While my wonderful wife – for reasons that, in the interest of personal safety, I refuse to divulge – will vehemently refute the validity of my discovery, I feel compelled to share it nonetheless. In the United States, people make all kinds of New Year’s resolutions, join an assortment of gymns or diet groups, and spend loads of money to lose weight. Diet regimens and food supplements have become big business yet people are constantly let down by results and are left looking for the next fashionable weight loss plan. That’s where I come in. At the risk of sounding like the most tripe and scripted salesman, would you like to drop 5 pounds in only one week? Take a trip to Paris.
Hopefully by now you’ve finished sighing, rolling your eyes, or laughing out loud. But as preposterous as it sounds, I’ve witnessed this most satisfying weight loss miracle first hand. After a week in Paris enjoying the sights, the city, and of course the food, I was hesitant but curious as to how much weight I had gained. Now I’m not the skinny rail I was in high school. In fact, I’m the guy who recently had to lose 50 pounds after the verbal bludgeoning I received from my doctor over my weight, laziness, and eating habits. In other words, I’m one who can appreciate dropping some extra pounds. But like so many other ills of the world, Paris holds to solution.
When we returned home from our week-long adventure in the world’s greatest city I had to take time to face that thorn in the side of every weight conscious individual – the scales. But to my surprise it shared some good news. I had lost 5 pounds. It didn’t take long to reflect back on the things we did in Paris, particularly the things we ate while there. We didn’t scrimp on our meals. French food was something that we intended to make a big part of our trip and boy did we! So how could I have dropped 5 pounds. Well the obvious answer from the traveler like me, blinded by his utopian love for Paris, would be that the “City of Light” is pure, unadulterated magic and within the city of Paris miracles do happen. On the other hand, much more stable minds would say there’s a more reasonable and plausible explanation.
First, Paris is a city made for walking. Unlike in the United States, Paris is your prototypical European-styled city whose structure is tied directly into its history – a history that preceded the introduction of the automobile – therefore making walking not only an acceptable but enjoyable mode of transportation. In the states, we have become car dependent. We drive to work, we drive to get groceries, we do drive-thru banking, drive-thru fast food – our vehicles are a substantial part of our daily lives. In many ways – and my own life reflects this – we can’t function without our automobiles. That’s not the case in Paris. Be prepared to walk, burn calories, and enjoy it.
Parisians seem to move in a rapid yet fluid state of motion, zipping along through the arteries, veins, and capillaries of the city with confidence and purpose. Regardless of what part of Paris you’re in, the sidewalks are filled with fast walkers and no slow traffic lanes. I remember thinking to myself “We’re walking a lot faster that we would back home” yet we were being passed on both sides. In a way I felt like a street sweeper blocking rush hour traffic. So sometimes taking a walk down Rue de Rivoli or Boulevard Saint-Germain while keeping pace with the locals can feel like an extensive aerobic workout.
But don’t misunderstand me, it’s not as if walking in Paris is a headache. In fact it’s quite the opposite. While sometimes the Parisian pace can be hectic and rushed, there’s also plenty of walks in Paris that you simply can’t miss. It’s as if each and every street has an interesting story and a new discovery that you would never encounter if you chose to wage vehicular combat through the city’s streets (what we Americans call driving). The pedestrian market streets, the Seine-side sidewalks, and the beautiful green gardens are just some of the treasures awaiting those willing to navigate the city afoot. In other words, Paris invites you to walk and failing to do so would be like missing out on one of the greatest experiences the city has to offer.
Even using the Metro is a stringent workout in itself. Aside from keeping up with the fast-moving flow of people, the Metro is an impressive labyrinth of hallways and concrete stairways that are sure to burn off a few of those calories added by the morning’s ham and cheese crepe. And if you have to switch trains in one of the busy underground hubs, you can count on even more walking. Again, it’s not a headache, it’s just another method of maneuvering around Paris that encourages walking and provides more exercise than some of us get in a week.
Besides walking, another more logical reason for losing weight in Paris is the food. Now I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking our French cuisine experience consisted of a strict diet of leafy green salads and fresh fruit. On the contrary, food was a key part of our trip. Parisians love their food and that was one element of their culture we had no problem diving into headfirst. We had our fair share of pastries and we most certainly threw ourselves into the cafe scene. We ended each day with lovely meal at a nice restaurant trying all sorts of local favorites such as duck, herring, lamb, shrimp, escargot, beef, and more. We ended our evening indulgences with a delectable assortment of chocolates, ice creams, and cakes.
There are several noteworthy things about food in Paris. First, unlike in the United States, it doesn’t take long to notice the absence of fast food places. They do exist. I mean there’s a McDonalds plopped right in the middle of the Champs Elysees. We saw a Pizza Hut stuck down a small side street in the 7th arrondissement. We were almost ran over by a Domino’s bicycle delivery guy. We even saw a poster advertising Kentucky Fried Chicken. But these spottings were extremely rare. Instead almost every street in Paris has a cafe, bistro, or restaurant serving an assortment of food of a higher quality than a Whopper with cheese or a Double Quarter Pounder. Of course you have to enjoy stops at the patisseries and the chocolate shops. And how can you not make Les Deux Magots’ pitcher of thick hot chocolate a part of your every week? Still, even though we ate a lot and ate good, I couldn’t help but feel I was eating better.
So while the romantic in me wants to credit the alluring and enchanting forces of Paris with my surprising five-pound drop, the realist in me has a more grounded understanding. But even though it’s not as dramatically fantastical or storybook, you can’t argue with results and even though I know the real reasons, I choose to credit and thank the mythical transcendental aura of Paris. Regardless, if given a choice, you can keep your magic pills, chalky diet shakes, and carb-free dinners. I’ll take a trip to Paris – a true miracle in weight loss.