Moving abroad is much more than a new apartment and a new subway card. It’s a total change, a shift of what seems important, a questioning of priorities and this series of small shocks that you can’t really talk about when they come because there’s no perspective. You don’t yet understand them. The first thing that struck me was the relationship New Yorkers have with their bodies. A few months back, I was laughingly observing it all, and now I’ve almost completely changed my style of life. Here’s why…
Have you ever had lunch with a New Yorker?
Really, it’s not far from an episode of Sex and the City.
Up close too, the girls are perfect head to toe, and all the way to their nails. They’re rosy-cheeked, perfect hair, and their outfits, even if they’re vintage, all seem brand new. And they are really, and I mean really, skinny.
Okay, so I gotta say that when I first arrived in New York, the first people I met all worked in fashion. Then I met lots of other girls and I can say that not ALL New Yorkers are like that. Not all of them.
But the women in fashion in New York, they’re not just skinny. They’re New York skinny. New York skinny means thin to the brink, yet muscly from Pilates because it gives you those super long lean muscles. Anna Wintour style… Muffin top? What’s that mean?
It was cute, at first, to be the only Parisian at a New Yorker lunch.
But now, have you ever had lunch with Parisians? Well all right: Have you ever had lunch with me?
Lunch usually involves a glass a wine, one or two desserts that everyone shares, no need for an appetizer but stuffing your face full of half the bread on the table is kind of totally ok. Finish with a coffee and twelve cigarettes, saying that no, it’s no good, but so much fun.
So it was cute to be the only Parisian at a table of New Yorkers. They would watch me rip another piece of bread off, order a glass of wine and a dessert and ask me what was the secret of those Parisians who stay thin despite such a devastating diet.
And I’d just laugh saying that everyone in NY is just too skinny, that they have to live a little and no, I don’t work out at all cause I have so many other fascinating things to do in my life. Like smoking a few cigarettes, just to name one. And I’m perfectly fine with my little muffin top, thank you. I was perfectly happy that way.
This whole little game went on for a while just like that.
Until, actually, my muffin top took on a mind all its own. I swear, I couldn’t get my skinny jeans to button. There, all of a sudden, I started to shut up. I stopped being smug at lunch. I saw it right there. I gained weight. I gained weight like I’d never gained weight before.
That’s when I first started to understand some of the many differences between the Parisian and New York diet.
1 / The restaurants: Yes, Parisians will just let it all go ten times more when they go out. But they’re 10 times less likely to go out as well. And in Paris, no take out… You cook. In New York, your social life happens outside the house. You have meals out. The only time I “cooked” since I got to New York, it was to make crepes to show just how French I was.
2 / The portions: Have you ever seen the size of plates in New York? BIG. You understand right away the doggy bag concept that makes everyone laugh in France. Really though, with one plate, you could easily make two real meals out of it. But unfortunately your eyes and body get accustomed so fast to the giant mounds and you find yourself finishing your entire plate without even realizing it.
3 / The dietary norms: So maybe this isn’t something I can speak abut as I don’t know anything about that, but one thing’s for sure, the laws are totally different about things like what growth hormones you can feed beef and chicken to make them grow faster. I don’t know how all this affects our weight, but I don’t see how it could help but get into the milk, eggs and meat. It’s crazy. I was talking with Emily, my Australian friend who just got here to NYC and she also gained 10 pounds just like that (It’s known as the little house warming gift in NYC – Hello! Welcome! Here’s 10 pounds!). Plus here, not only did were we getting fatter – the fat seemed softer. Yeurk.
Here are just a few things that would end up making anybody a little paranoid of food… And end up with extremes… Work out to lose weight – and here, working out is an every day activity, eat less, worry about where your food is coming from, decide to stop eating meat, or gluten, milk, or just all that stuff all together… And become New York skinny.
And then after that, there’s another thing that pushes this weight-loss obsession and that’s social status. “My mom always says, ‘the smaller the dress size, the larger the apartment.” I once read that in the New York Times. It’s funny, but totally baffling, right? Oh New York social status… Just let me digest for a second (ahah) and we’ll get back to it later.
I feel like there wasn’t that same pressure in Paris.
That isn’t to say that Paris is a paradise of health and self-acceptance, but just that it’s less about extremes.
But with me, stuck between the obsession of skinny in New York, my overly relaxed Parisian attitude, and the pounds that keep adding up behind my boastful smile, it was maybe time for me to ask myself questions about my lifestyle… And look at myself in a mirror.
Oh my gaaaaaad. Life’s tough.
To be continued!!! Big hugs!