Book Review: French Women Don't Get Fat

Cheryl Zielke
Statue of woman at the Trocadero

You may be wondering what is behind the best selling book, French Women Don't Get Fat. Here is a synopsis of this "un-diet" and why it works.

Basic Principles

Written by Mireille Guiliani, a self-proclaimed fat teenager, this book is filled with her experiences from the advice of "Dr. Miracle" after returning to France as an exchange student in the United States. With her old American eating habits behind her, Ms. Guiliani was at her breaking point with her weight and ready for change. She decided to consider the basic principles described by "Dr. Miracle". These are the reasons why French Women Don't Get Fat, according to her doctor:

  • There is no deprivation. (punishment, NOT!)
  • You must be the master of your willpower.
  • You must be the master of your pleasures at the same time.
  • Setting a realistic "healthy" weight goal is a must, not an ideal weight or fashion weight goal.
  • It is all about balance, which is a state of mind and nothing else.
  • You must have a reward system in place for encouragement and reinforcement.

While there are many other principles throughout the book, these are the central undertones of each and every page.

How French Women Don't Get Fat

While the principles are sensible, putting them to work is not an easy task, as Ms. Guiliani expresses throughout her book. However, in order to make the new way of eating and thinking about food work, the prescriptions below build a forthright strategy for success:

  1. Keep a daily food log of what you eat, where you eat it, when you eat it, and how much you eat for at least three weeks.
  2. From this food diary, identify patterns of eating.
  3. Contemplate each and every entry into your journal.
  4. Reprogram yourself and your eating pattern where necessary.
  5. Enjoy the Magical Leek Soup, a mild diuretic concoction packed with nutrition. Along with the soup, drink as much water as you want. Do this for 48 hours on a periodic basis whenever you feel you need a kick-start, especially after an indulgent day of eating.
  6. Enjoy small portions of everything.
  7. Eat three meals per day at regular times each day to set a steady pace for your metabolic rate to operate.
  8. Eat foods in season.
  9. Season foods and enjoy different flavors.
  10. Plan your meals.

The Don't's

Here is a brief, yet powerful, list of actions not to do on the plan:

  • Don't eat standing up.
  • Don't eat while watching television or reading the newspaper (or anything for that matter).
  • Don't eat out all the time.
  • Don't eat whatever is there.
  • Don't neglect pleasures (in other words, pay close attention to what delights you and find your balance with it).
  • Don't have indulgences available in large quantities.
  • Don't leave the house without a healthy, portable, and satisfying snack in your bag.
  • Don't sit around. Move more.
  • Don't skip breakfast or eat a small crumpet of something. Have a real meal.
  • Don't weigh yourself. Gauge your progress on how you feel in your skin and your clothes.
  • Don't let yourself be hungry.
  • Don't stuff yourself with food and drink.

Ironically, all the "don'ts" of this plan does not mean restriction, deprivation, or limitations whatsoever. In fact, changing your mind set to positives, such as stating, "Yes, I can have this piece of chocolate, this glass of wine, or this piece of warm bread", is a critical mantra for French women. Living in harmony with food is what guides their eating choices and how they feel about themselves.

Does It Work?

Indeed, the principles of the book and the French way of eating do work. The true value and meaning of food is put back in proper perspective. The French Paradox, defined as the consumption of wine, cheese, pastry, and all the other "bad" foods, yet the healthy size of the French, really is not a mystery. Taking a close look at their ritual of dining, the special treatment of meals, the small portions, yet delectable, satisfying depth of each bite, and the active lifestyle of walking wherever they can certainly helps re-define and reshape poor eating habits.

Book Review: French Women Don't Get Fat