The French secret to ageing gracefully

Posted on September 25, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
Eiffel tower, France at sunset

It is definitely not a secret that the world thinks that French women dress better than the females of any other nationality, and that when it comes to looking chic, and managing to remain slim while consuming a full fat French diet, we could all learn from them. What has become known as the French Paradox exists because as one doctor put it: “(French women) want to be beautiful, in love and take care of themselves to look good.”

Now, not only do French women possess the secret of how to stay slim as they get older, they also know how to age better than other women, according to Rebecca Plantier, founder of Fit To Inspire, which is an online source of fitness advice for women of all ages. She is also one of the authors of Lessons from France: Eating, Fitness, Family, which is the inspiration for this blog. So, let’s see what the French secret of ageing well entails.

Healthy habits from an early age

The first thing that we learn is that ageing well is something we should have been planning since our teens, or earlier. French women know that ageing well comes from living well. They learn healthy habits from an early age that they use throughout their lives, especially when it comes to eating and exercise. Well, we non-French people may not have learnt these lifestyle disciplines at kindergarten, but it’s never too late to start.

Keep on moving!

French people move a lot. They like to walk, hike, swim or cycle for example, as an integral part of their lives. Exercise isn’t something they set time aside for, it’s just something they have done since childhood and they keep it up into later life. It is noticeable in Mediterranean countries that people of all ages take an evening stroll before dinner. It’s a part of social life, but it keeps everyone moving and it is charming to see adult grandchildren arm in arm with ageing grandparents, making sure that they get out of the house and stay active together.


A family tug of war on a beach

Family fun

Family gatherings that include every generation are very important in French families. Younger people invite older people to parties and the idea that older people wouldn’t want to enjoy the fun doesn’t occur to French people.

Food and pleasure

The French expect to eat tasty, fresh food every day. Fast food? Non, merci! They love good food, but they don’t over-indulge, even if they do at times have multi-course meals. On these occasions, they don’t pile food on a plate; they take small portions. They don’t deny themselves, and food is just one of life’s pleasures. Elegant lingerie, a beautiful scarf, a dramatic lipstick are also the kinds of pleasures that a French woman expects to have throughout her life. They will eat a small quantity of quality chocolate and not feel guilty; the belief in pleasure and the lack of guilt about enjoyment is a vital part of the French mindset that enables them to grow old gracefully.


French women of all ages tend to accept their appearance with confidence. Any perceived physical defects are accepted and then camouflaged with artful dressing and makeup, plus lifelong attention to skincare. Plus, they never consider “letting themselves go”; a French woman is never too old for makeup, dressing stylishly and salon treatments, nor do they think that weight gain is a part of growing old that has to simply be accepted.

Age appropriate sexiness

It’s almost impossible to talk about French women without mentioning sex, and their view of sex is an important key to ageing well. There is no age limit on looking sexy, or on flirting. Study their older film stars, such as Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche and you’ll see how they do sexy in an age-appropriate way.


To sum it up; French people practise moderation and that’s why they age well. They never say “No” to something that gives them pleasure, even if it is full fat cheese, but they only have a small quantity of it. They also don’t snack between meals, and even their exercise is done in moderation. And that’s the secret; it’s pretty easy to follow, although I wish I’d learnt how to say “Non” to “Shall we just have one more?” in my youth!

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.