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I apologize for the delay in writing something for you, dear readers, but I got a bit sidetracked last week by a new project: a diet, or as the French call it, a régime. You see, since coming to France two years ago, I’ve really packed on the weight. My friends assure me that I’m not “fat,” but nevertheless, after two years of my sedentary, married lifestyle coupled with my adoptive French lifestyle of apéritifs and desserts and boulangeries on every street corner, I had finally reached the breaking point: 179 pounds.

For those of you who don’t know it, I have always battled my weight. From the time I was 10 or 11 years old, I was “chunky” or, as the Lee Jeans company called it, “husky.” <shudder> What marketing genius thought that was the right word to use for overweight kids’ clothes?! It wasn’t easy being a chubby pre-teen, or teenager for that matter. Thankfully, I slimmed down a bit when I went off to a residential high school at 16, but when I went off to college—with the freedom to eat and drink what I wanted—I started to pack the weight right back on. By the time I graduated with my master’s degree in 1996, I was a rotund 215 pounds packed into a 5 foot-7 inch frame.

Just look at those cheeks. Me in … 1982?

Me at my heaviest (around 215 lbs), December 1997?

Me in San Francisco in July 1999, weighing in at around 160-165 lbs.


When I finally came out in 1998, I embarked on a mission to get myself in shape and, combining a healthy diet with hard-core exercise (for the first time in my life), I went from 215 pounds to 163 pounds in just 3 months! It sounds too rapid for healthy weight loss, I know, but it really was a function of the fact that I was so overweight to begin with and it was my first real effort to get healthy. After that, I yo-yoed a bit, getting back into the 180s and 190s, but then, starting in 2007, I got serious again. Right after meeting my husband Michel in 2009, I had gotten down to 150 pounds. Now, many of my friends have told me that I was too skinny back in the summer of 2009, but I felt good. I had more energy than I’d ever had before, and I was looking at myself in a completely different way. I felt in control of my body for the first time in my life, and it was a liberating sensation for that chubby kid in husky jeans.

Then came married life in France …

Like most weight gain, it was gradual and steady over a long period of time. During my first year in a relationship with Michel, I added those 10 extra pounds we all joke about, but I was still healthy and looking relatively fit. But once I immigrated here the following summer, I stopped tracking my weight completely. My gym equipment was in a storage unit in DC, and there wasn’t even a scale in our apartment here. And then … it just went down hill.

Family dinners are partly to blame, of course. At least one a week, we dine with my mother-in-law who shows her love by feeding you. There’s always the apéritif hour while she’s finishing things up in the kitchen, when I drink one, two, or even three glasses of Martini Blanc or kirs, all the while snacking on peanuts, chips, olives, and even cheese tartelettes. The dinner that follows is usually not the problem. As the vegetarian of the family, I’m spared the blanquette de veau and the tartiflette, and my vegetarian dish is usually relatively healthy, but there are vegetarian gratins and raclette on occasion. It’s the dessert that always gets me: cakes made from chocolate, pistachio, or strawberry mousse or an assortment of pastries from the neighborhood bakery, like coffee religieuses, chocolate éclairs, or vanilla mille-feuilles. And let me just say that declining dessert has never been my strong suit.

Potato-Cauliflower gratin … cholesterol anyone?

How do you choose? You have one of each!

Of course, I can’t blame it all on Belle Maman‘s kitchen. The truth is that we got married and lazy at the same time, and now we spend far too much time on the sofa and not enough time moving, not to mention the fact that we eat the wrong things far too often. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve decided that we’re just too tired to cook dinner and we grab dinner at the Pakistani place down the street (can you say “ghee“?) … or from the pizza truck a few blocks over (where a four-cheese pizza comes with roquefort and reblochon) … or from one of the abundant crêperies in Paris. And then there was the recent arrival of Michel’s oven—his miniature laboratory for experimenting with goat cheese puff pastries, chocolate-caramel cake, home-made pizzas, and lemon-speculoos cheesecake.

Crêpes au sarrasin …

Homemade pizza from the evil little oven

Chocolate-caramel cake, also from the evil little oven

The evil little oven just keeps on giving: Michel’s lemon-speculoos cheesecake

I reached my breaking point on Thursday. Don’t worry … my chair didn’t literally break! After a few months of sinking depression about my inability to find anything in my closet that still fits, though, I decided to start a new project. I’m going to get myself back to a healthy weight where I look good in my clothes again and, more importantly, where I feel good again, physically and psychologically. My goal is to lose 25 pounds over a period of six months, getting back to 155 pounds. It won’t be easy, but I’m motivated. Michel is very supportive, and he’s exercising with me. He’s also putting his evil little oven on temporary leave. I’ve started tracking my food consumption and exercise on MyFitnessPal.com (which also has a handy iPhone application for when you’re on the go), and I’ve started a Facebook page where I will chronicle my efforts and get much-needed moral support from my friends. If you want to join in, just go to Drop That Croissant and like the page!

The photographic evidence: this is why I created Drop that Croissant!

How’s it going so far? Well, I’m just three days into this long journey, so it’s too early to tell, but I should be on target to report a weight loss later this week. I am showing major resolve in the face of great temptation. Just yesterday, we celebrated my brother-in-law’s fortieth birthday at a French-style family cookout. I survived the apéritif hour with just a diet coke in my hand and absolutely no munchies. I had a reasonable lunch of tofu gratin (it was better than it sounds), avocado salad, and one small slice of my mother-in-law’s vegetable quiche. I also had just a single 150-calorie glass of rosé instead of the 450 calories I’d normally imbibe. (My mother-in-law insisted on the rosé because I couldn’t toast Fred’s fortieth with a glass of water!) When the desserts came out, I limited myself to one bite of Michel’s scrumptious lemon-speculoos cheesecake. I savored every bit of it, and you know what? It was enough.

I’ve got a long way to go, but if I can keep up that level of self-control, I’ll reach my goal. Stop by Drop That Croissant and cheer me on to the finish line. My second weigh-in is on Thursday …

P.S. — November 1 Update … I’ve reached my goal! Here’s the new photographic evidence:

© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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2 thoughts on “The Battle of the Bulge: Married Life, French Food, and My Waistline

  1. Oh Michael! This is so good. You are going to do great, I feel it – and the exercise is the big thing – I lost weight after coming here because of all the walking……You, however, are a writer – it is a more sedentary lifestyle……….. But, that diet coke? Hmmm, if you promise not to drink those, I’ll promise to cut out my once in awhile cig! LOL!!!!

  2. Pingback: Sugar Daze | je parle américain

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