I am always interested in learning new things. Sometimes you just want to read something that is an enjoyable and easy read. That is really how I stumbled upon French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. Prior to leaving for a girlfriend’s bachelorette party in Cabo, I figured I needed a good read for the plane. So (slightly old fashioned) I headed to the bookstore to get a book that I wouldn’t mind if it got wet at the pool or beach. A national bestseller, this book caught my attention as just right for the occasion. I will admit, I did not think I would learn anything monumental or new from this read, but was intrigued none the less.
Mireille Guiliano is a woman who has things figured out in life. She managed to balance a career as a senior executive at LVMH as well as CEO of Clicquot, Inc. and her personal life all before becoming a full-time author. I am most impressed that she was able to maintain balance at the height of her time as an executive. While she had multiple rich and extravagant work meals a week, she stayed healthy by practicing the habits of her French upbringing. The French food secrets she shares are mainly daily eating habits that most French learn, without even realizing it, while growing up.
While I believe there is much we can learn from the French way of life, it is not exact. As an American living in the United States, you will never be able to exactly replicate the life of a French woman living in France. There are differences in our cultures and the foods we have available to us on a daily basis. For example, in her book, Mireille speaks of many memories involving picking fresh strawberries and other fruits and vegetables from her family’s yard. How many American families do you know that produce enough fruit and vegetables on their own land to limit their purchase of these at the store?
I do think there is merit to going back to the basics; remembering the simple things in life related to food and the enjoyment of it. To adopt more of the French attitude, we need to emphasize quality over quantity and learn to slow down and savor our meals instead of eating on the run. Growing up, my parents and I always ate dinner together at the table; however, now that I live on my own, I frequently eat in front of the TV because I do not have anyone with whom to converse. Doing this, I pay less attention to what I am eating and to enjoying every bite. Even though I am on my own, there is no reason that I cannot sit at the table and give the food I prepare the attention it deserves.
Another simple fact to remember is: eat anything in moderation. French meals typically contain several courses, but the portions are small and the foods are of high quality. Guiliano suggests searching out fruits and vegetables that are in season and packed with flavor. This way the food will need less seasoning and have more natural benefits. Similar to what we hear in all fitness magazines and health websites, it’s all about checks and balances. Guiliano says French women allow for indulgences by cutting back somewhere else. So a dessert at lunch might mean a lighter meal at dinner or an extra-long walk around the neighborhood in the evening. Seems like common sense to me!
My key takeaways from French Women Don’t Get Fat are:
- Practice portion control – learn to engage your five senses so you only eat as much as you are still getting full pleasure. There is no need to keep eating once your senses have been satiated.
- Eat fruits and vegetables that are in season – fresh fruits and vegetables have the strongest flavors and most pleasing textures to our pallets. In essence our bodies crave these when they are in season.
- Don’t eat on the run or in front of the TV – take the time to sit at the table and enjoy the food you have prepared.
- Enjoy wine, but with food and only a glass or two – not sure if this is one I will be able to follow as I love catching up with girlfriends over a good glass of wine.
- Drink plenty of water – I make this one a priority; especially since I work for a beverage company! I also learned how sometimes what I thought was hunger is really thirst; it is important to know how to read your own body signals.
- Add regular “dedicated” walks to your day as well as find ways to increase your “incidental” walk time – this always takes me back to the “calories in/calories out” sentiment. The more activity you get during the day, the more calories you burn and the easier to maintain balance.
- Take the stairs – whenever this is an option, similar to the above, it helps up the amount of calories you burn in a day.
- Practice conscious breathing – Guiliano says that “breathing is the ultimate present-moment situation”. I think this is another way to be in tune with your body and to be aware or your needs, wants, and general state of being.
- Sleep – Everyone says sleep is important. This is an area I could definitely get better. Find the right amount for you – some people only need 6 hours while others need 8.
- Practice good posture – Good posture helps you stand tall and proud with confidence.
There are two French phrases from the book that I particularly enjoyed and think are useful on a daily basis. “Manger bien et juste”, which means ‘Eat well and eat right’, and “Tout est une question d’attitude”, which means ‘Everything’s a question of attitude’. With the right attitude, anything is possible. These are two things, in addition to the takeaways above, that I intend to do to help maintain a happy and healthy life.