Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Fall

For more than a year, Fodder and the Saint and I had been planning to take a holiday in France, so we’d known going into the weight-loss program that we would miss the last two weeks of meetings. At the same time, we were determined not to miss out on two of our favourite vacation sports.

Oh sure, we bought our opera tickets way ahead of time and we’d go to a gallery or two but seriously, what’s a visit to Paris without the three-euro bottles of wine from the corner grocery store or taste-testing croissants from every arrondissement?

So at every possible opportunity, Fodder and I assured each other that no matter what happened consumption-wise in France, we could and would simply climb back on the program when we got home. We were still saying the words to each other as we got on the plane. And as we got off the plane.
The Saint’s halo got a little shinier from listening to us and not saying, “Methinks they doth protest too much.”

Or maybe he wasn’t even listening.


The day we arrived in France, the country was in the throes of labour unrest.

Instead of a straightforward train ride from the airport to the centre of Paris, we had to get off the train – twice – and wander around various stations looking for some kind of vehicle to take us to the next stage. The French might hold sacred their retirement age (and lunch breaks, but that’s another story) but they cut the handicapped, elderly and tired tourists no slack. Elevators are rare, escalators almost as hard to come by.

The real reason French women don’t get fat, I decided as I grimly hauled my suitcase up yet another flight, is the enormous connecting Metro stations with all their frigging stairs. 

Eventually, though, we did reach the centre of town and promptly marched into a nice café for lunch. I had one of the infinite variety of salades composées that are on menus everywhere, which in this case was lettuce with sliced hard-boiled egg, ham and chicken. French salad dressings are much lighter than North American offerings so I didn’t worry about that part. Also, I might have had a glass of wine.

Afterward, we walked a kilometer along the Seine to our apartment, dropped off our luggage, and went back out for supplies. At the grocery shop three blocks away, we loaded up with fromage frais (a smooth white cheese with a consistency and flavour much like plain yogurt), oranges and apples for the next day’s breakfast; lettuce, emmenthal and brie cheeses, and a bottle of wine for dinner. A block further along, we found a bakery that offered (you guessed!) croissants and a loaf of multigrain bread.

By then we were almost cross-eyed with fatigue, so when we got back to the apartment we composed a big green salad with cheese, added bread and a  glass of wine on the side, devoured our first Paris dinner, and promptly fell asleep.

The next morning, we had fruit and fromage frais, coffee and a croissant and then took to the streets. Our landlord had decided he no longer wanted our rent in American dollars but now preferred euros, so we had to exchange all the US cash we’d brought. He assured us that there was a bank on the corner, so we set off.

We found the bank which, hélas, did not exchange currencies. Nor did the next bank. At the third one, a kind man handed me a printed slip of paper with the address of a bureau de change and, with our handy little map book to direct us, we headed off again.

Luckily we are all happy to walk – especially in Paris. The buildings are attractive, there are little parks and squares here and there, we were forever catching intriguing glimpses down an old streets or a vista along one of the grander avenues. Block after block, we were happy to walk….

The first day of our vacation set the stage for our week in Paris, although we added a few modifications.

My birthday landed two days after we did and we celebrated with a Tarte grand-mère for dessert, which opened the gate for some kind of treat every evening.

I didn’t eat five times a day; I found it awkward to pack all those snacks and was reluctant to interrupt perfectly good sightseeing to sit and chow down every couple of hours. We did choose healthy foods for picnics, restaurant lunches and dinners at home, but still – quiche for lunch, cheese at dinner, some dark chocolate or a tart afterward…these are not traditional weight-loss foods.

As well, I wasn’t doing any gym time with weights or on a fast-track cardio machine. My exercise consisted solely of strolling around Paris. And sure we walked every day, but we were slow. Or perhaps stately is a better word.

Conventional wisdom says that in order to lose weight without changing one’s diet, one must increase one’s exercise – frequency, intensity, and/or duration.

The frequency of exercise (daily) stayed the same as it was at home on the program, while the intensity dropped dramatically. Not a good thing in a weight-loss plan.

Even so, as we sauntered along the Champ de Mars or through Rodin’s garden, I started to hitch up my pants.

Clearly, they were stretching from being worn day after day. I’d been eating pie for God’s sake. But still…. You know.

Hope springs eternal.


  1. Paris sounds wonderful. And for the trip of a life-time do you really want to be counting every calorie? I think not. Of course that attitude does show in MY shape.

    Pat Amsden

  2. Right there with you, Pat.

    Change my habits? Sure, I'll do that. Exercise? You bet.
    But counting? Not gonna happen.