Autumn can feel like a challenging season for many of us. During summer we fall into a more relaxed routine, and when everyone snaps back to attention after Labor Day it can feel like a rude awakening. As we return to multitasking full speed, we often lose a broader connection to season and self and feel stretched thin. There seems to be less time for shopping and preparing food. The weather turns colder and we lose our naturally light summer foods. Between the increased stress, the cold, the heavier food and even the emotional challenges as the holidays draw near, we sometimes get fat.
Weight gain is not a given, however, and some who have imbibed a bit more than usual during the summer can even lose a few pounds with some simple strategies. The emotional component is key. In fall, we need to carve out our personal time and relaxation or we run the risk of not having any. Some may call this deprivation virtue, but I call it a recipe for overeating. Taking at least a few minutes each day for “you time” is a vital strategy for maintaining your balance. It can be deep breathing, yoga, listening to music or whatever helps you feel centered and relaxed. With the temperatures feeling pleasant for the last stretch of fall, it’s a perfect time to use these moments for a walk, which has the dual benefits of raising your heart rate slightly and providing a form of relaxation.
It’s normal to feel drawn to heavier foods as the weather cools, but even this does not have to add to the waistline. Fall vegetables like squash and cauliflower naturally meet our desire by seeming heartier while providing vital nutrients and fiber. Soups are my own favorite weapon against weight gain, providing warm comfort and digestible nutrients, filling the belly for relatively few calories. My friend Marie Gab, who works in Paris, does not settle for those fast-food joints that seem to be popping up all over European cities at TGV speed. Instead she goes to Litchi Bar, at the St.-Germain market in the 6th Arrondissement (they also have a location in the Marais), for a great value lunch that starts with a soup. Yes, French women do love soup and come fall they eat it almost daily.
The fall abundance of potatoes can work in our favor, too. Unfairly shunned in recent years for being a throwaway “white” carbohydrate, this starchy vegetable is actually loaded with vitamins and minerals, as French women know. And if you want to talk calories, a six-ounce potato has only a fourth of those in an equal portion of rice or pasta (it only becomes problematic when deep-fried or loaded with mounds of sour cream). Boiled or baked potatoes are quite healthy, and growing up in France we ate some form of potatoes most days at our main meal. Fruit is another natural preventer of weight gain, with plums, apples and pears at their peak right now.
Here are some seasonal dishes that are pleasing to the palate while remaining friendly to the waistline. They have the added benefit of being quick to prepare in this busy season. Read The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook or visit French Women Don’t Get Fat for more recipe ideas.
Lentil soup: Serve with green salad, a slice of bread, slivers of cheese and a piece of fruit, and you have a deliciously light meal.
Potato-olive ragout: This simple veggie dish is loaded with color and nutrients.
Mussels in white wine: This is a perfect light dish to serve with bread and salad for a casual yet chic dinner with friends.
Cooked pears with cinnamon: You won’t believe how delicious this easy dessert is.