Interesting article in the New York Times on efforts by a weight-loss company (Jenny Craig) to see their products and services in France, a cuture not big on pre-packaged cooked foods, especially if they come from a company associated with the home of the Big Mac: “Selling an American-style weight-loss program to France would seem an absurd business proposition: from a French point of view, Americans might appear better equipped to give pointers on how to gain weight than how to lose it. The obesity rate in the United States is around 35 percent, compared with 14.5 percent in France.” But the obesity rate has been rising in France lately as well, although not nearly at the rate of the US.
The article points out that the many people in France believe that the traditional French food and eating culture is the answer to obesity. Valérie Bignon, the director of corporate communications for Nestlé France comments: “The solution to America’s weight problem lies in what I call the French food model, a model that is very social, as opposed to the individualist approach of the Americans.” She points to the importance of placing high value on everyone getting together at the same time, eating the same thing, and making meals into a social event, thus discouraging between-meal snacking. She is down not only on American fast food but also on self-serve restaurants (le Self) – which move away from the “French food model”. I have to admit that when I was a student in France, I often ate at self-serve restaurants – they were cheap.