How I Moved to France and Lost 20 Pounds

Stephen L M Heiner
The American In Paris
7 min readMay 3, 2022

Photo by Samuel Ramos on Unsplash

I’ve mentioned over the years that I lost weight when I moved to France, but I’ve never explained precisely how. The truth is, it took me a while to figure it out, because “weight loss” wasn’t even on my radar when I moved here.

When I moved to France in 2013 I was heavier than I had been in my undergraduate days more than a decade earlier and definitely heavier than the leanest I’d ever been, when I graduated from boot camp with the United States Marine Corps. But that weight gain happened so gradually that I really hadn’t noticed it. A pound or two a year over years adds up, it seems. Three months into my time living in France, twelve of those pounds had evaporated. Turns out that with all the other things I had going on in my new country, I hadn’t really noticed, as my first clue was when I went to OFII and they called out a weight when I stepped on the scale that didn’t seem right. I stepped on it again to make sure, and yes, the equivalent of twelve pounds had disappeared.

Over the next three months another eight would go, mostly without my notice, though clothes that I had formerly “grown into” fit properly again, and I had to get a couple suits altered that had accommodated the “old Stephen.”

The Secret

So, given that I didn’t go on a diet when I moved here, and in fact, I drink more wine, cook with more duck fat and butter, eat more cheese, more bread, more pastry, more desserts than I’ve ever eaten in my life, something else was influencing these changes.

Portion Sizes

American portion sizes are unbelievable. Americans are obsessed with paying low prices for food (but we have no problem spending a lot on cars and firearms) and this low price obsession also translates into wanting “good value for money” when we eat out. If a big plate of food comes out and you don’t finish it, we have a culture of taking home leftovers and feeling even better about our night out (“free” meal for the next day).

We are also taught culturally that you should finish everything on your plate, because to do otherwise would be ungrateful. While part of me accepts part of that sentiment, the culture then has to own that it should put a reasonable portion on the plate, not a portion that in France would…

Stephen L M Heiner
The American In Paris

Singaporean-born American in Paris. I connect, educate, and build, AMDG. Follow my adventures at