Eat with all five senses

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Right after Christmas, when most of us are packing a few extra pounds, I found a paperback copy of Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat. Having read a favorable Globe & Mail review back in 2005, I threw it in my shopping cart at the co-op. Let me tell you for $9.95 she has some great advice to offer.

As an exchange student in high school, Guiliano put on 20 pounds eating cookies and the gigantic portions they serve in the States. Then studying in Paris, she got depressed and packed more weight on. With the help of her family doctor, whom she names Dr. Miracle, Guiliano got her physique back. This very French advice she shares in her book.

Guiliano maintained a Gallic common sense approach to eating and she has kept the weight off for nearly 30 years. At 5' 3", she stays at 110 pounds, eating three solid meals a day. Furthermore her work with a French champagne firm requires her to drink champagne and wine daily, so she seemed entitled to offer suggestions. French Women Don't Get Fat sold over a million copies in six months and has been translated into 37 languages.

Gastronomic pornography

According to Guiliano, people in the U.S eat 30 per cent more food than they need to and don't enjoy its consumption, while only 11 per cent of French people are obese. In fact, she calls the food on American television gastronomic pornography with its emphasis on sugar and fat. It is clear right away she believes in meals made from scratch – no convenience food.

Among the tips in her book are: keeping a food journal for three weeks to examine bad habits, portion control, drinking lots of water, taking time to prepare and enjoy meals. Guiliano believes that guilt about the sin of eating is what has ruined food for American women. French women, instead, eat with all five senses, she says. This allows them to actually eat less because they are paying attention to what they are tasting.

The other key factor, she says, is that French women don't eat until they are full. She believes that three bites of a dish are all you really need to enjoy and she applies that rule personally when it comes to her weakness: pastries. Another central piece of advice is to choose quality over quantity and eat foods in season, which is what the 'eat local' movement recommends as well. “French women love to shop and prepare food. They love to talk about what they have bought and made. It’s a deeply natural love, but one that is erased in many other cultures.

Learn from mothers

Most French women learn it from their mothers, some from their fathers. But if your parents aren't French, you can still learn it yourself.”

She says that you should go to the market two to three times a week and buy only what you need. This way you can bring your own lunch, and make your own dinner. She says that in no time, you will find yourself doing it automatically.

The Wolfville market makes me appreciate food on a whole other level that allows me to resist 88-cent honeydew melons from Taiwan.

Guiliano also writes that French women don't like sports or the gym. Instead, it is part of their culture to walk everywhere. She is convinced that walking a few blocks here and there or climbing the stairs will do wonders. All too often, she suggests that in our culture the props of fitness stand in for results.

This author talks about the importance of good bread, not Wonder bread. She recommends wine with well-prepared food that is savored. While Guiliano claims to only be sharing slimming secrets that French women have known for years, I thought her 'ultimate non-diet book' and personal recipes were not only sensible, but timely.

Organizations: Globe & Mail

Geographic location: Paris, US, Wolfville Taiwan

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