“My Hair Hurts,” Or, How to Drink like a French Woman

“My Hair Hurts,” Or, How to Drink like a French Woman

This week we hand the ABG main feature over to Wendy Narby, author of  “The Drinking Woman’s Diet - A Liver-Friendly Lifestyle Guide.” In this week’s post Wendy offers her insider tips on living the expat life in France, and how to maintain wellness through eating and drinking as the French do.


“My Hair Hurts,” Or, How to Drink like a French Woman

There are so many books out there telling us how all French women are slim and beautiful, with chic style, look ten years younger than their age, have perfect children and great sex lives, etc., etc. You name it; the French are better at it than us. It’s enough to make you reach for a drink!

I’ve lived in France for over thirty years so I'm happy to dispel a few of these myths so that we non-French women can dust off our self-esteem.

The French have some great phrases relating to the after-effects of over indulgence, such as “mal aux cheveux” (my hair hurts) and the famous “crise de foie” (a liver crisis). So they obviously don’t have this thing covered either.

Everybody lies about his or her alcohol consumption, but figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that the French win at alcohol consumption 12.2 litres per capita, with the United Kingdom at 11.6 and the United States at 9.2. But it's also about what we drink. In France, over half is consumed as wine, compared to a third in the UK and less than 20% in the US.

The figures also show the divide between men and women. In the United States, men are reported as drinking 13.6 litres per capita per year and women 4.9. In the United Kingdom, it’s 16.5 litres for men and 6.9 for women. The French beat us all at 17.8 litres for each man and 7.1 per woman.

While the French may drink more by volume, they also consume alcohol quite differently in three key ways:

They consume most of their alcohol as wine and mainly at meal times.

Friends rarely meet for drinks in France, they drink with food, so they’ll meet you for dinner or lunch. Yes, they are the champions of the “aperitif” but very much as a pre-meal experience—no preloading here. Drinking with food rather than on an empty stomach reduces the Blood Alcohol Concentration, and protects the liver. In France, they advise a spoonful of olive oil before drinking; in England, we advise a glass of milk. I prefer full-fat yoghurt, as it helps to repopulate many probiotics naturally present in the gut, and the fat content slows down alcohol absorption.

They take their time over meals, chewing well; they eat less and enjoy it more.

Chewing warns the stomach what food is heading its way, preparing the digestive process and allowing time for a full sensation to reach the brain from the stomach. This process slows down both food and wine consumption.

They have both wine and water on the table.

Drinking at least one glass of water for every glass of wine helps reduce headaches exacerbated by the dehydration as your body tries to dilute the alcohol. This habit helps. And no ice in that water, since iced water inhibits the digestion.

Furthermore, while French women drink their wine with food, their eating habits are worth a look, too:

French women do not snack in between meals.

  • Croissants are for breakfast, not for a mid-morning top up.

  • You don’t see French women walking around town with polystyrene cups of milky coffee. In fact, apart from breakfast, they never put milk in coffee.

  • They eat three meals a day.

  • They don’t eat on the hoof. They stop for lunch, take their time, eat slowly, and enjoy.

  • They don’t eat half a baguette while waiting for the starter to arrive or a bowl of peanuts with the aperitif.

  • They drink lots of water.

  • They eat their veg. A French family meal will usually start with either salad (crudités) in the summer or soup in the winter. Vegetables are served with the main course and salad offered with cheese before dessert.

  • They finish their meal with a strong (bitter) espresso, which closes the appetite.

You don't have to come to France to eat and drink like a French woman but when you do, you now know how to fit right in!

à votre santé !

Wendy Narby


You can purchase Wendy’s Book “The Drinking Woman’s Diet” in paperback , on e*book or via Amazon.


Meet The Tribe:

Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic.

Bio 1.jpeg

Wendy Narby

Owner, Insider Tasting Wine Education  

Years In Industry:

Almost 30. After 8 years in Paris, I moved to Bordeaux to marry a wine maker and I’ve been working in the industry ever since. I started as a journalist, then as an educator at the Bordeaux wine school and now combine the two with organizing personalized programs for wine enthusiasts, both professional and amateurs wanting to gain a more intimate understanding of Bordeaux and occasionally other wine and spirits destinations. I published my first book ‘Bordeaux Bootcamp’ as a beginners guide to the region and earlier this year - The Drinking Woman’s Diet - A Liver Friendly Lifestyle Guide.

 My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:

Keeping to my self imposed regime of two days a week without booze, it is so tempting when there is so much great wine around, that and getting 7/8 hours sleep a night - now that is a challenge! 

How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:

I have a morning detox routine I try and stick to, even when I’m traveling: I start with a large glass of water and a stretch before even getting out of bed, oil pulling and body brushing and then a large mug of hot water with lemon juice, turmeric, ginger and pepper.

I try and do a daily yoga practice in the morning - even if it is just 10 minutes of sun salutations.  When I’m home walking the dog through the vines at the start of the day is as good for the mind as it is for the body. 

 You can connect with Wendy on Instagram, Twitter, FaceBook or on her website


What We’re Reading:

There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.

What Happens When a Somm Takes a Break from Drinking?  - SevenFifty Daily

“When my fiancé, Lyle, suggested that we give our livers the month off, I happily agreed. But after a few days, Sober October demonstrated to me why it wasn’t so easy to take a month off from drinking: It was bad for business.”

The Mindful Glass?  - Sarah Abbott MW on TimAtkin.com

 “If that’s how you feel, maybe you’re in the wrong industry”. I had just said, to a wine trade friend, that I thought our industry was in denial. We are complacent, and we are ignoring a gathering storm.“

Let’s Meet Up!

As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you. Check out details on the Let's Meet Up! page.

Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference in Cape Town, Oct. 17 (Cathy)

Wine Communicator of the Year Awards in Sydney, Nov. 6 (Rebecca)

Australian Women in Wine Symposium in Sydney, Nov. 16 (Rebecca)

Wine2Wine in Verona, Italy, Nov 26 to 27 (Rebecca)

Guest Lecturer at INSEEC in Bordeaux, Jan. 21 – 26 (Cathy)


Drop a line to rebecca@abalancedglass.com or cathy@enolytics.com if you are interested in getting together for practice, a chat or a great glass together. 


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