It’s the French paradox redux: Why don’t the French get as fat as Americans, considering all the baguettes, wine, cheese, pate and pastries they eat?
Because they use internal cues — such as no longer feeling hungry — to stop eating, reports a new Cornell study. Americans, on the other hand, tend to use external cues — such as whether their plate is clean, they have run out of their beverage or the TV show they’re watching is over.
“Furthermore, we have found that the heavier a person is — French or American — the more they rely on external cues to tell them to stop eating and the less they rely on whether they felt full,” said senior author Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab in the Department of Applied Economics and Management, now on leave to serve as executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion until January 2009.
The new study, an analysis of questionnaires from 133 Parisians and 145 Chicagoans about how they decide when to stop eating, is being published in the journal Obesity and is being presented this later month at an the Winter Marketing Educators conference.
“Over-relying on external cues to stop eating a meal may prove useful in offering a partial explanation of why body mass index [a calculation based on the relationship of weight to height] varies across people and potentially across cultures,” said co-author Collin Payne, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher. He stressed that further studies should following up with smoking behavior and socio-economic differences as well. “Relying on internal cues for meal cessation, rather than on external cues, may improve eating patterns in the long term.
I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but having somebody lecture me that I’m over-relying on external cues and should instead be relying on internal cues (like the French!) to tell me that I’m “full” is, well, one of those pieces of advice that I file under “gee, thanks, now give me something that I can really use”.
So, uh, how much time do French women have for lunch? I can tell you that high school teachers (in my county) have a total of 25 minutes for lunch which includes walking to and from the cafeteria (which takes 10 minutes from my location), standing in line for food (maybe 5 minutes) and eating (using the shovel-it-in technique) will take perhaps 10 minutes. Lunch is also the time for a pee break which has to be fit somewhere within that 25 minute time frame. Elementary school teachers have even less time for lunch because they have to walk the students to lunch and walk the students back. No time there for waiting on those ol’ feelings of satiety!
Maybe teachers are a bad example. How about medical people? According to my mom (retired nurse), they *often* did not take their half-hour lunch on the 12-hour shift at the hospital she was at, instead relying on grazing from vending machines, due to staffing shortages/high patient census. I don’t think the feeling of satiety even came into play there. Just lots of stress and not enough time for a meal.
Thinking back over the number of jobs I’ve had over my working life (and there were a lot of different types of jobs because I get bored easily), I don’t recall ever having any job/business where I could eat at a leisurely pace, waiting for feelings of satiety to set in so that I could quit eating, knowing that my stomach wouldn’t be growling in distress the rest of the afternoon.
Does that mean that I am unaware of feelings of satiety and only rely on external cues for every meal? Well, no. When I go to a nice restaurant for a leisurely meal on the weekend and order my entree, I often find to my bemusement that I end up taking it home to consume at a later time because after the appetizer and soup or salad, I am completely full and do not want anything else.
I also find that in my evening meal at home, I tend to eat as rapidly as I do in the morning and afternoon during the workday because I have household and farm chores to do, blogs to read, telephone calls to make, and only 3 to 4 hours in the evening to get it done. Again, I just do not have the time to linger over food preparation and consumption. I suppose that is a cultural shortcoming of trying to do everything.
I suppose the Answer to Obesity is to cut the work ethic and be more French like.
The French probably haven’t had people telling them that eggs were evil killers, alcohol would make you fat, cream and other fats would kill them, and margerine was better for them than butter, either.