book review :: french women don’t get fat

I saw this at the library on my way out and figured, what the heck, and checked it out. I read the first half and then skimmed through the second. The author tells her story of how she went to the US as an exchange student (she didn't apply but was approached because the student who should have been selected came from a family of communists). The experience changed her life's course and her waistline. She arrived home embarrassed by her increased size (about 25 pounds). The scene where she describes her homecoming is heartbreaking.

At any rate she goes off to Paris and puts on a few more pounds as there are about a dozen bakeries on her way to school. Her mother steps in and sends 'Dr. Miracle' to pay her a house call (this is in the 60's, just FYI). He tells her to write down everything she eats and to report back next month. He then gives her a leek soup recipe and has her eat only that for a weekend and then a more sensible diet for a couple of months. Also she is to find a new route to school. The pounds come off and in no time she is back to her ideal weight and using the tips and tricks from 'Dr. Miracle' she has managed to maintain her weight despite living in New York, and eating out almost every day (as her job requires).
Here are my thoughts:

  • One of the points made in the book is that the introduction of the mega-supermarket has caused problems for people's waistlines (even in France). If you can, shop for your meals only a day or two in advance. Best still, shop every day, but take home only what you will eat in the next 24 hours. Part of it too is that people would walk to the shops daily, which also helped. But more important is the fact that you don't have junk around to snack on.
  • They drink lots of water in France. The author, who lives in New York but spends some time in her company's office in France, notes that instead of a water cooler, each morning a one liter bottle of water is left on the desk of every worker. And when they finish with that, there is a room where they can get more.
  • They don't drink a lot of soda in France, diet or otherwise. This is something  Americans need to follow, especially given how people are now enjoying it more and more for breakfast. And diet soda isn't the answer. Artificial sweeteners are bad for you. They can cause skin issues plus liver damage. To wean yourself try adding fruit juice to sparkling water.
  • They also don't drink a lot of coffee. Really it is the caffeine that is the issue, more than anything. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee a lot. And that means that the water you are intaking is going right through you without having the benefit of hydrating your cells.
  • Soup is good food, especially homemade soup. They aren't hard to make. The are low in fat and calories and loaded with vitamins. The book has several soup recipes. So when you are faced with what to have for lunch or dinner, think soup.
  • Yogurt is another good food. Try adding it to your diet daily. [Try organic yogurt as it tends to be less bitter.]
  • Fruit is important too. Having a fruit bowl where you can put out fresh fruit to enjoy is a great idea. And buying fresh, sweet smelling fruit will help entice you.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Write down everything you eat for a week or two. Be honest and then sit down and look at what you ate. See if there are patterns you can break, or better choices you could substitute.
  • Sit down and really enjoy your meal. Use nice plates and napkins. Don't watch TV and eat. Pay attention to what is on your plate and savor it.
  • The author was concerned about the new cocktail craze. She favors a glass of wine or champagne, in moderation, of course.

So that is the good. Here is the other side, which really wasn't discussed in the book (unless I missed it in my skimming):

  • The French are smokers, even the women.
  • They are also drinkers. This was somewhat addressed in the book, but I suspect that given that the author works for a company that deals in alcholic beverages, she had to be careful in what she said.

And just so you know it isn't all in my head, NPR just ran a story about how obesity rates in France are getting close to those in the US. Click here to listen.

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One Response to book review :: french women don’t get fat

  1. FaerieKissed says:

    So much of what you wrote is what Weight Watchers is all about these days–journaling what you eat, drinking lots of water, avoiding caffeine and sodas….Actually, a lot of weight loss programs have the same tips. And they are effective.

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