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Popular Diets of the World: The French Diet

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... But don't drink alone. If you do drink alcohol, follow the French diet, and consume it only with meals. Even light-to-moderate alcohol consumption can increase your risk of high blood pressure if it's done outside of meals, a study in the journal Hypertension reports. And alcohol on an empty stomach can dissolve your inhibitions, leading you to eat much more than you'd planned.

Do what you love. Forget slaving away at the gym -- French people stay fit simply by living their daily lives, which seldom involve hours spent stuck in traffic. Instead, they walk or bike where they need to go. And they walk because they enjoy it, not because it's something they have to do to stay fit. An American study found that people who exercised to lose weight or tone up spent about 40% less time exercising than those who exercised for reasons beyond dropping pounds, such as reducing stress, spending time with friends, or increasing their well-being. "A desire to lose weight or shape up may get you started on an exercise plan," says lead author Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, a psychology researcher at the University of Michigan, "but it's often the intrinsic factors, such as simply enjoying what you do, that determine if you'll keep up with the activity over time." Do what you love -- whether it's tennis, dancing, biking, or horseback riding, and you'll reap the rewards of a strong body and healthy heart.

Have a happy ending. The French diet leaves room for sweet indulgences like full-fat cheese and rich, dark chocolate. Clower suggests ending your meal with a bite of one or the other, a concept he calls the "ender." The food you choose has to be good, though, something that actually makes you groan with the enjoyment of it, he tells WebMD. Take a very small amount, the size of your thumb, perhaps, and eat it slowly, drawing out the experience as long as you can. Completing your meals with an "ender" helps cut cravings, so you have no need for snacks.

Snack smart. The French diet is low on snacks. On the rare occasions when they do snack between meals, people in France tend to choose bread, cheese, yogurt, and fresh fruit as opposed to cakes or candies, one study finds. When cravings strike between meals, remember to choose only fresh, real foods -- they're often just as convenient as highly processed products. And eat your snack slowly and mindfully, free of guilt. Remember, if it's made from primary ingredients, it's all healthy, Clower says -- just don't eat too much.

Published January 2007.

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Reviewed on January 01, 2007

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