|March 21, 2005|
Do French Women Get Fat?
In case you have been living in a cave in Afghanistan there is a new diet book out that is all the rage, French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. I know all of you have been chomping at the bit to go out and spend the $22.00 to get the book and start the diet but, I thought I would save you both the time and money by giving you the cliff notes.
The author Mireille Guiliano was born in France but went to Massachusetts as an exchange student in the 1960s, where she gained 20 pounds on brownies and chocolate chip cookies. When she returned home, her alarmed father said she looked like a sack of potatoes. With the help of a family physician, Guiliano shed her flab.
Later, she married an American and took a job with the U.S. branch of Veuve Clicquot Champagne company and now divides her time between Paris and New York.
Given her bicultural experience, she would seem the right person to tell yo-yo American dieters how to resolve the French paradox by eating slowly and for pleasure; seeking balance while making every meal a sacred rite; getting satisfaction from such esoteric fare as oysters; limiting oneself to small portions of favorite foods (because deprivation breeds discontent); and, of course, refusing seconds and between-meal snacks.
The best things about Guiliano's book are the personal dieting tips — soup for dinner five times a week; monitoring weight by the feel of your clothes, not the depressing readings of a scale — and the luscious-sounding, low-calorie, French family recipes she passes along. However Guiliano needs to get real. I am not sure she has and understanding of anything about American life outside the chichi restaurants and epicurean food markets of New York which she frequents. The ugly truth is that achieving weight equilibrium is largely a question of income, education and class. In America and France, people with resources can afford a variety of weight maintenance options, including health clubs, diet programs and books like Guiliano's. Meanwhile, obesity — engendered by low-cost, high-calorie, nutritionally empty beverages and foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle — is reaching epidemic proportions in the developing world, according to the World Health Organization.
Guiliano offers a compelling approach to lifelong slimness for upper-income women, but she has nothing to offer the vast majority of overweight people who don't have the time or money to follow her advice. Life is just too complicated these days. Telling people they can lose weight by shopping daily for fresh foods, cooking at home, setting a pretty table and lingering over meals is like urging Stone Age hunters to eat only roots and berries.
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