Why Don’t French Women Get Fat?

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

Why French Women Don't Get Fat, mindful eating, Mereille GuilianoLast week I came to the end of the Internet. It coincided with my inability to process any more negative information. My capacity to read another social media tirade, watch senseless killings, or listen to anyone pontificating about religion or politics came to a (temporary) halt.

I hear you and I feel you. Our friendship is rooted in shared values. My silence is not lack of support, it is emotional overload and the need step back.

I did not even want to write this blog, because it means research. I needed to be done with the “I” word long enough to regain my sanity and objectivity.

When this happens, I find solace in music, the kitchen or a book. I reached for a forgotten friend, the author Mireille Guiliano, to rediscover the joy of food the French way. Mireille wrote French Women Don’t Get Fat in 2004 and followed it up with a cookbook.

When I put on a John Klemmer CD,  I knew I’d be fine.

Eating for Pleasure

Mireille offers a kinder approach to diets with respect to food. She is French, so there is a bit of aloofness in the mix. I forgot how much I enjoyed this book. Having grown up in Europe I can attest to the different ways of buying, preparing, and eating food.  Americans do not think or eat like the French.

To me, eating is important for pleasure and good health. As a foodie and lifetime member of Weight Watchers, I have seen the dark side of bad eating habits. Full props to them for helping me embrace a better balance of food, exercise, and self-image.

A New Perspective

I credit WW (their new name) for revisiting this book, as their recent actions were just one more piece of disheartening news. The economic effect of Covid-19 means members cannot meet weekly or weigh in monthly—a requirement for maintaining the no-fee lifetime status. Revenue tanked and they decided to cut their workforce.

In a heartless act, WW terminated 4,000 employees on a two-minute Zoom call.  Attendees were muted and fired. Suddenly, I no longer wanted to be associated with them. Their actions refute what the company claims it stands for, so I terminated my membership.

To be fair, they taught me a lot about eating habits and keeping track of what I ate.  Taking that knowledge, I am determined to reinvent how I used these skills. I sat down with Mireille to refresh  my perspective, taking advantage of what I already know. You are never too old to create new habits.

French Women Eat Differently

The book is an easy read. The author underlines some basic premises in the way you approach and enjoy food. It takes more than just food, like any lifestyle modification to maintain or lose weight. But it is not as structured as other weight management programs.

Eat the French Way, Why French Women Don't Get FatThe key points include:

  • High-quality food in small portions
  • Eat slowly
  • Value quality over quantity in foods you choose
  • Savor each bite you take
  • Drink water
  • Walk and weight train for exercise
  • Eat meals at regular times.
  • Breathe properly
  • Maintain good posture
  • Don’t eat food you don’t like

The last bullet may seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve eaten foods in the name of dieting that I don’t like. I’m looking at you hard-boiled eggs. This book emphasizes freshness, variety and eating for pleasure.

Make Food Fun Again

There are no forbidden foods, no investments in membership fees or expensive exercise equipment. Her advice centers on eating more courses but much smaller amounts. I’ve done this for years.

The book does not focus on what foods to keep in and what to kick out but encourages an adventurous approach to shopping and recipes. The emphasis is always on quality over quantity. Eat fresh foods in season and eat your meals sitting at a table.

In her book Mireille says, “The real reason French women don’t get fat is not genetic, but cultural.” On this I must agree, but only in part. Eating in France, or any European country is not the same as the U.S.

French women, French food, American foodShopping and dining are defined and experienced differently because the culture allows them to be. Having lived abroad for many years, this is an easy transition for me, but I understand it can’t be that way for everyone.

Not everything about this book is transferable. Read it with a grain or two of salt or you might be offended at some of the things she says.  I love leek soup, but I would not encourage anyone to eat it as a jump start to weight loss for two weeks straight.

A World About the Author

Mireille Guiliano is not your average diet guru. USA Today called her the high priestess of French lady wisdom” and for good reason. She is known in the corporate world as a long-time spokesperson for Champagne Veuve Clicquot and is the former President and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. Under her leadership, Veuve Clicquot’s market share in America grew from less than one percent to more than 25 percent. I’m pretty sure she has people.

There are a lot of things about Mireille that are not part of the average person’s life or daily routine. When you get right down to it, she’s a snob—but if you can look past that aspect of the book, you can modify the concepts with your own creativity and budget.

It’s a good book if you don’t take it too seriously.

Mireille’s web site French Women Don’t Get Fat

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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