion

Studies have shown that Digestion actually begins in the brain at the first thought of eating food. When the brain is involved digestion is improved by 40%. It has been shown that all you have to do is think of or see your favorite food and you immediately begin to salivate which is the first stage of digestion. For more information on how we digest our food read, "How we Digest".

The French and most European families sit down together at the table for well-prepared, well thought out, enjoyable meal. They eat fresh, god made food prepared with love and the anticipation that it will be enjoyable. 

The French say they eat comme il faut, "the way it should be done", which has evolved culturally over many years.  They eat the largest meal at mid-day when digestion is at its optimum. 

When the brain experiences pleasure of any type, science shows that your blood flow increases, your digestion becomes more efficient, your stress hormones decrease and your metabolism increases. It has also been proven that after the brain the next step in digestion occurs in the mouth where essential salivary enzymes mix with the food to prepare it for the next phase and aid in registering satiation. Gulping and swallowing without chewing is a serious mistake causing gas and bloating and a never ending hunger or lack of satisfaction.

Many Americans skip lunch, work through their lunch or grab a quick sandwich on the run. They tend to grab fast food for dinner with each member eating alone and often eat while distracted by the phone or the television. There is little enjoyment of the food we eat and often it is swallowed without thoroughly chewing each mouthful.

A friend of mine, Susan, decided that she was going to become a mindful eater. Each time she would take a bite of food she would say, "Yummmm" over and over to herself, reminding her brain that she was eating and enjoying it!  Susan also visually arranged her food on a smaller than normal dinner plate.

She began to notice that her food started to taste so much better, that she started to crave healthier foods and that if she chewed each mouthful thoroughly and put her fork down between bites she actually ate less, felt more satiated and enjoyed her meals more.  

So make time to sit down to a meal and "Yummmm" your food, chew well, taste, smell, put down your fork and breathe.  Eating is more than simply ingesting calories.  It should be a total body experience that creates a pleasurable mind/body connection that nourishes you while creating healthy chemical responses in your body to improve your over all health, help you to lose weight and increase your longevity.


  • Put your fork down between bites
  • "Yuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmm" your food
  • Breathe and enjoy
  • Eat with family and friends
  • Turn off the TV
  • Chew each mouthful at least 10-20 times
  • Eat smaller portions
  • No skipping at least 3 small well balanced meals
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Eat all meals with protein
  • No snacking between meals
  • No second helpings without waiting 20 minutes to see if you are satiated
  • Smell and savor every mouthful


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