Can Americans Learn from "French Women Don't Get Fat?"
In the introduction of her best-seller, author Mireille Giuliano writes:
I am no physician, physiologist, psychologist, nutritionist, or any manner of "-ist" who helps or studies people professionally. I was, however, born and raised in France, and with two good eyes I've been observing the French for a lifetime. Plus, I eat a lot. One can find exceptions, as with any rule, but overwhelmingly, French women do as I do: they eat as they like and don't get fat. Pourquoi?
The answer to this question is what "French Women Don't Get Fat" claims to answer. First of all, is it true? If so, is it simply a selective gene pool, or are there tips we can glean from the French lifestyle to help us manage our weight in like manner? And, most importantly, if there are such tips, are they found in this book? I'll let the author answer that herself:
By sharing my experience not only with food, but with a "total approach" to healthy living, I aim to guide each reader toward finding her own equilibrium. (Le mot juste indeed: it's an important concept, because while our bodies are machines, no two are built exactly alike, and they "reset" themselves repeatedly over time. A program that doesn't evolve with you will not see you through the long run.) I provide menus you can follow exactly, but the goal is to develop what works for you as you cultivate a new intuition. I'm not presenting prescriptions so much as templates. Tailor them according to your preferences, paying attention to your own body, schedule, environment, and other unique characteristics. In fact, my emphasis is on the simplicity, flexibility, and rewards of doing it yourself. This fine-tuning can't be done by a doctor-author who's never met you.
This disclaimer may at first seem discouraging to the average dieter, desperate to shave off a few pounds before swimsuit season. In fact, I see the lack of absolutes or guarantees to be the most promising recommendation of any. If there's one thing we, as a country, ought to have learned by now, it's that there are no quick fixes when it comes to the battle of the bulge.
Like many other diets, "French Women Don't Get Fat" is broken down into phases, introduced through the autobiographical tale of Giuliano's life growing up in France, her move to the United States (and gain of twenty pounds), and her journey back to the slim figure she now maintains.
Phase One: Wake-Up Call
This stage consists of:
- Three weeks of food diaries
- A hard look at what got you here
As with an addict, the first step to beating your demons is to identify them.
Phase Two: Recasting
From one to three months of vigilance, geared towards learning:
- Portion control
- Diversity of nourishment
A few foods may be temporarily suspended from your diet, but have no fear; in the end, nothing is off limits, Giuliano promises. The key is moderation, as you come to grasp in...
Phase Three: Stabilization
Your metabolism re-engaged, your body "reset," you may now reintroduce the "offending" foods you initially eschewed, placing emphasis on enjoying the experience of food preparation and eating, rather than obsessing over it when your focus should be elsewhere.
Phase Four: The Rest of Your Life
If all goes well, you find yourself at your target weight, operating under a whole new outlook on food and weight, with, as Giuliano puts it, "a cultivated respect for freshness and flavor that unlocks the world of sensory delights to be discovered in presentation, color, and variety."
I am a skeptic of any diet, but my research into "French Women Don't Get Fat" surprised me. The obnoxious title aside, I think calling this book a diet would be giving it an undeserved bad rap.
In the end, there are many routes to weight loss, but the only real way to maintain a sound body is a sound mind, one thing that has long been missing from the diet propaganda of our generation.
Mireille Giuliani says it best herself:
French women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while Americans typically see it as a conflict and obsess over it. 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, bien sûr. 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.
Je suis d'accord.
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