(I started this post the other day and thought I should finish before moving on)
The concept of "fitness" in Europe, or at least in France, is so different from the American concept. I've read and seen a million times how the European lifestyle promotes fitness in a way that the American lifestyle does not. To an extent, I experienced this is China. I walked everywhere, ate a lot of vegetables and over the course of a year, lost a LOT of weight. Of course, I gained all of it back after returning to the US (over the course of a couple years) and have never gotten close to that size again.
Although, I'm fairly certain that if I lived in Frace for six months, I could make a pretty decent run at it.
Here is French fitness in a nutshell.
Step one: Walk. Everywhere. I am ashamed to admit that I typically drive to the grocery store at home, even though it is less than a mile away. I convince myself that there are a few good reasons for this: I buy a lot of things at once, and it is often very hot outside.
From time to time, Mike and I do walk to the store when it is not swealtering hot and we only need a couple of things, but this is the exception rather than the rule. I could get around the "buying lots of stuff at once" thing by simply buying less stuff. I do not NEED to stock up on food as if I am preparing for the impending winter. Because there is no winter, at least not in Las Vegas. December and January are lovely months. It seldom dips below 50 degrees. This year, it was a "record cold winter". While my friends in other parts of the country were being burried in mountains of snow and ice, we were experiencing the mind-bending temperatures of 40-45 degrees for nearly two weeks! Remember all of those LA newscasters that we made fun of for freaking out at the near freezing temperatures? The same thing happened in Las Vegas, but no one noticed because we were all too busy making fun of Good Morning LA. I wore sweaters with t-shirts underneath for a couple of weeks. One day was especially chilly and I wore tights under my jeans. The biggest problem stems from people's lack of cold weather preparation. Many buildings do not have great heating systems. For a few days, my classroom was only about 60. 60 is not freezing, but 60 inside in the winter, is quite cold.
But, I digress. I was talking about walking. We very easily fell into the European habit of walking, partially because we did not have a choice. We do not have access to a car here, unless we want to rent one. It seems that many Parisians do not have cars and are perfectly satisfied to walk and use public transportation. We do not buy a lot of groceries at once, just what we can carry. We do our best to pick up the daily necessities on our way home for the evening and seldom go out again once we are in for the night. Our neighborhood is very convenient in that sense. Just outside the train station are a bakery, a butcher and some produce markets. If we need dry goods, there is also a little grocery store about half way between the train station and the apartment. However, I am surprised by how few dry goods we need.
Step two: meals. I seem to eat much smaller meals here. Even though restaurant meals come in courses, the courses are much smaller. Whereas I typically skip breakfast at home, I be sure to eat here, to fortify myself for my daily 10K worth of walking. This morning, I had two yogurts and a few strawberries because I was out of bread, and I am starting to think I made a mistake in not eating something more (an egg or sausage) before I left the apartment.
Step three: look beautiful wherever you go. While this may not exactly fit into the idea of fitness, it is part of the regimine. As a whole, French people are amazingly attractive. They put a lot more thought into their wardrobe and appearance than I ever have. Even on my best days, I do not look as good as a "casual" French lady. So in a sense, they set an unwritten standard and expect everyone to stick to it. They accept that tourists will not follow these rules (typically the Americans), but if you are part of society (or want to blend in), you need to follow these rules. Well put together outfits, well kept hair, makeup, you name it. In general, best face forward at all times. I have seen women jogging that look immaculate. I have no idea how they do it...