Only 10 per cent of French women are overweight. Fullfat foods can actually keep you slim for two main reasons. They keep you fuller longer. Foods such as butter switch on 'full' signals in your brain but 'diet' foods, which are nearly always full of preservatives or sugar make you hungrier. And fullfat foods are difficult to binge on. It's hard to eat too much strong cheese or dark chocolate.
In France, 76 per cent of women eat meals prepared from scratch at home. Meals from scratch usually contain less salt, sugar and preservatives. So prepare as many meals at home as you can. Don't add ready-made sauces to pasta or stir-fry dishes, just add fresh, natural flavour with some chopped tomatoes or chilli, garlic and ginger.
Although they don't diet, French women do watch their portions. A University of Pennsylvaniasurvey compared serving sizes in restaurants and supermarkets in Paris and Philadelphia, and discovered portion sizes in the US were 25 per cent bigger. They also found a supermarket soft drink in America was 52 per cent bigger than in France and a standard carton of yoghurt 82 per cent bigger. The bigger the serving, the more you're likely to eat, regardless of how hungry you are, so smaller portions definitely help with weight loss. Protein (chicken, fish and meat) should be the size of a pack of cards and you should never eat more carbs (that is, pasta, bread and rice) than what fits in one or two hands.
A typical French woman spends two hours over lunch. If you're always scoffing food, slow down and you'll lose weight. Try to make each meal last for at least 30 minutes and chew each mouthful well. You'll feel fuller quicker and the more you chew the more nutrients your body gets. If you find it boring to sit around eating slowly, ensure your meal turns into a social event. Turn it into family time at home or an opportunity to really catch up with old friends. Make the conversation long and interesting. Ever noticed that French spend a lot of their time hanging out at cafes and restaurants?
To help you look fabulous at 40-plus
Smoking: Puffing away speeds ageing internally and externally.