Joie de Vivre


La joie de vivre – the joy and passion of life and living.  A few years ago I read a friend’s copy of Mireille Guillano’s ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat‘ and then I purchased the follow-up book ‘French Women For All Seasons‘.  FWFAS is predominantly a cook book but there are lots of great suggestions on how to eat well, live well and be well.  It was only after a recent re-read that I realised how closely Mireille’s French Women philosophy aligns with many primal/paleo philosophies.  Granted, the French eat waaay more bread and cheese than you’ll see recommended by any primal/paleo aficionado, but the fundamental principles are there: eat real food, don’t eat too much, quality over quantity.  One of the most important elements is enjoyment. As Mireille says “It is about embracing the seasons and seasonality and making eating and savouring life a more intense experience”, “when foods are bursting with natural taste…the experience of eating them is more satisfying and we can content ourselves with less”.

I love Mireille’s French Women philosophy, as it puts good food at the centre, along with ‘l’art de vivre’ (the art of living).  Relishing the moment but not over indulging in it.  Her 50% rule is a great one for mitigating over consumption, by assessing your level of hunger/fullness at regular intervals.  Whenever you have something to eat, have only half, eat it slowly and savour each mouthful.  Then stop.  Reflect on what you’ve just eaten and ask yourself ‘would continuing be a matter of pleasure or just routine’.  If you want to continue, have half of what’s left, chew slowly, savour, stop and ask yourself the question again.  Eating slowly and reflecting upon what you have consumed allows your brain to catch up with your stomach and assess how much it has actually eaten.  Michael Pollan also has a good ‘rule’ for eating in moderation: “Rule 52 — “Buy smaller glasses and plates” — your portions will seem larger”.

Mireille’s French Women books are also not about being ‘skinny’ but being ‘bien dans sa peau’ – comfortable in ones own skin.  As I wrote a little while ago, I got really caught up in what I thought a paleo woman should look like, which was an unrealistic and potentially unhealthy image for most (given that a low body fat %, especially for women, can lead to all sorts of problems).

So in line with my new rule, to follow Michael Pollan’s rule: Eat Real Food, Not too Much, Mostly Plants, I shall keep in mind Mireille’s French Women ‘rules’ too:

  • Three meals a day, at a pace suited to savouring them
  • Walk and cycle as a means of transport (this aligns well with Mark Sisson’s ‘rule’ of walking 2-5 hours per week as part of his Primal Fitness routine.  Also see here)
  • Eat locally grown, seasonal produce (low/no pesticides – I buy organic whenever possible)
  • Keep portion sizes small, including no more than 125-175ml of wine per day (2 small glasses or one big one).

At the end of last year I started writing each night at least 3 things I was grateful for that had occurred during the day (as recommended by Shawn Achor – “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” – a brilliant TEDx presentation) and thanks to Dean Dwyer’s recent blog post, I’ve also added ‘I am proud that today I …’ and ‘Tomorrow I will improve by …’.  Dean does his write-up first thing in the morning (retrospective on the day before) whereas I have such a poor memory that I have to do it on the evening of the day in question as my brain does its own reboot/wipe clean of anything I may wish to remember while I sleep.  This process allows me to reflect upon the positive things that contribute to my ‘joie de vivre’ and being ‘bien dans sa peau’.  Writing it down in a journal lets me track what I’ve done and what I should be doing, over time.  It is geared to positive reflection (I am thankful… I am proud) which helps the mind to frame life through a positive lens. As Shawn Achor points out  – 90% of your happiness is determined by how your brain processes the world – your brain at positive performs significantly better than at neutral or stressed – your intelligence rises, your creativity rises and your energy rises.  Shawn’s research has found that journaling at least 3 positive things that have happened to you each day for at least 21 days causes the brain to start retaining a pattern to scan for the positive first rather than the negative.  I realised as part of my ‘hard reboot’ assessment that in the last 2 months I had stopped writing every night (I was writing once a week or so) and my mood overall has been far less positive.

Thinking positive helps me to be happy and healthy and immerse myself in ‘la joie de vivre’

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