So let me show you my theory about health balance.
We are all a little bit schizophrenic. All people on this planet have two sides, a double standard that we are used to apply to all areas in our life. We are like children, wanting one thing at a time and then the opposite the next moment. You’ve experienced it. The good resolutions we set on January 1st and that are completely forgotten 3 months later ?
Let me give you a few examples of what I’m talking about:
- January 1st : “I’ll stop buying those $3 fancy cappuccinos every day, I’ll save a thousand $$ !!”
- March 1st : “Oooh Sweet ! A new 4$-granola-cookie-toffee flavored cappuccino ! Give it, now.”
- January 1st : “I promise I’ll go to art galleries and museums every week-end. I need to know more about the world.”
- March 1st : “OMG, did you see the last season of keeping up with the Kadarshians ? I totally did a watching marathon last week-end *puffing*”
- January 1st: “Gym, you and me are gonna meet 6X a week”
- March 1st: “Gym? Meh”
Those examples may be a bit extreme, but you get my point don’t you
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Paradox
This means simply that we have to distinct sides: one which wants to see the great picture, focus on the “good” things to do to achieve the perfect life we all aspire. And one, that only responds to the instincts, pleasure, fear and to the “now”moment without thinking of any consequences for the future.
As I was saying, this “Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde” paradox can apply to all aspects in our life. It is definitely true for food, health and weight loss. It defines the struggle of million of people who wants to lose weight or just be healthier.
You may want it or not but Jekyll and Hyde are a part of you. You need to follow Dr. Jekyll but cannot forget Mr. Hyde. You have to make room to satisfy his dark hunger. Like in everything you need to find the balance.
How can you be Dr. Jekyll, seeing the big picture, making the right decisions about what and how you eat but also feed your inner gluttony Mr. Hyde without going overboard ?
How The French Create Balance
Carpe Diem (Seize the day) is a rule the French apply drastically. This philosophy of life basically means : If you don’t enjoy your day, your life, what’s the point ?
In other words, Mr. Hyde is strong among the French. But, Dr. Jekyll is also just around the corner.
Let me explain. There are a few things enjoyable in life for the French. It depends on the tastes and the personalities but there are a few cultural things we like :
- Occasionally go on some kind of public demonstration, just because.
- Rant against the bad weather and/or crowded public transportation.
- Enjoy new fashion items (both boys and girls) and brag about it.
- Eat good french cuisine and say nasty comments about how other countries know nothing about l’art de la table (the art of eating).
Did you notice ? The two last bullets points ? Kind of antagonist uh ?
Fashion and food if you refer to your common sense are not very friendly. We want to look good and kind of healthy (= Dr. Jekyll) and we want to eat eat eat (=Mr. Hyde). Well, the reality is that the French have found a way to take the best of both world, creating a steady balance between our two sides.
French Dr. Jekyll wants to have that healthy look. French Mr. Hyde wants to satisfy food cravings. In fact, if you pull the string, they both wants to feel good in a kind of way. Hurray ! So there is a way to conciliate both party !
The French Dr. Jekyll do not seek the “fashion-week-undernourished” body but rather the “feel-good-with-the-good-amount-of-fat-and-muscle-for-your-body-type-and-age” body. That’s great news ! Because French Mr. Hyde can cope with that. He has enough room to satisfy cravings without jeopardizing the whole plan of French Dr. Jekyll.
A bit lost ?
Here is a practical and very down to earth rules most French have learnt to apply from their parents/grand-parents :
- It is ok to splurge but do it if you are really going to enjoy it (exit the fast pizza eating in your car => hell no)
- Never, ever banish a food from your diet under the pretext it is full of fat, sugar or will make you fat. If you enjoy it, eat it (see first bullet)
- When splurging, try to splurge on homemade stuff or natural ingredient stuffs (believe me, nothing is better than my mum’s homemade tiramisu :p)
- Try not to have two splurging meals in a row.
- Healthy, balanced food never, ever means disgusting. If you don’t enjoy eat what’s the point ? There are a million ways to enjoy the healthy foods you would consider tasteless (vegetables, lean meats, fruits, soups etc.).
- And the n°1 rule, the Pareto rule : 80/20. Eat healthy, balanced, whole, homemade foods 80% of the time = Dr. Jekyll. Splurge and let it go the remaining 20% =Mr. Hyde.
This is balance. Balance which serves both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And prevent most of us, French, from going insane (well we are but for other reasons)
- Case 1 of insanity => binge eating when Dr. Jekyll is the master 100% of the time and Mr. Hyde, unsatisfied, takes over violently.
- Case 2 of insanity => obesity or overweight when Mr. Hyde is the master 80% of the time. Dr. Jekyll cannot reset the body to the right path with only the 20% remaining.
How You Can Do It Too
I want to give you a few tools to use to gradually try to apply that way of living.
Note every-single thing you eat for a week.
Try to determine who of Mr. Hide or Dr. Jekyll is the dominant of your life style. And what are the foods, habits you should drop or diminish.
Here is a sheet you can reproduce and take with you or note on your phone.
Dry application of the Pareto rule of your meals on a week:
- There are 7*3=21 meals in a week
- 80% of your meals shall be balanced => around 17 meals
- 20% of your meals shall be whatever you truly enjoy => around 4 meals
- let’s say all your breakfast will be balanced (i found it easier)
- and again, you respect the “not two splurging meals in a row”
Here is what my week usually looks like:
As you can see, I tend to splurge more toward the end of the week. This is when I go out with friends or when I have a nice family Sunday lunch. Sometimes I split one of my “Hyde” meals in two and allow myself to have 2 nice desserts or pastries instead (I’m a sweet tooth). The number 4 becomes 3 “Hyde” meals and 2 delicious pastries during the week (for the goûter for instance).
Of course, I do not repeat this scheme every week. Sometimes I overindulge (especially around the holidays!) but I make sure to compensate in a way or another.
You can design your own Jekyll-Hyde lifestyle regarding your habits, your health particularities etc. Achieving this balance is within the capacity of all of us and you will be able live the balance and enjoyable life the French mastered !
What do you think of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Paradox ? Is the Pareto rule new to you ?
*Source : wikipedia
Author: Emilie Durand
Emilie is a French food lover, proud Parisian and founder of thefrenchwaytohealth.com. On her website, she shares delicious recipes, health tips and tricks. Her goal is to gather and share the habits and rules that have been used and approved by French people for decades. That means cooking your own meals efficiently, enjoying whole foods, eating mindfully and never ever using the word diet again while losing weight.