le Régime

le Lot

If you want to live in France, you need to get used to people speaking their mind.

Years ago when I was young and supple, I’d eat whatever I could get my hands on. And working in a restaurant, well, let’s just say that’s not the best food to eat on a long-term basis.

But I know all-too well about that because I was one of them. I’d cram foie gras, duck cracklings, and butter-roasted anything in my gullet whenever I wanted. And byy the time my shift was done, I’d head home, twist open a jar or salsa, rip open a bag of tortilla chips, and watch a few re-runs of unchallenging fare, like three episodes of Fantasy Island back-to-back, at 2am on the sofa, glued to the television, wondering at how many times they could work Barbie Benton into an episode while your brain turned to mush.

For a while, I worked in an Asian restaurant. People have this image of Asian cuisine as “healthy”, which some of it is. But without pointing fingers, a lot of it is deep-fried or cooked in gobs of chicken or pork fat. And peanut sauce? Don’t even get me started on what’s in that evil destroyer of waistlines. But when a cook hands you a platter of deep-fried shrimp toasts, who am I to refuse?

So when I left the restaurant business, I had a petit paunch. It wasn’t terrible, but was enough so that when I was heading to Mexico on vacation, I had to get rid of it tout de suite.

So I began exercising rather vigorously and lost around twenty pounds through hard work, lots of sweat, and most importantly, modifying the way I ate. Banished were the big glugs of olive oil in my soup. Instead, there was a gentle, golden swirl floating on top. Salads weren’t drowned in dressing, and I gave up my one-lobe-per-day foie gras habit. (I’ve also recently given up les chips since I moved from San Francisco, and for the most part, les frites, because it’s hard to find fries in Paris that you can’t tie in a smooth, unbroken knot and I’d rather bank those calories for salted butter caramels instead of limp French fries.)

Recently, I was stunned when two French people told me I was fat. One (Romain) told me I had a ‘petit boudin’ (little sausage) and another (Romain’s brother) said, staring at my stomach; “Tu as grossi, Daveed!”

Nice!

Granted comment #2 caught me in mid-yawn, when my stomach was, arguably, distended. But still, I’ve learned that the French aren’t so…uh, discreet when making personal observations. Sure, there’s a culture of not acknowledging things, like the icky doggy doo or whatever pas hygienic hijinks happen (I think that’s attributed to le privacy, or libérte, a concept that usually gets evoked when it’s your personal liberty, rather than the liberty of others), but still, as an American, where we’re used to “You look great!” and “Have a nice day! no matter how much you want to punch somebody out”—it’s an adjustment.

ptitplaisir

Yet in the interest of keeping Paris nice-looking for everybody else, and coupled with my shame trying squeeze into euro-jeans about a month ago surrounded by insanely-skinny men with 28-inch waistlines at the Printemps department store—who rub my nose in it by wearing their jeans barely clinging on, half-way down their torsos—I’m on a p’tit régime, a little diet.

(Everything in France gets diminuated: “…my petit accent américain, meeting a friend for a petit café, dealing with the petit problème at the bank, having un petit dessert…which doesn’t really exist, which is likely why I’m in this mess..taking a p’tit weekend. And see? Even the word ‘petit’ gets p’tit-d.)

So I’m watching what I eat for a while. Which is hard. Even though six-pack abs are called ‘tablets of chocolate‘ in France, I’ve got a bunch of chocolate bars stacked up and tempting me which will not likely give me les tablettes de chocolat if I work my way through them all. I’m baking and testing recipes day & night. And there’s all the wine being poured around here, which has pretty much replaced water in my life, except that which I use for making coffee. (If I could figure out how to get away with that, I probably would, though.)

And by the end of summer, I plan to be back in fighting weight. I’m going to do that by being a bit more restrained with the olive oil, the smears of salted butter on my morning toast, the cheeses (*sob*), and I’ll be adding an extra cube or two of ice to my glass of rosé from here on out.

You won’t have to suffer with me, though, as I’ve got plenty to write about in the pipeline already, plus a freezer-load of ice cream begging to be discussed.

I suppose I should feel fortunate to live around people that are so open about expressing how they feel—at least when it comes to pointing out my shortcomings.

And if I have an issue with that, as they’d say, well, that’s my own p’tit problème.

104 comments

  • Now i understand where the lebanese get their honesty (mostly about shortcomings) from as they were once a french colony :) And i also know exactly where you are coming from: I decided to quit smoking while working in a restaurant and justified the swapping of a cigarette for a bowl of seafood chowder on the hour. hey it’s just soup! Then when I asked my husband how my A** looked in “this” he said “honey lay off the chowder!” LOL. Anyway, best of luck!

  • Great post, as always. If the photos from your recent Club Med adventure are any indication, you look great. And I’m not just saying that because I am Americaine. I think part of it is that people are used to seeing you a certain way, and if you gain even the smallest amount – poof! – “tu as grossi!” Glad to hear you aren’t totally cutting out the good stuff from your diet. Everything in moderation, you’ll get there.

  • well.. well.. well – it’s nice to see that you are human, after all, Mr. Lebovitz.

  • Interesting post.

    Italians are the same way. I spent most of last summer in Puglia and was very self-consicous of my tiny spare tire (tiny, but a tire nonetheless).

    I guess it’s better than the attitude here in the USA. Here, it’s just understood that most people are overweight. It’s almost as if nobody cares anymore. Sigh…

  • if that man come with that food i’d be eating all the time!

  • Thanks for not being one of those food writers who says: “oooooh, I eat whatever I want in teeeeny tinnny portions of real food and never, ever, ever want any more. I am sooooo satisfied.”

    I think you may have intuited one reason why France has less of a obesity problem than the U.S. , although this is changing somewhat. There is more social pressure to conform to a certain body type, not just in the media, but socially.

    I know that most low fat foods are pretty dreadful, but you do have a lower fat/calorie apple dessert in your book, I remember, that I want to try.

  • Thank god you’re not peri-menopausal on top of it, David. Then life would really suck.
    Cheese is the hardest for me to give up. And wine. I could eat Epoisses every night of the week and not tire of it.

  • Loved this post. Funny as always. I wonder if the lack of personal criticism in America is not so much denial as it a wide spread self-esteem issue? Many people (including me) would be deflated after a negative comment about their body. You’re definitely a good sport.

  • As one who has to watch her weight like a hawk, you have my sympathies! It’s largely a matter of keeping track of what you do eat, so that the salted butter caramels and lobes of foie gras still happen, but just not every week!

    Seriously, if you find some delicious and slightly lower-calorie recipes while you’re working on losing the p’tit bédon, do share them!

  • In a way I prefer this sort of attitude…at least you know people are being truthful when they compliment your appearance! But being on the receiving end of a difficult truth is initially a bit heart wrenching. I perhaps will be joining you on a petite regime…after a summer of eating I think it’s probably time.

  • It’s great that you posted this because when reading your blog and your twitter feed, I often think to myself, “wow, he seems to always be eating, but never gains weight. So very French of him!” I used to be able to eat whatever, then I turned 35, and it got much harder. I recently went on a ‘diet’ where I drastically reduced the amount of carbs I was eating, with the exception of beans. The nice thing though was that I always gave myself 1 cheat day a week (usually Saturday) where I could eat whatever I wanted. It made Saturday a very special day!

    The reason there are so many overweight people in the US though is not because they are eating olive oil and quality chocolate, but because they are eating huge plates of processed meat, cheese and carbs. It is so drastically different from the way that food is appreciated in France. People in NYC are very weight conscious (to a detriment in some cases, I think) and more food conscious but not so with the rest of the country. It’s hard to get fresh, healthy, non-processed food in many parts of the US.

  • I’ve recently started working at a cheese shop and have been worrying about developing a petit paunch myself. There’s only so much triple creme cheese a girl can eat without it showing up somewhere.

    Luckily, the boyfriend has always felt I could use a little extra meat on my bones. He wasn’t a huge fan of all this New York skinniness. I’m clearly not worrying about it too much, I’m making mascarpone ice cream tonight, as a matter of fact (from your book).

  • Hmmm, this may have not been the best time to catch up on your blog while downing an egg, bacon, cheese sandwich (homemade of course). Yikes, if someone as svelte as you is scruntinized, I worry my next visit to the City of Lights may elicit calls for “Jabba the Hut go home!” I may have to join your pursuit as well; I’m just a few inches shy of shopping for caftans. Good luck.

  • I have just under three months to achieve my fighting weight before my trip to Paris. I have little faith in myself when it comes to this matter. Being completely food obsessed and happy about it doesn’t really help much. Good luck.

  • well, maybe you’re not fat, maybe you’re juste more moelleux et confortable than you used to be :D.
    I think you’re right about the honesty of french people, but I tend to agree with laura’s comment : at least you’ll know, when romain and his brother will say ” daveeed, you’re gorgeous !”, that they mean it for real :D.

    (By the way, dessert is masculine in french :) )

  • I love your usage of the word supple. It reminds me of a firm tomato. I guess we were all firm tomatoes back in our twenties? Also, I live in Mexico and Mexicans are the same way. They don’t shy away from calling anyone fat, although they tend to do it with affection. Being fat is cute here. And very, VERY few men have 28-inch waists.

    Buena suerte with your diet!

  • But you cut off the best part of that McDonald’s ad….the burger with tortilla chips on it! Gotta wonder who thought that one up.

  • Elissa: I don’t know if wine is all that bad. (Or maybe I just keep convincing myself of that?) But I had a friend back in SF that would not touch one bite of fat or bread or anything like that. He would, however, drink about 4-5 cocktails before and during dinner. When I told him that each one of those was like eating a Snickers bar, he didn’t believe me. I just need to convince myself now…

    krysalia: See? I was even trying to make that word bigger! : )

    Laura: Now I’m used to it. But it was hard when you spent all afternoon trying on clothes then come home with what you thought was great, to hear; “That’s doesn’t look good on you.” You have to be pretty fort to live here.

    Lesley: Well, our waiter at lunch today’s waist was about the size of my neck.

    I hate him.

  • You’re definitely not alone, Daveed. My French boyfriend often makes comments about my weight, even though I have lost weight since coming here. It used to drive me to tears but I’m getting used to it. Just today he informed me that my hair is too long and I should do something about it. Sigh.

  • I so understand… living in eastern France near the Alps means cheese, cheese and more cheese…

    I’d like to point you towards a solution that worked for me: the regime of the very French Dr Delabos – la chrono-nutrition. It has to do with eating certain things at certain times… and those things include cheese, meat, butter, oil, fruit, vegetables, pommes de terre, sorbet (even ice cream twice a week) AND chocolat!!!! for a steady loss of 700g or so a week, with no hunger, no lethargy, and the possibility of eating most anything you want as long as you do it at a certain time of day… :-)

  • Hi David,
    I wonder who has the ‘petit’ problem, Roman and his brother or you? If you are happy with your body shouldn’t it be your concern, not theirs? I worry in general about our obsession with appearances, and I truly believe happiness comes from the inside.

    Many moons ago I was around 48 kilos and everyone was concerned that I had psychological issues (you know slimming disease etc) I was totally obsessed with the bodi beautiful and I had lots of health issues, and I smoked a lot to curb my appetite, now I am close to double that weight, I quit smoking and I am as healthy as anything and really happy. I really believe beauty is on the inside…….and as my late grandmother used to say ‘eat a little of everything’

  • Ya know, husband and I always wondered how everyone knew we were American when we went to Paris…. It *might* be the fact that we were 40 lbs overweight, each. But, how did they know we were American when we went back in shape?????? ( maybe it was all the smiling we were doing.)

  • oh great!! a new diet blog. Let’s see if I understood you. Lots and lots of wine, eat the ice cream before it gets freezer burn (I love this dies) and soon my belly will look like a chocolate muffin (not the p’tit French ones but the humongous American ones) I think maybe something is lost in translation. I better head to the gym first.

  • Oh David I can feel your pain. Just had to go on a diet myself. On a sidenote I want to tell you that I love it that you throw the odd French word in here, I have already learned so much from you! As I am just learning French myself I already could say a couple of times “oh it must mean this and this in French, it says so on Mr. Lebovitz blog”. So when the Frenchies tease you next time about your French just remember that while maybe not being a native speaker yourself, you are already a French teacher to those of us who are just at the beginning :-) And for that a big: Merci prof Lebovitz ;-)

    Well, I think some of my French readers might have something to say about my French! But I think it’s important to try. I was going to start a parallel blog in French, but I think it’d take me a week to translate each entry~ dl

  • Sadly, there comes a time in life when everything we spent years building into solid muscle, becomes blubber that delights in moving south.

  • I for one would be happy to ‘suffer’ with you! Not that I want you to suffer, but you know what I mean, cutting back, excercising more – it is hard sometimes (always), especially the food bit.

    I’ve been watching Bill Granger on TV this week, and said to hubby I must cook from his books, he just has a enviable balanced approach to eating. So I cooked one of his very healthy stir fries tonight, and it was lovely. If I hadn’t followed it up with a berry crumble it would have been better, I suppose – but hey I’m half way there!

    The life of the sweet toothed, ah…

  • Well..I just tell people I’m actually a co-joined twin. It doesn’t appear apparent because it’s a cell for cell joining and there was nothing the doctors said they could do about it. So..back off..bucko! How could one diet away a twin? It would be murder and the right to lifer’s would be all over me!

  • David,

    I always figured you were a super fortunate soul who could eat all those ice cream and caramels without ever having a weight issue…

    I think you look great, but if you’re trying to lose a few pounds, just up the protein and veggies, eat moderate amounts of healthy carbs and fats, and lay off most of the sweets (and the wine) for a bit…usually works for me…not necessarily easy for a pastry chef living in Paris though!

  • You might need more than a “petit” willpower so let me add “un gros bisou alors!”.

  • Just before leaving for France my Doctor said – ” have a nice time but watch the wine and the cheese.” To which I replied that it would be the bread that would do me in over here. Unfortunately it is nearly everything – wine, cheese, chocolate, bread, pastries, – you name it I am eating it. I am an “every day at the gym” kinda person and now I am chasing two kids around Paris eating ice cream and not getting quite enough cardio to combat all those calories. But I am here for a finite amount of time so I will try to lose weight once I am home in October – just in time for the Halloween candy! I did bring my kids scooters so am now trying to get them to scoot fast around the Marais while I chase them at a semi-fast pace. It doesn’t work all that well!

  • Oh and btw – doesn’t that salsa burger with tortilla chips from McDo look disgusting? I caught a glimpse of it in the metro today and it looked foul!

  • I’m not even going to say where my mind went when I first read that Romain accused you of having a ‘petit boudin’. Nope, not saying a thing. ;-)

  • Haha, story of my life! It is a constant battle with my cake plate and my waistline. I’m fully aware that I’m a single mommy, and 14 pounds of brownie weight ain’t helpin no one!

  • Collette: Well, I may get personal around here, and in my Paris book, but that’s something even I wouldn’t talk about here.

    Yet maybe I should. But I’d likely loose three-quarters of my readers…although on the other hand, depending on the “details” about mon boudin—I might gain a few!

  • I love your writing, Mr. Lebovitz, but I have to disagree with you just a little here. Even though one’s health and aesthetic appeal are definitely very important, I think that a quality of life and happiness should also be considered. A good culinary experience is one of the greatest joys in life. I could go on and on about how some of my fondest memories are with food; don’t even get me started on the sensory and emotional delight of a great meal! Although I care about my figure, I find that it’s not worth it to give up some foods. I am somehow able to maintain a 5’7″ size zero figure and still eat things I love (cheese and chocolate top the list). I think it’s important to eat healthy and naturally most of the time, but also to indulge occasionally. There is a lot more satisfaction in it.

  • Being Asian, I’m totally used to seeing a relative or family friend and having the first thing out their mouth be “You gained weight!” Mind you, I weigh barely over 100 lbs … but there’s no stopping them. That brutal honestly is a factor of the Asian culture, so you have my sympathies!

    But I still love love love desserts! =)

  • David, many of us struggle with the same issues. Even reading this post has been helpful to me. Yes, it is hard to give up or cut back on the many joys of eating good food, but knowing others are in the same boat can be motivating to try harder. If you can do it, maybe I can too.

    Thank you for your honest posting.

  • Having to limit cheese, butter, wine, chocolate in Paris would be sheer torture!!! I hope your little diet helps you get back in shape quickly.

  • really? the french expression for “six-pack abs” literally translates to “tablets of chocolate?” you’re not pulling my leg here, right…?

    I’m sort of new to your blog, and my knowledge of French is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent, so I was thinking that maybe there’s a joke here I don’t get.

  • Sarah, I’m french and I can confirm that we definitely say “tablettes de chocolat”… or “les abdos” ;) ! the opposite of abdos are abdokro (kro meaning kronenbourg, a usual beer here, so you see whay I mean…)

    but David’s belly could be also easily called “brioche”, although I don’t know if it qualifies for that appellation, since a “brioche” is somehow round and a “petit boudin” more in the shape of a lifesavor buoy (and we do also call men’s bellies “bouées” ;)

  • Well, you can talk about your “petit boudin” all day long and not lose this reader. I’m not sure how you’ll get rid of me, frankly.

    So I’ll just be American and smile and say, “you look great!”

    Please send all of your rejected cheese to my house. My “petite rear-end” will enjoy every morsel.

  • You? Fat? No way!
    Romain’s brother must be built like a chopstick to have said that to you.

    I know what you mean about the, ahem, brutally honest comments sometimes said by the French. Our 80 year old neighbor once looked me up and down and said, “You like to eat, don’t you?”

    Well, I guess I can’t fault him for being observant.

    Good luck with your régime!

  • That post definitely struck a cord. I’m French-American but alas, I take after my more “bulky” American father. Thus ever since I was a teenager, I’ve become accustomed to hearing comments about my weight from my very skinny, very French, family members. If you think the French are honest to friends/acquaintances, you have no idea of how bad it is when it’s “en famille”, especially to girls…
    On the positive side, it does make compliments from the same people all the more rewarding!
    Since I’m moving back to France for school, I’ve started “le regime” myself but I fear that as soon as I’ll see a boulangerie, I’ll have an intense counterreaction and just gobble down everything I see.
    So if you have low calories recipes, especially desert recipes (cuz’ as much as I love “room for desert” and “the perfect scoop”, I’m trying to stay away), please share.

    Good luck!

  • David, you might gain so many readers that you’ll have to have a spin-off website!

  • David,

    You look great! I honestly do not think you need to lose weight. Even though I love your website, I have been avoiding it a little bit because I am on a diet. Your photos and descriptions make the food so tempting to eat. Although it’s fabulous when I’m not dieting, it’s a bit of torture when I am (*wipes tears off monitor*). And then to hear you have been on diet while making all these wonderful, mouth watering dishes! Goodness! You are a strong man indeed.

  • David:
    Your blog is wonderful, and your concerns about weight are ridiculoous: you still look great to me. My opinion is that the perpertual concern about weight, waist size, and dieting are the latest affliction of the Mommy State. I went on a diet — once — about 30 years ago, was miserable, and have eaten my fill ever since. Life is too short to worry about such nonsence.

  • The French may be ultra weight conscious but not everyone is signing on. There’s a story going around about an article in a French women’s magazine that asked readers whether they’d rather appear on the beach as a the whale or a mermaid. A “gentil lecteur” pointed out that a whale has a wonderful time, swimming around with friends, singing, and bearing babies…and a mermaid, well, with her anatomy she can’t even “faire l’amour”. So really, why WOULD anyone rather be a mermaid?

    Er, not that you’re trying to look like a mermaid, David.

  • I’m right there with you David, since I’ve porked up a bit since I started culinary school a few weeks ago. Temptations left and right, and often the chefs are telling you to eat something as part of the class. I’ve decided to go the exercise and scale-back route, same as you. Hopefully it works for both of us!

  • Couldn’t all of us lose a little weight? But the cheese! We need cheese!

    Weight aside…..My husband gave me your book for our anniversary and I LOVE IT. All of it. Recipes, stories, it’s great. Thanks for adding to my love of all things European (from afar, since I have never been there).

  • How ironic that this post follows the one on Chocolate-Covered Salted Peanut Caramel Cups!

    I have to say that your blog ranks right up there as one of the biggest sources of temptation for me. Please feel free to “make us all suffer” right along with you… if you can come up with healthier versions of any of the stuff you’ve been posting, I for one will thank you for it.

  • David, I just love how much of you is in all your blog posts. It’s a pleasure to read. You are more than just un petite funny.

    Thanks,

    dana joy

  • I bought The Sweet Life in Paris… I am so excited and looking forward. Just thought I would share…
    I have a little boring food blog-your’s is fabulous

  • I’m with them..feel free to make us all suffer..and share anything that will help. I thought I’d start with those muffins your grandmother was so fond of..for breakfast!

  • Yup, when your lover starts there is no going back… E would get on me about it too, after the “had to eat everything in sight” phase of first moving to Paris. What was the best though, was when he came home and announced that I had to stop the big meals every night because his friends had started to rag him about his *petite problem*. The diet dinners lasted a week and then we were back to 3 courses… There is just no getting around that they are more lithe as a culture and appearances are very much a part of their mind set. Which is what it took, more walks in the bois, eat like they did, not as often, sparingly, cut down on the grosse bouffe…that Camembert isn’t going anywhere, just smile and wave at it as you walk by…john

  • David, you are in Paris! How can you not enjoy yourself? :)

    I think I would look like a rice bowl by now if I’m in Paris and eating at the rate that I do! But like what they always say, everything in moderation :)

  • I still would have felt the urge to punch them for pointing it out! Yay for you for having a mature attitude.

  • What happened to the days when we could eat anything and it didn’t matter? Now, simply looking at food creates angst. I baked cookies the other day and kept telling myself I had to try, just one, I couldn’t write about it if I hadn’t really eaten it. You know, it’s just something that has to be done. But when I finally got serious about buying the mother-of-the-bride dress I had a very REAL wake-up call. I had dreams of silk, fancy three inch + heels and then that reality thing hit me. Pushing sixty and wearing a sheath dress of silk, is one thing, but trying to walk in high-heels with bunions, arthritic toes and flat feet? Well heck, I just gave up and bought me a body shaper and some shoes that look like something a grandma would wear. The sheath style dress? Oh…forget it. I opted for layers of flowing ‘fake’ silk in a color that will hide me in the background.

    Good luck on your dieting David. I’ll think of you as I drink my power shake and force myself to bake and not eat. ;)

  • David..Unless you have been posting 20 year old pictures of yourself. These people need to stop. They need a more mature attitude. Not everyone has the same metabolism. Try getting more exercise and lots and lots and lots of water. I know if you get spring water or mineral water it is more bearable. Look at the new pictures of Brittany Spears ex husband Kevin Federline. That is a roll on his beltline!!! Wow.
    Just use PhotoShop on your pictures and noone will ever be able to tell your weight.

    Love the post. Its swimsuit season in Texas!!! Temps over 100 degrees.

  • Such an appropriate post to a site that focuses on deliciousness! A very well-rou…um, well-balanced blog. I will share a tip that not only helps with issues like a “petite boudin” but is also a great health boost: colonic hydrotherapy!

    Regular colonics are not only wonderfully stomach flattening (most people permanently carry around 5-15 pounds! of excess ‘weight’), but super healthful in that they cleanse the body of toxics. They aren’t any more invasive than tooth-brushing, really. My health has radically improved (eliminated recurring sinus infections from hell) since I began regular (once a month) treatments. And I have a flat stomach now : )

  • I’m married to a Frenchman who, when I said I needed to lose weight because my jeans were getting tight, said, “Why don’t you just buy a pair of larger jeans?” I thought that was really sweet and non judgmental. A steady diet of cheese and wine and I need to buy a really big pair of jeans but I’m happy.

  • Sarah: As Melina confirmed, they really do call them ‘tablettes of chocolate’. (You can see one Paris chocolatier has taken the term literally, and mixed the two.) It is, indeed, cruel irony.

    Linda: Never, ever let him go. But I think you already know that…

    Tracy & LIsa: Glad you liked the book so much! : )

    Melinda: I know. I had a whole batch of those caramel cups in the ‘fridge. But I ended up giving them to a friend who is a runner (and water polo player)…although I did realize I “had a problem” when I tossed a batch of cookies I’d make after I’d eaten 5 of so of them, then realized once they were in the trash can I wanted another and I was fishing around looking for another that looked edible. I have zero will-power.

    re: requests for diet recipes; I don’t necessarily believe in ‘diet’ food. I think modifying and modulating what you eat is the best long-term solution. (ie: The best way to cut the calories of a wedge of cake in half is just to eat half a portion!) So I’m still going to eat all that I’ve been eating, but really dial it down…which, admittedly, is hard. Part of it is also using better ingredients; a teaspoon of great olive or hazelnut oil is better-tasting that a tablespoon of ‘salad oil’ on your green beans. Great chocolate has the same amount of calories of the lousy stuff.

    I’ve always toned down the richness in a lot of my recipes anyways. Some are admittedly richer than others, but I use whole or skim milk in my hot chocolate, my ice creams use milk instead of all-cream, and my sherbets and sorbets are great alternatives to their higher-fat cousins. I’ve taken a bit of a hit for doing that, especially from the “Fat is flavor!”-camp, and I do enjoy cheese and other fatty foods from time to time, but don’t feel a need to wave a flag for foods that are going to give you un petit boudin…I’d rather have les tablettes of chocolate!

  • Oh yeesh you think that’s bad? Try having Asian relatives. First thing one of my aunt’s said to me when I saw her a few summers ago (after I packed a few pounds) was “Oh my god! What happened to you?!” And then they’ll compare you to your skinnier cousin. It did not help that everyone in Hong Kong had like rib cage showing bodies. Don’t know how they do it, I couldn’t stop eating whenever I go their.

  • joyciel: Are you sure you’re not Jewish?

    ; )

  • I think you need to move out of the city because there are many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, etc…. There are just too many temptations there. When I was living in a small farming community in Germany for 7 months, I lost 40 lbs., and that’s because I walked or biked just to get around, and my friend mainly served me healthy dishes to eat…mainly salads.

  • I’ve seen a LOT of French men and women with that little sausage roll. Maybe they are projecting their fear on you. Not everyone in France looks like a fashion model.

  • In spite of the newer laws curbing where cigarette smoking is allowed, or not–it seems to me that when we were in Paris a couple of years ago, the French also used their smokes to curb their appetites–they just don’t discuss it. And quite frankly they look like skin and bones, very emaciated–not exactly healthy. Not that the American obesity problem isn’t spreading everywhere…..the best way to go is watching portion sizes and eating healthy–but trying to be something ( a skeletal stick) doesn’t make it. And unfortunately as we get older, it doesn’t get any easier–and a few extra pounds make the bone density a bit better.

  • First of all: What the what? Unless you’ve been doing some serious gorging the past 3 weeks I can’t agree with the assessments of Romain et famille. Secondly, n’oubliez pas that many of these rail thin parisien(ne)s smoke.

    But it’s personal, I know. I’m trying to chip away at the 7 or 8 pesky pounds I put on earlier this year, and the skinny-jean envy I feel on the streets of Paris is a powerful motivator, misguided and vain or not. Courage!

  • Don’t they know that compared to a typical American you’re a slim gazelle? :)

  • …I do love the way you write…:-)

  • French people have even made the petit boudin comment about my dog! :furieux:

    I just took her to the groomer, who is a wonderful, kind woman and very good at what she does. I asked her for her honest opinion about my dog: “Does she seem too round to you? I’ve been getting comments.” When I came back to pick my dog up a few hours later, she replied “Well, the fur I took off really is slimming, but you know what? She does seem to have a roll of fat just above her tail.” So now I know.

  • I’m with you, David. Just saw some candid shots from our beach trip this weekend and it was shocking to realize the chubby girl in the photos was me. My new mantra is portion control, portion control, portion control…. and I’m trying to stay away from stimulants.

  • now I understand why j-p. hevin has those abs chocolate bars!

  • and dig that warning on the mcdo add on your Flickr page! have never seen anything like it before. they need to start doing that here too!

  • Indian people don’t hold back either. When I had my first baby, she was just a month old and I was still very big – this friend stopped by and almost screamed in my face – “you have become fat” – really? I hadn’t noticed – duh!!!!!!!

    This friend had been living in US forever, but hadn’t picked up on ‘you look great” thing.

    Just finished reading your Sweet Life in Paris and loved it immensely.

  • Hah! I recently wrote a blog post about Contrex. Please tell me you won’t touch that stuff.

    My French doctor told me my weight is “tout a fait correct” (exactly right). That’s good, but I have a BMI of 18 – an American doctor would be prescribing me milkshakes.

    Also, a friend tells me that instead of a “tablet de chocolat”, her tummy is Nutella!

  • Heelllooww Daavveeeedd,
    ahaha that’s a funny post u got here, and u are so right when u said the French can be soooo bluntly stating-the ugly truth about appearances and diet etc. I was there for three months and have seen friends from foreign countries felt so depressed being criticized of their appearances while shopping or living with a french family. However it was all fun and in the end they all lost quite a bit of weight and looked wonderful and praised the french for what they did. I lived with a french lady nearing her 60s and she still rides velib everyday with frilly skirts and peeptoe shoes. How marrvveellousssss and yes it does brings good health to loose a few unwanted pounds, although u looked pretty slim when I came to ur book signing last time. Must be the late nights chocs!

    From Melbourne
    lady macaron

  • David, you look just fine to me.
    New Yorkers have a way of speaking their minds too!

    Some of us don’t like skinny men with 28″ waists. (too thin!!).
    I will take a 36″ waist, preferrably over 6 ft. 2″ and a good tush, anyday.

    I like a man who weighs more than me!!!!

  • David, you are so awesome, you make me cry. The things that go on inside your head!
    So timely that I just finished ordering a colon cleansing kit to add to my regime.Note that I said “ordering” not “using”. I believe you have to start (or end) somewhere.
    And thanks to fellow Asians who affirm the lack of tact from relatives on the “you are fat” comments.
    Very interested to see what your next recipe will be.
    I’m making your panzanella to bring to a beach party potluck on Saturday. Oh, yes and a chocolate peanut butter pie for dessert, to be cut in 1/2 inch slivers, for sure.

  • Your regime sounds very practical…diets that wreak of deprivation are less effective in the end, than continual modest reductions in amounts consumed! You could even indulge in a bit of chocolate at the end of the day, if you are truly cutting back on caloric intake! And by the way, a great deal of media attention is being focused upon the creation of a new health care system in America, and the shocking statistics of our eating habits reveal that 30% of us are clinically obese. That might make you feel better about your petite probleme!

  • Oh, too funny! The timing of this post has prompted me to leave my first comment (I had to start somewhere!) as I’m hitting the same bandwagon in anticipation of my upcoming holidays. One week in England visiting relatives and then two weeks in France. Considering that I plan to spend at least a week of that camped out in various chocolate shops and restaurants etc in Paris (Pierre Hermé here I come!)

    I am trying to do some damage control in advance. So far trips to the gym have increased, but I’m not sure that I’m making much headway yet. Regardless, I’m living in Northern Canada and at the very least any trip out is an excuse to eat at a lot of restaurants. If I don’t gain 10lbs on my trip in September I will consider it a lost cause…however judging by the number of food related locations that I’ve already pinned to a Google map I don’t think that’s going to be a problem!! Ah, the macarons, the pastries…the bread. Sigh. I’m just sorry that you aren’t doing the market walking tours anymore.

    Still waiting for “The Sweet Life in Paris” to hit Yellowknife, but am very much looking forward to reading it!

  • I loathe when people feel it’s their job or privilege to point out what they believe are other’s body or aesthetic flaws, in any country. I don’t expect compliments all the time, real or fake. And I prefer truth to lies. But if you think I am getting fat and it bothers your eye, get a life! Believe me truth tellers, people know if they are gaining weight or have bad hair etc… But thanks for rubbing it in our faces like we’re evil criminals.

    I spent may years on diets, beginning at age 7. Spent my summers at Fat Camps. And on parents and grandparents weekends they would all rave about how I was “finally” losing weight. Then we’d go off campus for some sight seeing. Where they would also complain at how little I was eating and to fill up on the good stuff while I could?!?! Practically shoving food down my throat. Talk about conflicting and confusing.

    I love food and cooking and it is a very enjoyable part of my life now. Yet I barely eat a bite in front of my relatives. Try breaking the fast or sitting through a five hour seder and only nibbling like a parakeet. Old scars never fade.

  • I like the idea of a “little” something. It is much better to be told that you are getting a little roll, or a little tummy, and then decide then and there that you might want to do something about it, rather than waiting till you have a larger amount of weight to lose.

  • Wait — does this mean that you’ll be adding more recipes to the savory section?! If so, this is entirely awesome. Due to your dessert cookbooks, I can now make my own caramel, etc., but I always feel that my food is more lacking on the everyday savory side. If there is anyway that you could post some of your favorite (non-sweet) recipes, that would be great!

  • this reminds me of when I was in paris last summer, happily on cloud 9 at a. simon, and I was having so much fun practicing my french with the storekeeper, telling him how much i love pastries and how much baking makes me happy…. and then he said that I was going to grow fat! hmph. it’s okay, the american offended side of me only lasted 2 seconds, and then we continued our happy conversation. thanks for bringing back a funny memory!

  • cathy: Usually they freak out about cholesterol (probably because it gives them a chance to take another drug…) But after my experience with the cardiologist I wrote about in my book, I’m not sure all of them are in a position to judge my weight. However when it comes from a trusted source, it’s a little different.

    Sarah: I have so much respect for people who try to lose weight because while it’s easy to judge and say, “Why don’t they just stop eating so much?” it’s really, really hard to do that. For me, even cutting back is hard.

    Allision: There’s about 40-50 recipes in there for non-sweet dishes. Once you’ve worked your way through them, I’ll add more. And there will be a quiz! So be prepared..

    Accidental Parisien: Nope. I don’t drink that. Anyone who thinks drinking a certain brand of water is actually going to make you lose weight deserves to lose a few euros every time they hit the grocery store. Although I used to think everyone here was silly to believe all those pills and stuff they advertise in the pharmacy windows would make you lose weight (or those anti-cellulite salons), until I realized we have those in America, too.

    I just never paid attention to them in the states. Perhaps because the ads for them in America for them don’t feature topless women?

  • Your funny post reminded me of Roger Cohen’s NYTimes op on recent longevity studies of primates from a couple of weeks ago. A little taste if you will:

    Which brings me to low-cal Canto and high-cal Owen: Canto looks drawn, weary, ashen and miserable in his thinness, mouth slightly agape, features pinched, eyes blank, his expression screaming, “Please, no, not another plateful of seeds!”

    Well-fed Owen, by contrast, is a happy camper with a wry smile, every inch the laid-back simian, plump, eyes twinkling, full mouth relaxed, skin glowing, exuding wisdom as if he’s just read Kierkegaard and concluded that “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward.”

    It’s the difference between the guy who got the marbleized rib-eye and the guy who got the oh-so-lean filet. Or between the guy who got a Château Grand Pontet St. Emilion with his brie and the guy who got water. As Edgar notes in King Lear, “Ripeness is all.” You don’t get to ripeness by eating apple peel for breakfast.

  • Your funny post reminded me of Roger Cohen’s NYTimes op on recent longevity studies of primates from a couple of weeks ago. A little taste if you will:

    Which brings me to low-cal Canto and high-cal Owen: Canto looks drawn, weary, ashen and miserable in his thinness, mouth slightly agape, features pinched, eyes blank, his expression screaming, “Please, no, not another plateful of seeds!”

    Well-fed Owen, by contrast, is a happy camper with a wry smile, every inch the laid-back simian, plump, eyes twinkling, full mouth relaxed, skin glowing, exuding wisdom as if he’s just read Kierkegaard and concluded that “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward.”

    It’s the difference between the guy who got the marbleized rib-eye and the guy who got the oh-so-lean filet. Or between the guy who got a Château Grand Pontet St. Emilion with his brie and the guy who got water. As Edgar notes in King Lear, “Ripeness is all.” You don’t get to ripeness by eating apple peel for breakfast.

  • Forgot to leave behind the link to the Roger Cohen piece!

  • David,
    Bonne Chance…I could never abstain – especially here!
    Off topic, but on food. Have you ever made financiers with “frangipane” or do you just use almond powder?

  • I had to laugh at your post! For years I’ve heard americans complain about the directness of the dutch, but I’d never figured that the french would be the same. I live in Holland, but have worked for an american company for years, so it was always fun to discuss the cultural differences between the two countries. I think the French are probably direct in a slightly different way then the Dutch, but still… it’s funny to hear. Good luck on the weightloss… I’m in the same boat right now, so I can relate!

  • @Sarah: I do second David’s comment on this subject. I am fully aware that for people who are struggling with their weight, very shallow comments such as ‘just eat less’ or whatever these might be, are extremely hurtful. And stupid, not the least.

    I do however recommend people to follow sensible dietary advice (i.e. not demonising certain food items (except of course for things that really ARE bad for you, such as transfats, palm oil, MSG, not to mention sugary drinks (or aspartam-loaded drinks llike TAB Extra), which is possibly the worst-ever thing when it comes to health and weight), but to embrace butter, cream, cheese, bacon and steak. If you make sure that most of your diet consists of vegetables and other healthy fare, these things are not going to harm you. You will find that it’s rather the contrary; they will be good for you and for your weight.

    And David’s advice of eating half a portion of cake or dessert rather that having it all, is to me the most sensible dietary advice of all times.

  • When are you coming to Texas? Let me know

  • it’s so hard to diet in Paris. I myself am about 15lbs. overweight by US standards but in Paris I feel obese with all the ridiculously thin men with their 28 inch waists who don’t exercise and eat whatever they want. no matter how much i exercise and diet i could never look like them. it’s a hopeless battle

  • Personally, I find that grown men with 28″ waists look sickly (but I refrain from informing them of that).

  • Those damn French! Always looking so fabulous and not even trying. Bitches!

    I don’t know how they do it, but I have to go to the gym just to keep it all from falling apart. I know the gyms of Paris aren’t really the same as the gyms of America, but here’s something you might like. I’m in no way affiliated with this site, other than having started their 12-week strength building plan 5 weeks ago. That small paunch will disappear and your tits will be up faster than you think. Seriously…I think I have an ab….I’ve NEVER had an ab.

    Best of all, it’s all about teh gay, which makes it kind of fun, unlike renting a the latest Suzanne Sommers workout tape. NOT fun!

    Yeah, they have a food schedule you can follow too, which isn’t too bad. But God knows I’m not eating low-fat cheese and it still seems to work. I really think some time in the gym is well worth not having to water down your wine. Ewww!

    Check it out. realjock.com

    And dump the ice cubes!

  • Keep the butter and olive oil, but ditch the bread, David. :D Eating low carb works wonders. And you can still have your steak and extra dark chocolate! Pastries and the like are tough. I bake sugar-free and low carb, but for a chef like yourself who loves salted butter caramel, it’d certainly be limiting. Best of luck on whatever regimen you pursue!

    I adapted one of your ice cream recipes to a low carb dairy-free version, and will be posted it with due credit tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise (and entertaining stories).

  • In Hong Kong, people call me fat all the time, like, all the time.
    “You’ve gained weight” actually started to sound like a standard “Good morning” to me. LOL
    I was in total denial, until I was faced with a wardrobe full of clothes I couldn’t fit into anymore. I was also blurting out excuses after excuses until I decided to take pictures, document and posted everything I ate (in just one day) in a blog post, and got really scared.

    I really have to visit my gym more often, I wonder if developing a crush on my dance teacher would help ;)

  • I have yet to be criticized for my weight nor have I suffered from the words of the French, but I have definitely faced the bluntness of the people in the Dominican Republic. When I was a teenager with a mild bit of acne, one Dominican classmate told me sweetly, “I’m glad I don’t have skin like yours.”

    As far as food (and everything else) goes, I’m beginning to think that fasting and feasting both have their rightful places in life, with moderation being the norm in between. As in religious life, the fasting and feasting are less frequent and more special. Moderation and balance reign for most of the year.

  • france isn’t alone in taking notice one’s body size. here in our country, it is common to be greeted with an “oh my, look how you’ve grown” or “looks like you’ve lost some weight” (loosely translated from the vernacular) by a friend/relative/acquaintance who hasn’t seen you for a long time. i am always the recipient of the first greeting. sometimes how i wish i could answer back “oh look, how ugly you have become,” but then you remember the lessons your mother taught you.

    and mothers! sometimes its their fault. they dumped all the yummy food in your body, commanding you to clean up your plate, or you’d be committing mortal sin wasting a grain.

    but we know better now. so we try to sanitize the recipe they passed on to us. admittedly though, it doesn’t taste like the way mom used to do it.

    its so difficult to resist good food. others have the discipline to cut portions, and i look up to them with utmost respect. but for me, its all or nothing. so subbing unhealthy ingredients is the way to go for me and for some. it doesn’t taste as good, but its a lesser temptation easier to resist.