French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Frenchwoman Mireille Guiliano, is actually a non-diet book, with a completely different take on healthy eating. She should know! Mireille Guiliano lives and works in France; she also gets my vote as CEO of a favorite champagne company, Veuve Clicquot (we call it "The Widow" in awed tones!)mireilleguiliano.jpg

As a teenager, Guiliano (picture) came to the U.S. for school encountered the disastrous American diet. As a result, she returned home 20 pounds heavier than when she arrived. Once back to the “French Way” of eating, she shed the load and regained her health, while enjoying some of the most fabulous cuisine in the world.

If you have ever wondered how the French manage to eat cheese, butter, baguettes, and drink wine while staying slim, this book will give you some strong clues. According to Giuliano, you should eat only good food of very high quality, eat it in small portions, and savor every bite.

Take it easy at the table, in others words. Well, whenever I go to France, that’s not what happens! Lunch lasts several hours and packs a lot of food. But the important point to me is that it’s GOOD food; tasty, fresh, nourishing and in reasonable portions, as Guiliano remarks.

The trick, as she says, is to relish every bite. If you do, you’ll eat more slowly and actually eat less. It’s the slow food movement, in national costume, is all. The great thing is you can eat pretty well anything, just eat small portions of the naughties. No counting calories, no skipping meals — just control what you eat.

Obviously, this is not a fast solution to anything. In fact it doesn’t claim to be a diet book at all: just a healthy eating book. In just three months you can reset your "food-o-stat" for a lifetime of healthy weight through slow, gradual weight loss.

Guiliano’s book is more than just food; it takes in lifestyle. There are no fitness routines but lots of daily physical activity and lots of walking. The author shows how women can adopt the French style of eating, drinking and moving as the winning formula for weight control.

She starts you out with a 2-day leek soup fast, followed by meat or fish, vegetables, and a piece of fruit. That’s exactly in line with my own “Diet Wise”.

During the initial phase, dieters are asked to evaluate their diets by keeping a food journal to identify where excess calories are coming from so they can make adjustments. I think food diaries are an amazing and important health tool.

"You can still have your favorite foods, but try to reduce how often or how much," says Guiliano. Slowly reduce portion sizes over time so you won’t realize you are eating less.

Throughout French Women Don’t Get Fat, the authoress describes the lifestyle of French women that leads to being slim but without the agonies of total self-denial at the table. Her approach to weight control includes wine, chocolate, and the dreaded white bread excluded in most diet books. She’s right there. Whole-grain bread, twice as dense, has double the carb units! Guiliano encourages readers to enjoy food and drink to the fullest while keeping portions in check. Fresh, wholesome, and seasonal ingredients are highly recommended.

What about that wine paradox? The French drink lashings of wine and yet have less heart disease and diabetes than the rest of the civilized world. Well, that’s another story. I’ll come to that someday. But Guiliano approves wine, also in small quantities.

If you weaken and splurge, Guiliano recommends eating yogurt. "Yogurt is the perfect food, full of calcium, and French women eat 1-2 servings a day, especially after a night of too much, it is the perfect breakfast," she says. Guiliano includes a recipe for homemade yogurt and also recommends it as a great snack. That’s OK if you can tolerate dairy products (most pople don’t).

How It Works

The fundamental premise of the French Women Don’t Get Fat non-diet plan is learning to enjoy the pleasure of eating delicious food in a relaxed environment.

Guiliano believes that American women would benefit if they slowed down, stopped speed eating and eating on the run, and took more pleasure in the dining experience, much like French women.

Amen to that. But Guiliano misses a key point here: American women (mostly) are too idle to cook and want everything on a plate for them, or at a restaurant. I’m sorry but you just can’t portion control in a US restaurant.

What the so-called "Experts" Say

French women do get fat, snipes Katherine Tallmadge, spokewoman for the American Dietetic Association and a dietetic counseler in Washington DC. "French Women Don’t Get Fat, like many other diet books, is a frustrating blend of real insight, shaky science, and sheer speculation." You can tell it’s got her hackles up!

Well the ADA are just a club of people, joined together for mutual economic advantage and to squeeze out the competitors, not to protect the public, you may be sure of that. You can see the seething jealousy in Tallmadge’s next complaint:

She points out that Guiliano is not a nutrition or weight loss professional and even though she doesn’t claim to be, bases her advice on personal experiences and observations of life in France.

What Tallmadge is poor on is the fact that Guiliano’s book is not meant to be scientific. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong in any sense. It’s a terrific book by someone who has been there, done that and got the t-shirt. Not a how-to by a self-congratulatory expert.

Tallmadge has her own book, in fact, and doesn’t like competition, clearly. Especially from such a hugely successful best-seller. She carps about starting with a soup fast because it’s not nutritionally adequate. Huh? We’re talking overweight people who need to have a LOT less nutrition going on!

Tallmadge also tries to nitpick by claiming that scientific evidence does not support the author’s claim that leeks have a magical quality to cause weight loss, nor does chocolate contain serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter.

Well, Tallmadge, you are mistaken. I’m not sure about the leeks but there are several serotonin enhancers in chocolate, was well as a number of other feel-good compounds, such an anandamide (from cannabis) and phenylethylamine (PEA); the latter has been described as “chocolate amphetamine”. It has also been christened the “love molecule”.

Well, when you eat chocolate, it’s easy to love the whole world, isn’t it?

Sorry Tallmadge, you lose.