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Ask Sherry: About a French diet and lifestyle, and keeping an all-white outfit clean

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You can ask any question using the form here.

Request from a dear reader to talk about my personal observations/experience of a French woman’s diet and lifestyle

From what I experienced while in France with my partner’s friends and family, it is pretty simple.

They live and let live, and don’t take themselves so seriously.

On the one side, there are women who just don’t overindulge for food and diet. They are generally easy to spot – they are very thin (a little too skinny to be healthy, my partner might add), but they were not anorexic by any means. Just very thin.

For these women, one bite, or a small portion is enough. They kept cautioning me even when I was pregnant, to not eat more than I needed, and the baby was not a full-grown human, but a small fetus that needed calories, but not as much as another adult.

Even when they are faced with a box of chocolates, they take one, if that. They don’t try every single flavour (like I did).

I did notice them staring at my stomach a few times (not when I was pregnant), and then looking back down on their trim, flat tummies… for what exactly? Reassurance that they’re slimmer than me? I never really connected with them, to be frank with you. I just felt intimidated by their constant reminder to be careful with food.

I sat with my sister-in-law once, and she ate a SMALL salad plate-sized portion of a potato gratin with cheese, and a few slices of ham. She ate it, sat back, put her hand on her flat stomach and moaned: I overindulged! I ate way too much!!! I am such a pig.

I looked at my partner, didn’t say a word, and he stared back at me with the mutual understanding that for me, it would have been an appetizer, not the main meal because I AM a pig.

I realized it was her conditioning as a child, because it is ingrained in her not to overindulge.

I have even since, met with other French folk, strangers for the most part, and once in New York City, I ordered an indulgent hot chocolate with whipped cream. The two French girls beside me (our ages), had HUGE EYES of shock and derision as they saw the hot chocolate land in front of me.

This one:

They made the SAME FACES when my friend had pancakes and basically poured half the jug of maple syrup all over the pancakes.

They were snide, giggling and started speaking in French, not knowing I was fluent about how Americans were such disgusting, uncultured pigs (they didn’t know we also weren’t American but were equally offended).

I in the same manner, casually and passive-aggressively in English to my friend with me, about how French girls can be such bitches who think they’re the only ones who can speak and understand French, and should really keep their opinions to themselves before they get in trouble.

They were quiet after that as they obviously spoke and understood English.

But those were the few exceptions.

On the flip side, some of his other friends, were the complete opposite, and obviously not mean at all. They ate everything with gusto, drank wine, were not stick thin, and said – Go ahead! You might as well while you are here!

They weren’t rail thin, but they weren’t fat. They just enjoyed food, and enjoyed eating. I sort of liked them a bit more to be honest, I felt less cowed or shy about eating, and we connected on a food level.

I did however, note that they ate very good quality foods, but they also aren’t above eating processed, consumer packaged junk. I saw plenty of cookies and all of that crap, but it wasn’t like they were eating a tray a day.

They would eat Oreos let’s say, but only a few, not a ton.

I saw a lot less (in general) indulgence in crap and fast food in the groups I hung out with, but apparently this attitude towards food in changing, although their kids in general are more aware of food than your average child.

As for their lifestyle — Easygoing. At least, the ones I met were. But very private.

They may be casual and relaxed, but they won’t be telling you their life story, and revealing private parts about themselves, like how they struggled to get pregnant or whatever. They just don’t. It takes years to break into their shells and I am still not in.

I liked how nonchalant they were about how things went. It rained? Oh well, let’s laugh about getting soaked, and just make it back home.

Not uptight, a little more relaxed, and not at all how I had originally pictured them based on stereotypes.

They go to live music concerts, listen to the news, discuss politics, hang out at parks picnicking. They were not the type to spend loads of money on designer anything, but they dressed well, had small wardrobes (no space in France for large extravagant walk-in closets!), and had items that fit and flattered them.

I can’t say I know anything about the younger generation however, as the younger kids were a good 20 years younger than I, and the older ones I hung with were in their 50s… so I was the only one caught in age 30s limbo.

Those were the ones with AND without money. The only difference is the ones with money, tended to travel farther for vacations but generally speaking, they are all very cool / casual with activities. They don’t jam in things into their calendar like: Bake 100 muffins for family, Go to dinner with friends, Do this, Organize that …

They just let things happen as they may, and leave days open-ended. They may just hang at a pool doing nothing all day, reading. Hanging with their kids, and that’s fine. They don’t need activities to enrich their kids’ brains and to make them into the next Einsteins, the way North American culture sort of puts pressure on all parents to do — and I really REALLY enjoyed this aspect of their personalities.

They barely wear makeup. It’s why when I see women with huge false eyelashes, overdone eye makeup and hair, it makes me feel strange to look at them, like I am looking at a picture of them, not who they really are.

That’s not to say I don’t wear any makeup myself and don’t subscribe to all of it, but I am in the middle. I am not bare-faced daily, but I am not shy to go out with only sunscreen. I also do like to wear a bit of makeup, but it takes me only 10 minutes. No false eyelashes here for me!

Most of them also don’t bother with dying their hair. They are fine to go gray, and it is acceptable to do either, but I saw a lot more women aging gracefully and into their own, than here in North America where you are hard pressed to find anyone but the very senior, rocking any white hairs.

In general, they just live. They live and let live, and are passionate about topics like minimum wage, gay rights (for and against), and all sorts of topics that happen on a regular basis in any society.

Of course, they are not perfect (no one is), and I find they have a very ingrained class-based mentality about the haves, the have nots, and the abilities/intelligence of those who don’t “make it” in life and into the “right” schools. I was circulating around mostly who were the haves of society, but I did meet a few people who did not have much. I liked both.

I will say they are patriarchal as in most cultures.

The guys tend to make all the money, and the women don’t really. I met only one woman who made more than her husband and was an absolute powerhouse for data and research, so much so that her boss gave her a paid sabbatical and a huge cheque to come back after she took a break.

I had a cousin try to casually draw me out into conversation about the car I recently bought (and he heard about via the kids on Facebook), but I didn’t pick up on the hint. I didn’t mention my car, or that I bought it, or anything. Why? Because he didn’t ask me directly, and it didn’t occur to me until the next day after the wedding that he was trying to be polite, and did not want to ask me directly.

He did however, treat me with more respect than the last time I visited, because he thought I was some young woman who happened to meet my partner, but soon realized I am my partner’s financial and mental equal.

How do I keep clean, wearing all-white?

Honestly, I am just careful. I wear all white, I don’t try and sit down on what could be dirty and I look down at my seat before I do…

I do get smudges and I do get dirt on my clothes, but I have a Tide-to-go pen and I don’t hesitate to use it.

Once, in an all-white outfit, I stupidly ate a burger with ketchup on it and SPLAT it went all over my clothes. Sigh.

I just went into the bathroom, washed it the best I could, and Tide-to-Go on it, then handwashed when I got home.

Accidents happen. Just don’t eat gloppy ketchup in all-white, would be my only advice.

I am a big fan of Paula’s Choice products. Wondering which ones you use on a regular basis.

Wrote an whole post on all the Paula’s Choice products I have tried here… but it may be a bit outdated, I haven’t written a new one since.

My routine used to be this:

And it hasn’t changed much, except:

  • I use the ORG mineral daily now
  • I have cut out the moisturizer (I no longer use moisturizer)
  • I have subbed in the 8% AHA Lotion
  • Removed all serums except the Niacinamide and am thinking of adding back in the Resist C15 but we will see

My base routine is this:

Morning in order:

  • ORG Mineral Exfoliating Peel (Body) – Not Paula’s Choice
  • PC Balancing Cleanser
  • PC BHA 2%
  • PC AHA 8% Lotion (I hate the gel)
  • PC Niacinamide – the only serum I like that doesn’t seem to clog my pores – the other ones have not been so successful, or they prickle my skin and make me itch
  • Coola Mineral Tinted Sunscreen – Not Paula’s Choice, I never liked her mineral SPFs and the chemical ones stung my face and were not coral reef-safe

Night in order:

  • PC Cleansing Oil – even if I don’t wear makeup, I use this cleansing oil to remove dirt; I tried not doing it and just doing the cleanser, and angry red spots popped up.. I guess my skin enjoys the nightly cleansing oil no matter what
  • PC Balancing Cleanser
  • Every other night – PC 1% Retinol
  • PC BHA 2%
  • PC AHA 8% Lotion
  • Every other night when I do not use the Retinol – PC Niacinamide and PC 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide

That’s it, and I am pretty happy with it.

I also do spot treatments with the PC BHA 6% Serum (for the big bumps) when I want them to come to a head or go away.

I have the PC RESIST Triple Dark Spot serum I am going to be using once autumn starts, to remove two sun spots on my face – it worked well for the time I used it, but then summer came around and I didn’t want to damage my skin (even though I slather on the SPF), so I stopped, and will start again once summer is over.

Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


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