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French Women Don't Get Fat    by Mireille Guiliano order for
French Women Don't Get Fat
by Mireille Guiliano
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2007 (2004)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

It's no secret that French food is marvelous food. Go to Paris and take a stroll down any side street filled with beautiful little cafés and chic restaurants, and you'll find more wonderful food than you've ever imagined. You'll also find French women feasting on chocolate, champagne, pastries, pasta, goat cheese pizza and croissants, among many other drool-worthy fares. It seems unlikely, then, that French women would also be known for their slender physiques. There must be a secret there, right?

Well ... yes and no, as Guiliano shows us. As a typically slender young Frenchwoman, Guiliano embarked on an exchange student trip to America. When she returned home, she was fat - much to her family's horror. Distraught and suffering from major self-esteem loss, she proceeded to hire a doctor to help her fit into her former clothes. The lessons the doctor taught her are the same ones she teaches us now: namely that there's no big secret to the way French women remain slim. Rather, French women rely on common sense and a genuine love of food to maintain their body image. For example, if you love chocolate, eat chocolate. But be sure to eat a small square of dark chocolate instead of a large slice of chocolate cake. Did you have a croissant for breakfast? Then have a vegetable-only lunch to make up for it.

Perhaps among the most important lessons in French Women Don't Get Fat is the idea that food shouldn't be treated like a guilty pleasure. It is a pleasure, yes, but not a guilty one. French women eat whatever they want, in extreme moderation. Throughout the book, Guiliano offers many tips, tricks and hints for adopting a French mindset when it comes to indulging in tiny samples of your favorite foods. No food is forbidden, but moderation and a focus on exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle are emphasized.

However, don't let the hype fool you. This is a diet book, it's just based on an approach we rarely see. Guiliano makes it clear that eating donuts for breakfast, a heaping bowl of pasta for lunch and a three-course dinner will clearly make you fat. This book doesn't give you a license to eat whatever you want; in fact it imposes some restrictions of its own. For example, Guiliano suggests beginning the lifestyle change emphasized in the book by eating nothing but leek soup for an entire weekend. If that sounds restrictive to you (and it should!) take heart: it only gets easier from there.

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