Yes, this is an organizing blog, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, I believe that we are organizing all the time. It isn’t something you do once in your life, only to your closet, and then you are organized. Organizing is really a lifestyle. And so, talking about how I organized 3 weeks of my life into the best diet ever, well, that fits right in.
The facts: I am a normal weight, working mom of two. As a writer, I probably sit at a desk more than some. As a professional organizer, I probably get more physical activity than some. I have a gym membership, and I use it about 8-10 days a month. I have hovered right around 128 for the past 5 years, when my ideal weight would be somewhere between 115 and 120. If any of that makes you snicker, please head over to the big ol’ internet. There are plenty of stories out there, and you can find one to inspire you. This is my story.
At home, I lead a fairly typical workaday American life. But when I get a chance to head to Paris, I am happy to act Parisian, and on this last trip, I came home 3 pounds thinner. Now, three pounds might not seem like a lot, but if you lost a pound a week for the rest of the year, how would that feel?
Experts recommend a weight loss of no more than 1-2 pounds per week to maintain muscle mass and overall health, and to avoid going into starvation mode.
I’m calling this my Paris Plan, because it is NOT a diet. It’s a healthy lifestyle. My tips start with…
Eat as much as you want, and always save room for desert. No, really, most days revolved around this cutie and her end-of-day gelato ritual, so I had ice cream every day. I just had a very small amount. And she always got the cone. 🙁 I know people talk about Bertillon ice cream in Paris, but we much prefer Amorinos.
Eat chocolate. Life is short. In France, there is an infusion of chocolate into everything, especially breakfast for some reason. Most cereals have not just chocolate flavor, but actual chocolate pieces. But I’m pretty sure that most chocolate, like what was in my pain au chocolat in the morning, is low sugar, high quality dark chocolate. So avoid the candy bar, and treat chocolate as a condiment, instead.
Walk everywhere. Paris is a very walkable city with functioning public transportation. I was in a car 4 times in 3 weeks. We walked in the rain. We walked in the sun. We walked in the dark. Biking is also common. And even grown men in sits are seen cruising the avenues on push-scooters. I never, ever jogged, although you’ll find plenty of Parisians do jog. The point is that you don’t have to look for ways to get your daily activity. It’s built into life in the city.
Never, ever eat or drink while walking. Maybe it’s the need to watch where you are going on uneven cobblestones. Maybe it’s just good manners, but you will very rarely see a Parisian eating or drinking while walking. They value the time to sit and savor their flavors. I had a really, really hard time with this one. For some reason, I always have a drink in my hand, even if it’s only water. But nutrition experts tell us that by sitting and slowly enjoying our food, we train our system to recognize full before we are actually stuffed.
Coffee is small and dark. Even if you order a decadent-sounding café crème, you are still only going to get a small cup, smaller than the smallest American size. There’s just not a lot of calories in those little cups. You can order a Starbucks, which are easy enough to find, and have “normal” American sizes, but if you need a larger drink, might I suggest to try a flavorful tea instead. Even sodas are smaller in Paris. And those smaller drinks are good for your waistline.
Take the stairs. Unlike the London underground or many US subways, hardly any of the Paris Metro stations have escalators up or down, so stairs it is. Also, most Parisian apartment buildings have no elevator. Pick your shoes wisely, and ditch your Fitbit. If you can’t make it to Paris, search out the stairs in your office building, parking garage and shopping mall.
Go half-sies. Meals in France are regular sizes. They haven’t super-sized everything, as we have done in the US, and you can still get two meals onto those little café tables. Even so, I had an agreement with my little travel partner to share every meal. That way we could order a dinner crepe AND a desert crepe, and not feel guilty about either. If you go to France, always mention “a partager” when ordering, so they know to bring you a second clean plate. Because Paris has a vibrant night culture, even in the neighborhoods, far from the tourist areas, you can always order something else later if you find that you are still hungry. Always under-order, and defer to rule number one, above.
Go “bio.” Most of the foods I saw were organic, or if not bio, then really fresh. Every neighborhood has fresh fruit and veggie stands. You don’t have to make a separate trip to get your 5-a-day. The metro station even had a fully outfitted farm stand, for goodness sake. It’s just crazy to go looking for unhealthy snacks when this fresh, ripe fruit is staring right at you!
Eat the bread, every day! Here in America we’ve demonized bread for some reason. In Paris, everyone buys a fresh baguette, or perhaps two, every day. My friend lives half a block from a wonderful bakery in her town. Every French town has one or more bakery. Since it is always fresh and soft, you don’t need butter. You tear your part right off the loaf with your hands, no cutting a slice. (My friends politely laughed at me when I tried.) Bread isn’t calories. It’s essential. It’s what fills in around the edges of a small-ish meal. It’s what the kids nibble on when they are being picky at dinner. It is natural, unpreserved, and it is always fresh. If you are lucky enough to have a local bakery in your town, start buying fresh bread, and you might be amazed at how good it tastes without any butter or spreads.
So there you have it, my Paris plan that allowed me to eat some of the best food in the world, and come back home three pounds lighter. I’m going to try my best to continue most of these habits at home, but really, I think it best to just go back more frequently for a refresher course.