Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano is a fabulously simple concept of enjoying quality over quantity in whatever you eat…or do. With over 265 pages of tips, tricks, recipes and hilariously helpful stories, Guiliano shares the secrets of her healthy heritage, while convincing you to drop whatever fad diet you might be most recently deceived by.

Guiliano is a high-power, working woman and best-selling international author, who grew up in France and is at the top of her game as the CEO of an American branch of a French company. She talks about being an exchange student in high school and coming to America, where she picked up much of the typical American high school food fare, along with the pounds to go with it. After returning to France, she worked with a Dr. Meyer (whom she refers to as “Dr. Miracle” throughout the book) to regain her ideal body weight and lead a healthfully satisfying life of enjoying food, fitness, friends and family.

She talks about basic concepts like eating smaller portions of higher quality ingredients, making sure you have a good variety (recommending at least 20-30 different types of food each day, so you get a full gamut of nutrients), not depriving yourself, eating slowly and mindfully, and shopping daily and at local markets as much as possible, so you get the freshest, in season, local ingredients.

She also recommends drinking plenty of water, keeping moving (even if it’s just walking, stairs, and a few light weights), getting proper sleep (not too much, not too little), and adding yogurt to your daily menu. And over and over again she says, “Faites simple,” meaning, “Keep it simple.”

Here are some of my favorite moments from the book:

  • “Consider all the things you consume regularly. Which of them is giving you real pleasure and which are you having to pointless excess? One thing French women know is that the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites; we rarely have seconds” (p. 31).
  • “Part of living like a French woman, then, will mean searching out and paying a bit more for quality, whether at the open-air market or at least a good grocery shop with market suppliers. …French women live on budgets, too, but they also understand the value of quality over quantity” (p. 77).
  • “Visual variety, color, and presentation are underestimated factors in food pleasure” (p. 119).
  • “French women know any regimen you can’t maintain for long stretches of life is bound to fail you, just as they know that boredom, not food, is the enemy” (p. 206). “For me, walking remains the ultimate time for freedom of thought” (p. 210). “The body spends about 60 calories an hour sleeping; if you swim, you’ll do better at 430 calories; but climbing stairs consumes a stunning 1,100 calories per hour. Vive l’escalier!” (p. 211).
  • “The only purpose of withholding some pleasure is so we can more fully enjoy everything else for having it in proper balance” (p. 224). “Our troubles with weight have as much to do with our attitudes toward eating as they do with what we are ingesting. We are seeing a growing psychosis that I believe actually adds stress to our already stressful way of life. It is fast erasing the simple values of pleasure” (p. 225).
  • Speaking of laughter: “It’s both a physical and psychic pleasure: it is relaxing, stimulating, liberating, and sensual. It’s a pleasant response to emotion that heightens the emotion itself” (p. 228). “Marcel Pagnol believed that God gave laughter to human beings as consolation for being intelligent. I prefer to believe he made us intelligent so we could appreciate a good laugh” (p. 229).
  • “The answer is never ‘dieting’ in the American sense, but rather little alterations made steadily over time. So when we do lose the excess weight, not only does the effort seem painless, the results are much more likely to last. If my fellow Americans could adopt even a fraction of the French attitude about food and life (don’t worry, you don’t have to sign on to the politics, too), managing weight would cease to be a terror, an obsession, and reveal its true nature as part of the art of living” (p. 252).

I highly recommend this book if you are trying to lose weight for the first time…or if you have given up and need this to be the last time you lose weight…or if you just want a few good tips and recipes to spice up your weekly menu repertoire. Fortunately, I took French in high school and still remember un petit peu (since she likes to throw in some of her native phrases), but even if you don’t know French, she translates most of her phrases for you…and then, there’s always Google translate for the ones she doesn’t. A quick read, and a relief to the typical American trying to become healthier. So, pick up this book, adjust your attitude about food, and then adjust your lifestyle and start enjoying the good gifts of fabulous cuisine. Bon Appetit! 

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