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Book Review: French Women Don't Get Fat

I highly recommend this book, French Women Don't Get Fat. French women eat very differently than American women do, generally speaking. Meaning that they lay out a plate that looks good... they choose the freshest produce that tastes and smells good... they eat slowly and savor every bite... which they pair with the finest wines. Eating is something they set out to enjoy... experience... celebrate.

When was the last time you (or any typical American, for that matter) enjoyed, experienced, or celebrated your food? Thanksgiving, maybe? Definitely not every day. That would be too fattening. Wouldn't it?

Maybe not.

She says French women know the importance of drinking water, eating fresh, and enjoying life. They also know a "secret" that we Americans would almost call sacrilegious... less is more (as in... just because that first bite or two of chocolate cake was divine, that doesn't mean you should eat the whole thing).

Drinking Water

French women (and men, too, I'm sure) drink one glass of water when they first wake up, one before they go to bed, and generally a half hour before every meal (not during). She says American woman are typically very dehydrated, which is one reason why we feel hungry all the time (despite eating more than the typical Earth-dweller).

So I tried it this morning. When I first woke up... my mouth was parched... which is normal for me. Normally I don't think too much of it... I drink my cup or two of coffee and go on my merry way... often not drinking water until mid-afternoon. Today I drank a full glass straight off before I ate or drank anything else. I drank it slowly, straight from the tap (French women don't drink chilled water because it's more of a shock to the system). I let the water works it's magic... rehydrate me... and believe it or not, it was actually very delightful. Sensual, even...

Eating Fresh

French women cook fresh and in season. This seems completely smart and obvious to do... but how many of us still eat as much processed junk as we can get our hands on? I know I do. I do it without thinking. Despite my knowing better, I still treat fruits and vegetables like a sometimes food.

By buying better ingredients (as in... fresh... from the farm... purchased & used w/in a day of falling off the tree), you are actually getting a much more nutrient-dense and flavor-filled meal... which both indulges your senses and also gives you much healthier fuel for your day.

Going hand in hand with this principle... French women eat many small portions instead of one large portion. She says this is another reason American women rarely feel satisfied with a meal... it's hard to feel satisfied when our tastebuds are bored and we're eating only one or two main food groups every day.

So... this morning... after my water, I made half a cup (yes... half) of coffee (topped with a splash of soy milk), half the serving size of oatmeal that I normally make myself (which... if we're being completely honest... is usually about 2 or 3 servings worth). I topped the oatmeal with a small handful each of raisins, blueberries, and walnuts... and another dash of soy milk (which I realized upon reading the label is full of sugar... might not be as healthy as I'd been thinking it was). Then I took another small bowl and put about 3-4 TB of unsweetened applesauce in it (which is technically one portion size, but again... much less than what I would normally eat... when I eat it at all, which is rare... normally for breakfast I just gorge on way too much oatmeal).

To my amazement... I felt very satiated... not too full... definitely not too hungry. I felt content and happy... feelings I generally never associate with breakfast.

Enjoying Life

As I was reading this book and all it's healthy suggestions, I started drill-sergeant-ing myself... I'm sure you do this too. "Jennifer! From now on! That's it! You're going to walk! Every day! Twice a day even! You're going to be healthy!"

The more I read though, the more it hit me just how American I was approaching all of this. She says that French women do something active at least three times a week... but it's different things throughout the week. It's something that they enjoy and have fun at... they don't just force their way through because they've made a resolution to. We Americans tend to make exercise a chore on our to-do list, right alongside cleaning the toilet and doing dishes.

The more I thought about it, the more the French approach made sense... for exercise and for lots of other things. I mean, how many times have I just done something because I always do it? Or don't do something just because I never get around it? I spend hours on the internet every day... but I "keep meaning to" go visit an art museum. I'm not saying we should all become hedonists... but I'm beginning to wonder if zoning out on mindless things to the extent that we forget to indulge our senses on a regular basis is part of what's making us Americans fat, lazy, and depressed. It's very possible. (That... and all the processed sugar and fat we're consuming...)

I'm very intrigued to finish this book and continue implementing her suggestions. It's a very personalized approach to re-training your brain about food, exercise, and life in general. Definitely not your typical diet book.

Have any of you read French Women Don't Get Fat? What did you think?


  1. I've heard of the book, but I haven't read it. But after reading your post, I'm intrigued! I'll have to pick up a copy on Amazon. :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. I hadn't heard of this book, but something very similar to this was a conversation at the dinner table last night with my friends. It makes a lot of sense to approach things this way.

  3. What a great post! I've heard of the book, but didn't really know what it was about. Now I'm looking forward to reading it :)

  4. this sounds a book i'd def would like to interesting and to me, a better way to live that us American's in our go-go routine!


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