Engagement is a "faux ami" + Welcoming a Pet into the Family & Responsibility
A Little Tour of La Ciotat, France. Allez! On y va!

"Bidou": A Do-It-Yourself Tummy Tuck in French (Bilingual Story)

Eden Theatre oldest functioning cinema in the world
Today, learn a tummy tuck trick my husband and I use on our morning walks. Passing by historic sites, such as the Eden Theatre--the oldest cinema in the world--is a helpful distraction as we do our "standing situps."

Are you an Expat who needs to file your tax return? Don't sweat it! Get $20 off when you use Expatfile software to begin the simplified process.

LE BIDOU (bee-do)

    : tummy, tum-tum

The word bidou is used by children or by adults speaking to children. Bidou is also a colloquial term used in casual conversation. Read on... 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

"Brains are the New Six-Pack"

My husband and I have tweaked our morning walk to include a (not-so) simple exercise de ventre. By thoughtfully contracting our stomach muscles during the sweaty aller-retour to the port, we can tackle two goals at the same time: cardio fitness and improving core strength. The walking part is easy, the challenge is remembering to suck it in.... For this, we have a one-word reminder/call-to-action that really works:


Our prompt or truc de mémoire may be childish ("bidou" means "tummy" in baby talk) but boy is it effective! No sooner does one of us call "bidou?" than we instantly cave below the ribs. But not for long. In a matter of steps my mind is somewhere else, far from my midriff! Apparently, it isn't just my stomach that needs training, so does my brain.

To combat such flightiness, we've come up with an extra command: one of us will say "BIDOU?" and the other will name a target. We must hold it in until the You-Name-It destination. Let me give you an example:

Jean-Marc: "Bidou?"

Kristi (sucking it in):  "Oh, Merci! (for the needed reminder) "Bidou Bâteaux!" This is a signal to maintain it until we reach the boats 20 meters ahead. Once we reach the boats (or sometime in between, depending...), it's the other person's turn to keep us on track...

Kristi: "Bidou?"

Jean-Marc: "Oui oui! (my husband replies, confidently. But is he telling the truth? Has he really been holding it in all this time? Seems like it's always me saying merci! and him saying oui! oui!). Nevertheless, "Bidou Phare!" he suggests next.

Hold on! That's a little too far the phare. I know that in 10 or so meters I'm gonna accidentally let it all hang out. Therefore I humbly suggest, "Bidou Cinema?" (because the Eden movie theatre is only another 15 meters up ahead and I think this is a more realistic goal.)

No matter how amusing the game and how consistently we play it, more often than not I forget to keep my tummy tucked in. The good news is Jean-Marc and I are both improving. In fact, I was smack in the middle of a long stretch of holding it in when I saw a man with a very big bidou wearing a funny T-shirt. It read: "BRAINS ARE THE NEW SIX-PACK." 

I'm not a fan of smug T-shirts, but this one got me thinking about how both the French and the English have an unhealthy symbol for "muscular stomach": the French call toned abs une tablette de chocolat--a chocolate bar, picture six squares-- while the English call them "six-pack abs".

Next, I wondered, Does this Frenchman understand the English on his T-Shirt? Ah well, what does it matter? After all, his quirky message was beginning to sink in and make some sense to me. Because a flat stomach is, in my experience (not that I've yet experienced one....), the result of consistent brain power. Indeed, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

To read the comments to this post or to leave one, click here

Old wooden boats in the port capucin
Bidou Bateaux? Here is one of our targets--the old wooden boats in Port des Capucins.


"Les Cerveaux Sont Les Nouveaux  Abdos"

Mon mari et moi avons ajusté notre marche matinale pour y inclure un exercice de ventre (pas si simple). En contractant consciencieusement nos muscles abdominaux pendant notre aller-retour transpirant vers le port, nous pouvons atteindre deux objectifs simultanément : l'entraînement cardiovasculaire et le renforcement des muscles profonds. La marche est facile, le défi réside dans le souvenir de rentrer le ventre... Pour cela, nous avons un rappel en un mot qui fonctionne vraiment bien :

"Bidou ?"

Notre rappel ou truc mnémotechnique peut sembler enfantin ("bidou" signifie "ventre" dans le langage des tout-petits), mais il est incroyablement efficace ! À peine l'un de nous prononce "bidou ?" que nous rentrons instantanément le ventre en dessous des côtes. Mais pas pour longtemps. En quelques pas, mon esprit est ailleurs, loin de mon abdomen ! Apparemment, ce n'est pas seulement mon ventre qui a besoin d'exercice, mon cerveau aussi.

Pour contrer cette distraction, nous avons inventé une commande supplémentaire : l'un de nous dit "BIDOU ?" et l'autre nomme une cible. Nous devons le maintenir rentré jusqu'à la destination en question. Laissez-moi vous donner un exemple :

Jean-Marc : "Bidou ?"

Kristi (en rentrant le ventre) : "Oh, merci ! (pour le rappel nécessaire)" Puis "Bidou Bâteaux !" Cela signifie que nous devons le maintenir jusqu'à ce que nous atteignions les bateaux (à seulement 20 mètres devant nous). Une fois arrivés aux bateaux (ou quelque part entre les deux, selon les circonstances...), c'est au tour de l'autre de nous garder sur la bonne voie...

Kristi : "Bidou ?"

Jean-Marc : "Oui oui !" (mon mari répond avec confiance. Mais dit-il vraiment la vérité ? A-t-il vraiment rentré le ventre tout ce temps ? Il semble que je sois toujours celle qui dit merci ! et lui qui dit oui ! oui !). Néanmoins, il propose ensuite "Bidou Phare !".

Attendez ! Le phare est un peu trop loin. Je sais qu'à environ 10 mètres, je vais involontairement tout laisser pendre. Par conséquent, je suggère humblement, "Bidou Cinema ?" (car le cinéma n'est qu'à 15 mètres de là et je pense que c'est un objectif plus réaliste).

Peu importe à quel point le jeu est amusant et à quel point nous y jouons régulièrement, j'oublie souvent de garder mon ventre rentré. Mais nous nous améliorons tous les deux. En fait, j'étais en plein milieu d'une longue période de maintien lorsque j'ai vu un homme avec un très gros bidou portant un t-shirt drôle. Il était écrit : "Les cerveaux sont le nouveau pack de six".

Je ne suis pas fan des t-shirts arrogants, mais celui-ci m'a fait réfléchir sur le fait que les Français et les Anglais ont tous deux un symbole peu sain pour "ventre musclé" : les Français appellent les abdominaux tonifiés une "tablette de chocolat" - imaginez six carrés - tandis que les Anglais les appellent "six-pack abs".

Ensuite, je me suis demandé : ce Français comprend-il l'anglais sur son t-shirt ? Eh bien, peu importe. Après tout, son message original commençait à s'enraciner et à avoir du sens pour moi. Parce qu'un ventre plat est, d'après mon expérience (pas que j'en aie encore fait l'expérience...), le résultat d'un pouvoir cérébral constant. En effet, les cerveaux sont les nouveaux abdos!

Six-pack abs and The French Gut-Buster (Jean-Marc's new ab gizmo)



Click here to listen to Jean-Marc and me read the vocabulary list

le cerveau = brain
le ventre = stomach
la marche = walk
le défi = challenge
un rappel = reminder
le bidou = tummy
efficace = efficient
les côtes = ribs
une cible = target
néanmoins = nevertheless
le phare = lighthouse
drôle = funny
une tablette de chocolat = chocolate bar

Old port and lighthouse at La Ciotat
Bidou Phare? Can you hold in your tummy from here to the lighthouse? A little concentration will help...

Sincere thanks to the following readers who sent in a donation following our Thoughts About Adopting a Pet post. This truly is a reader-supported blog and I appreciate your help in publishing it. Merci beaucoup!

Marianne R.
Natalia R.
Linda H. (via Zelle)
Susan S.
Suzanne I.

I admire your good humor, honesty, and tenacity. Your articles are down-to-earth and honest. --Susan S.

Love your blog. I lost you on my account, many computer glitches. Happy to be a part of your lives. Wishing you and your family love, health, happiness, good fortune. Please keep writing… it brightens my day! ❤️ Suzanne I.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal week after week. If you find value in this website and would like to keep it going strong, I kindly ask for your support by making a donation today. Thank you very much for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1. Paypal or credit card
2. Zelle®, an easy way to donate and there are no transaction fees.

Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Angie Ginty

We”rehomed” a 4 year old Australian Cattle dog the year before Covid. We renamed him Blue and all he has done has brought joy to our lives! We have to walk everyday wether we want to or not! Living in Canada it can be quite daunting in the winter, but he doesn’t care about weather. We had been without a dog for 7 years, thought of starting with a puppy, asked our local Veterinary if any came up we would be interested. Just happened the technician at the clinic son had to give up his dog, family issues. So she wondered if we could do a meet and greet with the dog, of course there is no such thing, we took him! Don’t really know his previous life but just glad to be able to make the rest of his life our pleasure!
Totally recommend giving a dog who had home a new one!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi and Jean Marc,

Thanks for such a fun post today! I am going to use your little "bidou" prompt myself!! I love that word too!

Hope you are having a great start to the month of June!


Marti Hinman

Bonjour Kristi,

From now on, during my walks I shall do le Bidou!


Judy Feldman

Love your Bisous idea, & so impressed with the Chatdpt translation. That’s incredible!


Great idea - will start using it today. thanks


Our dear Kristi,
Just tried using your "bidou" suggestion and all I can say is "WHEW!!! Highest respect to both you and JM !! My core was never so hotsy totsy to start with but now .... can I ever feel the burn! Yikes!!
Thank you, ma chere, for this inspiration, and especially, for the wonderful ability to laugh at one's own antics performed on the path to health and self improvement!!
Happy way to start the morning!!
Blessings always to you and your beautiful family.
Natalia. XO

Cynthia Lewis

Salut, Kristi and Jean-Marc,

The two of you take wonderful walks and need a dog to walk with you! Just begin your search and you will know right away the dog which is right for you. They can look into your heart and you into theirs. Bonne chance ... and my best wishes,


Loved this! And really enjoyed the bilingual presentation! Very helpful to my French which has grown very rusty from lack of use over many years.

Kristin Espinasse

Core or not, you are hotsy totsy in our hearts, chère Natalia 😍

Sarah LaBelle

Have you done these for a while? Can you feel or see the muscles getting stronger?

I ask, as the only exercises that strengthened my belly muscles (core muscles) were sit-ups, lots of them, lying on my back, and what were called “frog kicks”, pulling up my legs while hanging from a bar. It was 6 months of disciplined work, but it changed me! There were so many variations on the sit up, to use all the muscles (position of arms, straight or slight sideways movement coming up, on the last five, hold a one-pound weight). I was going to a place where the routine was revised every 5 weeks, but the two exercises were always part of the routine.
I need that strengthening again!

Your blog is far superior to social media posts! Instagram is good for good photos with short captions. Your blog has a story, a huge difference. Maybe another mention in the English language A-Word-A-Day, another blog?


Bravo Kristi and Jean-Marc!
Tomorrow morning I will start doing The Bidou on my morning walk and will think of you! Will try to get my walking buddies to join me!
The Bidou and a one minute plank will do the trick!!!

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Sarah, No, we just started this and it is a very minor attempt at that! But it is better than nothing and hopefully it will lead to a habit. Thank you for your encouraging words about my blog, and for your helpful suggestion. 

Kristin Espinasse

Yay! I love the thought of you and others practicing The Bidou!

Kathleen Bidney

OK Kristi, you have one person is going to try the Bidou on their morning walk. We’ll see how consistent I will be. Look at this way, it can’t hurt, well maybe if you suck in the stomach for a really long time. Time will tell 😎.
Today on my walk, I passed a women walking her golden retriever and I petted him for a while and then continued my walk and on my return, they were crossing the road and the dog sat down in the middle of the road and wouldn’t move and she couldn’t move him. As I got closer I started talking to him and he came right over. It seems like he likes to sit and wait for people, but mostly the Mail person, Ups, FedEx, school bus. Luckily the cars on our road are quite considerate.
Peace, Kathleen

Judi Miller

Such a great idea! I'm walking in my living room 'doing the "bidou"!! When I get to the ottoman.....until I get to the front door and around again!

Karen in Northport, NY

Sounds like a fun way to keep fit. I may try walking again but we're too suburban for sidewalks and summer beach traffic makes for a few too many dives into the neighbor's shrubbery. But if I can add, I've had good luck with weekly stretch classes. Apparently there are all sorts of little connecty parts that really don't age well if you don't use them. And it's actually pretty painless. The classes I'm taking are Essentrics but it's basically ballet stretch for the less coordinated.

Marie-Pierre Baltz

In Northern France where I grew up, the word “bidon” was used
by children and grown up too, to refer to our “ventre or stomach »
not «bidou »!
Ex « j’ai mal au bidon…trop mangé de haricots blancs… ».

Kristin Espinasse

Karen, Thanks for mentioning stretch classes. That is a great idea and it is on my goals list! There are a lot of yoga and Pilates possibilities around here, but I would like to find a class like the one you mention. If anyone knows of one, please contact me! Merci.

Kristin Espinasse

Rebonjour, just found some of these stretches you mention on YouTube. Here is a short one for beginners. What do you think? 


Suzanne Dunaway

My honey and I call out CORE to one another...love your story! And my videos I watch with Pahla B (take a look, she's incredible and the workouts are standing and last only 20-25 minutes, she talks the whole time and her doggy is near on a chair and she saved me during lockdown but oh, did I get a core!) talk about how to look as if you've lost 5 pounds by just standing up straight and pulling in your bidou. She's kookie and wonderful.

I forgot: my view about having a doggy - a rescue dog at a home will often find YOU on his/her own and you have saved a life. You'd be surprised how many puppies are discarded.....

Eleanore Guida-Gee

I loved having the French translation I hope it will be included every time it made such a big difference such enjoyment. And really furthers my understanding And usage of the French language. merci

Karen in Northport, NY

The YouTube is the same Essentrics. The original was designed by Miranda Esmonde-White who was with the Montreal ballet. She has a website, lots of DVDs, and has an expanding network of certified trainers. Also on some PBS stations locally. After many years of "no pain, no gain" I just love the "if it hurts, stop" philosophy. My posture is better, flexibility is better (helps with driving - I can look over my shoulder), agility is better (I can catch myself when I trip). I'm really waiting for this to be covered by insurance. It's that good IMHO.


Haha, I try to do le bidou on my walks with my dogs and yes, it’s a test of concentration as well as tummy! Apparently I’m supposed to squeeze ma derrière as well.. so much to think about!!

Leslie NYC

I highly recommend Adriene Mishler for free yoga on YouTube. She has several 30-day sequences but also ones with specific themes, e.g. "yoga for sensitive knees". She is delightful, warm, unpretentious.
I am supposed to walk more, and do, and enjoy it.
I do low planks in honor of RBG.
I do crunches.
I use weight machines at the gym.
I don't get it all done on schedule, but work these into my week.
Bidou sounds fun!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)