Growing up in New Zealand during the 2000s, you got 3 foreign language choices in high school: Maori, Japanese, and French.
I remember picking French because it was the closest to English.
Thus, I assumed it would be the easiest. Plus, I started learning French at age 12 in intermediate school (middle school for the Americans), so I already had a leg up in that I knew that a chair (
As I learned more about the French language, culture, and history, I become one of those insufferable Francophiles.
You know, the kind who listens to French
It was no surprise that when the book French Women Don’t Get Fat hit the shelves and shot to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List I picked up a copy.
The book felt electrifying
French Women Don’t Get Fat was minimalism before minimalists were cool.
It was anti-diet and radical.
The author, Mireille Guiliano, advocates bread, pasta, and chocolate as part of a slim and happy life.
She started a movement that spawned thousands of copycats and riffs. Books including The Fat Fallacy: The French Diet Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss, Chic & Slim: How Those Chic French Women Eat All That Rich Food And Still Stay Slim, Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat, and even books like French Women Don’t Sleep Alone were published following her lead. Countless blogs also launched to teach you the
Considering the book’s impact on my life, I thought it would be fitting to write an ode to Mireille and her ideas in French Women Don’t Get Fat to celebrate my 100th post on Garlic Delight.
As a teen, I gobbled up every word
I hunted down leeks at Pak ‘N Save (my local grocery store in Royal Oaks) and cleaned them just like she instructed in the Magical Leek Soup recipe. I savored the leek soup all weekend and pretended to enjoy the taste even though, secretly, it smelled to me like sweet fart water.
I made yogurt from scratch with my parents’ oven turned on low overnight. I tried to strain it to make Greek yogurt, which was hard to find in New Zealand grocery stores back then.
I read Mireille’s book cover to cover more times than I remember
The food diary was an eye-opening experience.
Did I really eat all those Cadbury eggs on auto-pilot? Was I really buying all those lamingtons after school? Did I really eat chips that frequently?
A food diary is like a budget for Financial Independence (FI) people.
The first time we write down what we’re eating and spending is the first moment of awakening. It leads to life-altering questions like:
Would this bite make you happier?
Are you eating because you’re hungry or because you’re dehydrated?
Are you eating (or buying junk) because you’re unhappy or stressed?
How can you eat (or spend) for happiness?
Tweaking your mindset
More important than the weight loss, Mireille’s was one of the first books I read on how to train your mind. She explained:
Could it be Nature alone? Could the slow wheel of evolution have had time enough to create a discrete gene pool of slender women? J’enMireille Guiliano from French Women Don’t Get Fat
doute. No, French women have a system, their trucs – a collection of well-honed tricks.
She provided a collection of tricks that French women use to train their mind.
- Why less is more (when you choose higher quality)
- Why savoring is the path to winning
- Why temptations are a false choice
- Why eating seasonally is the foundation of a healthy diet
- Why breathing is a key part of keeping the kilos (or pounds) off
While the book wasn’t a treatise on Zen Buddhist philosophy, there were many elements you’d recognize from today’s most popular mindfulness and meditation books.
The book worked wonders for me at that time. It introduced a world of firsts, including exotic ingredients (snails?), home cooking, and farmers markets.
Alas, I still got fat in America
Despite all my learnings from Mireille, the Freshman 15 managed to grasp onto my waistline. And eventually, it bloomed into a Graduate 30 pounds and more (after a while, I stopped counting
I tried working all the strategies from every angle.
I repeated the food diary and the Magical Leek Soup with religious fervor.
I met her in Los Angeles at a Barnes and Noble.
She was on a book tour promoting her cookbook. I got her to sign all my books authored by her.
I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe I secretly hoped that meeting in the flesh would pass on some secret French women essence that would magically shed the pounds for me.
Heck, I even emailed her for advice, and in true French women style, she gave me a hard slap of no-nonsense wisdom:
Sad to hear that you’ve gained weight…been there done that but you’ve reached the limit (after that it becomes more difficult to shed and yoyo diets seem to go on through life) so take action NOW.
I remember being in NZ in the summer months so you have no good excuse but get started. You don’t need a brain mri to determine the kind of eater you are …a mix of emotional and stressful…if you can’t do the leeks no problems but you should do a day of no school with a soup day to detox…good veggies soups are easy to make (see my recent 3 ingredient soup) or you can buy good ones. The try to apply the 3 meals and eat at the table ie sitting/chewing and 20 mn and not multitasking and mix it with exercice…try to do a 20 minute walk when you get up (before you eat is best as you’ll burn the extra fat as opposed to using the food you just ate) and try to walk 10 minutes after lunch and dinner. If you can add biking, swimming or even 20 mn yoga or aerobics 3 times a week it would help. Learn simp[le breathing exercices to relax and unwind. The past is over, nothing you can do about it so move on.
Soon my FWDGF cookbook will be out (end of April) with a magical breakfast and a week that’s easy to shed 5 pounds with no effort…so start now and end with this and you’ll be fit again. You are too young to put so much weight on and face health issues later so take steps, small but consistent. Stop obsessing and make sure you don’t eat more that what you burn. Have a high protein breakfast…yogurt as a basis
I hope this helps. Bonne chance. You did it so you can do it again learning to make it a lifestyle change rather than just losing weight.
But none of it helped.
Because the American weight gain was never about the food.
It was always about the food
Food was the sacrificial scapegoat masking the tumultuous emotions underneath. Much easier to focus on the diet and exercise than to address the impossible-to-unravel pain that was the actual root cause of the weight gain.
And Mireille doesn’t help with that. No diet or exercise plan can.
So, are we doomed?
As I write this article, I’m in the best shape of my life, in terms of weight and body composition. I don’t ever weigh myself unless I’m at the doctor’s office, and amazingly the needle is always within a 5-pound range.
Honestly, I rarely think about dieting or losing weight.
And I’m not saying this to brag. If my 22-year-old self saw me fit into my skinny jeans and how little I stress about this stuff now, she’d faint thinking we were in an alternate universe.
A lot happened to get from my Freshman 15 to Graduate 30+ to the stability, strength, and health I enjoy today. And the price was high, so high it almost cost everything. But I
And now that I’m back to stability, all of Mireille’s tips and tricks work again.
They work even though I’ve long given up on the Magical Leek Soup. I’m too old to fake enjoy that stench of old boiled onion broth.
Ultimately, it’s all good news for you.
My goal is to help you get to the other side without paying the high price that I paid.
Since I’m not a chic French woman with a sleek haircut (sporting more of the frazzled-overworked-overwhelmed-urban-Millennial-struggling-with-“adulting” look here), means you can achieve it too!
You don’t even have to like French people to make it work, as I have discovered in the last few years (how I turned from Francophile to Francophobe is a story for another day).
So, even though Mireille Guiliano has no idea who I am, I can thank her for some of the most profound changes in my life. And on this particular 100th blog post, I hope for nothing less than to “pay it forward” to you.