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Digital Detox and Dietary Intox - My European Getaway

Posted Jun 16 2009 7:53pm

We left our apartment in the calm morning hours (6am) of the beautiful Parisian area called “le Marais” and arrived in Toronto exactly 11 hours later.  Surprisingly with very little fatigue!

Amy and I just got back from 10 days in Europe. We spent 3 days in Amsterdam and rounded out the trip with 7 days in Paris. 
In this article, I want to share some valuable insight with you about what we learned about the "supposed" healthy French lifestyle and be totally transparent with you about how unhealthy (that’s right!) our trip was.

We traveled to Europe because one of my cousins was getting married in Paris.  So we used that event as an excuse to get away for a little bit and unwind.  After all, our last vacation was in April 2008 – far too long ago!  

Here's a cool pic of Amy and I from the wedding (it was a pretty spectacular evening!)

One of my goals with this trip was to do a “digital detox”. This meant absolutely no internet, no laptop, no phone, not even my iPod! Considering that so much of our lives revolve around these
 technologies I felt it was important to get away from them every now and again. 

And let me tell you how amazing it was to not have to worry about emails or phone calls for entire 10 days. You should definitely try it some time. You’ll come back more rejuvenated and actually look forward to, as opposed to dreading, being connected again.


Amy and I really enjoyed Amsterdam. It was our first time there and it made me wonder why I had not taken the time to visit this wonderful city several years ago when I lived in Lille, France, which is just 90 minutes away!

The city is quite spectacular as it built around canals and cobblestone roads with more cyclists and “scooterists” than actual cars roaming the streets. Walking the streets of Amsterdam definitely comes with a learning curve though.

Not only do you have watch out for cars and pedestrians but, more importantly, droves of stylish urbanites on bicycles. It literally feels as though the peloton of the Tour de France is flying through the streets. It’s no wonder that very few people are overweight in Holland – they all ride a bike! It truly is a sight to see.

Although we didn’t notice as much readily available local produce as in Paris, I have to say that the restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam really do serve some incredible food. Obviously, steering clear of the “tourist trap” restaurants is the key but we were lucky to have enjoyed some wonderful local treats including some the best sandwiches, desserts, and cappuccinos you could imagine.

Here's a pic of the menu from one of the cafes in which we had lunch. I'm not sure if you can read what's on it but trust me it was great.

This leads to my first confession. I have to confess that I had more than just a few cappuccinos. Although at home, I might drink one per week at most, while we were in Amsterdam and Paris it was more like 1-2 per day. And you can’t just have a coffee by itself (apparently) so I indulged my fair share of “pain au chocolat” and high quality chocolate.

But hey, I’m human and that’s why I want to be totally honest with you. Yes, I slip and indulge in foods that don’t necessarily do my body any good besides their instant gratification but they also serve another important purpose. Eating refined, sweet, and “stimulating” foods reminds you just how much better you look and feel when you actually eat healthy living foods.

Here's a pic to give you an idea of our daily breakfast. I know it's pretty bad - cappuccino & croissant. Oh yeah, there's also some fresh squeezed OJ (haha).

Having said that my first order of business this week is to do at least one week of our Total Wellness Cleanse which will help me re-energize, alkalize, and purify my body and get me back into my healthy eating groove.

The French Paradox

A lot people have the notion that French people are healthier and live longer. That they eat healthier and are thinner. Although I don’t have any research at the moment to back up what I’m about to say, I feel it needs to be said. But please remember that this is my personal opinion. It is subjective based on my experience and may not be a true representation of the French culture.

After living for a year in France (in 2003 playing soccer) and having visited the country numerous times before and since then, I must say that the French lifestyle is pretty filthy! I’m not saying French people are filthy, not at all. I love them and I love their culture more than you can imagine.

However, this recent trip really made me realize that the French lifestyle is not at all as healthy as people think it is. Starting your day off with an espresso, croissant, and a pack of cigarettes is not a healthy way to live. Furthermore, eating a heavy dinner along with a bottle of wine followed by another espresso at 11pm at night is a surefire way to cause digestive issues and impair your sleep.

Although it is true that the French eat more fruits and vegetables than North Americans, it is also true that they smoke a heck of a lot more. Relaxing on a patio in France is simply an oxymoron considering every single person around you is lighting up. 

I would say that at least 90% of the French people we encountered smoked. And there’s nothing more disgusting than tyring to enjoy a drink or a meal while the person right beside is blowing smoke in your face! That’s one thing I have no patience for! I don’t know what the lung cancer rates are like in France but I would assume they are higher than normal.

What We Can Learn From the French

Aside from their smoking and drinking, there are some valuable lessons we can learn from the French.

First, they tend to eat smaller meals which is obviously one of the reasons why they tend to be slimmer than North Americans.

Second, they walk and bike a lot. Paris has now introduced a new initiative where you can rent a bicycle for as little as 1 Euro per half-hour and drop it off at any bike depot across the city. Although Amy and I didn’t rent these bikes while we were in Paris, we definitely did a ton of walking – at least 10 miles per day!

Third, the French (and Europeans) are much more social. They have a great sense of community and it’s not uncommon to see restaurants and cafes packed with groups of people right into the wee of hours of the morning every night of the week. It seems as though the French work to live instead of the North American “live to work”.
When you consider that having a strong sense of community and socializing with friends and family is one of the most significant factors contributing to a long and happy life, it’s no wonder the Europeans are the example to follow.

In fact, my cousin who was getting married recently moved back to Paris after spending several in New York city working with one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world. She told me that she much preferred living in Paris because “Parisian life” was more than just work. Her experience in NYC was grueling and she was amazed at just how hard American firms sucked the life from their employees.

While in Paris, she gave me a tour of her office at Publicis (one of the largest ad firms in the world). Talk about incredible! Located right on the Champs Elysees with a rooftop overlooking all of Paris (the picture to left shows you the view)! It’s no wonder she’s happy to be back in Paris.

As much I love to travel, it is nice to be back in Toronto. Ten days is a long time for me to do nothing. You can only walk around and sit in cafes for so long. So I’m back and ready to crank out some amazing stuff to help you live your healthiest and fittest life ever!

I’m also looking forward to spending some much needed time with Jax and Laila (pictured here) – whom I missed enormously while away. Yes, I’m one of those dog owners that makes non dog owners sick to their stomach. But what can I say, there just too adorable!


P.S. Here's a picture of me testing the speed of my tennis serve at the Roland Garros (French Open).  I clocked in at 170 km/h but I know I serve faster than that when I'm warmed up properly.

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