French wellness is having a moment. A global pandemic has put many of us on lockdown and we all have a lot more time on our hands to think about things like self-care, our daily routines and our long-term wellness goals.
If you’re curious about the French way to do wellness, then this article is for you. I’m an American living in Paris and I’m going to share all of the French wellness tips I’ve gathered during my time in the city of light (and beauty!).
The closest word to ‘wellness’ in French would be bien-être, or well-being. Wellness, in the American sense, is a somewhat newer concept to the French, but they have certainly embraced this American health and lifestyle trend.
That being said, I do think that ‘wellness’ has long been integrated into French culture subconsciously already. They just never really called it out because it was basically… normal!
The American culture on the other hand, with its non-stop busybodies, needed to remind people to take a breather, practice self-care and focus on their well-being.
The French do this naturally.
The silver lining to all these lockdowns is that we now have the time to stop and think about how our daily actions affect our bodies and our long-term health.
Daily French Wellness Tips
Wellness is a long-term process, but there are small steps you can take on a daily basis to integrate French wellness practices into your life. Little by little, you can change your life with these French well-being tips.
Wellness is something that affects our mood, our feelings, and our energy. Before jumping into any French beauty guide, it’s important to have a good understanding of how to take care of the body.
Cherish Your Morning Routine
I have a French friend who gets up at 6am everyday. Once, I went to a dinner party at her place in Paris that finished quite late, and the next morning she had the entire place cleaned by 8am! French women have a morning routine that they stick to, no matter what.
This helps establish good habits they can stick to, and creates a rhythm for the body and digestive system.
Here is an example of a typical French girl’s morning routine:
- Wake up
- Brush Teeth
- Hop in the Shower
- Have Breakfast
- Put on a Face Cream
- Get Dressed
- Put on Makeup
My morning routine looks very similar to that. I like to put my morning face moisturizer and lip balm on straight out of the shower as I like to let it be absorbed by my face before putting makeup on. During that time, I’ll dry my hair and get dressed for the day.
What do French women eat for breakfast?
A common question about the French morning routine is what exactly do French women eat for breakfast? The French breakfast is much lighter than the American one. It varies greatly, but no, French women are not eating freshly baked croissants on the daily! It’s quite impractical to do so especially as the lines at the boulangerie in Paris are quite long during that pre-work rush hour!
Instead, they might opt for a simple piece of baguette with butter, a crêpe with strawberry jam, a muesli cereal bowl, or some avocado slices with eggs.
French women often drink their coffee black (it’s the healthiest way), but if you must, only add a dash of milk or sugar.
Instead of coffee, many French girls start their morning by drinking herbal tea or green tea. Others keep it simple by sipping on hot water with lemon each morning.
Do French women take supplements?
French women are starting to add supplements to their daily routines, too. French makeup artist and influencer Violette says she takes supplements daily to keep her body, hair and facial skin looking fresh and healthy. She starts with rosemary herbal tea to cleanse the liver and then takes fish oil, turmeric, and Vitamin D supplements. I would also suggest a good multivitamin in addition to any specialty supplements for your specific goals.
The French approach to exercise is more about working it into your daily routine, rather than setting specific time aside to work out. It’s about making the choice to exercise as you go about your day – taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to work instead of hopping on the metro.
It helps that walking and bicycling are ingrained in the French culture. The French word flaneur means someone who wanders aimlessly through a city, discovering its beauty with no particular purpose in mind. It doesn’t really have an equivalent in English.
The mayor of Paris even went so far as to ban private cars from the central Rue de Rivoli last year to make the avenue more pedestrian-friendly. On Sundays, many of the smaller inner streets of Paris are completely off-limits to cars. This allows for strolling and biking under safe conditions.
While it’s easy to walk when you live in a large city, getting in your daily exercise can be more difficult if you drive everywhere! In that case, if you drive to most places, try to park as far away as you can and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
Do French women work out intensely?
You may be thinking that walking is nice and all, but what about an intense workout? Do French women work out at all to keep fit? The answer is yes, they do, but it’s not nearly as common as it is in the USA. French women do yoga, pilates, and even bar classes, but a strenuous workout is not typically part of their daily routine.
A big part of wellness is self-care. French women know from an early age how important it is to take care of the vessel that guides us through life.
The French diet is, on average, quite healthier than the American one. There is simply less ‘junk food’ available at grocery stores in France. French women are raised to shop locally, many of whom will visit the grocery store and local food producers with their parents during childhood.
In fact, the French grocery shopping routine is one of the biggest differences I noticed between French and American culture. French women shop at individual shops that specialize in one food production realm instead of going to a ‘catch all’ grocery store like Americans do. I used to go to Stop & Shop for everything I needed in the US. French people have a different shop for meat (boucherie), cheese (fromagerie), breads & pastries (boulangerie), wine (cave à vin), and more. French markets (marchés) are where they buy organic fruits and vegetables, much of which is grown and sold by a local producer.
This means that the distributor who sells that food item is an expert in its preparation, resulting in higher quality, healthier food. Food that most French women consume is processed far less than it would be if it was made by a large corporation. The local aspect of food shopping makes it healthier by nature.
Bio is the french word for ‘organic’ and you’ll see this everywhere in France. There is a hugely popular organic food movement happening in France, which makes a big impact on their wellness routines.
Take Small Portions
It’s no secret that meal portions in France are much smaller, helping women stay thin and healthy. French women don’t starve themselves by any means, but it’s undeniable that they truly have a smaller appetite than most of us Americans. And no, the cigarette-for-lunch French cliché is absolutely a falsehood! If a French woman is watching her weight, she’ll opt for a Niçoise salad.
Eat in Moderation
With all the pastries and croissants for sale at boulangeries around every block, it’s hard to know how the French diet can result in a population that isn’t very obese at all. The truth is that French women know how to eat in moderation. They do enjoy their Camembert cheese once in a while, surrounded by friends, and they drink until they can’t stand up straight on the weekends. They just don’t do these things every day.
French women are mindful to eat slowly and savor every bite of their meals. There’s a reason why restaurants don’t reserve the same table for multiple parties – they know that most French dinners can last 3 or 4 hours, and perhaps even more! Eating meals is a long, social affair in France, which helps give the body time to digest properly. Dessert is ok, but not every evening. Everything in moderation, ladies!
When I left New York, a huge juice detox trend was emerging. People were skipping meals and replacing them with bottled organic juice mixes. While I never dared to do this type of juice trend, I noticed that French juiceries have popped up all over Paris and they always seem to be busy with chic French women! One of my favorite places for fresh organic juice in Paris is Wild & the Moon who serves organic snacks and juices in the heart of Le Marais.
Lastly, it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. Some French girls prefer to buy Volvic mineral water. Evian is the famous French water that comes fresh from the Alps. Whatever water source you choose, be sure to get at least 2 liters of water in your system per day for optimum French wellness. In the dryer months, use Avène Eau Thermale on your face from time to time for a quick boost of moisture on your skin.
Face masks, exfoliation, sunscreen, and more – the French take their skincare very seriously. The French skincare routine has a profound impact on your wellness. Keeping your skin in top shape requires several steps, but once you get yourself into a good routine, the steps will become second nature to you.
The most important steps are cleansing and moisturizing. These are done morning and evening. If it’s the morning, these steps will be followed up with a good facial sunscreen to protect against UV rays which cause wrinkles. If it’s the evening, a serum might be used under the eyes, or a night cream might be applied as a moisturizer. Makeup is thoroughly removed each night, as well.
Less often, French women will take the time to soak in a long bubble bath, do a face mask and exfoliate their skin. Taking time for yourself is key to mastering French wellness habits.
French At-Home Wellness
Creating an at-home oasis for you to relax and decharge at the end of the day is paramount to your French wellness routine. Here are some French wellness tips for designing a relaxing home environment.
Tend to Your Garden
Indoor plants have profound effects on our health and well-being. For example, did you know that hospital patients who have trees outside their windows recover faster than those who face a brick wall? Nature is our therapy and the French understand this.
A few times, as I waited in line to buy bread at the boulangerie by my apartment, I noticed an older woman tending to the extensive garden outside her balcony window. She rearranges her plants so they get optimal sun and waters them one by one. It’s clear she appreciates that by caring for these plants, she is caring for herself, too.
I don’t know about you but my scented candles are a simple moment of joy at the end of my day. I can’t say if there is any real science behind aromatherapy but I do know that the scent of a Diptyque candle at the end of a long day brings me so much peace and pleasure. These amazing French candles will transport you to Paris with just one whiff!
Remember to create a nest that you feel at ease in. From comfortable loungewear to cozy slippers, make an effort to feel happy while you are at home. It isn’t about buying expensive furniture, but you should invest in small creature comforts that help you achieve relaxation at home. French women dress for themselves and often look their best even while at home alone. It’s about celebrating the simple pleasures of everyday life and living each small moment to the fullest.
Long-Term French Wellness
These are some long-term French wellness tips that you can work on with time. Don’t feel that you need to rush into a wellness routine. Take your time to discover each of the wellness habits we’ve mentioned so far and figure out what works best for you, your personal goals, and your lifestyle.
Prioritize Your Mental Health
The French don’t stigmatize mental health as much as Americans do which means they attend therapy sessions and seek out mental health professionals much more often than we do! It helps that the country offers a comprehensive healthcare system that encourages regular visits to a psychiatrist.
I have met several women in France who have told me how helpful mental health sessions are to their well-being. Many of us have undealt with trauma from our childhoods or past experiences that we never really addressed. Getting these issues addressed isn’t always fun, but it’s so important to do if you want to watch out for your wellness like a French girl would.
French girls often go on wellness retreats in the Alps. Both France and Switzerland have wonderful wellness resorts where you can relax and surround yourself with nature while giving your body and mind a well-needed break.
I was once invited to the famous French department store Le Bon Marché for a facial massage and treatment by Les Huilettes, an organic French skincare brand with olive oil-based products. I am not someone who gets massages on a regular basis, but I can say that those 45 minutes were absolute heaven and worked wonders for my mental well-being.
For the rest of your body, there are also the lymphatic drainage massages which French women swear cure them of dreaded cellulite.
As you can see, the wellness culture in France has certainly evolved into a more holistic approach to everyday living. It’s no longer just about diet, fitness, and self-care but rather encompasses mindful consumption, beauty, fashion, and more. I hope these French wellness tips gave you some ideas for living well in these uncertain times!