I may have touched on this a bit before, but since I’m an au pair and I live with a host family who provides my food for me, I’m often at the mercy of whatever is available or made for me as my only option for food. My host mom is an amazing cook (she always says she would have loved to be a chef/restaurant owner in another life) and I am lucky to be surrounded by such tasty meals all the time. The thing is, as is the case with most gourmet eating, the emphasis is mostly on flavor and not so much on nutrition or health, and this is especially true in France, where people eat for pleasure above all else. Typical French cuisine consists of copious amounts of red meat, butter, creme fraiche, cheese, bread, and wine and I’m really starting to understand why people are so constantly blown away by this so called “French Paradox”… despite this insanely unhealthy diet, French people are not generally overweight! Now, I don’t know the stats on heart health in this country, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the numbers are not so pretty. French people insist that they are healthy, but I just think thats bullshit, to be perfectly honest. I think they smoke enough cigarettes to keep their appetites at bay and they probably walk enough in a day to reduce the obvious effects of the food they put into their bodies, but still, their diets are pleasure and flavor based, and thats it. I mean, they do know how to enjoy “the finer things in life”, thats for sure.
Anyway, tangent. My host mom is an amazing cook, and in general her cooking is healthy enough (and incredibly tasty), but considering my “dietary needs” (cholesterol, which she knows about) and my general desire to lose a few of the pounds I’ve gained since coming here, I feel like things could be quite a bit healthier. Its tough, though, to make special requests in a culture and in a family that values food in such a sensory and emotional way, so I’m just trying to find my balance… allowing myself to enjoy and partake in meal times like any other member of the family, while mentally setting limits for myself and making small efforts here and there to improve my meal in a way that works best for me. It’s really not easy, and I struggle with it every single night. But every dinner time, I hope it will be a little easier than the night before.
Tonight was one of these typical struggles for me, and I am proud of myself for being strong enough tonight to set a few small, but symbolic limits for myself. Dinner was homemade pizza tonight (thin flaky crust, pasta sauce, cheese, sausage, chorizo, ham, tomato), which is incredibly hard to resist, of course, because its pizza and who the hell doesn’t love pizza? I had one slice (about the size of two small slices) and I filled up the rest of my plate (and my stomach) with green beans and lots of water. When I was offered a second slice, I immediately felt the guilt I always feel in refusing food from my host mom, so I initially said “yes, but just a small one”, and as she was cutting the pizza, I sat there and momentarily thought about why I was accepting another slice, I asked myself if it was worth it for my body and my heart to eat that, and I wondered if I would be strong enough to change my mind and eat more greens instead. To be honest, I thought about this blog a lot, and of those small handful of followers I already have, and of the promise I made a few posts back to be honest with myself and with you, and I knew I wouldn’t want to come here defeated. So I politely said I had changed my mind because I realized I had eaten enough, and alas, I said no to more pizza, and that, my friends, is a miracle.
For the second course (since there is always a second, and often third or fourth course here in France), I had a plain yogurt along with the girls (they added sugar or preserves to theirs but I opted out and I’m proud of that!), and I again said no to dessert! Another miracle.
Maybe the pizza was not the best thing in the world for me, but I think I handled it as well as I could by filling up on fiber-full greens (fiber helps keep you full!) and getting some decent protein and calcium from the plain yogurt as my “dessert”.
This is the type of hurdle I have to learn to overcome, and every day is an opportunity for me to learn just a little bit more, about my own ability to assert some type of control over my health, even when it is mostly outside of my control. As I said before… “If it is important to you, you’ll find a way…”