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by Carole Carson, AARP, November 3, 2008
Each year, I travel to Montpellier, France, where I visit my son, Steve; his French wife, Sabrina; and their two-year-old son, Matisse.
On a recent visit, surrounded by extraordinary hospitality, good food, and wonderful wine, I indulged myself. Breakfast was the first treat of the day, usually beginning with strong coffee, a croissant embedded with bits of chocolate, and a piece of fruit.
Lunches and dinners were more leisurely events and involved more courses. A typical meal might begin with an aperitif followed by a substantial entrée. The next course, a green salad, would be followed by bread and an assortment of exceptional cheeses. A round of fruit and yogurt might come next. Finally, an irresistibly beautiful dessert accompanied by rich coffee would end the meal. Each course was, of course, accompanied by wine.
At home in California, I drink wine sparingly, my coffee is weak, and lunch is a bowl of vegetable soup. But in France, I drank goblets of wonderful red or rosé wine almost daily throughout the two-hour, multi-course lunches and dinners. Plus, after each meal, I sipped delightful cups of dark roasted coffee.
How, I ask myself, can people eat like this and stay trim? That, of course, is the famous French paradox.
My daughter-in-law, for example, began her pregnancy weighing 99 pounds. Six weeks after giving birth to Matisse, she weighed one pound more than she did before her pregnancy.
I've decided the French paradox does not apply to tourists, or at least to me. Unlike my extended French family (including my son, who lost 30 pounds since moving to France), if I eat bread, cheese, wine, chocolates, and six-course meals each day, I do not stay trim. Instead, after 14 days in France, I came home two pounds heavier.
Without regretting the extravagances that resulted in the extra weight, I'm eager to resume my eating and exercise regimen. That may be the French paradox pour moi. Oui?
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