How Do Japanese & French Women Keep Their Figures After Delivery? Part II

 In Wellness

In the previous post, we examined how Japanese cultures have attributed to Japanese women’s low weight gain during pregnancy. The same is true in France. In that country, the average weight gain ranges between 9kg and 12kg and, similarly to Japan, French ladies are under enormous social pressure not to gain too much weight when pregnant. Again, like Japan, in France women are ‘expected’ to shed the extra pounds soon after giving birth, with three months being a reasonable timeline for French women to return to their pre-pregnancy figures.

‘Eat whatever you like but never overindulge,’ and, ‘A little of what you fancy,’ are popular approaches in France. This small, controlled portion size is certainly reminiscent of Japanese practice. A university survey comparing serving sizes in restaurants between Paris and Pennsylvania reveals that American portion sizes are 25% bigger than those in France.

The French diet mainly consists of cream, butter, cheese, meat and complex carbohydrates that keep French women fuller for longer. This fat-rich diet stimulates the production of cholecystokinin, a hormone that suppresses the appetite and promotes an extended sense of satisfaction after eating even small amounts of high-fat foods. Therefore, snacking is uncommon for those consuming a typically French diet.

French mothers teach their daughters that, no matter their body shape or features, they can still be beautiful. The French body confidence helps them stay slim in their own personal style and happiness. I like how Anne Barone, author of the Chic & Slim series of books on French women, promotes the understanding that we can achieve confidence in our own unique bodies and that a savvy, chic and slim French woman knows her weaknesses – that’s her strength.

Another similarity I noticed between the cultures in Japan and France compared to a Chinese tradition both in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, is that the focus is very much on having the baby gain as much weight as possible. Mums overindulge in their appetite for good, nutritious food, often putting their own body at jeopardy. The ‘eating for two’ mindset is prevalent among mothers. Even after they have delivered their babies, I noticed some ladies in confinement still cooking a large meal – enough for two despite having already given birth. They eat desserts and snack between meals, all for the reason that mums should eat more in order to be able to produce more milk for breastfeeding.

The main lessons I have learned from the Japanese and the French are:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
  2. Exercise portion control over your meals and eat a variety. Don’t skip meals and eat portions that are enough to fill you up, but no more than that. Let your stomach be your guide.
  3. Be mindful of what you eat and cut out the snacks.

After my third baby, I became particularly mindful of what I ate. For all three pregnancies I enjoyed a bar of chocolate every day during my third trimester. Nope, not dark chocolate, but sweetened milk chocolate every single day! Once my craving lessened after delivery, I mindfully cut sugar from my diet. I still ate three bowls of rice daily – rice-bowl-sized and not soup-bowl-sized. After three sugar-free months, I managed to get back to almost my pre-pregnancy weight + 2kg. That, to me, was a realistic achievement.

Karen Loke, Founder and Practitioner, Restoring Mums在前一章中,我們探討過日本社會文化如何令日本女性在懷孕期只增加了很少的體重。法國的情況也一樣,平均體重增加9公斤和12公斤,與日本差不多。法國女性承受著巨大的社會壓力要她們在懷孕時不能變得太重。同樣地,像日本一樣,法國人期望法國女性在分娩後不久就要減磅,而三個月是讓她們重回產前身形的合理時限。

「妳可以吃妳喜歡的但不能放縱地吃」和「稍微滿足一下妳的嗜好」是法國主流思維也是很普遍流行的生活態度。這小而節制的份量讓人聯想起日本人的做法。一個大學的研究比較了巴黎和美國賓夕法尼亞州的餐廳的食物份量,顯示出美國的份量比法國的多25%!

法國人的飲食主要包括奶油、牛油、芝士、肉類和複合碳水化合物。這些食物令法國女性的飽腹感更長。而這種脂肪豐富的飲食刺激了膽囊收縮素的產生(膽囊收縮素是一種即使只進食了少量的高脂肪食物但仍可抑制食慾的激素,促進飽腹感),所以在典型的法國飲食中,吃零食是很罕見的。

法國媽媽教導她們的女兒無論她們的身形或特徵是怎樣,她們都可以是漂亮的。法國人對身體的自信心讓他們以個人風格和快樂地保持苗條的身材。我喜歡寫有關法國女性的Chic & Slim系列的作者Anne Barone所提倡的。她說我們可以建立對自己獨特的身體的自信! 精明、別緻和苗條的法國女性會知道自己的弱點──這些就是她的實力與優點。

我注意到日本和法國文化的另一相似點,與之相比在香港和亞洲其他地方的中國文化是十分重視儘可能讓寶寶增磅。媽媽放縱地令自己胃口增大,吃很多營養豐富的食物,令自己的身形岌岌可危。「食兩份」的心態在媽媽坊間十分普遍。即使她們在分娩後,我注意到一些正在坐月的女性還是會煮很多,足夠媽媽和寶寶兩人的份量。她們餐與餐之間會吃甜品和零食,這是因為她們認為媽媽應該吃多些,令自己可以有更多人奶餵哺寶寶。

我從日本和法國女性學到的教訓是:

  1. 懷孕期間健康地增重。
  2. 控制每餐的份量和吃不同的食物。每頓飯都要吃,並且吃令妳覺得飽的份量就足夠,不要吃過多。讓妳的胃作為你的嚮導。
  3. 留意妳在吃甚麼,不要吃零食。

我在誕下第三個寶寶後對吃的變得很留意。三次的懷孕中我都會在第三孕期每天吃一包巧克力。不是黑巧克力,而是甜的牛奶巧克力。我每天都吃!分娩後我對甜食的欲望減低後,我很留心從我的飲食中盡量減少糖份的攝取。我依然保持每日吃三碗米飯,是飯碗大小而不是湯碗大小。經過三個月的無糖生活後,我設法讓自己減至懷孕前加兩公斤的體重。這是我的真實成就。

Restoring Mums創辦人和治療師Karen Loke

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