Have you ever wondered why French women don’t get fat? How they manage to stay slim and trim?
Ever since my first trip to Paris more than a decade ago, I’ve been intrigued by how French women don’t get fat while indulging in some of the most delicious food in the world. Meanwhile we American women struggle with our weight while drinking diet soda, and chewing away on egg white omelets, dry chicken breasts and fat free cheese. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves!
It just didn’t seem to make any sense, until I read French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, the best-selling non-fiction book written by Mireille Guiliano, a French-American author. Published in 2004, the book explores the French approach to food, diet, and lifestyle, offering insights into why many French women appear to maintain a healthy weight and enjoy a positive relationship with food.
French Women Don’t Get Fat” is not a diet book in the traditional sense. Instead, it encourages readers to adopt a more mindful and balanced approach to eating, focusing on enjoying food rather than restrictive dieting. The book’s main message is about finding pleasure in eating while maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
I love its philosophy of making little alterations to your eating habits steadily over time, instead of subjecting yourself to tasteless “diet” food and unsustainable extremism. It is a strategy that she has used successfully for decades.
As a French teenager, Mireille went to America as an exchange student and returned home fat. I completely related to how hurt she was when her father, after not seeing her for a year, told her that she “looked like a sack of potatoes.” (My father referred to me as his “big husky girl,” a description that still causes me to cringe decades later.)
The book explains how she used sensible time-tested French strategies she learned from her family physician to lose the excess weight and find her personal equilibrium.
As an executive with the Champagne company, Veuve Clicquot, where she lived in New York, while making frequent trips to France and around the US, Mireille was in a perfect position to assess the differences between American and French women’s approach to food and weight loss.
I’ve been working to adopt the philosophy and practical strategies outlined by Mireille in French Women Don’t Get Fat for several years, with great success.
Key points and themes from the book include:
The French Paradox: Guiliano addresses the “French Paradox,” which refers to the phenomenon where the French have a relatively low rate of obesity and heart disease despite consuming rich and indulgent foods like cheese, wine, and pastries.
Mindful Eating: The book emphasizes the importance of savoring and enjoying food. French women are encouraged to eat slowly, pay attention to portion sizes, and focus on the quality of their meals.
Balanced Diet: Guiliano promotes the idea of a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods and nutrients. She discourages strict dieting and deprivation, instead suggesting that moderation and variety are key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Physical Activity: While diet is a significant focus of the book, it also touches on the importance of staying active and incorporating physical activity into daily life.
Cultural and Social Aspects: Guiliano discusses the cultural and social factors that contribute to French eating habits, such as the importance of family meals, the role of fresh and seasonal ingredients, and the enjoyment of food as a shared experience.
Recipes and Meal Ideas: Throughout the book, Guiliano provides recipes and meal ideas that align with the French approach to eating for pleasure and maintaining a healthy weight.
When pondering a food-related decision, I’ll often ask, “What would a French woman do?” Maybe it’s geeky, but I couldn’t care less as long as it works for me! This Guiliano’s assessment of the 45 Reasons French Women Don’t Get Fat.
45 Reasons French Women Don’t Get Fat
French women typically think about good things to eat. American women typically worry about bad things to eat.
French women eat smaller portions of more things. American women eat larger portions of fewer things.
French women eat more vegetables.
French women eat more fruit.
French women love bread and would never consider a life without carbs.
French women don’t eat “fat-free,” “sugar-free,” or anything artificially stripped of natural flavor. They go for the real thing in moderation.
French women love chocolate, especially the dark, slightly bitter, silky stuff with its nutty aroma.
French women eat with all five senses, allowing less to seem like more.
French women balance their food, drink, and movement on a week-by-week basis.
French women do stray, but they always come back, believing there are now detours and no dead ends.
French women don’t often weigh themselves, preferring to keep track with their hands, eyes, and clothes: “zipper syndrome.”
French women eat three meals a day.
French women don’t snack all the time.
French women never let themselves be hungry.
French women never let themselves feel stuffed.
French women train their taste buds, and those of their young, from an early age.
French women honor mealtime rituals and never eat standing up or on the run. Or in front of the TV.
French women don’t watch much TV.
French women don’t have much TV to watch.
French women eat and serve what’s in season, for maximum flavor and value, and know availability does not equal quality.
French women love to discover new flavors and are always experimenting with herbs, spices, and citrus juices to make a familiar dish seem new.
French women eschew extreme temperatures in what they consume, and enjoy fruits and vegetables bursting with flavor at room temperature, at which they prefer their water, too.
French women don’t care for hard liquor.
French women do enjoy wine regularly, but with meals and only a glass (or maybe two).
French women get a kick from Champagne, as a aperitif or with food, and don’t need a special occasion to open a bottle.
French women drink water all day long.
French women choose their own indulgences and compensations. They understand little things count, both additions and subtractions, and that as an adult everyone is keeper of her own equilibrium.
French women enjoy going to the market.
French women plan meals in advance and think in terms of menus (a list of little dishes) even at home.
French women think dining in is as sexy as dining out.
French women love to entertain at home.
French women care enormously about the presentation of food. It matters to them how you look at it.
French women walk everywhere they can.
French women take the stairs whenever possible.
French women will dress to take out the garbage (you never know).
French women are stubborn individuals and don’t follow mass movements.
French women adore fashion.
French women know one can go far with a great haircut, a bottle of Champagne, and a divine perfume.
French women know love is slimming.
French women avoid anything that demands too much effort for too little pleasure.
French women love to sit at a cafe and do nothing but enjoy the moment.
French women love to laugh.
French women eat for pleasure.
French women don’t diet.
French women don’t get fat.
Thanks to French Women Don’t Get Fat, I’ve given up most “diet-foods” in favor of the real thing in moderation, stopped snacking so much, watch a lot less television, take the stairs whenever I can, drink a ton of water and am allowing myself to take more pleasure in my food.
I’m constantly amazed by how committing to little changes over time have worked like magic to help me stay happy, healthy and slim.
Here’s a great video from another American now living in Paris explaining why French women don’t get fat, and why she doesn’t either…
Do you think following some of these guidelines could help you lose weight and stay slim? Why or Why Not? Let us know in the comments below!
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French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano