How I Eat

poulet roti

For some reason, people are obsessed with what I eat and weigh and I get a lot of messages that say things like “How do you stay so thin?” or “How can you eat all that amazing food and stay in shape?” It’s not really something that I’m all that concerned about and not something I pay all that much attention to. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t start the day gorging on platters of croissants, then spend the rest of day wolfing down cakes, pastries, and chocolates. People come in different shapes and sizes. I know people who eat well and exercise, that are not necessarily svelte, and I know people who eat whatever they want and are rail-thin. (And according to CDC calculations, I’m overweight.) And I try to make it a point not to preach about how to eat, but just present recipes that I like, which are how I eat and feed guests.

Because I live in France, there’s a fascination with the French “diet” as well, and I frequently get asked about how they miraculously manage to keep the weight off while seemingly enjoying all the rich food in France. A few hints: They don’t snack between meals, portions are smaller, they smoke, diet sodas are popular, and they don’t delight in “extreme eating.” However that’s changing as well in France and they’re catching up to their friends across the Atlantic in terms of putting on the pounds – or kilos.

I worked in professional kitchens starting when I was sixteen years old and was surrounded by lots of rich, heavy, calorie-laden foods. Which was awesome…until I hit forty. Then I noticed myself getting a bit rounder in certain areas, as most men tend to do. Yet I didn’t want to stop eating all my favorite foods. So I made a conscious effort to moderate, and concentrate more on what I was eating (in professional kitchens, you eat to survive and sustain, not for pleasure – and you never stop moving) and when I left the restaurant business, I made a concerted effort to drop a few pounds by being more conscious about what I ate, more diligent about doing some sort of regular physical activity, and I also vowed never to eat standing up again. I eat absolutely everything now (except squid, because they’re ugly), and moving to France, I’ve actually lost weight without going to a gym. I was a martial artist for twenty years (karate and aikido), then I started practicing yoga. I did go to a gym for a while in California, but I don’t have the attention span to stay on a treadmill for more than three minutes, and I find lifting weights boring. (I seem to be only able to exercise if someone is either yelling at me, or telling me what to do.)

Since I do a lot of my own cooking, I know exactly what’s in the foods I am eating. If I go out for a meal, I try to go to restaurants that I know where fresh food is on the menu, not frozen or pre-prepared.

For me, a typical day of eating will be breakfast; toast, salted butter, sometimes honey or jam, café au lait, and orange juice. Mid-morning I’ll often have a modest bowl of fruit or berries, perhaps with some plain full-fat yogurt and granola.) If home, lunch will likely be leftovers from the night before or a big salad with vegetables and some meat, cheese, or another protein in it. If I go out, it’s often for ethnic food (Japanese, Mexican, Korean, or Middle Eastern) or something simple. I have an afternoon snack, or le goûter – to bring that excessively long gap between lunch and dinner – which might be a small pastry or a bit of cake or cookies, some cheese, toasted bread with peanut butter, or if I’m out-and-about, choquettes. Dinner is some protein, vegetables, potatoes or grains, or pasta, then cheese with bread, and a bite or so of whatever sweet if lying around for dessert. I usually drink wine with dinner. During the day I will snack on nuts, dark chocolate, and bits and pieces of recipes that I’m testing.

As mentioned, everyone is different and we all have different circumstances, follow different principles in life, have various metabolisms, go on (and off) diets, are wired different culturally, and all have our weaknesses for certain foods. But although there doesn’t seem to be any magic bullet for keeping in shape, most experts agree that it’s about calories and being active.

(Please note that none of the information here is meant to be medical in nature. If you are planning a diet, or have health issues, do consult a doctor or licensed medical professional for advice specific to your needs.)

Stuff I Do

-I ride a bicycle everywhere that I can.

-I walk to places as much as possible.

-I eat a lot of carbohydrates.

-I try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I eat fish, although I’ve taken to eating less, unfortunately, because I try to scope of sustainable varieties. I usually have some form of protein with a meal, such as chicken, cheese, or pork. Although I like it, I eat beef infrequently, and rarely cook it at home.

-I eat cheese. Someone “tsk tsk’d” me recently online for writing about cheese, saying it was “fattening.” But you rarely see an overweight fromager here in France.

-I “maximize” my calories, meaning that if I eat something, it should be good. Bad chocolate cake has the same number of calories as good chocolate cake, and is more satisfying as well so you’re not craving more. (It’s been said that M&M’s are specifically formulated to have just the right amount of chocolate in them to keep you craving more, which is why it’s hard to stop at half a bag.) Food writer Peter Kaminsky wrote about FPC, or “Flavors per calorie”, which is the same principle.

-I eat “good” fat, meaning that I eat ones that taste good, where you’ll get more oomph for the bite. Things like dark chocolate, bacon, olive oil, duck fat, eggs, and good butter all have a lot of flavor and I like them.

-I use fats as seasonings. For example, instead of eating a big chunk of cheese, I will crumble some bleu cheese into a salad dressing to disperse it. I’ll use fried bacon, and some of the drippings, to season vegetables, rather than douse them with neutral vegetable oil. I’ll cut the cream in a dessert and use milk instead, then add more chocolate (ie: flavor) to compensate.

-I’ll sometimes put ice in wine if it’s an inexpensive bottle. I drink wine with dinner, and while I don’t do this when I go out (unless I’m drinking rosé) or I’m drinking a pretty good bottle of wine, if it’s everyday stuff, I’ll put an ice cube in it. If anyone gives you a hard time about it, let them know that Jacques Pépin does it, too.

-I eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. When I’m craving chocolate, I don’t go out and buy a chocolate cheesecake, or eat a bag of Oreos; I eat bittersweet chocolate bars and eat a few squares of handfuls every day. I also like chocolates, but I don’t often have boxes on hand (hint.. hint…) But a few chocolates is not a lot of calories and each one packs quite a lot of flavor.

-I’m stressed out. I have a pretty brisk metabolism, the result of years racing around in professional kitchens, and have a hard time sitting still. Which is why many pastry chefs are not overweight. (And pastry chefs don’t eat everything they make, just like bartenders don’t drink everything they pour.) I also am constantly “on the go” mentally, as well as physically, which isn’t so good for my sanity, but does help keep the metabolism moving.

-I try to only eat “good stuff.” If I’m going to eat chocolate, I buy good chocolate. If I’m in the mood for ice cream, I’ll get a quality brand (or make it myself.) Save for York Peppermint Patties and M&M’s (and, of course, Planter’s Peanut Bars) – I don’t generally eat commercial candy bars. As for butter, aside from the stuff I buy for baking, I use it prudently and buy very good butter – and enjoy it immensely. Each and every smear.

-I eat everything and don’t demonize any food (except squid) – but there is nothing off-limits; I’ll eat potatoes cooked in duck fat, lardo, bacon, pizza, salted butter caramel, white chocolate, caramels, and potato chips. But I don’t eat them all day, everyday. If I have a copious lunch, dinner will be something lighter. And if I know I have a big dinner planned, I’ll make sure that lunch is on the lighter side.


strawberries & raspberries


Related Links

Advice from a Slim Cook (Rosa Jackson)

Are the French Too Obsessed with Weight? (Nutrition in Paris)

The French Paradox (The Morning News)

Culinary Intelligence (Ruhlman)

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142 comments

  • May 17, 2012 10:06am

    Thanks for sharing! Bodies and diets are all different, and one always runs the risk of uber-criticism when talking about what works for you. I appreciate your candor, and while I don’t have the metabolism to eat the volume that you eat without working out, I take heart that some of your guidelines are also mine. Eat for flavor, eat small portions, eat it all (but in moderation).

    Thanks! And keep up the excellent work!

    • May 17, 2012 10:14am
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, I was aware when writing all this up, navigating how to talk about this subject. But since I get asked several times a week about it (and about how the French eat), I figured it would write it up. I don’t think I necessarily eat a lot of food, but I try to make reasonable choices about what I eat. Of course, living in a city where there is a pastry shop in every corner can be a challenge ; )

  • Elodie
    May 17, 2012 10:10am

    I was amused to read this post, because it sounds EXACTLY like how I eat. And how I was raised to eat. And how my grandparents eat. I mean, ok, I don’t have wine… but that’s cause I dislike it. Other than that…. I could have written this post, as far as the meals go.

    You eat like a french person!

  • May 17, 2012 10:26am

    This seems to me like such a sensible approach to what you eat. A bad meal is such a waste of a meal and I really believe you enjoy it more (and eat less) if every bite is as delicious as you can make it and full of, as you put it, the good stuff.

  • phanmo
    May 17, 2012 10:27am

    “I ride a bicycle everywhere that I can. -I walk to places as much as possible.”

    What’s great about that is that it often gets you somewhere faster than the metro or bus, sometimes even faster than driving (outside Île de France, of course), and you get to SEE things!
    How else are you supposed to find out about the new Asian market or épicerie de produits du terroir.
    Regarding food choices, I don’t know if they’re common in Paris, but we recently joined an AMAP* here in Nantes, which means we have tonnes of fresh veggies all the time, none of which we choose ourselves, which makes us try new dishes all the time.
    Yesterday we got green garlic, swiss chard, tiny beets, new potatoes, lettuce, fennel, pak choi, and carrots.
    For 9 euros.
    Local and organic.

    *an AMAP is a co-op style arrangment between a group of people and a local producer.

  • Es
    May 17, 2012 10:40am

    Brilliant post! I have the exact same food/lifestyle philosophy as you. Especially concerning the GOOD food and maximizing calories. All those ‘lite’ and fat free foods mean people so often sell themselves short when it comes to flavour. I would much rather spend an hour making my own delicious spicy baked beans than buy a nasty can of them.
    And I’m so envious you live in France where such quality food is readily available :-)

  • Susie
    May 17, 2012 10:47am

    Nice to know, but I have to ask the question everyone’s really wondering about. When do we get to see your new apartment?

  • Lore
    May 17, 2012 11:18am

    This pretty much describes the way I eat, with a few small exceptions. I do love squid and no ice in my wine plus add in some good belgian beer! And we too have the stock of dark chocolate bars in the house. I usually eat one or two squares a day.

    One point that you didn’t mention that I think is also key Is to eat seasonally. Produce and ingredients taste so much better and are much more satisfying if they are consumed at the time of year that they are naturally meant to be grown/ripen. Clearly from your blog, you eat seasonally as well, but I thought it would be good to add this point to the discussion

  • Tina
    May 17, 2012 11:30am

    This is exactly my eating philosophy! If I’m not going to enjoy something, I don’t want to eat it. Thanks for the dose of common sense. Those tsk-tskers miss the point entirely.

  • May 17, 2012 11:41am

    I totally agree that if you are going to eat something, let it be a good something!
    I will no longer finish a cake that has not made me long for the next mouthful, will no longer finish a chocolate bar, just because I opened it. I rarely drink fizzy drinks, only having water, tea or fresh coffee on a regular basis. If I drink orange juice, it is usually squeezed by me and only a small glass. I hate alcohol, so no problem there!

    David – I second someone else commenting – when do we see the new apartment? Have you at least moved in?

  • May 17, 2012 11:51am

    Thank you for this post. Sage, sensible advice. And it’s not rocket science either. What a great philisophy which enables you to enjoy all that’s around you and still stay in shape.

  • May 17, 2012 11:52am

    Good post. I lost weight here too (which, I was telling my sister, was funny because stateside I’d put in at least an hour and a half a day at the gym and still wasn’t seeing what I wanted in the mirror. Here I don’t have a gym membership, though I’m certainly walking more.)

    I do think that, thanks to the richesse of the meals (save breakfast) I don’t want to snack. When hunger strikes it’s close enough to the meal, and usually, I’ve something fantastic in mind whether I’m going out with friends to a restaurant or if I’ve picked up some fresh new things at the marché. And at the meal, yes truly, its all about portions. The attention to presentation feeds your eyes, and psychologically, makes the meal more satisfying.

    2nd the quality chocolate! I’ve now an (almost daily) tradition of walking into the Xavier Berger downtown and asking for fifty grams (circa 3 or 4 pieces) of their granache.

    Finally, I’ve started a small yoga routine when I wake up each morning… though I think that helps with peace of mind more than it keeps kilos at bay. Essentially (as you’ve said more or less!) I think that good fat + small portions + mineral water = mince me.

  • May 17, 2012 12:07pm

    I work in a cheese room of a well-known health food store in Kensington, London. I get so many people stepping inside my little dairy paradise made of gruyère vieux and roquefort asking me for “low fat cheese”. My immediate answer would be “Really? Take a good look around you!”, but then I just politely say “No, not in here, check the dairy fridge downstairs”, omitting the part in which I would say “if you really want processed 0% fat stuff that has nothing to do with cheese”. I think there is a problem, a huge misconception of what is good, bad, good for you or not. People have stopped to eat for pleasure and to listen to their bodies and the senses. A small portion of good cheese has never killed anybody, why would one deny him/herself of such a pleasure –if they ask me for cheese it means that they like it, otherwise they would eat something else with much lower fat content.
    I am also asked how I can be so thin working with cheese and tasting it all the time. The answer is moderation, quality, exercise, balance as far as the rest of my diet goes, and a full time busy job. No need for low fat cheese, just for a little bit of good thinking.

    Anyway, I am pleased to see that French (and Italians) never ask me for low fat cheese, only Brits, Americans and Eastern Europeans. Also, unlike many others, French never ask me for vegan cheese –whose name to me sounds like a true oxymoron, and it really makes me mad.

  • Kathy
    May 17, 2012 12:43pm

    I was a personal chef for about 10 years, and I found that my relationship with food at that time in my life was ideal. It was precisely because I was so involved with it every day that I was not tempted to overeat. Maybe that’s paradoxical? My clients loved to eat well, but basically as David described. They had wide-ranging tastes, and I was able to try a large variety of dishes, and be creative. I enjoyed what I cooked and ate when I was working, but I was never tempted to overeat (even though that has been a problem at other times in my life).

    As someone who lives in France part of the time, I would say it is the French love of food and respect for it that has kept them from being excessive. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And it’s about the time taken to enjoy it. I think the fast food culture in the US is not just about fast food, but fast eating.

    My two cents….:)

  • Carol
    May 17, 2012 12:52pm

    I don’t think you eat like a French person. I think you eat like a person. The way most people eat here in NA (I’m Canuck) is not real. Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating things your body can’t recognize, like vegetable and soy oils and HFCS does. I was at a lecture with a well known nutritional biochemist who said “if you want to eat something sweet, make it yourself. At least you know what will be in it.” A good bakery is a godsend for people like me who will make a batch of cookies and then eat them all, when all I really wanted was one.
    Good post!

  • Cathg1g2
    May 17, 2012 1:18pm

    David, you and Michael Pollan, what a duo.
    I love his quote: ‘if its a plant, eat it , if it’s made in a plant , don’t’

  • Rachel Morarjee
    May 17, 2012 1:40pm

    Dark chocolate is so good for the diet. A couple of good squares satisfies the need for a treat and clears the palate and keeps the weight down.

    When I want to loose weight though – after visiting the US and stuffing my face with mexican food – then i just eat natural food only for a couple of weeks. Unlimited veg, meat, fish, eggs and natural yoghurt. No fruit for about 10 days but massive salads and lots of veg and the weight drops off.

    Eating like that half the time, and indulging in good cheese, chocolate and the odd macaroon the rest of the time does the trick.

  • Deborah Hitayezu
    May 17, 2012 1:42pm

    I visited Paris for ten days recently, for the first time, and lost 15 pounds. I stayed with friends, cooked every night, drank (which is something I rarely do at home). Took a baguette baking course, shopped at patisseries and boulangeries, and still managed to loose weight.
    Someone said it already. The amazing food (which I cooked for my friends from lovely ingredients) did not tempt me to snack in between meals with garbage food. No snacks, no fake foods, no pop (except for one diet Coke at the American embassy happy hour), and it melted away fat without any hardship.

    Now to just try to maintain that here at home in Canada.

  • Shelby Vincent
    May 17, 2012 2:07pm

    David – on M&Ms – have you noticed a difference in taste between the M&Ms sold in France and those sold in the US? The first time I bought peanut M&Ms in France I thought they were so much richer and more chocolatey, but thought it was probably my imagination. Then one year I brought some home and my husband and I did a taste test. We both could tell the difference between the two. In the American M&Ms the primary taste is sugar/sweet; in those sold in France the primary taste is chocolate. My husband actually preferred the American ones because they taste like his childhood. Which do you prefer?

  • Zoe
    May 17, 2012 3:00pm

    There were three 20-something French women who came to visit my city, and we decided on a picnic in the park. I told them I was bringing Prosecco and an asparagus salad to share, and that we would pass a place to pick up some nice sandwiches and pastries.

    Just then a McDonald’s interrupted us, they decided they were too hungry for a picnic, and excitedly went in and suggested I eat my salad at their table.

    I was reminded of the idealization Canadians have about French attitudes towards food. Things certainly must be changing with the younger generation.

  • Susan
    May 17, 2012 3:42pm

    My late Mother in Law subscribed to portion control as a way to maintain her weight. She ate everything that everyone else ate, just less of it. She also said the key to eating this way, easily, was to make sure she ate breakfast every day. Her cup of cereal, half a banana and piece of toast she said kept her from eating a morning snack and less lunch (usually half a sandwich and piece of fruit) Mid afternoon she would eat a few potato chips or a couple tablespoons of chocolate chips; whatever she could easily grab in a small amount. At dinner, she served salad first to help take off the edge, then ate the rest of the meal in portions the size of a Swanson tv dinner (recommended RDA standards) She always had something for dessert, even if it were only an oreo or two. She died at 90..not having missed a taste of anything. She was also a “busy body”, always doing something and rarely sat still lest she had a sitting project to get done. Being one who can’t sit still is a big help in weight control. Damn, I wish I were antsy and that self disiplined, but she didn’t even really think about it until someone asked her what she did to stay slim!

  • May 17, 2012 3:44pm

    I’m confused about the ice cube in the wine glass thing. Does it just dilute the wine and make it go further?

  • May 17, 2012 3:51pm

    Living in Shanghai there are no signs of an obesity problem here. however with the arrival of McDonalds, KFC,Subway and a host of other fast food outlets I wonder how long this will last. The Chinese eat little or no bread, no cream and cheese in fact very little diary, and they eat a lot fresh food, rice is eaten only as a filler. The only restaurants I’ve been in offering desserts are Western ones, Chinese offer everyone fresh fruit as a courtesy at the end of the meal, it arrives with the bill. Sounds like good advice.

  • May 17, 2012 4:13pm

    What a great post! I actually just wrote a blog post about my own food philosophy, and it’s interesting to see a lot of things similar to what you’ve written here. It’s interesting to hear that it has some similarities to the way French people eat. This was a brave post to write, personal food choices can be a really difficult thing to write about publicly. Thanks for putting it up here :)

  • foodie
    May 17, 2012 4:14pm

    David, help please! Only you can help me with this!
    Now, i LOVE so called healthy food, i only ever eat healthy wholesome fresh foods, i go mad for veggies, legumes, i adore grains, use only muscovado sugar ecc ecc, BUT, but.. I don’t know how to eat moderately! I CAN’T eat in moderate quantities, it has to be HUGE portions, i can eat tons of it, yup, it does you well, it’s healthy and nutritious but my portions are dinosaur size. I am female btw. I love food, i love to cook, i am gourmet, but i can’t restrain myself when it comes to QUANTITIES. Cooking only for myself and living on my own doesen’t help either. How do i bake one piece of croissant or one singe kouign amann??!! I mean, you can’t, right? Yet i do want to bake it and taste it. So how do i handle it??!!! And all other delicious must try must do recipes?!! Without piling on pounds and feeling miserable. David! Good people! Gimme some sound and wise advise that i can use in this eqaution, ‘cos it can get very overwhelming, and i feel lost facing someting that i don’t know how to manage and so far i was NEVER capable of eating moderately without ending binging on big portions. THANK you so so much.. If anyone answers my desperate plea.. Thanks..

  • May 17, 2012 4:36pm

    Yes! I swear if you harness your inner exacting food critic and only eat the most delicious food, you can eat whatever you like. Especially in the U.S. There is so much terrible and mediocre food out there, you can just say to yourself “It’s simply not delicious enough” and pass. In this instance, being a little snobbish can really help.

  • anne roy
    May 17, 2012 4:38pm

    you’re invited to try what i eat.i bet you’ve never heard of the way i eat;it’s vegetarian,ethnic and different from what you do.
    i’m in paris next week,tell me if you dare to try my way of eating
    i’d prepare a few of my dishes for you to sample.

  • May 17, 2012 4:39pm

    I am interpreter so I often work at different places and there was a time when I felt the only thing discussed during breaks anywhere was dieting. And then I would be asked how I stay slim. I never followed a diet in my life and bake all the time, but living in the Netherlands (and not having a driver’s license) I cycle everywhere. Also, like you, I eat “real” food. I grow most of the vegetables we eat and lots of calories are burnt in the process.
    I like the point you make, that in order to be healthy, rather than avoid certain food and stress about what you eat, it’s better to eat really good food and enjoy it.
    Also, I was reminded of my aunt who is a biochemist and ran a lab at a hospital. She used to say that whoever says that lard is bad “knows nothing of modern biochemistry”. Her family is remarkably long-lived. :-)

  • Sandra Castro
    May 17, 2012 4:40pm

    Dear David,
    Great writing, thank you and it says a lot for walkable places for you, beautiful as well. Paris that is!

  • May 17, 2012 4:42pm

    Here’s hoping that one paragraph about French diets and weights puts an end to the seemingly endless “how do they do it?!” inquiry. Sound advice for all, to be sure.

  • May 17, 2012 4:45pm

    So now I miss my NYC life (day of yore) where I walked and biked everywhere. In the Twin Cities – you can only do that 6 months of the year! (A wee bit cold) I like the take on quality. Yep – if I want cheesecake – I’ll have cheesecake BUT – it needs to be worth the calories.

  • Alan Rogowsky
    May 17, 2012 4:48pm

    Wonderful post – so far, only aspirational for me. Thank you for your column. I am inspired!

  • May 17, 2012 4:50pm

    I lived in Italy for a while, and my friends there would put sparkling mineral water in their red wine. I tried it, and it was delicious and refreshing.

  • Shannon
    May 17, 2012 4:53pm

    Someone came to a blog by a pastry chef who has fabulous ice cream recipes and tsk tsk’d about CHEESE? At least they let you know up front that their opinion isn’t worth much.

    Sounds like you have it figured out :) And most of your diet sounds close to the “primal” diet, except for the flour and potato part. Primal emphasizes good fats, protein from healthy animals and fresh vegetables, with cheese, dark chocolate and wine as acceptable accents to the day.

    I agree about squid. I think squid, octopus and eel are creepy animals and I won’t eat them because of that, no matter how “delicious” people claim they are. Eff the haters :)

  • May 17, 2012 4:53pm

    I frequently am asked what I eat, though not “How do you stay slim?”…more like, “Why aren’t you the size of a house?” (No one has ever called me slim). Interestingly, when people find out I review restaurants, they are more apt to ask me about my weight control then when learning I cook as much as I do. And that goes to the point you make: it truly is easier to eat healthful portions and foods when you cook for yourself. But here’s the rub for me: When my husband is cooking and I am writing, the aromas wafting over to my desk are more enticing– and more likely to compel me to eat when I needn’t– then when I am cooking (for myself or work). When I cook, I taste. When David cooks, I eat.
    Perhaps if he stopped cooking, I would one day hear that lovely question: How do you stay so slim?

  • May 17, 2012 4:56pm

    Here here! (or is it hear hear?) I didn’t lose weight in France, I lost it before, but I’ve found that it’s been much easier to keep the weight off here than when I go back to the States.

    I spend a ton of money on food here – I assume you do too – but you’re completely right when you say to maximize the calories. If it’s not good, don’t put it in your mouth!

  • Cyndy
    May 17, 2012 4:56pm

    I know people have been nagging you about how you stay slim, etc. Maybe now they’ll stop. Soooooooo… wouldn’t you like to shut us all up about your apartment? I’m thinking the reason you haven’t blogged-all is because: it’s not done to your liking yet, you feel it’s an invasion of privacy (yet you told us about “the making of it,” so this theory doesn’t seem to hold up), or you are secretly working on the Reveal My Apartment blog, which I’m hoping is the case!

    Unlike everybody else, I gained weight in Paris, despite walking everywhere almost every day. C’est la vie! It all came off when we returned home. I blame the wonderful bread.

  • Katya
    May 17, 2012 4:56pm

    Awesome post! I especially liked the term “fromager” =))

  • May 17, 2012 4:57pm
    David Lebovitz

    Lindsey + Zoe: It’s funny that people think that French women (and men) know some special secret, when for years, it was that they didn’t have access to junk food and didn’t eat so much fast food. Some also feel that eating in front of the tv has something to do with overeating, which is something more French people seem to be doing.

    vera: It’s really hard to eat well while traveling. I know that I indulge whenever I am on the road – ice cream at the airport, caramel corn, candy bars in America, etc.. but when I get home, I make it a point to do a little ‘detox’ kind of thing, and mostly crave vegetables and grains for a few days.

    Susie: There was an update in my last newsletter.

    Carol: Curious that people say “Corn syrup is in everything!” because I always thought that it had to be listed on the ingredients list. And if I buy something in a jar or box, and I’m not sure what’s in it, I check.

    Cathg1g2: I met Michael P. last year and he was incredibly nice. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but he’s very down-to-earth. Interestingly he had a 63 gallon drum of HFCS in his house and he told me that represented what the average person in America eats a year. (I didn’t pick it up to see if it was full!)

    Susan: I used to skip breakfast, until a friend who is a trainer yelled at me, and said that if you don’t eat breakfast, your body just holds on to the food/fuel that it already has, and you not only don’t lose weight, but you lose energy. Am not sure about the veracity of that statement, but I now eat more for breakfast than I used to.

  • May 17, 2012 5:01pm

    Almost all of my colleagues are French, and I’m in Paris regularly for work, and what I’ve noticed about French women I work with is that they’re very careful about what they eat–everything is in small portions. And as you say, they smoke! As someone who works with her nose, it would never occur to me to smoke, but for many French perfumers, it doesn’t seem be a concern. I once trained with a perfumer who would have a cigarette perpetually hanging out of the corner of his mouth, even when smelling new scent mods with me!

    Despite the common belief that French women somehow have a healthier attitude towards food than Americans, I’ve noticed exactly the same concerns and phobias. Le regime seems to be a favorite topic.

    I like your article very much–it sounds like you’ve developed a system that works best for you and is very sensible.

  • MM
    May 17, 2012 5:11pm

    I live in the coastal part of Croatia and subscribe to a similar philosophy- no processed foods, garden vegetables, lots of fish (I do love squids), olive oil, amazing Croatian cheese (Paski sir is a must if you haven’t tried it) and red wine. Preferably all served on a terrace overlooking the Adriatic. Heaven…

  • May 17, 2012 5:12pm

    People ask me the same. I’m almost 5’9 and I’m a size 4-6 and I eat it all.

    People don’t get it that I can spent the holidays in Paris with my family stuffing my face and not gain weight. First off, I exercise a lot, but also I don’t eat the typical North American food.

    I check labels and eat real food. I eat only 2 or 3 things from a can and that’s it.

    I cook everyday for myself and I do enjoy it.

    I hate frozen foods and junk food. You won’t catch me eating a piece of cake that is 2 feet high.

    I keep my portions quite similar to portions in France and I am happy with the way I look and feel.

    Oh, did I mention that I’m over 40 … so that whole notion of “you gain weight after 40″ applies if you aren’t eating properly.

    My cousins in Paris are over 50 and they look amazing and they don’t exercise and have wine every night … the same applies to my cousin in Italy.

    It’s a totally different approach to food :-)

    This is a great post David!!!

    Krizia

  • Kathleen
    May 17, 2012 5:27pm

    Thank you for your wonderful explanation. Personally, I have never felt as good as when I lived at a lower altitude (currently I’m at 9000′) and ate only what was in season for fruit & veg. Simple happiness. Now, I must have my daily dose of chocolate!

  • May 17, 2012 5:30pm

    Wow David. We have a remarkably similar way of eating.

    Your daily eats are pretty in line with me.

    People email me pretty frequently with the same comments (how are you so thin with all the food you eat), etc….

    It’s really not something I focus on too much. Instead on focus on cooking healthy, homemade meals which tend to be way less calories and more nutritious than frozen stuff, premade junk, or restaurant meals.

  • Catherine N.
    May 17, 2012 5:31pm

    A few years ago I visited Paris. I stayed for about two and a half weeks, and lost weight doing so, in part because of all the walking. The French also had some great gluten-free products in the supermarket, the pain de campagne tasted like bread!

    I loved that I could go into a restaurant and get tasty gluten-free meals where they would know exactly what was in the food…

  • melinda
    May 17, 2012 5:32pm

    glad to hear someone else puts ice in wine….I have done that for years…..
    hope you are in & enjoying your new place

  • May 17, 2012 5:35pm

    BRAVO David!
    You eat like a French person…maybe a lot better but more or less the same principles.

  • Julia
    May 17, 2012 5:57pm

    Wow, David – you’re becoming the go-to guy for everything!! For “foodie” who is one person in love with food and cooking for eight – it’s a mental decision, but possibly you could freeze portions, or better yet – bring the extras to work and neighbors (or if you live in the States to a soup kitchen/shelter or the local fire house). Your situation sounds a little lonely – busier people don’t have time or the inclination to sit down and binge on too much food so start volunteering and experimenting in a kitchen that feeds others? Good luck, xo

  • May 17, 2012 5:59pm

    Great write up David! Everything in moderation…unfortunately most people don’t follow that simple rule of thumb.

    As far as those boxes of chocolates are concerned…I promise to remedy that the next time I’m in Paris. Your hookup is guaranteed. ;)

  • May 17, 2012 6:07pm
    David Lebovitz

    My Man’s Belly: Deal! Do I get to choose the chocolates?

    Julia: Am not sure I follow. But when I do have extra food, mostly from recipe testing, I usually bring it to the folks who work at my market or give it to neighbors and friends.

    Victoria: Yes, there is a somewhat overwhelming obsession with diets here, although I think that’s likely true of many people in most modern cities. I do see a lot of people drinking diet soda here, although as I heard one restaurateur in the states say to customers (because he refused to carry diet soda) – “You’re on a diet? Then drink water!”

  • Susan
    May 17, 2012 6:10pm

    I’ve lost about 55 pounds over the last two years. In the midwest. No dieting involved, just changing habits. Whole grain breads, preferably where I can get fresh baked, not prepackaged in the grocery store (unless it’s Whole Foods.) No processed foods. Lots of veggies and fruits, whatever is in season. Smaller portions of things others might consider taboo when trying to lose weight. Allowing cravings to be satisfied, but with small portions too. Let’s face it, if you crave creme brulee or cheesecake or eclairs, you are going to eat anything in front of you until the craving is satisfied. Since the first five or six bites of something are usually the best, that seems to satisfy me.

    Most of all, walking or biking anywhere I can. And if it is a day where I am going to be home more, walking or biking local trails.

    I truly believe that everything in moderation (not deprivation), eating seasonally, being active in whatever way you can, and just being overall sensible is far better for losing weight and being healthy. Dieting is temporary and most people end up putting all of their weight plus more back on.

    Sounds as if you eat sensibly and of course walking so many places is a plus.

  • May 17, 2012 6:10pm

    What I got most from your article was your lack of stress about food. There has been so much focus on obesity and fat-hating in the States this week. There are so many fad diets based on vilification and denial of specific foods – food bigotry, if you will. If Americans put as much care and attention into what they eat as many do in how they dress, we would all eat much more luxuriously and healthily. Bravo!

  • Janet
    May 17, 2012 6:17pm

    I love that you are the first to qualify bacon as “good” fat

  • F
    May 17, 2012 6:30pm

    Great post, thank you!
    I understand your statement about people working in the kitchen – they eat to survive. I got back to my ideal weight (after 20 kg gained during the pregnancy) exactly when i was working part time in a kitchen :)

    But we have an expression – do not eat in a restaurant where the cook is slim :)
    different cultures – different habits :)

  • Claire
    May 17, 2012 6:36pm

    You get out of here, with your rational reasoning and your sense-talking!
    When I was studying in France, I remember thinking it was funny that we hear so much about the French supernatural ability to stay thin, yet the amount of diet aids available was mind boggling. All of my friends’ mères d’accueil were on le Weight Watchers, and close to the end of my program, my host mom started buying diet jam (presumably for herself?). My favorite aid was Contrex slimming water – it makes you pee so you weigh less!

  • Kati
    May 17, 2012 6:43pm

    The trick here is definitely the daily walking and biking. The average American has a sedentary lifestyle, a car, and doesn’t cook fresh food often enough. Including me. But I’m getting better!

  • May 17, 2012 6:45pm

    Love this post, David! Hooray for common sense and for just some general knowledge about how not everyone has the same genetics or metabolism. And I’m all for biking and walking most everywhere. It’s how I discover all the best things about my city :)

  • janele
    May 17, 2012 6:50pm

    I recently moved from San Francisco to Nashville. Talk about a world of difference. The mass transit system is virtually non-existent, so people here drive everywhere. There are no sidewalks in half the city, so again, no incentive to walk. Back in San Francisco, coworkers routinely went to the gym (but then, most of them were twinks who wanted to keep their girlish figures). Here, people can’t fathom how I can think nothing of walking several miles a day or take the stairs. And the eating habits — what one person eats at one sitting is enough to feed me for 4 meals.

    I admit that the lack of exercise and the eating habits are what is spurring me to make sure I stay healthy.

  • May 17, 2012 6:52pm

    I clicked on your “frozen and pre-prepared” link. How depressing! Can you maybe expand on this in a future post? What are some good choices for someone coming to Paris in, say, July and staying in, say, the 7th?

  • Good question
    May 17, 2012 7:04pm

    I second Meredith’s question — why ice cubes in wine? thanks…

  • May 17, 2012 7:15pm

    Brilliant article – thank you.

  • Laura
    May 17, 2012 7:17pm

    Never sure why adult individuals are so fascinated about people who are thin and eat basic, wholsome food. I have followed a healthy diet since I was 18, and did not really have bad eating habits before that. I am also thin, but big deal! It should be 101 knowledge for everyone. Your post will no doubt give many readers insight, and it is a great guide to common sense living for diet and excercise. I also appreciate the fact you do not take yourself too seriously and just present the facts. Hopefully, after reading this post, people will start to use their heads, balance protein, consume more vegetables and whiole grains and get on with healthy living. It’s just not that complicated!

  • Lynne
    May 17, 2012 7:32pm

    My motto about eating is this: everything needs to be calorie-worthy. I also adhere to moderation, fruits and veggies, lean protiens, etc. but when eating a yummy treat or dessert, it especially needs to be calorie-worthy!!!
    love your blog David!!

  • May 17, 2012 7:33pm

    One thing I try to do as much as possible is ask “is it worth the calories?” I also diet at the market by refusing to let myself bring home snack foods and if I need a treat once home I am not tempted by things like chips or junk candy. I love to bake and find there are ample recipes that manage to make something delicious with four ounces of butter and occasionally two. These little efforts can pay off by allowing good food into my diet as well as good treats.

  • May 17, 2012 7:36pm

    This is such great advice. It sounds like a delicious and balanced way to live.

  • AnnaZed
    May 17, 2012 7:50pm

    How sensible! I do pretty much exactly the same things including the cycling. It is the fault of my heredity that I am fat, really it is.

  • May 17, 2012 7:57pm

    Frankly, I don’t understand people’s curiosity about how and what you eat (and your apartment :), but, as always, I enjoyed your post. I’m with you on all points: quality, selectiveness, and moderation should define our food. Seasonal eating is also important: while indulging on winter treats we clear our senses and prepare them for spring strawberries.
    As for the wine, it might be the secret of the French staying fit. Alcohol dissolves fats, so if you sip wine during your meal, the amounts of fats in your stomach are significantly reduced, and fats don’t enter your system.
    Real cheese is fatty, that’s why it pairs so well with wine – a perfect combination of fat, a fat destroying agent, antioxidants, and an enjoyment! Chemistry is our good friend. :)

    For a desperate foodie:
    – drink a glass (or two) of water before your meal – you will eat less;
    – use small plates – they will look full but fit much less food;
    – eat half of your usual portion and wait 20 minutes – you will feel you need no more;
    – share food with your co-workers or friends!

  • Dan
    May 17, 2012 8:31pm

    About that ice cube: no less a person than Saint Louis advocated diluting wine with water, according to Joinville (1309):
    [St-Louis] me demanda en Cypre pourquoy je ne metoie de l’yaue en mon vin … il me dist que … se je ne l’apprenoie en ma joenesce et je le vouloie temprer en ma vieillesce, les gouttes et les maladies de fourcelle me prendroient, que jamais n’avroie santé; et se je bevoie le vin tout pur en ma vieillesce, je m’enyvreroie touz les soirs; et ce estoit trop laide chose de vaillant home de soy enivrer.

    One translation tells it like this: “[St Louis] used to add water to his wine … while we were in Cyprus he asked me why I did not mix my wine with water … he said that if I did not learn to mix my wine with water while I was still young, and wished to do so in my old age, gout and stomach troubles would take hold on me, and I should never be in good health. Moreover, if I went on drinking undiluted wine when I was old, I should get drunk every night, and it was too revolting a thing for any brave man to be in such a state.”

    Perhaps the relevance is a bit thin: but at least, under force of criticism, one can argue that putting water in wine has a noble history in France. Of course, St Louis might have succumbed to Cheez-Its or Jet-Puffed marshmallows if they had existed.

    Dan

    • May 17, 2012 11:00pm
      David Lebovitz

      Good to be in such highly esteemed company!

      A few years ago I went to a Scotch tasting and we were required to put ice in the Scotch; they said it dilutes the alcohol so you could taste the Scotch better. A number of drinks are improved with ice or being served ice-cold, such as pastis. Chef Judy Rodgers (of Zuni Café in San Francisco) said that chilling things can change flavors, and uses the example of an ice-cold cola drink versus one that’s room temperature. The cold one seems to have a lot more flavor.

      I don’t put ice in good wine, of course, but for everyday wine (like rosé, Vinho Verde, and wines like Muscadet), an ice cube seems appropriate. People in the south of France routinely put ice in rosé, which is where I picked up the habit.

  • Wini Moranville
    May 17, 2012 8:33pm

    Great post! I think France deserves some credit, too. At least for me–whenever I come back from my summer months in France, I always weigh five to 10 pounds less, in spite of daily croissants, tartines, great lunches and dinners and lots of wine.

    And I always put an ice cube in my wine (not-premium) wines. For me, it helps cut the alcohol content, which is over the moon in so many of them these days.

  • May 17, 2012 8:35pm

    Yes, I imagine it is tiresome to be asked all of the time what you eat and how you do it. I think people are after easy answers, some secret to eating what you want and staying slim. Good luck! I am fond of eating what I like. I try not to eat things I don’t like — if something doesn’t taste good when I am out, don’t eat any more of it. I have to force myself to exercise when it is not swimming season and I whine about it but if the jeans get too tight I take up walking up hills every morning.

  • Linda H
    May 17, 2012 8:35pm

    I have friends that eat according to the WTC rule–Worth The Calories. They are slim and happy.

  • May 17, 2012 9:00pm

    Dan reminded me of one peculiar thing in regards of the ice cube… When being a student, it surprised me that in Old Greek poems the word “bibamus” that meant “let’s have a drink” was very frequent. Curious as we could be at the age of 18, we wondered how could all these grand men stay sober and do grand things if they drank all the time. It turned out that it was a tradition in ancient Greece to dilute their wine, and they drank mostly young wine with very little alcohol, it was almost a grape juice.
    So why don’t we look at the greatest and do what they did, so many things are forgotten…
    Personally, I enjoy a glass of wine with an ice cube much more than without it, it is usually a rose or white wine though. You just have to relax and rely on your senses.:)

  • Jennifer J
    May 17, 2012 9:15pm

    I came to a similar conclusion a few years ago. Two young kids left me frazzled and overweight. I was eating processed foods for convenience and “calorie” control but they left me hungry and unstatisfied. I started to walk/run and eventually started training for a1/2 marathon. The running gave me much needed me time. In addition to exercise, I completely overhauled how we eat – tasty fats, produce in season, smaller portions of local, abx/hormone free, humanely raised meat, growing my own herbs and produce and really learning to cook and using the flavors per calorie rule. I dropped 33 lbs and have never felt better.

    A friend recently said she stopped buying shredded cheese because she was upset the cellulose used to make the cheese stay clump free was chemically processed wood pulp. I told her there is a whole world of tasty cheese out there, and I guarantee you’ll use less and enjoy it more than the bland bags of crap they pass off as cheese here in the US! Americans give up flavor in exchange for convenience all the time!

  • Sandy
    May 17, 2012 9:26pm

    BRAVO!

  • lien
    May 17, 2012 9:47pm

    Thanks David. I agree with you, quality over quantity :-)

  • Stephanie
    May 17, 2012 10:40pm

    I am sure this post was very informative to many of your readers. Being in a couple with a Frenchman for 13 years and living in France for 5 has revealed all of these ‘secrets’. It all seems so obvious to me now, but if I had married an American and stayed over there I am pretty sure I would be chunky like the rest of my family.

    Good food in France is so expensive so that is one way to curb calorie intake! Last week I spent way too much on cheese at the marché so I skipped meat an fish. Local vegetables are very affordable so we eat lots of those :)

  • May 17, 2012 10:51pm

    I’m the same way with chocolate – extra dark and the best quality available. If you’re ever near Rue Mouffetard, there’s a little chocolate shop called Nicolsen’s that has some of the darkest, creamiest chocolate I’ve ever eaten.

    Also, I came to Paris a couple of years ago and lived on a diet of baguettes and chocolate. Came home and weighed 8 pounds less. My conclusion? Walking around the city for 12+ hours a day, for two weeks, will do that.

  • May 17, 2012 10:57pm

    This all seems like great advice to me, David. Walking, riding, doing all that moving around, and then also eating the “good fats” resonated with me.

  • May 17, 2012 11:04pm

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!!

  • Debbie Young
    May 17, 2012 11:06pm

    Hi David, Dick and I were on your food tour last April. Have been back to France three X since then, and will go again this fall. Our goal has been to double our weight on each of our trips. Hasn’t happened yet :). The further away from your chocolate tour we get, the more we appreciate it. Love all your posts and your v. entertaining writing. You actually sound like yourself. Saw Jeanette and Mort while in Paris in April.

    Best, Debbie Young

    PS Had dinner with a caterer last night who used to own a terrific little neighborhood deli/cafe. She said that she carried a line of frozen cakes from you that were wonderful. C’est possible? (The frozen part, not the wonderful.)

  • May 17, 2012 11:11pm

    I have been tired of hearing similar thing in response to having a food blog “but you dont look like you eat or cook anything!”. My answer is that I share everything I cook or cook small amounts! Moderation is the key. I will start adding an icecube to my wine as i dont normally have expensive ones around. Just to strech a bit more:) My mom used to do that and I used to roll my eyes, guess should have listened to her :)

  • May 17, 2012 11:18pm

    Your posts are beautiful, but this one especially, because it has opened the secret door on how to enjoy all the gorgeous food that you write about. Thank you for writing it with such eloquence.

    Three years ago, I conquered my disordered eating and started my own food blog. (What better way to conquers your fears than taking pictures of them?) :) Food is nourishing, it brings people together, it changes moods, and one sensational bite, can change the course of someone’s life. It’s not meant to be gorged, or eaten alone, and food is never, ever, “bad.” I demonized food for far too long, just so I could reach, and maintain an impossibly, painfully, small size. The years I spent strictly restricting food were the worst years of my life. It took a while, but when I finally allowed myself to enjoy “real” food again (I think it was bacon), I was happier than I’d ever been in my life.

    I may no longer be a 00, but I’m healthy. And so is my relationship with food. I think we all need to stop categorizing food as “good,” and “bad.” When we eat what we love (and eat it for the Right reasons), like you, we can let go of the obsession with weight and literally allow things to gradually fall into proper alignment. XO

  • JoAnne
    May 17, 2012 11:36pm

    I would love to have that gorgeous looking chicken for dinner tonight Do share your recipe, please!

  • Naijomy
    May 18, 2012 12:02am

    Hear, hear, sir! I think it’s very wise to stop counting calories and to just make sure that you don’t over-eat and that what you eat is mostly whole and healthy and sometimes sweet and indulgent. It’s all about balance and moderation, which can sometimes be challenging of course (which is why I only bake when I know I’ll be serving or giving away most of it).

    “-I eat cheese. Someone “tsk tsk’d” me recently online for writing about cheese, saying it was “fattening.” But you rarely see an overweight fromager here in France.”

    They’re not actually wrong in calling cheese fat because most cheeses do contain a lot of fat. However, carbs are by far more fattening than fat (which is counter-intuitive for sure). Carbs may be healthier but they also kick insuline production into high gear whereas fats do so only moderately. Since insuline is what stores glucose as fat a diet of pasta would make you a lot rounder than a diet of cheese.

  • May 18, 2012 12:03am

    For me it’s all about portion sizes and not getting in the car to get everywhere. At our house there’s no good food or bad food – it’s all food. I love it. :)

  • May 18, 2012 12:04am

    Love the list, David! I know what you mean about exercise… I can only really put my mind to it when someone is yelling at me or telling me what to do. I’ve always done my best work, athletically, when I had the absolute most batshit coaches. Not a possibility for daily life and exercising to keep fit, unfortunately. I rarely find a list of “eating do’s and don’ts” that fit my life really well, but yours seem to. It’ll have a place on the fridge!

  • May 18, 2012 12:34am

    I enjoyed reading this post, mainly because I have colleagues constantly asking me “what do you eat” or “what can I eat tonight”.
    Most of the meals that I cook take 20 minutes to prepare, and over the course of the week I will try to incorporate chicken, beef, pork, lamb & fish, plus making sure that varies fresh vegetable and fruit work their way into our weekly diet. I give no thought to calories or “healthy eating” because I believe that by simply cooking with fresh ingredients everyday, I will be eating a balanced diet.
    Thankfully, my colleagues are beginning to try some of my recipes and start thinking about the meals that want to be eating over the course of the coming week.
    Keep up the good work, can’t wait to get back to Paris

  • May 18, 2012 1:02am

    Wow! You eat alot….of good things. ;o) I’ve been thinking lately about what I eat–and what calories I waste on bad stuff. I’ve struggled with my weight off and on my entire life and I think I’m finally getting a handle on things–NOT eating the things I love (butter, bread, chocolate) or trying to substitute lesser stand-ins that are “low fat” is ridiculous. I’m trying to learn to eat excellent versions of what I love but less of it. So sensible!

  • May 18, 2012 2:49am

    I’ve always thought that much of the obesity problem is at least as much mental/emotional as it is physiological. It stands to reason that lack of emotional equilibrium would be reflected in diet.

    It sounds like you have balance in your life generally, David, and your diet reflects that. To me, that’s the real takeaway. You have to have feelings of self-worth to hold out for the “good stuff.” Maybe if more people felt better about themselves, they’d eat better.

    Maybe not.

    Good food for thought, in any event.

    Nicole

  • May 18, 2012 6:19am

    thanks for letting us know :) i wish i didn’t care about these things, but i’m not evolved enough to not be interested in what everyone else is eating and doing all the time. i love especially your idea of eating good calories vs. bad, good chocolate vs bad chocolate. this is key for me. you have to live a little, but if you’re going to indulge it shouldn’t be hershey’s and pringles you know what i’m saying?

  • Priscilla
    May 18, 2012 8:53am

    Very sensible comments about enjoyable eating. I have just read your page in Delicious and see that you were looking forward to your trip to Restaurant Alain Ducasse. I hope you come back to Australia some time soon

  • May 18, 2012 8:54am

    Oh I relate so much to this article !!
    I know that for me it is the lack of exercise that is not good. As for the food, homemade or chosen restaurants, for the quality of ingredients, for the “good fat” ones,
    I am doing exactly the same as you do.

    I just need time and incentive to move it …
    Thanks for reminding me, us.

  • May 18, 2012 9:42am

    Thanks for that glimpse into your daily life – fascinating! I agree with you about maximising your calories – no point eating something if you’re not going to enjoy it to the full!

    xox Sarah

  • May 18, 2012 11:35am

    I simply love the concept of FPC, is the same way I am behaving right now. To eat less to eat better to eat good to eat tasty (and to run a lot) …. that’s my philosophy.

  • May 18, 2012 12:41pm

    Excellent read – thankfully I discovered the joys of “moderation” in my mid-twenties and haven’t used scales or gone on a diet since. I’m now nearly double that age. I thank my lucky stars that I’ve got to grips with this concept because all around me at work woman are food/diet bores and obsessed with Weight Watchers. I work with a colleague who loses a pound one week and gains a pound the next and eats lots of Weight Watchers ready meals/food. She won’t get off the diet merry-go-round and has been on it for something like 10 years.

    My dear Mum, who is in her 70’s, dieted herself into metabolic inertia in her youth and that, mixed with lack of exercise, means that even she doesn’t eat more than I do but can’t shift the weight. Even in her 70’s she still obsesses about food, her weight and agonises endlessly when it comes to buying clothes.

    I think it’s one of lifes great ironies that half the planet are trying to lose weight and other half are literally starving to death. How could we explain this to an alien without sounding like the most messed up species on the planet.

    Anyway……… I think I’ve gone a tad tangential here….. so will stop!

  • Olivia
    May 18, 2012 1:14pm

    Great advices for everyone out there that are really wondering “why I’m not losing any weight and I gain it instead!?” mmhh..maybe it should be all those frozen and pre-prepared meals and of course, bad quality food and habits.
    I have a great way that, so far, it has helped me to keep me fit and healthy. Sometimes, you don’t have the time or the lust to go to Bio or organic stores due to the hectic schedule sometimes we get into, specially in America. But, whenever you go to those huge supermarkets just stop for a moment and ask yourself if your grandma would buy that canned-spray cheese or those flavored onion crackers or that chocolate covered jelly banana. Guess not…

  • matt
    May 18, 2012 2:03pm

    a nice little read for a morning on vacation. Thanks. New York, not Paris. I found the CDC guideline incredibly misleading. i plugged in my weight (normal) then plugged in 10 lbs extra (also normal), but then thought about it, if that extra 10 were from eating/drinking i would definilely be fat, if it is from exercise (as I’m trying to focus on), it is muscle mass… go figure.

    cheese: fattening? one would have to eat an awful lot of cheese for that. BTW: i have NEVER been able to figure people out who drink 1% milk, why drink milk at all? i make sure to buy real milk from real farmers and enjoy the cream on top in my coffee and then savor the rest of the bottle (I generally don’t drink milk straight).

  • Kathy Casey
    May 18, 2012 2:44pm

    Dave,I loved this article especially that you do not cut out all the wonderful fats and yummy chocolate. I find when I go to France, especially Paris, I eat everything because it is so good. I usually maintain my weight or lose weight because I move (walk) a lot more. Hmmm, maybe I should just move there to maintain my weight. Thanks again.

  • May 18, 2012 5:07pm

    Well, this post certainly got readers’ attention, didn’t it? It was even commented upon at an afternoon get-together last night in my small town in Central Pennsylvania! The key is that it’s so basic and illustrious of the difference between rational and insane.

    Anyway, there is one detail that I’d like to bring up which I found to be true in a small town in Spain where I lived for many years, and what is probably true throughout western Europe and certainly in the United States: that this may be the last adult generation that can cook! And I’d question even that. I would venture to say that as we try to educate Americans to eat better, to learn to shop well for food, we should also keep in mind that perhaps most under the age of 50 do not know how to prepare the food they buy.

    This may be one reason why they find it so easy and convenient to load up at the nearest fast food or chain restaurant. Lack of time may be another contributor to poor eating habits. Curiously, this detail affects both people with challenged pocket books, who must work two and three jobs just to keep family heads above water, as well as people who makes lots of money but who spend 10 – 12 hours a day earning all that dough.

  • May 18, 2012 6:10pm

    David, your comment about the squid being ugly made my day! Can’t stop laughing about it :) Love this post especially getting the most of your calories by eating the best flavors. Happy weekend!

  • May 18, 2012 7:19pm

    This is such a great write-up and something that a lot of people should read! It’s simple, eat what you love, in moderation, and don’t stress about the pounds.

  • Nari
    May 18, 2012 8:40pm

    My friends, too, are always commenting about how I don’t weigh 30 pounds more than I do (fyi, I am SO not thin, just average… -ish.) They see all the baking and cooking I do and my love for fried foods and anything loaded with butter then just assume that I eat like that all the time! I splurge on good things like that but I do eat simple and healthful things, too!!! And moderation and exercise really are your best friend to make sure you don’t balloon up.

    Just because you talk about food all the time and cook/bake a lot it doesn’t mean you eat all of it then spend your evening chilling on the couch, but I don’t think my friends believe me when I tell them this… LOL

    By the by, David, I totally agree with you about squid being ugly, but when they are breaded and deep-fried (and served with spicy marinara or some kind of spicy aioli), I find them tragically irresistible! Oh well.

  • Jean Marie
    May 18, 2012 10:19pm

    I love Planter’s peanut bars too and haven’t had one in ages. You must also have a pretty fast metabolism in addition to all of that exercise. It does seem ridiculous that you felt compelled to have to write about what you eat! Your daily diet sounds delicious and healthy.

    • May 18, 2012 10:36pm
      David Lebovitz

      Those Planter’s Peanut Blocks are really insidious, I haven’t had one in years – and now I am craving one!

  • May 18, 2012 11:49pm

    Very similar to what I prescribe to healthy individuals in my nutrition practice. Who knew eating was so simple anyone could do it :) Thanks for the post!

  • abby
    May 18, 2012 11:58pm

    My those fresh berries look amazing! I’d choose those over a candy bar any day of hte week, and twice on Sunday.

  • Rosemarie
    May 19, 2012 12:12am

    Just curious, how many flights of stairs you climb, how many city blocks you walk, how many miles you cover on bicycle in a day/week? I think the answer must be your weight control method!
    Your musings and recipes are all delightful.

  • ranchodeluxe
    May 19, 2012 5:22am

    Sweet of you to do this. Good homemade food, not takeout or processed and if at all possible a garden from which to nibble. And the good chocolate, of course.

  • Carola
    May 19, 2012 4:32pm

    @ foodie –

    I have the same problem with portion control. In addition to the suggestions given in a previous comment, here are a couple of things that I find helpful.

    When I make a dessert, I freeze individual portions on a baking sheet and then, when they’re frozen, wrap them in tinfoil and put them in the back of the freezer. Granted, I can still take out multiple packs at one time (and I have), but I find I have much more control than if the temptation is sitting out on the counter.

    I know how many calories I can eat to maintain my weight. Every day I write that number on a sheet of paper and put it on the counter. I then subtract the number of calories of each thing I eat (using a kitchen scale and online calorie counter). So if I want to eat half a pie, fine. The rest of the day will be raw cauliflower (exaggerating, but you get the idea). When I get down to zero, that’s it for the day. There’s always tomorrow to look forward to :) Good luck.

  • foodie
    May 19, 2012 5:20pm

    I thank everyone who responded to my post. I do drink a lot of water and i know all the tricks and gimmicks, but still i yet haven’t managed the portion control. Carol, THANK You very much for sharing, it’s an enormous insight for me, so very helpful. However, reading ALL the posts on this theme has been enormously helpful and incouraging to me. Carol, i do not mean to be nosy, but what would be your calorie limit? I am 5’7″. I do work out, but my intakes can be paramount in quantity. Thank you everybody for sharing.

  • May 19, 2012 5:46pm

    The article is great, mr. lebovitz! But I have to quote: “I’ll sometimes put ice in wine if it’s an inexpensive bottle”! hahahah Don’t ask me why, but I giggled a lot when read it.

    Although, I’m not a drinker (my metabolism can’t handle alcohol very well) I would put it on a t-shirt just to piss off people, hahahah

    Being an obese under-control (yeap, eliminated almost 30kg or 66 pounds). I know how it feel like. No surgery our pills, just knowing what I’m eating. As you say, If I want to eat, must be the best quality ever. Crappy stuff is a waste of calories (and flavor, most important), hahahah

  • May 19, 2012 7:48pm

    I think what people should realize is its all about quantity. In the US we eat very large portions. Most of use could get by consuming half of what we are currently use to consuming and be just fine and healthier.

    Arthur

  • Carola
    May 19, 2012 8:08pm

    @ foodie

    I used the calorie calculator at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate/index.aspx – you enter your age, weight, height, gender, and activity level and it tells you the number of calories needed per day to maintain your weight. For me, the number is 1600. I found I had to adjust it down to 1500, because I’m quite sedentary due to a disability, but it was helpful in giving me a place to start.

  • foodie
    May 20, 2012 12:06am

    Carol, thank You ever so much! Best wishes&take care.

  • Kaitlin
    May 20, 2012 4:29am

    So much of this is common sense, really. If you exercise more or are more active, then yes, you can eat more. If you eat lots of healthy things you will feel healthy. (Not to say that there isn’t some mental health benefits of a good piece of chocolate.)

    I suspect that part of why Europeans are able to maintain a svelter figure, historically, has to do with moving more. When I lived in Germany, we were always out walking because it was something to do, because things were walking distance (within 5 km, typically), and because being outside is good for you. Living in Toronto now, I do a goodly amount of walking (to/from work, for groceries, to explore) and I find that I’m able to eat a bit more of what I want than when I lived in a more car-centric city…

  • Heather
    May 20, 2012 10:35am

    Thank you so much for sharing this – very generous of you. Cheers from Auckland New Zealand :)

  • TokyoMum
    May 20, 2012 3:19pm

    Eating wholesome food rich in nutrients and vitamins could hardly make one fat, of course, calories do matter at some point. Butter, animal fats, coconut oil are all much healthier than modern ‘cholesterol free” vegetable seed oil (too high in Omega 6 and turns rancid easily–bad for health!).

    You have a very healthy approach to eating (also because you are knowledgable about food!), concerned about the quality of food rather than quantity. Dark chocolates, contain much more polyphenols than green tea and red wine combined. Plus moving your body as often as you can helps in keeping you lean. Well done! Cheating and eating ‘crap’ food 20% of the time is all part of a healthy lifestyle, as long you maintain 80% of the time eating real food. That has been my philosophy :-)

    The modern advise on eating low fat food is a failure. Americans eat 50% less fat than 70 years ago, and are eating more sugar, corn and soy oil instead… look at their waistline now … sorry no offence but when it comes to health, we shouldn’t follow the American food and health advise or their food pyramid model. Instead follow what your ancestors eat, wherever you are in the world, East or West, they ate mostly unprocessed food, rich in nutrients and vitamins, and hardly suffer from diseases of civilisation. That is until they started eating modern processed food (check out Weston A. Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degenaration and Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet).

  • david
    May 20, 2012 5:54pm

    Totally agree…..
    You forgot to mention that
    YOU DO NOT SMOKE!
    And to put my grain of salt: GET RID OF THE SALT SHAKER

    David, you look great, Keep digging.

  • Michelle
    May 20, 2012 6:02pm

    Yes I am on board with your principles towards sensible diet.People in general are keen to glorify one food group to the others. Carb is an enemy for westerner, yet…in Asia..we eat tons of it every week. Don’t blame rice or bread but put the blame on ourselves instead. The serving size and frequency of eating is paramount. The portion size getting fatter and rounder in restaurant so is our physic. The most puzzling question is…who is the criminal in this never ending blaming games? Pastry Chef? Because creme brûlée you had last night at some michelin starred restaurant was deceptively smooth and heavenly sexy in your mouth?. Or you…who performs slavery towards food; round the clock of feeding and gigantic amounts of calorie. I cook, I eat chocolate, rice is my saviour, bread is often a love story for Sunday brunch. Love all food….corporate them in your body gracefully. Hey….I am like David…so in love with food but my body is not having an affair with fat.

  • Spiffypaws
    May 20, 2012 11:36pm

    I’m a baker. A few years ago, when I started gaining weight despite the physical labor my job entails, I stopped driving to work and switched to biking. I bike 9 miles total, 5 days a week and that is just enough to keep my weight down. My weight lifting is lifting 40 # sacks of flour and heaving huge hunks of bread dough out of mixing bowls!!

  • Giovani
    May 21, 2012 5:34am

    Ha! What’s the opposite of an ode and can you please write one about ugly squid?

  • May 21, 2012 3:03pm

    A bit of everything and of everything a bit is an excellent dieting philosophy.

  • May 22, 2012 5:43am

    Too many people these days seem to be afraid of food, or are the opposite and chow down anything prepackaged in a plastic wrap… They simply need to be re-educated about the joys of eating – and living! Good thing for writers and chefs such as yourself, who have a wonderful, sensible approach and attitude towards food.

    If I may add, however, squid can be soooo delicious when cooked properly! Grilled, or in Thai seafood soups… What’s your take on octopus??

  • May 22, 2012 6:14am

    It’s funny the perceptions people have about eating and weight/body types AND that the focus is so much on appearance rather than on health. Petite forms are often seen by some as being “in shape”… but often nothing is further from the truth… that just because one maintains their weight does not necessarily mean they are “healthy” or “in shape”!

    It is interesting though the different ways people eat. I have a friend who practically inhales his food and seems to enjoy every bite somehow. Then there is my 5-year-old who savors every bite of a dessert, while most children scarf them right down. But during the regular course of most meals, he eats painfully slow. We truly are all so different in every facet of life.

    • May 22, 2012 8:32am
      David Lebovitz

      I had a friend who wasn’t slim at all – in fact, he was overweight, who did aerobics. One day he said to me, “This is so much harder for me than thinner people, because I have all this extra weight to carry around.” I never thought of that, but he was right – he was working harder than others in his classes. Eventually he went on to become an instructor, and although he didn’t resemble the typical fitness instructor “type”, his classes were always full.

      You’re right that health depends on a lot more factors than just having a certain size waistline or being able to benchpress X amounts of weight.

  • May 22, 2012 6:14pm

    I remember hearing some good advice on the topic (staying thin in spite of being a professional foodie) at an Association of Food Journalists conference. A dietitian said: “Look at your parents, then look at yourself, and don’t beat yourself up too much.” H was saying, basically, that you can/should maintain a healthy weight, but if thinness isn’t in your DNA, don’t go nuts over it.

  • shari
    May 22, 2012 9:16pm

    You seem to have a healthy appreciation for food. Good food. I feel the same way, -if you’re going to indulge, -eat the good stuff. I also love that you refuse to eat standing up. I plan on putting that into practice myself. I’ve recently become very fond of cheese after years of not eating my fair share, however, it’s definitely a food that I have no problem eating too much of. A little bit is very satisfying.

  • wendyb964
    May 22, 2012 11:15pm

    Touche. Though it may seem pedestrian and not interesting to many, the voice of reason speaks. My mum was born in London and raised in the south of France. Upon marriage and moving to the states she discovered work, box mixes, and American food which she imparted to her children. She kept those “French” habits of choosing wisely, small portions, and lovely ingredients. We kids did not appreciate this until her latter years. This (excuse me) simplistic point of view is prudent no matter your income or food preferences. Thank you for the reminder to do as I know. It’s never too late to make conscious decisions. This last comment is for my benefit only rather than a statement to anyone else.

  • AChefinParis
    May 22, 2012 11:53pm

    Look, I’m no botanist, alchemist, or professional MD by any means. But I’m going to interject this idea from my travels as they have been vast, and this is one thing I have garnered- every BODY is different. Period.

    Calories are a myth. They are an intentioned determined for a steam engine.

    Each body has different mechanisms and metabolisms, genetic backgrounds, digestive enzymes, and this that and the other- I am thoroughly convinced.

    Currently, I live in Paris. Women here are absolutely obsessed with their weight- always have been always will be, and never will share that information with anyone freely. Thanks to America, they are becoming cursed with our “sciences” of how to be thin. The truth is, whole foods, and knowing how your body functions- what you can digest, and eat, I personally believe, are where the secrets lie. Ultimately, what you eat is paramount. Exercise is subsequent. Then again, don’t listen to me- listen to yourself first and foremost, and follow up your intuitions where possible with medical testing and backing, and use your own judgement paired with trusted medical opinions. There is no one right answer; no magic bullet. Otherwise this all would be a non issue.

    Think about it. Some people need to eat red meat, some people cannot digest it. I personally find that I can’t digest cheese, and I can’t fathom how milk from a cow meant for a baby calf can possibly work for me who does not have three stomachs, and, who does not aspire to weigh a few hundred pounds. But, my French fiancé eats and digests bread and cheese like nobody’s business. Give him some fiber (unpeeled celery, unpeeled potatoes, etc) on the other hand, and our world’s swap sides.

  • May 23, 2012 10:14pm

    I’ve always eaten very well (lots of organic protein, veg and fruit) and I’m not the tiniest gal on the planet. I’m fine with that. I love your style of eating and cooking. I think you’ve figured out the right balance. Thanks for sharing. I’ll take a few of your tips! :)

  • May 23, 2012 11:49pm

    Interesting thread, tks for this article. I just ordered Peter Kaminsky book, flavor dense calorie makes so much sense in this crazy food world. The truth is anyone who is a foodie and who talks and writes passionately about food is usually pretty healthy and in good shape, for the very reasons you mentioned. The problem lays with those who don’t cook and don’t care about food (I mean real food).

  • May 24, 2012 5:22pm

    @ Tinne: “A bit of everything and of everything a bit,” I’ve never heard this saying before, but I like it! A perfect way to live.

  • May 26, 2012 4:36pm

    Love this post! Such common sense. Anything I would add would just be repeating all the good stuff you said…but I particularly love the fact that you eat full fat yogurt…I don’t know why anyone bothers with the low-fat and no-fat kind.

    • May 26, 2012 4:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      In France, a typical yogurt is half the size of an American one (which usually clocks in at around 8 ounces) – plus I don’t eat sugared or sweetened yogurts, since I prefer to add a bit of honey or whatever myself. So I feel fine eating the full-fat stuff.

  • Lexi
    May 28, 2012 3:19pm

    Great post! I think one thing diets (particulatlly in America) do is, as you said, demonize certain foods: carbs, fat, sugar etc. Personally, I think it’s important to enjoy your food. Not dread it or obsessively monitor carbohydrates.

    Also, those berries look divine :)

  • Wordbird
    May 31, 2012 9:42pm

    An interesting comment a French friend of mine made when I asked about the different attitudes to eating, food and pleasure between the French and us British: he agreed with everything you say in this article – about eating a little of anything and enjoying good-quality food, wine with dinner and plenty of walking to burn it all off.

    But he also said that French people will go on a little ‘regime’ and switch to salads and no treats for a few weeks if they find the button on their trousers has become tight. He says this is because they are rather vain and want to look good in their clothes. It made me smile. Good to know they have a little Achilles heel.

  • Bronwynsmom
    June 1, 2012 5:51pm

    Lovely thread.
    As a slim woman in my early 60s who is mad about cooking and eating good food, I hear the tired remarks about how “skinny” or “tiny” I am all the time…parenthetically, why is it all right to comment on a slim person’s body when it’s forbidden to say, “Gosh, look how plump you are!” Never mind. I know why…

    My (completely untested and made up) theory of French thinness is that, if you have every expectation that everything you eat will be really good, you are satisfied with much less, and don’t feel the need to gobble up everything in sight. I think it’s true of a lot of careful eaters on both sides of the pond.

    And there’s another thing, which we think explains why my husband struggles more with staying at a good weight than I do, and that is that I am not upset by being hungry. It’s just a feeling – it doesn’t compel me to go eat ahead of schedule. He, on the other hand, reacts to that feeling by REALLY wanting to eat something right away.

  • Sini
    June 3, 2012 4:33pm

    This was a great post which reflected many of my principles when it comes to food. Although I find squid is delicious ;)

  • June 4, 2012 6:30pm

    Love this post!! I have a champagne tour biz in Paris and get asked this all the time as well. I tell people visiting that I truly believe they will actually lose weight while visiting France!

    I say go ahead and eat a croissant or pain au chocolate every morning, enjoy the fabulous butter, the amazing bread, the cream etc. They can do this b/c A) They are eating smaller portions B) They are eating less processed foods and C) They are going to be walking everywhere so exercising more. The cardinal rule is eat less and exercise more and you’ll lose weight :)

    I wanted to comment on your Les Crayeres post but couldn’t. I love Les Crayeres. I run Tasty Side To Life Tours and I help people experience the beautiful Champagne region. It sounds like from the Les Crayeres post that you are a huge champagne fan and I would love, love to take you out to the region and help you taste with some fabulous small champagne producers whom I work with daily!

  • pj white
    June 4, 2012 7:11pm

    I have been eagerly reading all of your posts and just finished reading The Sweet Life in Paris. I will be in Paris for the first time in a few weeks and am looking for a good cafe/bistro in Montmartre area for dinner. We were planning on going to La Mascotte but think it may be closed for renovations. I have found this to be a harder area to find some place good – not sure why? Do you have a recommendation for me?

  • June 7, 2012 7:02pm

    Hello David,

    I too live in Paris and love the fresh food that I eat and have never had a problem with my weight. You mentioned that you bike everywhere. I considering buying my own bike but my best French girlfriend keeps pushing me to become a card-carrying Velib member. Do you have your own bike? Do you Velib? I’m thinking of getting a vintage bike very soon. Thanks for your advice and suggestions in advance. Merci!