Win the War on Fat

Set Your Inner Wino Free!

January is almost over! And for many of us the annual tradition of New Year’s resolutions is upon us. The panic time to lose the weight gained during the “’tis the season” eating orgy is in full bloom – I know, I actually had to wait for equipment at the gym last night for the first time ever!

It seems there are millions of different ways to begin your resolve (or is it resolution?), most with a financial caveat: “Lose all the weight you want in just 30 days—for a small fee!” “For only 49.99 a month you can find the new you!” “Join Jumping Jack Gym today and get a free personal trainer consultation!” You know the drill.

The problem with all these plans is the sacrifice they require. Believe me, I know. I’m from a genetically weight-challenged family – does the word obesity ring a bell? Clearly I have strong motivation to resolve… and bet many of you, my gentle wine lovers, do too. But before you hunker down for the long haul, let me offer a piece of advice: DON’T do it! At least not until you’ve read this column.

Here’s my suggestion, and, yes, it involves wine. Consider a strange paradox with a strong health benefit thesis. Many of you have probably heard of it—the French Paradox. For those of you who haven’t…

The French Paradox is a relatively modern phenomenon that gained widespread publicity thanks to a 60 Minutes documentary that ran in 1991. However, the first suggestion of this phenom came from a study published in 1819 by an Irish doctor called Samuel Black. He surmised that compared to the Irish, the French had a much lower rate of angina. Black attributed this to “the French habits and modes of living, coinciding with the benignity of their climate and the peculiar character of their moral affections.”

To make this statement make sense, fast forward to the 1991 documentary that proposed the thesis that the French eat a high fat diet, don’t “diet” and consume a tremendous amount of wine. In spite of this, they have an extraordinarily low count of heart disease among their citizenry and remain thin—wine (mainly red) being the secret weapon. Naysayers argue that there is not scientific evidence to substantiate this claim, but the anecdotal proof is overwhelming. In 1999 death rates from coronary heart disease among US males aged 34-74 was 230 per 100,000, but only 83 per 100,000 in France. The dominant contributing (and scientifically sound) fact is that grape skins contain an active ingredient called resveratrol that is apparently very good for the heart. Of course this is more potent in red wines, since the grapes are soaked in their skins to achieve the red color.  Needless to say, the French drink way more wine then Americans do – but I’m glad to say, we Americans are making a noble effort to catch-up!

I could continue with amazing and interesting facts regarding this topic, but this blog limits such indulgences. Suffice it to say: the French approach to food is one of moderation, pleasure, community, and wholesomeness. To the French, eating isn’t something you do on the run, standing-up, while reading the paper, or any number of bad habits we Americans have mastered. A typical French lunch can last up to two hours. The typical American workplace allows a half hour.

I digress, and yet hopefully make a point. If you vow to make a New Year’s resolution to sacrifice and reject all gustatory pleasures, you are bound to end up worse for the wear. Probably grumpier and ultimately fatter than when you began. I suggest you join the French in celebration of the meal, accompanied by good friends, family and a bottle of wine… LET THE INNER WINO OUT… in moderation of course.

Hopefully, instead of reading about your gym determination (and yes, the gym is important, I go at least 4 times a week) on your next facebook wall post, I’ll read that you had a fabu bottle of red wine accompanied by great food and friends!


1 Response to “Win the War on Fat”

  1. January 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Sounds good to me! I love a slow, long supper.

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Patrick Bartlett

A conversation about food, wine, and the art of living well!


January 2010
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