Review By: Doris J. Dickson
Type 1 Mentor
Mireille Guiliano was born and raised in Lorraine, France, and is currently a resident of New York City. “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is her first book. Guiliano is also the CEO and long-time spokesperson for Champagne Veuve Cliquot, the U.S. subsidiary of a French wine and spirits company. Guiliano holds the French equivalent of a master's degree in English and German and is a certified translator/interpreter. She has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CBS' The Early Show, NBC's Dateline and CNN, and has been profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, TIME, Newsweek, The Robb Report, Business Week, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine and dozens more.
Although she believes her stories and lessons can benefit everyone, she intended the book primarily for women based solely on her experience as a woman. Guiliano says the book is not only for Americans, but also for women throughout the developed world, who face career pressure and personal stress. She speaks directly to women who need to lose up to 30 pounds by presenting a comprehensive approach to living as well as strategies and philosophies you can personalize and make your own.
Guiliano's program is broken down into four phases:
- Phase One “wake up call” – a three-week inventory of food, followed by an assessment of “offenders” and other problem spots.
- Phase Two "recasting" - an introduction to the French school of portions and diversity of nourishment.
- Phase Three "stabilization" - a stage in which you reintegrate everything you like to eat in "proper measure."
- Phase Four "the rest of your life" - a stable equilibrium of fine adjustments.
Guiliano includes stories of her own weight gain that began when she was an exchange student in Weston, Massachusetts where she gained 20 pounds eating newly found chocolate chip cookies and brownies. It continued in Paris in pastry shops.
She introduces us to the philosophies of “Dr. Miracle” and the weight loss concepts he introduced to her. She also shares stories of several women she helped lose weight.
Much of the book focuses on discussing high-quality French ingredients especially fruits, nuts and vegetables, their origin and diverse recipes utilizing them. There are examples of appetizers, entrees and desserts to keep even the most discerning eater from feeling deprived or bored. Guiliano discusses her favorite breakfast food – yogurt – and shares two recipes for making it from scratch.
There is a chapter on beverages, specifically water, wine and champagne. Guiliano believes Americans drink far too little water and wine and far too much coffee, soda and other sugary soft drinks. The chapter on chocolate and bread, also complete with recipes, focuses on the history of chocolate. She maintains that although both chocolate and bread are offenders they are also necessities and can be eaten if they are good in quality and small in quantity. Guiliano also maintains that American chocolate (milk chocolate, white chocolate or any sold in supermarkets) is “quite simply, junk food.” Good bread, she says, is rich in fiber and vital for digestion and since French bread “contains no fat and tends to lightness,” it does not need to be approached all that cautiously.
Chapter 10 describes how French women move versus get exercise. Guiliano says French women reject the American “No pain, no gain.” rule. Some participate in sports such as tennis and swimming but they do not exercise in gyms. French women, she says, prefer the “gentler, more regular varieties of all-day-movement.”
The final few chapters focus on emotions and how they change through life stages. She says that the French much prefer “being and feeling” over having. They choose vacations over new cars. Dr. Miracle once told her “Everything’s a matter of attitude.”
She divides life into five stages: birth through age seven, age seven through 17, age 17 through 35, age 35 through 55 and age 55 through 77 plus. She offers suggestions specific to each age bracket and comparisons between American and French ways of living. She refers to food on television as “gastronomic pornography” believing that seeing food on television makes one think about eating, gets gastric juices flowing, thereby triggering the release of insulin, lowering blood sugar and triggering cravings.
The final chapter offers a plan for life in which Guiliano summarizes the French plan. She says that although she is trying to be cautious about generalizations, she feels compelled to offer us a list of observations that include behaviors and choices French women make supporting the theory that “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” She concludes the only thing really dividing French and American women is inertia. Her final words of wisdom: “Bon courage, bonne chance, bon appetit.”