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French Women Don't Get Fat

Book Review

French Women Don't Get Fat
By Mireille Guiliano
Knopf (2004)
Reviewed by Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson


The author, 58-year-old Mireille Guiliano, the president and CEO of Champagne giant Veuve Clicquot, who shuttles regularly between her apartments in Paris and Manhattan, claims French women don’t get fat and says Americans wouldn’t be fat if we ate the way the French do. While the French have about half of America’s overweight and obesity rates, studies show French women do get fat and the obesity rate in France is growing quickly. In fact, the book is being translated into French to benefit the “other” French who clearly haven’t gotten the message that they’re not "supposed" to get fat.

Diet Plan

French Women Don’t Get Fat, like many other diet books, is a blend of some insight, shaky science and speculation. The author, who is not a nutrition or weight loss professional and doesn’t claim to be, bases her advice on her own and her friends’ personal experiences and observations she’s made through living in France. She does make some recommendations, though, which can be supported by science. For instance, eating soup and eating more vegetables, which have been found to help reduce calorie intake naturally. Also, she recommends walking for exercise and weight training for women over 40, which most experts would agree is a terrific strategy.

Nutritional Pros and Cons

The author makes some questionable dietary claims, suggesting leeks are a mild diuretic, have a "magical" quality and cause weight loss (there is no science backing these claims), and that chocolate contains the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin (also no research behind this claim). She advises people to start dieting through a semi-fast, eating predominantly leek soup. While most people would lose weight using this method, it’s not nutritionally adequate or a way of eating, which can be maintained over the long term. Learning consistent eating habits is a more proven way to lose weight and keep it off.

Bottom Line

For decades, the French have made a living ridiculing America’s penchant for fads. So it is at least mildly ironic that America’s newest diet fad has been written by a French woman, who continues the tradition by ridiculing Americans for fad dieting — while promoting her own fad diet.

April 2005