Myth of the month: All French people are thin

Written by Diane on. Posted in France myth of the month

Welcome to my new monthly column, France myth of the month, where I’ll take a look at a widespread stereotype and share my thoughts.


First up? Myth: All French people are thin…

Read on!

When you think of French women, what comes to mind? Lithe model figures dressed to the nines? Skinny women who eat whatever they want and don’t gain an ounce? Well, sorry to break it to you, but that’s a total myth, folks…

So are all French people thin? Heck no.

french-people-are-thin This one is realllllllly false. Just like anywhere else, people come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, some French people are thin, but others are fat and everything in between. Where we live, in a small city, people tend to walk a lot and we often see families taking Sunday afternoon strolls, couples getting their baguettes in the afternoon for dinner and just a lot of walking and physical activity in general. I will note that you rarely see obese people. I think I’ve seen one obese man since I’ve been here, whereas in the United States, it’s unfortunately a daily sight.

While France doesn’t have a major obesity problem, obesity rates are increasing. In France, the obesity rate is around 11 percent now.

What’s going on worldwide in regards to obesity?

According to a 2010 report entitled Obesity and Economics of Prevention: Fit not Fat, approximately 500 million people worldwide are obese which translates to roughly 1 in 10. Scary? This is worse:

…obesity rates have grown by 4 to 5 percent in Mexico and the United States, the country with the highest rate of obesity of any developed nation at 33.8 percent.

Yikes!

So what have we learned? That Americans tend to be bigger, in general, than the French. But that does not mean that all French people are thin. Or super models. Or anything close. Most people here are just normal looking and aren’t the stick-thin, modelesque figures seen on the pages of glossy magazines.

Read more myths!

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Comments (7)

  • caren gittleman

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    The French have probably gained weight due to the infiltration of McDonald’s to all of the foreign countries.

    It is strange that you hardly see obese people where yes, in the states you see them MULTIPLE times per day!

    Reply

  • Claire

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    I know I’ve heard of people writing books and doing studies to the effect of these people drink more wine than us (Americans) and they live longer, these people drink less, and they live longer, these people eat more than us and they live longer, these people eat less and they live longer, etc…

    No one’s really sure what’s “killing” Americans when it comes to the obesity epidemic. Sometimes it’s not JUST food that’s making a person a little more on the “obese” side of the spectrum. My own mother, for example, was on medications for a period of her life that made her gain seven pounds of weight every year she was on them, and she didn’t know. When you put her next to a person that looked like the one in the picture you have here, for example, they “looked different” as though they were a different kind of “fat.”

    I’ll agree with Caren and say that the influx of fast food and the lowering emphasis on “go to all the different shops to make your meals at home” has something to do with the increase in weight no matter where you go in the world, but the meals itself could be a factor as well.

    While reflecting on experiencing reverse culture shock when I went to Japan about five years ago, I remembered seeing only ONE “obese” person that was actually of Japanese decent there. If you want to read the post, the link is here. http://etoileecrivain.blogspot.com/2012/06/culture-shock-causing-it-now.html The second and third paragraphs are the only ones that deal with that particular situation.

    Thanks for this post, Diane!

    Reply

  • Mike Budd

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    Hello,
    Of course all French people are not thin, who would believe that?
    Still the French are the fittest in average, at least in Europe: have a look at this interesting study where France is first and UK last when comparing BMI.
    http://www.ined.fr/fr/publications/pop_soc/bdd/publication/1456/
    Cheers, Mike

    Reply

  • Hunter Reardon

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    There’s a book titled French Women Don’t Get Fat, which is a diet-like book that has become very popular in the United States. That may contribute to some mythology.

    Reply

    • Diane

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      Hi! Yup, I’ve heard about that book but haven’t read it. Lots of factors contribute to why it’s rare to see obese people here, but overweight? There are many!

      Reply

    • Ruth

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      I haven’t read that one, but is it by the same author, who wrote French Children Don’t Throw Food…because that book seems to have it completely backwards – apparently, according to Mme Whoever, French children are well behaved little angels who eat everything put in front of them, and French parents are chilled and laid back, allowing their children to learn at their own pace, and not stressing at all, and that English and Americans are the other way round….I have had this discussion with numerous French parents, and they are of the opinion that it’s the complete opposite….When it comes down to it, a lot of these ‘studies’ or books, are down to one person’s opinion, and not really an accurate description at all.

      Reply

      • Diane

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        Yup, everyone’s different and stereotyping by nationality is just a stereotype. Like you said, in your experience, it’s the exact opposite. Thanks for checking out the post!

        Reply

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