Ever since my father gave me the information to his Audible subscription account, I have amassed a mini library of books that are some of the most life-altering out there. All of the books I read are self-help, non-fiction, or autobiographical. But they are all absolutely thought-provoking and applicable. Each of them packs a unique story and sack of gems of wisdom and knowledge that, though seemingly not, have everything to do with your health and well-being. Having said that, the book I instantly knew I needed to review from the get-go was Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat.
Published in 2004, French Women Don’t Get Fat is one of the most celebrated cookbooks and diet books, being a national bestseller and self-declared “French revolution” to healthy living. In the book, Guiliano explains the cultural distinguishments of French women pertaining to food, movement, lifestyle, and contentent that contribute to their healthy physiques and liberated relationship with food. She starts from the very get-go of the French’s cultural perspectives on wellness, transformative trips abroad to America (both physically and mentally), and how she mastered the savvy tricks of the mentors and role models in her life that they call everyday rituals. Throughout the book, she sprinkles in various recipes and funny stories for inspiration and application.
Without disclosing any explicit spoilers, here’s a somewhat broad yet valuable summarization on why, according to Mureille Guiliano, French women “don’t get fat”: they simply practice a different mindset towards body image, exercise, drinking, and dieting (if you want to call it that) that practices portioning out of pleasure instead of obsession. It isn’t a matter of meeting “good” standards, but feeling comfortable in your body and your lifestyle.
But here’s one spoiler: I ended up listening to the entire book twice. Planning on a third in the future. It’s honestly so freaking decadent and warming for the soul!
- The language and diction are impeccably elegant. Guiliano leads her stories with class, humor, and authenticity. Instead of sounding like a health coach or a teacher, she functions more as a girl friend you’re enjoying lunch with. As cultured and knowledgeable as she is, her reliability and realness are what makes her so gifted and how she stands out from the other authors that press a somewhat aggressive, preachy, or even condescending tone.
- Just like how you’d imagine, there’s no sense of deprivation whatsoever. Yes, you can eat chocolate, bread, pastries, cheese, and drink wine (if you do)! There’s no prescription on elimination, but only reduction, addition, or substitution. She walks you through the entire process of recasting, accountability, and re-integration of what foods or beverages may account for added pounds that is completely feasible and can easily be tailored towards individual needs.
- There’s also no form of extremism. Here in America, some people either want to look like walking anatomy charts (or even skeletons, at utmost lack of fortune) or become the next star of 600-pound life, though the latter is quite rare. Fortunately, the book instructs the audience to abide by the “well-being weight”, otherwise the body that fits into your clothes like a glove and that can eat absolutely anything in a truly appreciative manner. There is hardly any talk of weighing yourself regularly or measuring body fat. If anything, Guiliano very much prefers using clothing or measuring tape as progress parameters.
- Like weight scales, there is barely any information about calorie counting. Why? Because Guiliano really doesn’t advise that. She does spill countless hacks to subtract calories from your daily diet that aid in weight loss such as tea instead of beer or reducing two slices of bread to one, but there’s no recommendation of a daily calorie count. What I truly adore about this embodiment is the practice of detachment from obsession. Recommended is to ask yourself: what can you live without and what truly makes you happy? I guarantee you that the number on the scale doesn’t fit any of these categories.
- Guiliano spends a generous chunk of the book praising wine, especially champagne. She described it as a way to “elevate the meal’s ritual values” and how “nothing sets the mood” like the magical beverage. I’m certain that I’m not the only one that views alcohol as an unnecessary element to gastronomical contentment. Yes, it is advised to drink in moderation, but it is incredibly challenging to practice control over alcohol with how easily accessible it is in America. Unfortunately, with how Americans utilize alcohol and glorify its functions, moderation is difficult. Besides, it’s rare to NOT desire more than one glass. However, if you find that you have a healthily non-dependent relationship with alcohol, embrace a glass of high-quality and luxurious wine, rosé, champagne, or any adult beverage of your choice based on Guiliano’s advice. Un verre de vin, c’est bon.
- Does the book stereotype French women? Perhaps, as Guiliano constantly uses “French women” as a blanket label instead of something like “healthy French women” or “balanced French women”. It’s highly factual that not every French woman epitomizes what Mureille describes. Having said that, I personally cannot take offense to this. Then again, I’m not a French woman.
- Mureille doesn’t utilizes any scientific information or peer-reviewed evidence to prove her standpoints. Obviously whether she has to do so is debatable, but it would have been intriguing to see actual statistics of how diets are ineffective for sustained weight loss or compare the average BMIs and rates of chronic medical diseases of the French and Americans.
- All the recipes provided are incredibly traditional (which is also a pro), so it will be difficult to cater towards one’s dietary needs if allergic to gluten, milk, eggs, and shellfish (hello, vegan here).
In all, the book isn’t solely about weight loss, but about enhancing your taste palette and gastronomical senses to improve the quality of your life. Regardless if you consume a salt free oil free and sugar free diet or spend half of your day at the Starbucks drive-thru, if the gym is your second home or the thought of going for a run makes you want to gag, please read this book. Even though this book prides on living in moderation, it is stuffed to the brim with gems of value. In summary: quality over quantity. Live with your senses. Laugh and love. Savor to satisfaction. Value even the smallest lifestyle shifts. As basic as these mantras sound, their impacts are absolutely magical for your personal health and well-being.
What are some examples of applying these tips to your everyday life? Experiment with fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. Don’t consume six slices of 70-calorie store-bought wheat bread, but a freshly made and wondrously delicious sourdough bread roll the size of your fist or your palm that (gasp!) doesn’t have a calorie count. Integrate spices to flavor your dishes instead of sugar free condiments—besides, the spices are abundant with antioxidants, medicinal compounds, and anti-inflammatory properties. Walk the stairs wherever you go. Take more time to finish that glass of champagne…you might find that you don’t need a second serving. Don’t neglect life’s gifts: sleep, laughter, and love-making (if we’re going there). View food as nourishment and self-care instead of self-hatred or an inconvenience.
Don’t forget to check out my whole wheat baguette recipe that corresponds so we’ll with this book!