Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat

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Cover image of the book, French Women Don\'t Get Fat.One book that I read this past year has a rather intriguing title; French Women Don’t Get Fat. Subtitled, The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, this book by Mireille Guiliano is a super easy read – I think I whipped through it in about 2 days.

All I knew about this book was the title. I don’t watch Oprah, The View, or Regis and Kelly. I don’t read People (except the cover when I have to wait too long at Walmart). I live in a cave and so I make a perfect candidate for jury selection.

Except for occasional forays into Borders, I would never even have heard of the book. But, since they were pushing it at the bookstore, the title caught my eye.

I lived in France for almost a year, spent our honeymoon there, and invested the early portion of my professional career studying the country, culture, and literature. For a time, France was my life.

Add to that the fact that I live to eat and this is a perfect book for me! I didn’t pick it up to go on a diet, but it probably will affect my eating habits now that I’m no longer pregnant. (Boy- do I crave croissants and baguettes more than ever!)

Ms. Guiliano is a President and CEO of the Champagne Veuve Clicquot. She is French by birth, American by business and marriage. She blends both quite beautifully in the book. She seems to have a good understanding of American culture as well as being truly French.

A little arrogance seeps out occasionally.

I was a little taken aback at first, and then I thought, “Oh yeah. She’s French.” I don’t say that to be mean, but to state a fact. As a general rule, the French are a little arrogant about being French. It reminded me of the line in Ratatouille when Colette says, “I don’t mean to be rude, but we’re French, and it’s dinner time.”

As I was reading, I would compare the author’s statements to my experience living in France. It was 15 years ago, but I could still recall moments where American Girl hit Culture Shock. Simple things that don’t seem like a big deal now, but for a 20-year old girl who was used to eating candy bars and Coke for a snack, they stood out.

For instance, it was interesting to me that fruit was so highly prized. Fresh fruit, not canned. I had my first fresh pear in France and discovered that they were actually good. I had grown up eating canned and didn’t care for the mealy texture. A real pear is different. Guiliano waxes eloquent about favorite fruits of the French, as well as every other ingredient she thinks should be added to your repertoire.

It’s a fun read, full of thought-provoking ideas about diet….Enjoy your food!

But, she makes several points that I think are worth considering as we think about watching our weight and not eating excessively:

  • the first few bites are the most satisfying, so have small portions of many different foods. You will be more satiated, but take in fewer calories.
  • drink lots of water. She recommends at least one glass at bedtime and one upon waking, saying that sleep is very dehydrating. For someone who doesn’t drink enough, this “one in the morning/one at night” thing is very helpful for a reminder.
  • yogurt is really good for you, so eat it twice a day. She says no sugary stuff – even the French kind. That was a little rough to think about. Plain yogurt? But, I sprinkled it with granola and wild blueberries and I didn’t notice that there was no sugar.
  • Enjoy rich foods, but compensate later. Not by starving yourself, but eat less fat or carb over the next few meals.
  • Don’t skip bread, but eat good bread. Whole grains, baguettes — and croissants!!! She even includes a recipe. Well, if we’re gonna eat carbs, bring on the croissant!

There’s plenty more. But these are the few that come to mind. I’m not sure if the person who’s never studied French would “get” everything. I laughed often reading the book. But, she does speak a little “franglais” from time to time.

Overall, this was definitely a thought-provoking book about eating habits. It is billed as a sort-of “diet” book, to help you recast yourself with better eating habits. It’s true, I saw very few fat French women. If they were “overweight”, it was just a little. The French do not have the obesity problems that Americans do. And, believe me, during my time there, I ate the best food of my life, but I lost ten pounds. So, I think there is something to the French way of eating.

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  1. A very interesting concept, to say the least. I’d be interested to see if your eating habits do indeed change as a result of reading this book. Let us know!

  2. Don’t forget a very important part of European life: WALKING! I live in Washington, DC and get to walk almost all of my errands – grocery store, bank, to and from my son’s preschool, etc. It makes a difference for sure! The suburbs are a killer in that regard – city life helps melt those calories away.

  3. Reading your post from yesterday I have to ask if you sprayed your brother with Lysol (o:

  4. I was intrigued when I first heard about this book… I think one of my kids was a newborn and I was up at 5 in the morning with some morning show on in the background. 🙂 I’ll definitely look into it! I’m not after losing any weight, but I do find the concept both logical and fascinating. And, it’s true, we live in the fattest nation I have ever been in. We do have good teeth though… 😉

  5. Good point jessieleigh! The French mouth is an abmoination, although I think that is changing. Everytime I go to the dentist here, he ohs and ahs over my teeth, which believe me are nothing spetacular, just healthy. Anyway I wanted to point something out to all of you if you are dreaming of being skinny like a French woman. They are small boned people. The guys are skinny too! Also, in addition to walking alot as someone mentioned, the French don’t snack much. They sit down for their meals. Try just eating three meals a day, nothing else. You’ll find you get mighty darn hungry, and might even drop a few pounds. Sounds like a fun book – I’m defintely going to read it.

  6. Hey watch it girl, my mom is French (and occasionally arrogant, but I don’t take after her 🙂

    I saw this book at the library book sale for a mere .25 and I passed it up!