"What did you eat in France?"

When I told clients and friends that Mr. Live Full (aka my husband John) and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Paris--land of crepes, baguettes and macarons--a common question came up: What are you going to eat? 

Yes, I'm a health coach, and I practice what I preach. But as anyone who's worked with me will attest, I love food. Vacations are all about seeking as much pleasure as possible in a short period of time, and I'm not immune to the charms of the triumvirate of quick and easy, super concentrated pleasure: Salt, sugar and fat. On the other hand, there's no pleasure in feeling overstuffed or lethargic in a food or booze hangover. And there's definitely no pleasure in finding you're a few pounds up and further away from your health and fitness goals when you return from vacation. I refuse to accept the notion that in order to enjoy a holiday, you must gain weight.

So with all that in mind, what the hell did I eat?

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1. Fresh stuff

The citizens of Paris muster up quite a demand for fresh produce. It was easy to choose delicious food off every menu that just happened to be full of vegetables, fiber and lean protein. We also made a point to seek out restaurants that specialized in fresh, local food, and our palates were rewarded. We wandered through a beautiful organic farmers market full of brightly colored vegetables, freshly baked bread and amazing prepared food, and we picnicked in the park. Even convenience stores had a selection of tempting fresh produce, and quick carry out spots always had plenty of nutritious options loaded with vegetables, beans and whole grains. 

2. Indulgent stuff

I'm not going to eat crepes under the light of the Eiffel Tower many times in my life, so you can bet I enjoyed that memorable treat without guilt. And handmade tarts with fresh fruit and flaky puff pastry overlooking the Seine River? Creamy sorbet topped with a perfectly crisp, gem-colored macaron in the park? Don't mind if I do! But I had a few caveats when it came to indulging:

  • I didn't indulge at every food opportunity (see #1 and #3). 
  • I'm choosy. I'm not a calorie counter, but I don't want to waste calories eating something that's "meh." I skipped the cheap packaged stuff in favor of the really special stuff.
  • One I chose, I enjoyed sloooooooowly.
  • I practiced the Michael Pollan food rule, "The banquet is in the first bite." The first bite triggers all the bells to go off in our feel good center. The second bite, while still good, is never as good as the first, the third is even a bit less satisfying, and on and on--it's the law of diminishing returns. I ordered the smallest size (a French small is WAY smaller than an American small!) and I often I split treats.

3. Some stuff in the hotel room

We all know meals eaten out are typically bigger and richer than meals eaten at home, so I controlled for one of those meals by making a simple breakfast in the hotel room. A bag of muesli, some chia seeds and almond milk made for overnight oats in our mini fridge. I also brought along some raw almonds (got to love Trader Joe's Just a Handful of Raw Almonds), which were ace in snacking emergencies in the hotel and on the plane. (Bonus: This saved us some cash because dang, Paris is expensive.)

4. Move my stuff

Basic math tells us that exercising (calories out) creates more room for eating treats (calories in). We were clocking in an average of 9-10 miles of walking per day, but that didn't create enough of caloric deficit to compensate for three meals of serious indulgence plus desserts. It did allow us an extra dessert or chunk of crusty baguette here and there, though. But just as important, moving feels good and walking is an amazing way to see a city, making it a vital part of my overall pleasure-seeking strategy. 

5. Non-food stuff

We enjoyed lots of good food, but our great time didn't revolve around it. We oooh'd and ahhhh'd at tourist attractions and art and buildings and nature; we talked; we got lost in the best possible way in a beautiful city; we people-watched; we walked and walked and walked; we got lost some more; and we created many lovely memories.