Whining about Wine…Or Lack Of
November two years ago, I went on a 30-day diet that’s lasted all this time, called “The Whole 30.” It’s contrary to everything one enjoys in France, because it outlaws such things as grain (no more baguette for me), dairy (out went the café crème, butter and cheese of any kind), alcohol (no wine or champagne), no legumes (even peanuts count as “legumes”) and no sugar or sugar substitutes (that eliminates every French pastry, period).
Yes, that’s pretty damned restrictive and about now you’re probably not only thinking I am nuts, considering where I live and all the French culinary wonders I’d be missing, but also asking, “So, what CAN you eat!?” Actually, a lot, even if it’s not the usual French wonders we dream about when not in France: fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and nuts.
Photos of Wine Glasses by Patty Sadauskas
I started the diet right before Thanksgiving, meaning that the holiday season was a huge challenge with all the partying and feasting, but since the diet was a commitment of “only” 30 days, it didn’t seem like too much of a sacrifice. When the turkey was served, I refrained from having the stuffing. When champagne was served New Year’s Eve, I opted for sparkling water. Thirty days went by quickly and once the diet had kicked in, I didn’t want to go back to my previously “bad” habits that had slowly, but surely, porked me up to the point of wanting to diet anyway. I had already lost a few pounds and was definitely feeling physically better in general.
A year later, still on the diet, I had lost 20 pounds and felt particularly good and healthy. I was eating more than I’d ever eaten in my life, just not the same foods. After taking a series of extensive (and expensive) blood tests, a French nutritionist told me I should have at least one glass of wine a day – that it was healthy. So, I re-introduced a bit of wine, as long as it was good wine, and worth drinking – if you know what I mean. The weird thing was, that while the taste of wine is what dreams are made of, the feeling I experienced even from one glass wasn’t so pleasant and the pounds started to creep back on.
A few days ago, a new study came out that says “Any Amount of Drinking Is Bad for You.” We all knew that drinking to excess is bad, but one glass of wine a day? Really? Until now, it was considered by public health authorities (including the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society) to be healthy to drink one or two glasses a day, just like my nutritionist claimed. But, based on a review of almost 700 existing studies on global drinking prevalence and another almost 600 studies on alcohol and health, it turns out that alcohol is the seventh leading risk factor for early deaths – 2.2% of all women and 6.8% of all men in 2016. And of course, the more you drink, the higher the risk you take.
Cancer is a big one of those risks. For women wanting to reduce the risk of breast cancer, drinking moderately for a healthy heart, may not be a good enough trade-off. And that’s true across the board, according to the study – that while there are some health benefits to moderate drinking, the risks still outweigh the benefits.
This is a tough swig of wine to swallow, especially for the French wine producers and for all of us who come to France to partake of the sweet liquid. The wine market is as big as $32 billion and France is the largest exporter in the world (29 percent). What’s really interesting, too, is that the French now drink about 44 liters a year, but 50 years ago, drank almost four times that!
What this all boils down to is what we’re willing to do to live longer and healthier. Many people will tell you that they’d rather have a shorter life, lived to the fullest, than a life with such restraints. Every time we get behind the wheel of a car, we’re taking a big risk with our lives. Every time we cross a Paris street (even with the light, much less against it), we’re taking a big risk. Are these risks worth it? Are we willing to give up wine? And what about those baguettes? And cheese? What are we willing to live without?
Personally, I felt that I’d already lived an awful lot of years with wine, baguettes and cheese; that I’d “been there, done that” and there was a new world awaiting me of something different. In the process I’ve rediscovered a lot of wonderful natural foods that had been forgotten while I was stuffing my face with rich culinary delicacies. But I must admit, I really miss a warm baguette slabbed with butter accompanied by a frothy café crème. When I pass a boulangerie from which the scents of their fresh-baked goodies waft out, it makes me swoon…but I manage to pass it unscathed…for now!
I am not advocating that anyone follow this crazy regime of mine, but found the new study about the liabilities of alcohol at least supportive of the abstinence. Meanwhile, you watch. One of these days I’ll wake up, realize how much life is left and how I won’t want to miss anything at all, since life is so damned short (or longer if you bit the bullet and stop drinking wine, that is!).
Note: Patty Sadauskas, of Paris on a Dime, is an aficionado of wine and has the habit of taking photos of her wine-drinking adventures wherever she is traveling. Thanks to Patty for these great photos taken all over France!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Is making a big change in your life on your list of resolutions? Might we suggest a move or at least a long stay in France? We can help you see this resolution to fruition. With over 20 years living in France, we have learned the ins and outs and the inside information on moving, living and working here. Have a look at our Working and Living in France page and contact us today!