First Post has a piece about how the recession has boosted armed forces enlistment, as increased unemployment usually does, in the USA. This should be good news for the armed forces, as they get people signing up who are high-quality recruits and not just people who would be in prison if they were not in the forces. But the young people who sign up are not physically fit enough. And this is because they are too fat. And they are not happy to be fat. It seems. Says the article. French women don't get fat. We are told. Although on the estates and on public transport you see plenty of women here in France who are traditionally built. They are not white women though. Which is another issue, and one the current White House is having to confront. The average French woman is slimmer than the average British woman, though, and way slimmer than the average American. This is partly because she is more likely to smoke than either of them, partly, in fact quite a lot, because she walks more and is a lot more likely to walk or cycle to work than they are, and only a bit to do with diet - French women eat no breakfast, a big lunch and don't snack - but then why are the pharmacies full of non-prescription diet pills?
Ever since I gave up smoking six years ago I have needed to lose a bit of weight, and more so recently, as when a friend was dying this summer I discovered, rather late in life, the cheering powers of chocolate. I am not however identified as fat, while in the UK at least, and in the US I am identified as slim. I have always had a problem with my ankle joints, which has only really bothered me in the last two or three years, with advancing age and wear and tear, which explains why I have never run a marathon (that's my story anyway) . So, the French health service being what it is (the best in the world, no contest) I got my ankles X-rayed and scanned and checked out by a podologue (podiatrist I think in English, not sure) , who has made me some insoles to correct my posture, which means I can walk further, which is probably good for the weight as well. But I was a little surprised that she weighed me and suggested that my ankles would fare better if they were carrying a little less weight, and that I should go to a dietician and be helped to lose 15 kilos (which is over two stone, Brits, and none of my clothes would fit me any more if I did) . So I have joined a kind of online weight-watchers, and have a programme which says I will lose those 15 kilos by February. We'll see. I do not think I have the courage to tell you what I weigh now (remember I am five foot ten and broad-shouldered) but I will from time to time tell you if I lose (or indeed gain) weight and if so how. If Iain Dale can do it so can I. My current exercise regime is to cycle to work (20 minutes each way, mostly flat) about three times a week, to do two Pilates classes a week (no good for weight loss but fabulous, try it) one gym class most weeks (they run all these at work at lunchtimes, which is normal for French workplaces of any size and makes it easier to do these things regularly) and to swim once a week for about half an hour (in July and August I swim every day but don't do the classes). so not much really. And I don't take any diet pills.