Thursday, February 17, 2005

French Women Don't Get Fat - an excerpt

The Good Cook book club sent me an excerpt this morning from French Women Don't Get Fat. Since it sounds like a similar principle of my forthcoming (in eons) book, The Itty-Bitty Gourmet, I thought I would share. Enjoy! (And I hope The Good Cook's not trying to tell me something...sending me e-mails about how to lose weight! The nerve of some book clubs!) ;)

When she spent a year in the U.S. as an exchange student, la francaise Mireille Guiliano, then nineteen, gained twenty pounds--moving her father to exclaim "Tu ressembles a un sac de patates" ("You look like a sack of potatoes"). Thanks to the family doctor and a few "old French tricks," Guiliano soon reclaimed--for life--her svelte, typically Gallic frame. In her national, buzzworthy bestseller, Guiliano (now a U.S. citizen) explains how in FRENCH WOMEN DON'T GET FAT: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure. We've included an exclusive excerpt from Chapter 1 below, in which she recounts those dark days following her (heavier) return to France, and how she began to return to her former weight.


Those were blurry days of crying myself to sleep and zipping past all mirrors. It may not seem so strange an experience for a nineteen-year-old, but none of my French girlfriends was going through it.

Then something of a Yuletide miracle occurred. Or perhaps I should say, Dr. Miracle, who showed up thanks to my mamie. Over the long holiday break, she asked the family physician, Dr. Meyer, to pay a call. She did this most discreetly, careful not to bruise me further. Dr. Meyer had watched me grow up, and he was the kindest gentleman on earth. He assured me that getting back in shape would be really easy and just a matter of a few "old French tricks." By Easter, he promised, I'd be almost back to my old self, and certainly by the end of the school year in June I'd be ready to wear my old bathing suit, the one I'd packed for America. As in a fairy tale, it was going to be our secret. (No use boring anyone else with the particulars of our plan, he said.) And the weight would go away much faster than it came. Sounded great to me. Of course, I wanted to put my faith in Dr. Meyer, and fortunately, there didn't seem to be many options at the time.

For the next three weeks, I was to keep a diary of everything I ate. This is a strategy that will sound familiar from some American diet programs, such as Weight Watchers. I was to record not only what and how much, but also when and where. There was no calorie counting, not that I could have done that. The stated purpose was simply for him to gauge the nutritional value of what I was eating (it was the first time I ever heard the word). Since nothing more was asked of me, I was only too happy to comply. This is the first thing you should do, too.

Dr. Meyer demanded no great precision in measurement. Just estimate, he said, stipulating "a portion" as the only unit of quantity and roughly equal to a medium-size apple. In America, where the greatest enemy of balanced eating is ever bigger portions, I suggest a little more precision. Here's where the small kitchen scale comes in. (Bread, which sometimes comes in huge slices here, might be more easily weighed than compared with an apple, which seems bigger here, too!)

Three weeks later, I was home again for the weekend. Just before noon, Dr. Miracle, distingué, gray templed, made his second house call. He also stayed for lunch. Afterward, reviewing my diary, he immediately identified a pattern utterly obvious to him but hiding somehow from me, as I blithely recorded every crumb I put in my mouth. On the walk between school and the room I was renting in the Seventh Arrondissement, there were no fewer than sixteen pastry shops. Without my having much noticed, my meals were more and more revolving around pastry. As I was living in Paris, my family could not know this, so when I came home, my mother naturally prepared my favorites, unaware I was eating extra desserts on the sly, even under her roof.

Copyright © 2004 Mireille Guiliano


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