"French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure"
(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie MAR 27, 2005)
Most diets don't work. Why? Because the people who follow the diets are dieting. We deprive ourselves of the food we love until we reach a goal. That could take years! Or we eat the foods we love in minute portions, mere tastes. Does one half cup of Godiva's Belgian Dark Chocolate ice cream satisfy anyone? If one chooses to stick with a diet program forever, an almost permanent state of slimness occurs. Voila! Forever is a long time to live with deprivation...to state the obvious. And usually somewhere between resolution and goal, comes the binge. But I won't go there. Almost all of us have experienced this seeming endless cycle of weight management. Dieting is our national obsession! According to Mireille Guiliano's fascinating and sensible book, however, one can moderate and modify behavior and eat sensually - like the French. Bid deprivation adieu. Savor the food and wine you love and loose the fat you hate.
French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure holds no secrets - no new weight loss methods are revealed here. REALLY! As a matter of fact, from page one, the author distances herself from all the popular fad diets. Mireille Guiliano, President and CEO of Cliquot Inc., (the major French Champagne house), who helped found the firm in 1984, is an extremely smart, savvy woman and tres chic to boot! Everything she writes here rings true, makes perfect sense and is beautifully penned. French Women Don't Get Fat, (which is not totally true - I saw some pretty hefty women, even in Paris!), makes for a good read, provides food for thought, more than a soupcon of wit, and some wonderful recipes: Zucchini Flower Omelet, Aasparagus Tart, a Plum Clafouti made without dough, Salad of Duck a l'Orange, Grilled Peaches with Lemon Thyme, Chicken au Champagne, Croissants, and even Mousse au Chocolat.
"The French Paradox," the ability to eat good food, drink fine wine, (or beer), and remain slim is apparently a matter of attitude, with a smidgeon of wisdom and a pinch of common sense thrown in for good measure. The French are notorious for wining and dining, yet they are thinner and healthier than calorie conscious Americans - and Brits too! Mireille attributes the French women's penchant for slimness to their attitude toward food, which focuses on the best and freshest ingredients consumed in moderation, and frequent, brisk walking. It is all a matter of restraint and simple exercise. Madame Guiliano quotes Colette, who once described the table as "a date with love and friendship." Be good to yourself, be good to your body, and enjoy! This is Mireille's basic message. One of the main messages I received from the book is "savor, don't stuff" (my words - the author is infinitely more couth).
The emphasis is on the positive - more dos than don'ts. But you know all this - right? Do eat slowly. Do drink wine with meals (one glass), along with a glass of water. Eat plenty of fruit, veggies, et la salade vert. Oui? Eat three meals a day. And indulge yourself occasionally, with moderation. Have 3/4 of a cup of ice cream, and if you are having a salad for lunch with olive oil and vinegar, or fresh lemon juice, indulge in a full cup! As for chocolate, and she is a big chocolate fan, eat it, relish it. Hold it in your mouth and let it melt; exercise those taste buds. Don't eat on the sly, as we sometimes tend to do. Food does not taste as good when served along with a portion of guilt. There's hardly a mention of calories in the entire book. Refreshing!
Mireille does share personal anecdotes, memories of growing up in a close knit family with a mother and grandmother who cooked. One of her stories, in particular, remains with me. She came to the US when she was 18 and spent a year as an exchange student in the affluent Boston suburb of Weston, MA. And did she ever discover the joys of brownies, chocolate chip cookies, bagels, and American-sized portions. She gained 20 pounds that year. Her father didn't recognize her when she returned to France. He told her she looked like a sack of potatoes. Cruel? Honest. This made an impression on the young woman, which remains with her to date. She did something about it too, with the help of her family physician. A natural raconteur, Ms. Giuliana also shares memories of her first taste of champagne at age six, picking tiny wild blueberries, (called myrtilles), in the woods near her grandmother's house, and a most memorable experience eating oysters at a seaside restaurant in Brittany.
While I never lived in France, Mireille's US food anecdote reminded of a period when I lived in Italy, (the home of pasta and gelato). My experience, however, was the opposite of her's. I ate as I pleased and did not gain an ounce. I was in my 30s, (not a teen who burns up calories by breathing), and had a six month business contract in Rome. I ate three squares per day, including pasta, pastry, gelato, wonderful Italian wine, of course, and aqua minerale. The portions were much smaller than they are here and were served separately and slowly. There was time to savor. There was no fast food on my daily menu. Why would I want any with all the wonderful fresh food available? And I never needed larger portions than what was served. It seems that in our culture "more equals better." My change in eating habits had to do with change of culture, primarily, as did Mireille's when she lived in America. We have wonderful fresh food here also - it's just a matter of changing our attitude toward food, portion control, and ignoring the fast and greasy.
This is the ultimate non-diet book. It is up-beat, life affirming, sensible and I really enjoyed reading it! You will too!!
As an interesting sequeteur: In the EU, France has the lowest percentage of deaths caused by excess weight (5.8%), while the UK has the highest (8.7%). Figures presented to Parliament in a National Audit Office, (NAO), note that, "Nearly two thirds of men and over half of women in England are now overweight or obese."
According to a major US government report, "Fitness problems such as obesity and overweight have reached truly epidemic proportions in the United States. In the last 10 years, obesity rates have increased by more than 60 percent among adults. And according to a recent USA Today article, "Currently, about 31%, or about 59 million people (in the USA), are obese, which is defined as roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. Almost 65% are either obese or overweight, 10 to 30 pounds over a healthy weight.
I thought this interesting as many people in the US have a diet with roots in the UK - meat, potatoes and brew.
- Amazon readers rating: from 524 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from French Women Don't Get Fat at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure (2005)
- French Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets, Recipes and Pleasures (2006)
- Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility (2009)
- The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook (2010)
- French Womean Don't Get Facelifts: The Secret of Aging with Style & Attitude (January 2014)
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- Official website for Mireille Guiliano
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About the Author:
Mireille Guiliano is a native of France and is widely regarded as a leading expert on Champagne and possesses prodigious knowledge of gastonomy. She was educated in Paris, where she studied French and English literature at the Sorbonne and languages at the Institut Supérieur d'Interprétariat et de Traduction, Guiliano holds the French equivalent of a master's degree in English and German and certification as a translator/interpreter. She also has a command of Italian and several other languages.
She is president and CEO and a founding member of Clicquot, Inc, whose headquarters are in New York. Mireille has been called a champion of women in business and has been profiled in numerous publications. She is active in the Committee of 200 and works with other groups promoting business opportunities and education for women. She frequently presents nationally and internationally on business topics, especially related to the luxury goods sector, as well as on wine. Mireille is often a guest on radio and television across America and abroad, and is a sought-after interviewee and hostess.
Married to an American, Mireille lives most of the year in New York and makes frequent trips to Paris as well as across America.