Book: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano
Genre: Self help
Publisher: Borzoi Books
Publication date: 2005
Summary: The French paradox: dine on Duck à l’Orange and goat cheese, eat chocolate and croissants, and drink wine and champagne while staying slim and healthy. Mireille Guiliano, president and CEO of the U.S. affiliate of champagne producer Clicquot, splits her time between Paris and New York and is in the perfect position to explain this apparent contradiction.
Thoughts: The first time I read this book, I got as far as page 4:
In America as an exchange student, I suffered a catastrophe that I was totally unprepared for: a twenty-pound catastrophe. It sent me into a wilderness from which I had to find my way back.
At the time, I was 70 pounds overweight and I was pretty sure that I had nothing to learn from someone who considered 20 pounds a catastrophe. You have no idea, lady, was my thought and I sent the book packing back to the library.
As I am preparing to go to France in late May, however, I thought this might be a good time to give this book another try. I really want to leave for France at the low end of my maintenance range but on April 1, I was hovering above the top end of my maintenance range. Oops. Now, with a goal of about five pounds to lose, French Women Don’t Get Fat seemed more appropriate.
The first phase is to simply write down everything you eat for three weeks. Don’t worry about measuring or calories. This is just some data to analyze. I didn’t need the data, but this helped me step back and accept a couple of realities that I’d been trying to deny.
1. A serving of bread is one slice and that’s all I need at a time. When my bread first comes out of the bread machine, it’s impossible to slice it thin. One slice is plenty, especially if I eat it slowly and appreciate it in the French way. If I really want a sandwich with two slices, I can use the previous loaf and make very thin slices. I rarely eat sandwiches anyway; they are just my excuse for believing that a serving is two slices.
2. Three balanced meals a day with one or two small snacks works best for me. The Game On Diet, I’m afraid, gave me a bad habit with its concept of five small meals a day. Now, I feel entitled to five meals a day, but they’ve grown over time! Guiliano in French Women Don’t Get Fat advises to not allow yourself to get hungry, but I think that’s better advice for people who aren’t recovering overeaters. For me, the best advice came from the books by Judith Beck (Book Review: The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck): hunger is not an emergency. If I’m hungry in the early evening, it doesn’t mean it’s time for a snack, it means it’s time to get supper started.
I ignored the second phase of eating leek soup for 48 hours. That prescription arrived on page 25 after a lot of talk about balance and patience that didn’t seem to match up with the crash diet mentality of a weekend of leek soup. Odd. I considered looking at The Parisian Diet by Dr. Jean-Michael Cohen until I read this review by Yoni Freedhoff: Weighty Matters: Diet Book Review: The Parisian Diet. Freedhoff considered the advice sound. When he got to the diets, though, they contradicted the text by being way too low in calories. With those two pieces of evidence, a weekend of leek soup in French Women Don’t Get Fat and very low calorie plans in The Parisian Diet, one might conclude that when the French claim that they don’t do extreme diets, they are lying.
Never mind. I always ignore the quick start or cleanse or reset phase of any diet plan that has multiple phases. In my experience, pounds lost slowly stay off so I always skip any rapid start program.
The third phase is a process called recasting and is meant to be three months of paying attention. This is a time for self-examination and cost-benefit analysis. If I’m eating ice cream every day, could I make it a once a week treat at an ice cream parlor and keep it out of the house? Would fine dining be just as enjoyable if I followed the rule wine or dessert but not both? Is vegging out in front of the TV with a bag of chips really how I want to spend my evenings? Obviously, every one will have different challenges and solutions:
In this strategy for weight loss and wellness à la française, there are no recipes, only ingredients. As with good cooking, the result will depend on what you use and what pleases you. There are some elements that apply to all cases: a little more walking, a little more water, for instance. But otherwise the approach is unapologetically individualist and will depend somewhat on trial and error. The key is to cultivate your own intuition of your offenders and pleasures and adjust each accordingly by degrees that suit you. (Consider it your vote for the Franco-American ideal of individual liberty over the tyrannical regime of one-size diets.) (pp 58, 59)
I think I needed more structure to lose 70 pounds, but for losing 5, this sort of attentiveness seems to be working.
Appeal: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano is a fun way to explore more mindful eating.
I used this book as the source for new French words in this week’s Wondrous Words Wednesday post. Besides some interesting new phrases, those quotes represent some of what I liked best about this book.
This is my third book for the Books on France 2013 Challenge at Words and Peace, which means I’ve already met my original goal. But I still have a large stack of books on France to choose from so I know I’ll be reading more.
I’ll also link this post to the Dreaming of France meme hosted each Monday at An Accidental Blog.
This is my fifth book for the Foodies Read 2013 Challenge. My original goal was 14 to 18, so I still have a long way to go here.
Check out other Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads today.