How to Love Food Yet Keep an Hour Glass Shape

I learned a long time ago, how to manage my weight while at the same time, being able to almost eat whatever I wanted, not feeling deprived or prevented from eating any certain food group.

My mother, when I was about 12, got me into my school’s track & field, solely for the purpose of learning how to effectively control my weight & shape via healthy exercise.  In our American culture, where fast food is everywhere and so tempting, and processed food makes up the bulk of our grocery markets, I’m so glad she had the whereabouts to teach me something that is now seen as drastic in order to stay in shape for life: exercise and eating generally healthy.

She told me that when practice was especially hard, to picture someone’s body I adored (Catherine Zeta-Jones became it for me 🙂 ), and know that shape was my prize.  Nevermind that she and I have completely different body types, it was such a great motivator – picturing the body I wanted, but then love of the sport took over, and I found myself genuinely enjoying running and racing hurdles.  That was basically the goal, for me to learn to appreciate and enjoy the feel of exercise and taking care of my body, as well as to understand the award and results for doing so.

Something I’ve seen rampant in our country is that exercise becomes some kind of idol, or center of our life.  For women in particular, don’t take exercise or weight lifting so seriously that you cross over to a masculine extreme.

too masculine

Female Masculinity…

femalemasculinity

This is another beauty of the French woman… she still keeps her shape womanly and soft with a bit of lean muscle – she doesn’t lose her breast tissue in the pursuit of gaining strength that appears like a male torso.

crossfitwomen

The French typically have a laid back view on beauty, exercise and eating, they aren’t trying too hard with it – a view we Americans would do very well to integrate into our mindset.  As far as beauty goes, it is a very relaxed approach almost sometimes a little unkempt, but always sexy in a very French way.  Most French girls don’t even own a brush!  When I was young, and even now, I didn’t and don’t actually brush my hair, and I have one hair brush that I never ever use packed away in the storage under our sink.  I comb it when its detangled and wet, but never brush it out.

American women approach exercise out of fear and with great stress, leading most to give up because they’re already overweight and don’t see results fast enough to keep their motivation.  We typically are found going after workouts with too great an ambition – after a New Year’s declaration or seeing ourselves in reality in our social media pictures.  Instead of a steady, peaceful pursuit of health, it becomes a stressful chore to add to our to-do list – workout 3x per week… or else!  You can’t lose weight when stressed and under such pressure, but you can easily lose your motivation and perspective on life and its pleasures.

Americans tend to be at both ends of the extreme – either never exercising or exercising being their life center where they literally run around all day in work out clothes (guilty to some degree, at least with the workout attire).  The French only really wear their workout clothes when going to the gym or when actually working out.

Another thing I’ve realized is that Americans work out from the anxiety and pressure to be thin. The French exercise from the desire and pleasure to be thin… one is forced, the other is a natural, peaceful habit.

There are very few overweight women in France, I’m sure you’ve heard that cliche.  Its true for the most part.  When they start to feel their clothes getting tight, they up their daily exercise by simply taking the stairs, walking extra in their daily routine, and determinedly, eating less or avoiding dessert for awhile.

A word about dessert.

When the French eat something decadent, they try to avoid cheap imitations or processed and packaged sweets.  It just isn’t worth it to them, they value dessert more than that.  All those empty calories for something that doesn’t even taste that great compared to the real, homemade/handmade, exquisite little pastry or sweet, it just isn’t worth it.  As a result, because the dessert is heavier or more rich in taste, they naturally eat a lot less or they begin to feel sick (as it should be when one overeats).  Only one dessert a day is considered enough, and it is enough because it meets a very real need for the craving of deliciousness and pleasure, while at the same time, being satisfying enough that you don’t even think about eating more of it.  The French don’t deprive themselves by sticking to strange and restrictive diets that produce temporary results at best.  They don’t really do diets at all, but approach food as a pleasure to be enjoyed.

‘Je deprime donc je chocolate.’

“When I’m down, I chocolate.”

Refuse to buy packaged sweets if you can, we only do so extremely rarely, like if they are on an amazing deal and I get them for free.  Last week, I actually did obtain a box of Hostess Cupcakes, the first I’ve bought probably ever, but it was only because they were part of a “meal deal” where my buying ham & cheese gave me the cupcakes for free.  I already needed the deli meat and cheese, but the added free fattening desserts were a treat.  My son was delighted, but he understands we only do that for rare occasions… packaged sweets like that are usually never in my pantry.  Go figure in America they tempt you with buying the things you actually need (protein meats and cheese) and give you their packaged crap for free to try to get you addicted.  If you never usually buy them, they’re never a real temptation.

I’ve never read the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano, but I’ve heard great things about it, and the few things I have read fit right in line with everything I’m telling you in this post.  A quote from Mireille perfectly describes the difference in the American stressful mindset of food, versus the relaxed French perspective,

“French women think about good things to eat;

American women typically worry about bad things to eat.”

The French eat carbs… but don’t overeat or stress.  I couldn’t find any studies in particular, however, I would guess that the cortisol levels in American women vs French women is much higher, as is the newly medical term, The Hurried Woman Syndrome.  American women push themselves, constantly trying to be more competitive, to be perfectionists, to be the Super Mom… aggressive, successful, and in general, more masculine in nature.  Compared to the laid back approach of the parenting style and life of the French woman, the American woman is far more stressed and more than likely at risk to use pharmaceutical drugs in order to achieve peace of mind about her life.  This has even been noted as a reason why French women age better than American women, almost seeming to never appear old.  Yes, they take care of their skin immaculately and admirably, but it stems from a no-nonsense view of stress, as well as valuing their sleep each night (getting 8.5 hours compared to the American 6.5) so that cortisol levels don’t build up over extended periods of time.

They also have a natural awareness of calorie intake – if they eat something full of carbs they eat something light later, if they eat a dessert that was a lot of calories or particularly heavy, they modify their diet the next day to balance it out.

A few things to remember in starting the Fall off right:

  • Potion size difference… always remember that ours in America, is out of proportion.  Never finish all a restaurant gives you to eat, eat 1/4 to 1/2 and save the rest.
  • Eat an incredible breakfast.
  • Eating slower… actually enjoy the eating experience as a pleasure – taste and love the food you eat
  • Only eat really good food – avoid the empty carbs and sugars and processed crap of packaged foods as much as you can.
  • Cook for yourself!  Learn to LOVE to cook and bake your own treats… it will give you an appreciation of the process and art of food.
  • Eat a little dark chocolate everyday, never deprive yourself of chocolate.  As a woman, this is a sin.
  • Don’t be afraid to drink a little wine – I usually do in the Fall and Winter, and then for some reason (maybe the extreme heat here in Texas) I abstain pretty well in the Spring and Summer.
  •  Joie de Vivre!  Embrace the exuberant enjoyment of life!
  • Have healthy snacks always available, especially fruit, plain greek yogurt (add your own sugar) and cheese.
  • Stay away from diet foods, sugar free foods, sodas (at all costs).  We drink sodas rarely, adding ice into a soda is a great trick to water it down, making it actually healthier in albeit, a small way.

“Here is what I have seen to be good: it is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward.  God has also given riches and wealth to every man, and He has allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor.  This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

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26 thoughts on “How to Love Food Yet Keep an Hour Glass Shape

  1. Love this, Dragonfly! You RARELY see women who are not bodybuilders – who are that ripped. That’s crazy, sexy, cool!

    Those women have more toned abs than I do (and YES I’M HATIN’) and most of the men in my gym.

    But in my defense, as a drug-free athlete who hovers around 225 year round, it’s crazy hard to keep a six pack or stay under 10%.

    Oh wait, this isn’t about me. LOL

  2. You’re right, its a body builder thing for sure! My husband reminded me that some guys really do like that, but definitely not most, not when the women even lose their breasts or female form! But there is a lot to be said for lifting to help keep in shape I think right?

    And men have it easier (than being a body builder at least) I think to be more attractive to the opposite sex. It usually doesn’t require a six pack or even crazy good looks, just having broader shoulders and muscle definition is beyond the normal after 35-45+ male. Makes men in that category super attractive.

  3. Your husband is on point. Unnaturally small breasts…eh…not so much…unless the rest is proportioned.

    I think women should lift…primarily to preserve bone density as they age.

    There is nothing more adorable than an older woman (in particular) who has great posture, a firm hug/handshake and whose clothing drape gracefully…

    Most of the women I have known like that have always had a diet rich in green veggies and, would you believe, a good bit of red meat?

    When I was a personal trainer, the women who ate lots of veggies and lean meats were very strong and lean/proportionate, and had great posture…as opposed to those who lived off granola, pine nuts, apple butter toast, and Turkey bacon.

    Y’all sisters can eat too. 🙂

  4. “Unnaturally small breasts…eh…not so much…unless the rest is proportioned.”

    Their breasts aren’t “unnaturally small” they are exactly in proportion to their level of body fat. Breasts (unless they are artificial) are made up almost entirely of adipose tissue.

    I’m a mesomorph and could look like these women if I didn’t “watch it” and stay away from too much weight lifting. I do pullups, and inverted pushups but I never lift more than my body weight…yoga is the best. 🙂

  5. The only men that usually like female body builders are men that are body builders. Personally not to attack body builders – but I think they(both men and women) are taking a good thing(exercise) and using it to an extreme. It does not look natural or attractive at a certain point. Now where it looks unattractive is very different between a man and a woman we would agree.

  6. DragonFly,

    On this subject of a woman keeping her shape. Do you feel that it is equally important for a woman to keep her hour glass figure as it is for man to keep his six pack abs? Do you think from a Biblical and Christian worldview point that men and women have and equal responsibility in this area?

    I am certainly not saying that men should be able to be slobs and not have proper hygiene or generally care for their bodies. I keep my hair, my goatee and my clothes as my wife likes them. I call her my fashion advisor – if she does’nt like it I don’t wear it.

    But having said all that – whenever men talk about their wives gaining huge amounts of weight, or not shaving their legs anymore or trimming “that area” and just not making herself beautiful for him – they always seem throw back that “well he does not look the same either”. So what do you think on this? Is there any difference in responsibility between a husband and wife to keep their bodies as beautiful and handsome as possible?

  7. Yea, I’ve seen some women that can pull it off better because they wear makeup and have long beautiful hair. I think where its the most noticeable is probably their arms (when it starts to look too big).

  8. Do you feel that it is equally important for a woman to keep her hour glass figure as it is for man to keep his six pack abs? Do you think from a Biblical and Christian worldview point that men and women have and equal responsibility in this area?

    No, not at all! That’s like saying that every woman needs to attain super model bodies and looks.

    But having said all that – whenever men talk about their wives gaining huge amounts of weight, or not shaving their legs anymore or trimming “that area” and just not making herself beautiful for him – they always seem throw back that “well he does not look the same either”. So what do you think on this? Is there any difference in responsibility between a husband and wife to keep their bodies as beautiful and handsome as possible?

    It’s funny that you use that example of the woman throwing that back at them. It just isn’t the same. Women gaining huge amounts of weight is not the same as a man not having a six pack. Women aren’t as visual as you men are, it truly doesn’t matter as much at all to women how “ripped” their men are, as long as they’re masculine and confident. I’ve only seen that used as an excuse when the woman doesn’t want to work to lose her weight or is resentful about the “pressures” to be beautiful or womanly/feminine. I had a woman comment that exact same complaint a few weeks ago – that its not fair that the husband doesn’t have to look his best all the time, etc. She’s coming from a place of resentment in her heart against being beautiful or taking care of her body or looking nice.

    A woman who is genuinely happy is not resentful about seeing others made up, well-toned, well-dressed, etc. I’ve seen couples where both are overweight, but they are happy and it doesn’t bother them enough to make it any kind of issue. But when women get defensive (and try to throw back at you), its because they know they’re wrong.

  9. Only buy stuff on the outside of the grocery store. Inside is where the manufactured nastiness is inventoried.

    All of us can be more attractive and stronger at 45 than 25. However, it involves getting up at 4 or 5 a.m.

    ***

    Moving on to more important things, it’s said that French professional women spend 30% of their income on lingerie. I don’t know if that’s true, and my sample size is small. But, yeah. Church ladies who don’t wish to be attractive to their husbands BECAUSE EWWW GROSS won’t get this but romantic women might.

    I used to spend 4 weeks a year in Paris and Normandy. We ate and drank until disabled. No one was fat. Also, there were no potato chips or bottles of beer. (I did learn how to make a killer gratin.)

    ***

    For those who wish to train but not body-build (not body build like the chicks in the photo), I recommend Olympic lifting (with a coach who knows what he is doing). These are all compound movements (i.e., utilizing multiple muscle groups simultaneously, particularly in the midsection and hips). There’s zero interest in curls and crunches, and all the rest of the isolated muscle ‘personal training’ stuff. It’s simple, and inexpensive. (Just you, a 45 pound bar, and a squat rack. Maybe a bench.)

    What you discover is *functional* strength, strength that is useful walking up stairs with groceries, or chasing a son up a knife-edge at 13,500, or simply being able to roll over at night without the shoulders barking. I squat more now than I did as a college football player, and it’s not even close. When we set the PR, I just looked at my coach and said, “This is unbelievable.” Understand that I couldn’t go up stairs last year at this time, I have an unprepared torn ACL, both shoulders are surgical, and both lungs have been damaged badly. Nine surgeries so far, over 40 fractures, excluding fingers and toes. I’m stronger than when I was 21 and a free safety on grass. So I said “This is unbelievable” and started to cry, at 5:30 a.m. in an unfashionable town in a gym with iron and no air conditioning. And then we added 10 more to the bar and I … couldn’t do it. Maybe tomorrow.

  10. Wow, that is horrible what you went through… but incredible how you’ve made such progress, BV. Nine surgeries!!!! Living with a torn ACL and damaged lungs… having had so many fractures OMG. That certainly is unbelievable, your comeback, and definitely worthy of tears shed. Amazing, BV.

    I’m interested a little in lifting, its supposed to be so good for aging… but we both aren’t keen on getting a gym membership anytime soon really. We think about it sometimes… how nice it would be to work out again at a gym. I love how you always offer do-it-yourself projects that are inexpensive. We could turn our garage into a home gym easily I think.

    Only buy stuff on the outside of the grocery store.

    Yes! That is what my husband learned in his training academy. I’d never realized that before, but really makes sense!

    About French professional women spending 30% of their income on lingerie… that’s just ridiculous, that’s like what housing should cost! But hey, its their money I suppose. Lingerie doesn’t have to be that expensive… you can even make it… but maybe that’s what the men in France want (?) or maybe its just want the women want. I’ve never understood luxury items, the purses, etc… my parents are great with their money, but they never gave in the whole status thing. We always bought clothing when it was on sale – really great sales. It’s ironic that you bring up the lingerie cost, we just went shopping earlier today and found a little shop that had their lingerie items extremely marked down. $2.50 for my husband’s favorite panties he likes me to wear… $6.99 for bras with lace! I was like JACKPOT! I love VS, but I don’t want to spend $50 for a bra.

    As for your going to France (and oh… Normandy!) for 4 weeks every year, it sounds like it was wonderful. I’ve always wanted to visit Giverny.

  11. But what about a wide who has kept her shape, and a husband who has let himself go? Would she still be resentful to ask him to get back in shape? (not necessarily a six pack,just a healthy body).
    I think honestly that husbands and wives have equal responsibilities to keep their bodies how the other likes it. 1 corinthians 7 says that neither husband or wife have authority over their own bodies, in a sexual sense. So both have an obligation to fulfill the others wishes with their bodies.

  12. I started my exploration of my current form of training by looking at Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength”. He’s also published some pieces at PJmedia.com, including some great advice on setting up a home gym (specifying what kind of bar, bench and rack are good). He also has a lot of solid youtube videos.

    I actually have some Olympic gear but I live alone these days and enjoy the camaraderie and coaching of the gym. My coach trained with UIowa’s strength and conditioning program, and it is one that most DI football programs — and NFL teams — have emulated over the past 15 years. Then he went to Dallas and worked at Michael Johnson’s gym and trained NFL guys. The entire focus is on *functional* strength, not the polishing of pretty muscles and specific body parts. But in pursuing this approach, if one doesn’t load new calories, body fat declines, so waist etc. dimensions decline, and shape improves. I lost 30 pounds last year, then put 10 of it back on while immobile — but of course I was skinny-fat, which is pretty disgusting in a man.

    The amazing thing for me has been learning the complex movements of Olympic lifting and seeing my entire body enhanced; as an example, since the photos of the women above have the abs as their focal point, I note that I only do core stuff once a week, but I have more pronounced obliques than I’ve had since being a teenager. (The veins in my biceps are re-emerging and I only do curls when no one is watching.) What the Olympic lifts require and provide are stability and strength profiles that begin on the inside and work their way out.

    Just to be clear, I didn’t have all those injuries last year. (I only broke 20 bones and had two surgeries.) I accumulated them over my lifetime. My point was just to illustrate how remarkable I have found this form of training. I was mostly in bed for six months last year and by May 1 I was rapidly approaching the point where I would probably join sedentary America for the duration. I did not mean to sympathy troll.

    There are two all-state female athletes who train in my gym, again doing Olympic-style lifts, among other things. They needn’t worry about managing their figures, I’ll say that. It would be great if they wore more clothing, but that’s a topic someone else can broach.

  13. I think you’re right in that they need to keep it how each other likes it, to a point though, because a woman demanding her husband to look a certain way can cross the line of controlling him and harming his confidence or leadership. In that book that Dalrock’s mentioned (negatively), His Needs Her Needs, it is brought up… a wife that isn’t attracted to her husband’s weight gain or lack or care for himself (basic hygiene). The couple went to counseling and he offered just some tips to the husband of what to do to stay clean/meet her visual and sensual needs (hygiene), while the author mandated that the wife have sex with him everyday for a week or two weeks no matter what. She had been denying him sex because of his hygiene issues.

    I thought Biblical Gender Roles wasn’t really talking about that though, since he said not hygiene or weight but a wife wanting her husband to have a six pack.

    It just seems really controlling for a woman to demand her man to have a six pack (and comparable to a husband demanding his wife look like a super model). Most men (except narcissists) would never do that to a woman. They aren’t that controlling usually, unless she’s married a real nut that expects perfection (narcissist). Men mostly just care that their wife doesn’t gain a lot of weight, but if they want her to be toned, that’s more reasonable because its easily achievable. It just isn’t the same as a man needing to have a six pack though. A woman that would honestly be that controlling would probably not even respect her husband if he did cave to all her wishes, it would just fuel her bloodlust to control him more probably.

  14. Yes, I see what you’re saying about a six pack being extreme. Unless perhaps, he had a six pack when they first got married 😉
    I think it comes down to attitude, more so than specifics. Husbands and wives should both seek to do what they can to be attractive to each other. And, of course, not withhold sex even if the other person isn’t holding up their end. (Although, I guess that’s harder for guys, because if he’s not into it, well… it’s not really happening! Lol.)
    And for the record, my husband seems to keep getting hotter by the year. (Isn’t it unfair how that happens for guys?)

  15. I’m glad you posted this. I was always very active as a kid, but as I became a teenager and adult I realized that I had no idea how to adjust my eating habits and exercise habits as I got older and my metabolism slowed down. I eventually discovered running, and that I actually truly enjoy it, but it has taken me a while to learn to discipline myself to run even when I don’t feel like it.

    It has helped visualizing what I want my body to look like, definitely. However, I think the most rewarding thing for me is realizing that I do truly feel better afterwards. If I run in the morning, I start my day from a disciplined mindset with motivation and the satisfaction that I have already accomplished something. It also gives me incentive to NOT overindulge myself later, because I have already put the work in, and I don’t want to undo it.

    I enjoyed reading your additional advice! Keeping fruit around, treating myself to a little chocolate once in a while, and making sure that I focus on the quality of what I’m eating instead of the quantity have all helped me stay on point in the past.

  16. I always knew that that would happen… that my husband’s SMV would only rise as he ages (meanwhile, mine will fall). I love it though… I love getting older and hopefully gaining more wisdom 🙂 much better to grow old together, have children, and hopefully grandchildren.

  17. Good advice for men too Dragonfly. I would like to add two activities that are not injury prone and do build strength and endurance:

    1) Swimming several times a week
    2) Bicycling to work or the grocery store. You can get bicycle trailers to haul the groceries.

    There is the Catrike, a recumbent 3 wheeled vehicle that is screaming fast.

  18. Wow Jonathan!!! What on earth?!?!? How did this man know this 40 years ago, when I read an article two years or 3 ago that said the same things he said and it seemed so revolutionary?? So awesome.

    I read that its a great idea to try to stay away from all white foods, including milk & dairy foods. Its kind of a detox temporary thing, and when I’ve done that, I’ve had incredible results in even my mental energy! My approach is ironic, in the fall/winter I preach this message of everything in moderation, a la the French woman. In the Spring/Summer (and as early as January), my tune changes to “Eat Clean only,” little to no flour/wheat carbs, only eat what your body needs, etc. I’m sure its temperature related in some ways, but I think it’s also the pleasure foods that come during our American Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas goodies that I want to be able to indulge in that makes me do a crazy switch. But it really does seem inconsistent the more I look at it from an outsider’s viewpoint. I’m suddenly “ok” with pumpkin spice muffins, chocolate chip cookies (homemade though), and a variety of other delicious homemade desserts and treats now that its starting to become Fall. But I moderate my exercise routine in order to handle the extra calories though. 3 months on… 3 months off. I’m about to be embarking on 2-3 months on, taking December off. January is a detox month for us where we suddenly eat very clean and kind of weird to be honest (pea soup!?), but it helps to reset the body after all that indulgence over the American holidays feasting.

  19. It’d be really cruel to not remark on how amazing that is how you’ve turned your accident around and come so far. I’m glad it wasn’t 40 fractures from just that accident. It was a motorcycle accident wasn’t it?

  20. The context of I Corinthians 7 in giving a wife power over her husband’s body I personally believe is limited to sexual access. He must give her sexual access to his body.

    As her head he not only has sexual access to her body(based on I Corinthians 7) but she is to submit to him in everything(Ephesians 5) and for her to regard him as her Master(I Peter 3).

    Now yes a man can abuse his headship over his wife as many men have done. Men can become control freaks with their wives as many men have done, but the abuse of this truth does not in an anyway make it less true.

    While I believe husband should keep up his hygiene and do the basics like showering and shaving I don’t think the idea of bodily appearance is equal between a husband and wife.

    God has created a woman to be beautiful. It is one of her core traits. In the same way that God has designed women to have children, he has designed them to be beautiful.

    God has placed instincts in a woman to want to be beautiful and to want to have children to match her designed purposes. Some women suppress these desires, but they are there down deep regardless.

    A man does not have the natural desire to beautify himself the way a woman does. A man finds his value rather in his ability provide and lead.

    I believe that most women who complain of their husband’s weight gain do so only to cover their own weight gain. Basically they use their husband’s appearance as an excuse for them to neglect their God given duty to beautify themselves.

    I agree from the world’s perspective – this is unfair. But from God’s perspective it makes perfect sense.

  21. I totally and 100% agree with you. I think it’s just a cover for women to not have to do anything about their own beauty or weight. Like I said, the only times I’ve seen that (including in comments on my blog) are and were from women who really did let themselves go after having kids. Then they’re angry at me pointing out that they’ve let themselves go, and try to reach for any excuse – what’s the closest to them? Their husband. Throw him under a bus and use him as an excuse.

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