Thursday, April 21, 2011

French Women Don't Get Fat

I've read two French-themed books just in the last week!  I love reading but I often through reading spurts. This happens when I read something I really enjoyed and got really into, and then it's almost like I'm too afraid to start a new book to see if this one will be just as good.  I haven't really read anything that I really enjoyed since The Forgotten Garden.

However, I had been reading about different books online, and in the same week my husband surprised me by bringing two on my list home from the library!  There's nothing like a man who brings you your favorite flowers AND books.  :)  The perfect man.  I plan on reviewing both books (French Women Don't Get Fat and Lunch in Paris) this week.

I had first heard about Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat sometime in Spanish class two years ago, but didn't have a big interest in reading it.  I had heard mention of it now more recently and it piqued my interest since I've come to love cooking.  This was the book I spent three hours reading at Barnes and Noble last weekend.

Not even halfway through the book, I journaled about it for two pages and the book was resonating with me already.  This book is not a memoir per se, but Guiliano does share her own experience of gaining weight as a foreign exchange student in America and the process of changing back to her French eating habits when she returned.  Although the French eat three meals a day and usually a full-course meal at one of those times, they don't seem to struggle with their weight as much as Americans.  And if you notice their considerably smaller portion sizes, you would understand why.

Something I really loved reading in the book was Guiliano's way of describing how much the French value food and their meal time-- that they see it as a pause in the day, a time to spend with friends and family (and they're not on their cell phones or hurrying through the whole meal).  They eat on real plates and it's one of the most anticipated moments of the day.  It's not a rushed experience nor is it a time to eat in front of the TV and ignore the pleasure experienced by your taste buds.  It's a time to savor each bite.

I could really relate to Guiliano's view on American diets.  People want a quick fix, so they go on these strict and often dangerous diets but they get so bored with the food they're eating, they often times quit.  A friend of mine was on a pretty radical diet, only eating vegetables and yogurt and using a few brain techniques to trick her brain into thinking she wasn't hungry.  She ended up losing almost 20 pounds in a very short amount of time.  But she soon grew tired of eating the same food every day and missing out on her favorites and she ended up quitting the diet and gained most of the weight back.

I've tried different diets myself, and haven't really stuck with any of them.  The only one that really works is exercise and eating a little less.  I really think the key in losing weight is eating three meals a day, a fuller meal at lunch and a lighter one at dinner.  And it really is all about the portion control.  You can still partake in rich foods, but in a limited quantity, with quality ingredients that will leave you satisfied and not reaching for more.

Something I don't quite agree with Guiliano on is her attitude towards exercise. She writes that you don't see a lot of women running and sweating inside a gym and they just don't care to do so.  But instead, they walk more and climb seven floors rather than take the elevator.  I can understand that and would gladly do that if America had a better transportation system.  But unless you live in New York or D.C., most places just aren't set up to be walking cities.  There's no way you can get around Miami just by walking or even riding your bike without being run over or cursed on the street.

Plus, intense cardio exercise is a great way to jump start your weight loss.  When my weight was at an all time high the spring of my sophomore year in college, I did start eating less but it took a lot longer for the weight to come off until I started going to the gym.  Biking is probably the best way to lose weight without injuring yourself.

Wow, I have gone off on a rant on this review!  Sorry for being all over the place.  Oh well... I thoroughly enjoyed this book... and it's great and... you should read it!  It even includes some authentic French recipes.  Mainly, what Guiliano is saying is that French women don't get fat because while they respect their bodies, they also fully enjoy what they eat and still remain slim.  I'll leave you with this quote:

"French women don't skip meals or substitute slimming shakes for them.  They have two or three courses at lunch and then another three (sometimes four) at dinner.  And with wine.  How do they do it? Well, that's a story.  That's the story.  One hint:  They eat with their heads, and they do not leave the table feeling stuffed or guilty."  


  1. I agree... I heart cardio too. and I need the intense stuff sometimes. I like to sweat when i'm working out... and not sweat up the stairs on my way to a meeting. ya know?

    Thanks for the review!! I want to read this!

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  2. Very good point about the exercise. Most American cities just aren't set up to walk or bike everywhere like in Europe, so we pretty much have to make an effort to do some cardio.

    Other than that I really like FWDGF - she has lots of good advice and good recipes. I didn't like her second book so much (French Women for All Seasons), but I don't remember why. I think she recommends eating horse meat or something, and that completely turned me off. :-P

  3. I didn't even know she has a second book out! But yeah, apparently horse meat is big in France... I'm not sure I could stomach that either.