As a Holistic Nutritionist focused on education, I am always looking for ways my clients or followers can simplify healthy eating. One such diet that I have studied throughout my nutrition counselling and teaching career that wins the simplicity prize is the French diet. Although there have been many books written on the subject of French eating, or more specifically the “French Paradox”, my favourites are French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano and French Kids Eat Everything and Yours Can Too, by Karen Le Billon.
These two books give two perspectives of the French Paradox, one from an adult point of view and the other from a child rearing point of view. Both show a very simple set of rules to live by that are down to earth. Once such rule is the “no eating between meals” rule or “no snacks”. In fact, both books emphasize that there is a time to eat and a time not to eat and it is the “not eating” that makes the “eating” that much more precious.
I know what some of you are saying, including some of my colleagues: people need to snack to maintain blood sugar stability. Yes, I would agree, if you already have a blood sugar instability problem, but not if you don’t. If you do not already have blood sugar instability, then don’t go about giving yourself type II diabetes by eating all the time. The biochemistry is clear: every time you eat, your pancreas excretes insulin.
The more often you eat, the more often you get insulin circulating in your blood stream, and the more often your cells are exposed to insulin, the more likely you will become insulin resistant. Think of it like background music playing in your workplace all the time. Eventually, you don’t hear it any more.
The body does the same thing with insulin. If insulin is playing in the background all the time, the body tunes it out. Once your cells are resistant to insulin, they are less willing to allow glucose from the blood stream and into the cell. This leads to type II diabetes.
Although, the concept of “un-snacking” has even more benefits, which are covered in my Learn, Eat, & Be Well tutorials, suffice it to say, that not snacking between meals is a good habit to practice.
Easier said than done, you say? It depends on how you look at it. Although not snacking is a skill that, according to Karen Le Billon, is taught to French children very early on, it is never too late to start.
For those of us who have not been raised with the “un-snacking” skill, consider this: Just the way several rainy days in a row make you appreciate the next sunny day that much more, it is the act of not eating that is the best part of eating. The lack creates a better experience in the end. This is what the French do, they embrace hunger because it is OK to be hungry. The French avoid eating between meals to prime their appetites so that the food is so good when you finally get to eat it, you appreciate it that much more.