Book Review: French Women Don’t Get Fat

French Women Don’t Get Fat
By Mireille Guiliano
Knopf (2004)
Reviewed by Holly R. Layer, RD


The author is Mireille Guiliano, a Frenchwoman who splits her time between America (she’s the CEO of a champagne distributor) and France, and who wrote the book because she was once overweight, after a stint in the US during an exchange program. Her basic premise is that French women don’t get fat because they don’t overeat. What we’ve come to call the ‘French Paradox’ (that the French eat indulgent food we avoid, such as wine, butter, cheese, pastries) is alive, but not as well as it once was. Unfortunately, the obesity rates in Europe are climbing. But, as with all stereotypes, they begin with a grain of truth.

Synopsis of Diet Plan:

Guiliano approaches weight loss in the book as a three-month ‘recalibration’ process, during which she recommends writing down your daily intake (even easier these days with smartphone apps) and then identifying what needs to change in your diet to lose weight. She credits ‘ Dr. Miracle,’ her childhood pediatrician, for helping her address her own weight gain through these methods. For Guiliano, that meant taking another route to university upon returning to Paris in order to avoid the countless bakeries with their sweet smells. She also outlines some reasons why French women don’t get fat and American women do, all of which promote health, such as eating slower, sitting while eating, drinking more water and walking more.

Nutritional Pros and Cons:

None of the author’s claims are backed by science, and anyone would lose weight eating her ‘magical leek soup,’ which simply decreases calorie intake and promote water loss. While she doesn’t expect anyone to eat her leek soup indefinitely, she doesn’t outline any structured ‘diet’ or ‘eating plan’ other than embracing the French culture.

Bottom Line:

While Romantic, it’s unrealistic to think traditional Americans can adopt the French way of eating and suddenly drop weight. Guiliano provides an enjoyable read and a lighthearted way of looking at differences in cultures and how it can shape OUR shapes. Coupled with a healthy diet and exercise (which she does include in the book), her advice can promote healthy eating habits and perhaps even weight loss.

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