Stepping Out

I adore the Duchess of Cambridge. I realized recently that I am a bit too preoccupied with her (more than a 40-year-old American wife and mother should be anyway). However, I love how she has conducted herself thus far; she is a wonderful role model for young women (and even older women). Members of the Royal Family should present themselves with grace and dignity; but, as we all know, this hasn’t always been the case. However, the Duchess has done a beautiful job of representing the Royal Family and for acting in a manner that will hopefully inspire young women to emulate.

This led me to think about how I have been presenting myself lately. I turned 40 in January and I vowed to always step outside my home looking presentable. Of course, it’s a good idea (as we Francophiles know) to look presentable inside your home, as well! Still, my resolution was to at least always leave my home ready to encounter anyone looking my best. I had good intentions. It started out well. Sadly, I have slacked in this regard.

This past week, I hit a low point. It’s worse than “mom jeans.” I left my house in black yoga pants that have a small hole in the bottom, blue flip flops (not even cute ones…the $5 grocery-store bought kind) and a green old t-shirt with some writing on the front. I had no makeup on and my hair was pulled back in a clip haphazardly. I caught sight o myself in a mirror at the store I went to and I was rightfully horrified. This happened seconds before I ran into a former colleague. I was completely embarrassed, of course.

On the way home, I thought about how the Duchess of Cambridge does not have the “luxury” of leaving her house looking like she just came from the worst workout of her life. I should not give myself this “luxury” either. I shall channel my inner French girl. I shall pretend I am the Duchess of Cambridge. I shall always look presentable and chic.

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Chic Weight Loss

Mireille Guiliano, how I love thee! Ms. Guiliano had a major impact on my life with her book, French Women Don’t Get Fat. When I read FWDGF in 2005, I was at my highest weight: 260 pounds. I am 5’10” tall, so I’m not short but I was certainly obese.

I was not an overweight child; however, my diet consisted of fast food junk. My mom worked long hours and commuted as well, so we rarely had a home cooked meal. She also did not like to cook so when she was home on the weekends, dinner was usually from a can and heated up in the microwave. My father was self-employed and worked from home so he would usually take us to McDonald’s or some other fast food place for dinner during the week or on weekends. I rarely ate fruit or vegetables.

In addition, I loved to snack and graze on food on the weekends. I would lay with a bag of potato chips in front of the television, wasting precious time on mindless entertainment and precious calories on low quality food. My only saving grace during this period is that I was very active in sports, which kept my weight down during my teen years (a fast metabolism helped, too).

In my 20’s, I put on a tremendous amount of weight. I stopped playing sports and I wasn’t active in any other way. I was in college and I sat around a great deal, studying and chatting with friends. My only “activity” was to go to parties.

Fast forward to 2005. My husband and I had adopted a baby boy and we were adjusting to life as parents. Even though my son was only a baby, I knew that time would pass quickly and that I would want to be an active participant in his life; I did not want to be a mom who couldn’t play outside with him because I was too overweight and my back hurt too much to interact with him. I knew I had to change my lifestyle.

I read Ms. Guiliano’s book and began incorporating her ideas into my life. I started grocery shopping more often in order to obtain fresh produce. I planned out regular meals and did not eat in between. I did have to learn to cook! Up until this point, we would either eat out, order take-out, or I would have some box mix of macaroni and cheese, jarred spaghetti sauce or something similar for dinner. Fortunately, the recipes in FWDGF and her subsequent books are not labor intensive, so it wasn’t too difficult to make the transition. I learned to enjoy the process of preparing a delicious and aesthetically pleasing meal.

The weight began to fall off rapidly! I was extremely overweight, so it is easier to initially lose weight just by making small changes. I was thrilled with my new life. I felt so much better and had incredible energy.

I eat a diet that nutritionists would call healthy, but I don’t deprive myself of full-fat cheeses, yogurt or meat (I eat small portions of these things). My diet is balanced out with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. I walk as much as possible, do Pilates and yoga. I even became a Pilates instructor.

On the eve of my 40th birthday (I will be 40 in January), I am so much healthier than I was when I turned 30. I am also so much happier. I enjoy my life every single day, even difficult days. Losing weight made me feel stronger in other ways, as well, so I feel more able to take on life’s challenges and learn from them. I hope to pass on this new-found joie de vivre to my son!

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I have much to be thankful for. A few months ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery was followed by radiation and now, chemotherapy. She is only 65 years old and we are hopeful she still has a long life ahead of her. Also in August, my 85 year-old father (that’s not a typo…there is a 20 year age difference between my parents) fell and ended up in the hospital and having back surgery. He is still undergoing physical therapy.

I am so thankful to still have both of my parents. They are wonderful people who have always supported me in whatever I wanted to do in life.

Thanksgiving is a holiday which reminds us to count our blessings. I would like to do this every day, not just one day; it is a great practice to contemplate just how fortunate I am on a regular basis. I remember as a little girl, my mother would tell me to count my blessings when I felt sad and it always did make me feel better. To live our lives with gratitude brings joy to ourselves and to others.

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Stunning Chic Sighting

I just returned from the grocery store. When I arrived, as I was walking in from the parking lot, I crossed paths with a truly chic woman. She was coming out of the store with her cart. I am guessing that she was in her early 50’s. She was dressed in a lovely blue shirt dress that looked like it was cotton but made to resemble denim. It was a short sleeved dress that went to the knee with a belt that accentuated her small waist. Her medium blonde hair was in a bob, with long bangs to the side. She had chic Jackie-O style glasses on with subtle red lipstick. She had small wedge pumps on in a beige color. She walked slowly and deliberately, with wonderful posture. She exuded confidence. When she saw me staring at her (it was rude of me, I know…I need to be more subtle when I observe chic women!), she smiled warmly.

I don’t know if she is French, but she was a perfect example of French Chic. I am renewing my efforts to take care in my appearance all of time, even when running errands!

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French Revolution

I would like to call your attention to this wonderful site, French Revolution Food

This young woman has put together a wonderful site about food and eating the French way. Here is some information from her “About” page:

My name is Kerry, and I was born some time ago in New York City, to a mother with a French accent and a father with one from Brooklyn. Growing up in Manhattan, I couldn’t have had a better food education. With my father, I would tour the restaurants, from the corner pizza place to 21. And at my mom’s kitchen table, I would stuff myself on French comfort food, from her famous slow-roast duck with fresh hand-cut French fries to her stinky cheese tartines. I was an eater, and when I burned my first steak in an apartment broiler fire at around age 5, I became a cooker too.

Her site also includes videos to go along with her recipes. She will inspire you to make something delicious tonight!

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On Posture

Growing up, I had terrible posture. I was always the tallest girl in my class which led to the inevitable slouch that occurs when a young girl is taller than her teacher. Additionally, after I graduated from high school I began to gain weight; I was going through a very difficult time and found comfort in food. The college “freshman 15” turned into 115 pounds. My slouching became even worse due to my embarrassment over my weight. Fast forward 15 years, and I finally began to take control of my weight. I was already experiencing back problems at 33 years old. I decided that I had had enough. Long story short, through eating good, real and whole food at (much) smaller portions and exercise, I lost 120 pounds. People did compliment me on my weight loss. I certainly felt better about myself and I looked better. However, I caught a side glance at myself in a mirror one day and saw my horrible slouching self staring back at me. Here I had worked so hard to lose the weight yet I still looked slovenly, like I didn’t care about myself. It was then that I discovered Pilates. I started taking classes and I was hooked. It changed my body in a way nothing else had. I also began to see great improvement in my posture. Suddenly, people were telling me how great I looked. They told me that I looked like I’d lost even more weight (even though I hadn’t). I knew that my improved posture had made a big difference.

I notice what a difference good posture makes in others. It’s so sad for me to see an otherwise lovely young woman slouching. Alternatively, what a pleasure it is to see a woman with beautiful posture, glide down the street, a picture of elegance. I am now a Pilates instructor and part of my goal is to see improvement in my client’s postures. It makes me so happy to see a client walk in to the studio with a regal walk and to have them tell me how their back doesn’t hurt any more (slouching does more than look bad; it compresses the spine causing back pain).

How can you improve your posture? Pilates exercises will certainly help! When you strengthen your core muscles, especially the muscles closest to the spine (transverse abdominus), it will assist you with standing up straighter and taller. You can find some wonderful and free information here

With your shoulders rolled back and down your spine, imagine that you have a string coming up through the top of your head that it pulling your head up towards the ceiling. Use this visualization to practice walking when you are in private. Eventually, it will become habit and you will find yourself walking this way all of the time.

What could be more chic than a well-dressed woman with beautiful posture?

Photo of the lovely Audrey Hepburn can be found here

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The Good Things in Life

This is a great article about a chic French mother and daughter living the good life!

How true to life is Mireille Guiliano’s famous book on French eating habits? On the money, it appears, writes BONNIE BENWICK

THE FRENCH cheeses on the platter are at a perfect room temperature as wafts of garlic and melted Gruyère fill the air at the home in Potomac, Maryland, in the US. Cooks Michele Arnaud and her 23-year-old daughter, Catherine Arnaud Charbonneau, are almost finished with what would be a feast in anyone else’s home.

Confit duck legs are bathing in a skillet-sized pool of their own luxurious fat, with thyme and softly tanned onions. Brown-edged potato slices peek through a blanket of gratin and a mix of frilly salad leaves glistens with homemade Dijon vinaigrette.

Hot from the oven, a thin, crisp apple tart has just been kissed with an apricot glaze. There are baguettes and an open bottle of Coteaux du Languedoc 2009, and the music of Jean Ferrat booming from the next room.

Full article here

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