[Flirt]: nm. In the French language, ‘Flirt’ is a masculine word while ‘Romance’ is a feminine one. Interestingly enough, ‘Love’ is masculine in the singular form (“un amour delicieux”) and feminine in the plural form (“des amours delicieuses”). Draw your own conclusions.

Valentine's Day 2012. I stood still in the battle field that is Valentine's Day. I stood still and watched the mad rush to securing a date for the evening, booking a table at a restaurant, and buying rubbers “just in case”. I stood still and heard the communal grunt of thousands of women squeezing their bosoms into red lace lingerie one size too small. “Just in case”. I stood still and spent Valentine’s Day alone and single (not complaining mind you), and saw my past Valentine’s Days flash before my eyes.

V Day. A day entirely dedicated to love, romance, and flirtation. As though there was none of it happening on any other day. I stood still and watched men puff up their chest, ruffle their tail feathers, and women giddily escape the touch as if they had no interest, when in fact they did. Pigeons are the masters of this dance as old as the world. We didn’t invent anything.

Nostalgia. My mind floated back to the excitement of Flirtation, also traditionally known as ‘when men propose and women dispose’. But not any Flirt, no no. French Flirt – which is what I learned growing up – or the art of making them melt with attitude, a pout, and two glances.

This brought me back to a very dear and personal moment in my life. Once upon many, many years ago, I was deep in conversation with a French ex of mine before he became an ex, well actually before he became anything at all. He was a "mistake" I made when I was twenty-five years old… and twenty-seven… and...

It was a typical interaction for anyone who’d ever been on a date: he’d say something, I’d respond by a witty comment, he’d laugh, I’d bat my eyes. Then he whispered to me: “I know that you are attracted to me. I see it in your eyes, I see it in your body language and I see it in your lips. But I know that you will never make the first move, instead you will entice me to make it. You are so very French.”

Say what?! It made me think then, and it makes me think now. There is something to be said about the way the French implement and enjoy flirtation. We enjoy it like we enjoy a delicious meal or a striking piece of art. We see it, we approach it, we marvel at it, we observe it, we interact with it, we want it, so we take it.

There is also a very special bond between the French and their mouths. We use our mouths all the time to delight in food and wine. We also do have big mouths on us, with many opinions and things to say. Similarly, our eyes are submitted on a daily basis to magnificent things to watch and stare at for hours. So evidently, why wouldn’t our mouths and eyes be an essential part of our flirtation style?!

Deconstructed, French-style Flirtation really is a ‘double 1-2 punch': (get your notepads people, this is a moment to be marked in history)

The Body Movement.

General attitude is first step in French women’s hunting strategy, aka the bait. our bodies are to be limber, our walk energetic and light at the same time. We are to exude confidence and make it look effortless. Perched on high heels or smooth in ballet flats, there needs to be a rhythm to our every step; elongated legs, shoulders back, a light sway in the hips, and touches of feline grace throughout. I suspect this is why our mothers force many of us through years of ballet and modern/jazz dance training during childhood. In the end, no graceful movement can be achieved without confidence in our bodies and a great share of our lifetimes is spent nurturing our “carnal envelopes”. If this is still too abstract for you to pick up what I am laying down, watch Emmanuelle Beart in the Jean de Florette / Manon des Sources (Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring) movie series, or Carole Bouquet (Aleksander Petrovsky’s ex-wife in the last season of Sex and the City for those of you who are fans of the series), whose posture and delicate neck make her look like modern day royalty.

Special Mention: Emmanuelle Beart wearing a sack of potatoes is still enticing, but just not as much as it could be. This is for the ladies: be feminine! It does not mean wearing a skirt every day, it means this: rouge your cheeks and lips, even just a bit; jeans are great… especially with heels and an off-the-shoulder top; show them legs; add a touch of lace once in a while; simmer in beautiful lingerie. Cultivate your personal style and make it work for you!

The Eyes.

Marion Cotillard

Aka the hook. "They" say eyes are the window to one’s soul. The idea here is to let them catch a glimpse of all the good stuff (confidence, passion, smarts, humor, the promise of a very good time…) without letting them see the not so good stuff (fear, doubts, are my hips too big?…). The eyes should look straight at and through might I add the prey with no shyness, no ambiguity, and no apology. And then, just when they think something extraordinary is going to happen or be said, you look away. Wait, wait… and then you look again. This is a common strategy across the world. If the guys you are pulling this on are not getting it, move on. Definitely not the right prey. Examples of eyes that will not let them get away without it, you ask? Audrey Tautou (Amelie) and her childish innocence. Louise Bourgoin and her mischievous sparkle reminiscent of a Bardot gone bad (in a very, very good way). Marion Cotillard and her sensual, provocative stare. Isabel Adjani and her legendary ice picks.

The Mouth.

Melanie Thierry

Aka the reel. My favorite subject as it is used for all most sensual acts in life… I was speaking about eating of course! Take good care of your “bouche” and pay close attention to what it does. Practice its sensuality, find your own style. Tools are nothing if you don’t know how to use them. Don’t force it, never overdo do it, but always remember: the lips are the main element in executing on the promise for a very good time you made earlier with your eyes. Just sayin’. Need inspiration? Mais bien sur! Sophie Marceau‘s pout, Brigitte Bardot‘s pout, Laetitia Casta‘s pout, and Melanie Thierry‘s… well yes, pout.

The Brains.

Aka the kill. Interacting and socializing is what we seek to do on a daily basis in France. Even when alone, we sit for hours at the terrasse of a Bistro in the midst of others. Debate is our third most practiced national sport… right after strikes and very politically incorrect humor. Be present in the conversation. Ask questions, listen to the answer. Be quick, be funny, be witty. Stay away from touchy subjects. Tease them ever so slightly, enough to let them know that you are no fool, but not too much that they will feel under attack (kind of like an amuse-bouche introducing a great meal… and here is the “bouche” again). Smile, be comfortable, look at them straight in the eyes. Revel in a great connection when there is one.

Four easy principles which I swear to you work. Walk in like you own the place, pout, look straight at your new-found prey, look away, pout, look again, look away, pout, insert sensual movement here, get accosted, smile, throw a witty comment, done. These elements put together are the most powerful of weapons, they don’t stand a chance. Practice lots, comment back, and enjoy every minute of Le French Flirt!


The French are insolently thin. Insolently because even mature ladies can display the figure of a 20-year-old there, and it is disconcerting. It really, truly is.

Before anyone raises a brow and argues that this is a cliché statement, I will say this: Forbes Magazine published a study in 2007 ranking the USA as the 9th country (out of 194) with the highest rate of overweight individuals (74.1%) over 15 years old. Yes, you heard right: 74% of Americans are overweight (probably even more now)! That accounted for 223 million individuals with a raised risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other serious illnesses. Not to mention that being overweight affects everyday enjoyment, libido, mood and self-confidence.

Comparatively, France is # 128 on the list, sandwiched between Bhutan and Cameroon. Another feather in our cap is the French Paradox: the French have a low rate of cardiovascular conditions – particularly compared to the USA – and our folks live longer, DESPITE the fact that our diet incorporates beaucoup cream, butter, cheese, and bread. We MUST be doing something right somewhere.

And just to put the final nail in that coffin: I, at 130 lbs for 5″5, am the biggest woman in my family. As you’d imagine, I have had all the time in the world to study the differentiating habits of my family members in the fifteen years I have been living in the US and traveling back and forth. I did extract some trends and observations. There is a method to the madness.

Below are a few of what I deem the most important habits and customs the French live by on a daily basis. I truly believe - as I have experienced - that you will see and feel a noticeable positive impact on your health, energy levels, and happiness by replicating a few of these habits.

Food.

  • We eat at regular hours: breakfast is before 8:00am during the week (9:30am on weekends), lunch is around 12:30/1:00pm, dinner is at 7:30/8:30pm. If we have a late breakfast, then we have a lighter breakfast in order to have appetite come lunch time, which we do not push later into the afternoon. It does not hurt that the whole country revolves around this rhythm. Meal times are true institutions in France: stores close between Noon and 2:00pm for lunch and after 7:00/8:00pm for the day. In addition, no food will be served too long before or too long after these times. Urban areas grow quieter during these few sacred hours, so much so that you can almost hear the simultaneous breaking of the bread, setting of the china plates on the table, creaking of the wooden chairs being dragged across the kitchen tiles, echo through the cities, punctuated with the pops of a few wine corks here and there. This rhythm offers major benefits: it forces meal planning and eating regardless of the level of appetite. Which means that we do not wait until we are so hungry that we could just gnaw on our own arm, then throw ourselves on a plate overflowing with 5 lbs of food like rabid beasts.
  • We take our time eating: did I mention that meals are an institution in France? They are a thrice daily ritual. We take the time to prepare, we set the table with china, glasses made of glass and silverware made of silver. The menu is simple but well thought-through and all family members are present to enjoy. It is a time to share, laugh and discuss. Dishes are brought one by one and each is enjoyed on its own, even if it is just a few leaves of lettuce tossed with some vinaigrette. This all pretty much ensures that you will eat your food slower (remember? it takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signals of satiety your stomach is sending), as both speaking with your mouth full and helping yourself to the next dish without it being brought to the table or served to you by the cook, are considered rude.
  • French portions are infinitely smaller than American portions. NOT a myth. Every time I travel to France, I spend the first day sulking trying to get over the fact that my own mother is attempting to starve me. Until I realize that I don’t need more food intake anyway and that I have better, grander things to go do. Like shoe shopping or watching people walk by while I drink an Espresso at a bistro. American portions are approximately 30 to 50% bigger than the French ones. So in doubt, start with a serving a third smaller than what you would help yourself to normally and go from there.
  • There is virtually no snacking between meals: and certainly not these sugar-coated pastries bursting with butter that fill the Patisserie window displays (these are for very special occasions)! But if you really must, it would be 2 squares of dark chocolate, or a wedge of cheese, or a piece of fruit.
  • We associate food to pleasure, not punishment: it is all about how delicious this tomato salad is going to be (fresh tomatoes, homemade vinaigrette, crisp red onion, mmm goodness), not about how we are going to go on a cabbage-only diet for the next 3 days because we ate a bacon cheeseburger yesterday. See the difference? I truly believe that our brains play a major role in calorie assimilation. My new motto: “A calorie enjoyed is a calorie used, not stored”. Weight is a tricky thing! It is when you are happiest and paying the least attention to it that you lose it most. Have you noticed?
  • The French plan all day, everyday, for the next meal. And it be a balanced one: I touched on this subject a bit here above. The point is, you will never catch a French person by surprise around meal time. Better not! Delivery and takeout are rarities there. And I am even going to add a layer to this: you will sometimes even catch the French speaking about what will be needed for dinner... at breakfast! That’s how much we love food and will never be caught with our pants down for a meal.

Lifestyle.

  • We walk all day long. And when we have nowhere left to go, we still go for a walk. We don’t do it for calorie burning purposes, we do it because 1. everybody does it, 2. everything is best accessible by foot, 3. we need our fresh air otherwise we go stir crazy, 4. we can shop on the way, 5. we can people watch on the way, and 6. we can strut our stuff and flirt on the way. We do it at a healthy pace with a few pit stops here and there. For ladies, we may do it in flats but heels will not stop us. For most of us, walking is our main daily exercise. There are few gyms in France which are populated by a small minority who likes to pump iron. We do practice sports (something like once a week) but these are generally more centered around learning a skill than pure obsession over weight loss.
  • Even at home, we are in constant movement: sitting all day on our couch watching TV is just not tolerated. It is not tolerated by ourselves for ourselves, but also not by the people around us. Expect that you will get your mom/dad/grandma/aunt’s stink eye if you even try. On weekends: after breakfast comes time to wash up, dress up and go grocery shopping. Preparing a meal can take a great deal of energy and time. After lunch are errands and a brisk digestive walk, not to mention... more grocery shopping. Then there are chores to do at home. Someone always needs something (peel the potatoes, replace a light bulb, help grandma move furniture, pick up fruit in the garden…) and they just won’t let us sit down for more than 20 minutes at a time; when we finally do, we read a magazine or enjoy the company and intense conversation. The term couch potato does not even exist in the French language.

Culture.

I am now risking it all by entering the land of subjectivity by adding these few observations to the list:

  • The French do not value comfort at all times: our chairs and armchairs are not extra padded or allowing for slouchy postures. Most of our furniture has been designed to keep us sitting straight, which I swear is better than Pilates. I am starting to believe that softness softens everything, including our glutes. There, I said it. I will even take it one step further: I believe that artificial temperature control (Air Conditioning / heat) prevents our bodies from regulating their own temperature, which is a calorie-burning activity. We have little to no AC in France; when we run hot, we just crack open a window and sweat it out.
  • Lame TV forces us outside: Daily TV programs in France are not riveting I must confess (night ones are much better), hereby making the streets a much better source of entertainment. And out we go.
  • We are incented to look good at all times. In French, this means at our ideal weight dressed in well cut, unforgiving clothing. We have no choice if we want to fit in them. In addition, attitude and confident postures are highly valued and slouchy is not considered sexy there. We keep everything tucked in all day long. Again, better than Pilates. It does wonders for the waistline!
  • The possibility of the flirt at all times is a powerful motivational power. Self explanatory. Do not underestimate the power of possibilities!

According to the World Health Organization, obesity has more than doubled in the world since 1980. In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. Obesity is preventable, and being overweight can be solved with a quick few steps repeated every day.

Do not be a statistic. Take control of your health and fitness by implementing simple changes - pick one of the above and go from there - to your eating habits and lifestyle.