French fitness habits benefit columnist

Columnist Kenny Thapoung lost weight while abroad  and reveals his experience. I’m fat, obese, chunky, overweight, pudgy–all of the above. And that bulge on my stomach reserved for abs? Yeah, that’s my tubby belly. OK,

Kenny ThapoungColumnist Kenny Thapoung lost weight while abroad  and reveals his experience.

I’m fat, obese, chunky, overweight, pudgy–all of the above. And that bulge on my stomach reserved for abs? Yeah, that’s my tubby belly.

OK, to cut the drama, 145 pounds for a 5-foot, 8-inch young adult isn’t anywhere near the registration minimum for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, but comparing my body to the Parisians, people might as well call me “Chubbs.”

The age-old myth is true: The French have better-looking bodies than Americans. In the fashion capital of the haute-couture world, skinny is, and forever will be, in style. You won’t find a flab of extra-loving on hips, and Parisians can actually wave their arms without their biceps jiggling (fun-yet-sad fact for this porker).

But how they manage to stay stick-thin should be top priority research for the boys at NASA. Gyms are nonexistent unless you want to take out a second loan for Club Med, and I haven’t seen the student gym I’m supposed to have access to because I audit a class at a French university.

The only time you see anyone taking a leisurely jog is if you live along a riverbank, track or park. Otherwise, running is strictly taboo unless you’re trying to catch the metro.

French meals will usually consist of at least two courses–an entrée and a main course or a main course and a dessert. For an extra 10 euros you could add that first course. And while un carafe d’eau (jug of tap water) is free upon request, Parisians prefer Sauvignon wine or dark beer to complement their steak tar-tar and crème brulée.

I’m not an avid calorie counter, but three meals plus at least two alcoholic drinks equal way too many Jenny Craig points. Let’s not forget there are still breakfast, brunch and lunch to consider.

After my physical for my visa, my doctor had told me I weighed 64 kilograms, which is roughly 141 pounds. One semester at Temple normally equals a two pound or three pound weight fluctuation, while two months in Paris equals a four-pound weight loss.

Although I told my host I run every morning, I haven’t worn workout gear since my first, and last, French badminton class a month ago. I’ll buy a sandwich to accompany my homemade lunch, and liters of Coca-Cola are cheaper than cans and bottles. What’s my secret? The Parisian lifestyle.

With a system as efficient as the Paris metro, cars are useless. People enjoy walking every chance they get, even if their only purpose is to show off the latest fashions. A simple swipe of a credit card can rent one of the thousands of bikes scattered around the city for 30 minutes before the bike automatically locks. And while escalators and elevators exist, people are always in such a rush that stairs are convenient.

The food business is an entirely new ballpark. Instead of vacuuming your plate clean in less than 10 minutes, meals can last up to a minimum of two hours, sometimes going as far as five. Even if you pull an American move and only eat one meal, that there can leave you with a solid hour and a half.

Emprunter, or take-out, is a slow-growing trend among restaurants, but there’s no delivery system similar to Temple Garden’s 3 a.m. service, so late-night after-bar meals aren’t happening unless you prepared a meal ahead of time.

My advice for you fatty Americans? Cook more meals but eat smaller portions. While I know the temptation to hit up Plaza Pizza Sunday morning is almost too great to resist, and Maxi’s slices are too convenient to pass up, at least with home-cooked meals, you know what you’re putting into your body.

Oh, and take your time with your meals. Conversation always beats quality of food in Paris (although you can’t find bad quality food). People are more concerned with engaging in talk rather than cleaning their plates, which gives their bodies time to digest smaller portions.

As tall as Anderson and Gladfelter halls are, the elevator lines will most certainly make you late for class. Why not jog up the stairs instead? Because you know you’re not making it to the gym after class, or ever, once the cold permanently sets in.

I haven’t been on the Broad Street line in a while, but I can’t imagine the system has improved much. If it’s nice out, bike to Center City or walk if you’re feeling adventurous. It beats having to apologize to the woman who’s staring you down because she bumped into you.

Maybe these tidbits are useless for you couch bums who would rather run to the Student Center for a new Dos Manos breakfast burrito after all this food talk, but I have lost four pounds living like a Parisian.

It might also be the cigarette diet I picked up. Bad Kenny, bad.

Kenny Thapoung can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. 5 ft 8 and 141 or 145 is no where near overweight..for neither men or women. Nice try, though. Four pounds is menstrual water weight, dude. Definitely not a big success due to supposed French weight loss culture. Sigh. Great “columnist”

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