Monday, 28 April 2014

X is for XL

I am a big bird. I always have been.

One of the things I admire about French women is their sveltesse, their élégance.

It is probably true to say that the majority of French women are still slender. I say still, because I have noticed a marked increase in the last ten years in the number of overweight French women.

When I first started coming here for holidays, any fat woman would be guaranteed to be either British, American or German. Or sometimes Belgian. Now, if you spot a lady with a bit of avoirdupois, she is just as likely to be French. (This is not a sexist observation; there have been porky French men since forever.)

There is a marked difference in attitude to food amongst the girls we have staying here from the boys. Rarely will a boy shun a biscuit or dessert (though I have had some pretty faddy male eaters). But the girls are nearly 90% guaranteed to make a fuss about anything that might be perceived as 'fattening'. I know this is probably the case all over the Western world, but it is interesting to observe that the girls with legs like sparrows whose mothers are slender and élégante eat like sparrows too.

Macdonalds here highlights something too. Where franchises elsewhere in the world are maxing it up and offering bigger and bigger portions, the French version scales it down. There is a whole section of the menu devoted to petite faim and the children's happy meal has a compulsory bag of fruit or compote. They used to do a goats cheese wrap (sadly no longer on offer) and the petite salade comes with a hazelnut oil dressing.

The increase in the girth of many French women has brought one advantage. Years ago I would walk into a boutique to be greeted by a gazelle in thigh length leather boots, appraising my generous form with one haughty glance and declaring there to be nothing in my size in the store. Now at least, there is more available for ladies like me. And I notice the XL is no longer just big enough for an eight year old girl; it is slowly growing to meet the increasing demand.

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