How France Saved Me from an Eating Disorder

Before I left for my first trip to Europe, I’d spent a good portion of my college years living on white rice, toast, salad, and multivitamins (and cheap beer, of course). I ran every day, and while I was never skeletal, I was pretty skinny. I continued to lose weight when I traveled around Europe en route to Angers, France, and I often got comments about how tiny I was. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that I would’ve continued my habits had not the culinary attitudes of the French intervened. Once I settled in to my host family’s routine, which involved a 3-course dinner every night, I could feel the flab coming on. I resisted for a good month, by avoiding patisseries and making myself jog.

And one day, the voice that told me white rice with bouillon cubes was tasty just changed its mind, and I made the choice to enjoy my time in France and worry about my weight when I returned to the U.S. There would be no forcing myself out running in striped tights with these sophisticated French women giving me strange looks. I was NOT going to eat rice while everyone else ate flan.And so I learned to enjoy food the way many French people do: slowly and simply. Granted, I tended to go for seconds when no one else did. And since I lived out of town, I often sometimes went to bed with a full stomach and a book directly after dinner. And maybe I ate savory crepes and croque monsieurs a little too often for lunch. Annnnd maybe I knew when a certain patisserie down the road took pain au chocolat out of the oven every afternoon. At any rate, I gained 20 pounds while I was there, and I was able to lose most of it when I got back. But I’ve never gone back to the white rice diet. Sometimes I wish I could recapture that incredible discipline, but at the same time, I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience a culture that savors its cheesy, creamy cuisine.

Thanks to wander.lust on Flickr for the memory of dessert cases filled with eclairs and tartes, which, thank goodness, I didn’t not often pass by.