Being a dietitian has its challenges. In the U.S. at least, when I share that I am a nutritionist I find people analyzing my shopping basket, commenting on my meal choices, and justifying their own. People ask my opinion on fad diets, super foods, and the all-time favorite “how to lose weight”.
I’m returning from my second trip to Paris and found the city especially energizing. My husband and I walked about 8 hours every day, tried a new restaurant every day (and sometimes twice daily), enjoyed incredible pastries, and ended every night in our tiny apartment anticipating the next morning like a kid for Christmas.
Food in Paris is an anticipated treat. People eat with enthusiasm and take their time with any and all edibles from an espresso to a five course meal. Cheeses fill stores with their dozens of varieties, butter is the fat of choice, and breakfast is coffee and a croissant. Foie Gras, quiche, and brie are atop many a plate. Ingredients are full-fat. Bread is white.
I imagine that while the French are savoring their truly savory meals, they are talking about how the flavors meld on their tongue, how the fish is perfectly seared, and deciding what they will have for dessert.
Things are different in France. The Parisians break most rules I learned in school and the American culture about how to promote health. They enjoy a good smoke and a rich meal. Salads are a starter, not a main course. I never saw a gym in my miles of walking and only saw a handful of people out for a jog.
I got to think a lot about food and how I as Michaela and as an American relate to it. My thoughts went from amazement of the food I saw on others’ dinner plates to wonder at the discrepancy between what people ate and their weight to curiosity about my own food-related judgments. It was refreshing to escape for a time from our culture’s eating disorder. No apologies for having crème brûlée. No asking for dressing on the side. No guilt for eating, and yes enjoying, refined flour and white sugar.
As the Parisians, I see food as much more than fuel–it is a celebration meant to be acknowledged, relished, and shared. Health as an obsession has no place here. We can be happy and healthy and enjoy good food.