THE BLOG

Dropping Winter Weight, à la Française

02/04/2014 17:20 BST | Updated 02/06/2014 10:59 BST

Who needs a violent detox to step into spring without excess pounds? Our French girlfriends get same results by taking it easy. Here's how.

One thing that always impressed me about springtime in Paris is how comfortable women here seem to be with peeling off the winter layers of clothing. All of a sudden, like tulips in the Tuileries, pencil skirts, nude legs in sling-backs and sleeveless arms crop up everywhere. It's like they have nothing to hide. How liberating that sounds.

For me, March has meant two to four weeks of aggressive detox for as long as I can remember. Don't get me wrong: I love filling up on vegetables, water and low-fat yogurt, but it was self-imposed atonement for winter eating habits (hello, fondue and comfort food) and a diminished exercise regimen.

"How do you do it?" I begged one of my friends. The answer was boring enough: moderation. Bingeing and feeling stuffed after a meal is so not French. "We know our limits and stop when we are full," Florence replied.

I also picked up a few other sugar- and fat- busting strategies for shaking the infamous three kilos - roughly 7 lbs - fairly painlessly. I'm set. Now bring on the sun!

1) Get into soup: If there is one staple in a French women's "non-diet", this is it. Substitute your midday or evening meal (or both) with a hearty soup (We love vegetable soups, for example. For a simple recipe add veggies to vegetable stock, cook until softened, and then blend some or all with a food processor. Our favourite: zucchini with leek, onions and one carrot.). Add a small piece of cheese on the side, or a slice of full grain bread, a non-fat yogurt for desert and voila - a light meal full of vitamins and water, guaranteed to leave you satisfied. The first time I tried it, I awoke the next morning not only feeling great, but lighter!

Maia Baudelaire, nutritionist, founder and CEO of "I Love My Diet Coach", France's leading online weight loss program, says that replacing at least one daily meal with soup will let you drop up to 11 lbs before summer. Here's why:

o Soup fills you up because of its water content, so you eat less and you feel satisfied longer.

o You can eat as much as you want, there are no restrictions.

o Soup helps you digest better.

o Soups, even the ones we think of as richer varieties, are lower in calories than most meals.

o Soup keeps you well-hydrated.

o Eating soup helps you distress, as it is a food that is eaten slowly.

2) Drink water: All my French girlfriends mentioned drinking a LOT of water when they need to lose weight. Approximately 1.5 litres a day... at least!

3) Fruit as a snack only: It's rare to see adults snack in France. In a pinch, they reach for a small (there's that word again!) piece of fruit - a green apple, a banana, a tangerine. Fruit as a dessert can disturb digestion, best to consume it two hours after a meal.

4) Go au naturel: Skip all processed foods. If there's a label, make sure you understand and can pronounce everything on there. If there are more than five ingredients, pick something else instead. If you keep it natural you will be amazed how fast those pounds come off.

5) Get moving: We don't know any French women who've done boot camps or trained for gruelling races just to stay slim, especially once the weather warms up. Instead, they put on their walking shoes (likely a pair of cute ballerina flats) and get moving. Walk where you can, take the stairs, just move. By injecting some walking and stair climbing every day, you will tone your legs (and everything else) without even making time for "exercise". Get a pedometer if it will keep you motivated. Aim for 10,000 steps a day if you can, but build up to it slowly.

6) Herbal Teas: Every time I have proposed an espresso or an herbal tea after a long and heavy dinner party, herbal teas win every time, hands down. Why? Because they aid digestion. The best variety after a big dinner? Vervain or chamomile.