There are certain countries in the world that have very high rates of people that are either overweight or obese. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pacific Island countries have been known for their high obesity rates (especially over the past couple of decades), but that doesn’t seem to be a big problem in many parts of Europe. According to studies, France isn’t even close to the top 100 of obesity rates, and it’s especially true for women.
The most recent global study in 2010 showed that 26 percent of women were considered overweight in France, which is much lower than countries surrounding France. It seems to be a trend that people have tried to get to the source of, which led to a book called “French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure”. The book was released in 2007 by Mireille Guiliano, and it has since served as a guide for eating like a French woman to drop weight. Let’s take a look at the aspects of the French Women Diet to see if eating like you were under the Eiffel Tower can help you lose weight.
Behind the French Women Diet
Guiliano had been slender for much of her life before she came to the United States to study as an exchange student. Guiliano gained a significant amount of weight while stateside and wondered why it was that women in France were naturally slim despite drinking wine and eating bread constantly. She called this the “French Paradox” and was able to slim back down after getting accustomed to the French lifestyle once again.
Guiliano promises that while on the French Women Diet, you will still get to indulge on foods that you love without gaining weight. This is done throughout four phases where you will assess what you’re eating and work on fixing your habits. Here are the four phases of the diet:
Phase One – The first phase is what’s known as the Wake-Up Call, which lasts for three weeks. During this time, you will write down a journal of all of the foods that you are eating without changing anything. It’s an easy lead in to the diet, and more of an assessment. If you haven’t lost weight beforehand, then don’t expect to lose any during this process.
Phase Two – After the three weeks is up, you will then get in the three month process that is known as Recasting. You have to look back at what you were eating during phase one and figure out which foods you are eating that can lead to weight gain. Guiliano promises that you won’t have to get into a routine of hardcore exercise or eating the same things everyday, instead focusing on portion control and gastronomy. You’ll be learning to control how much you’re eating more than what you’re eating, though you’ll be cutting out a lot of junk.
Phase Three – After you’ve established some new eating habits, you enter the third phase that’s known as Stabilization. Though it takes up to three months, you should start this process once you’ve gotten halfway to your weight loss goal. Though the details are a bit foggy about the phase, Guiliano says that you’ll be able to lose weight faster during this phase while eating more of the indulgent foods that you had given up in the previous phase. This phase will last until you’ve reached your goal weight.
Phase Four – Now that you have trimmed down to your goal weight, you enter the final phase that lasts, well, forever. This is called the Rest of Your Life phase where you change some minor details of your diet to make sure that you don’t regain any of the weight. By this point, your eating habits should have changed and the portions that you are smaller, though you still get to drink wine and eat chocolate while also eating a larger variety of food.
What’s on the Menu?
Once you have finished your three week assessment of what you’re eating, it’s time to get cracking, and you get tossed into the fire right away. For the first 48 hours of your weight loss program, you’re not going to be eating much and will be drinking glass after glass of water. The only thing that you get to eat for these first two days is leek soup. Get used to this soup, as it will be a common staple on the diet.
For an entire batch of this “magic” soup that will last the entire 48 hours, you’ll need two pounds of leeks and enough water to fill up a large pot. You just clean the leeks, put them into the pot of water and boil them for about 30 minutes. If you want something that has a bit more taste, you can also try the Mimosa Soup, which consists of lettuce, carrots, celery, turnips, cauliflower, eggs, parsley and…leeks.
If you have made it through the first 48 hours with your sanity, then it’s time to start re-introducing solid foods to your diet. The main focus is increasing whole foods like fruit and vegetables, and the staple of meat on your diet will come from fish. There’s also quite a bit of yogurt, and you are allowed to drink wine and champagne, but no beer or liquor. Let’s see what an example menu looks like while on the French Women Diet (after the first 48 hours, of course):
Breakfast – Yogurt, buttered toast and nectarines
Lunch – Tuna sandwich with peanut butter and apples
Dinner – Red beans and rice
Snacks – Pineapple and one chocolate chip cookie
Breakfast – Cold, dry cereal with strawberries and yogurt
Lunch – Salad with asparagus, vinaigrette and cherries
Dinner – Roasted cod with seasoning
Snacks – Small portion of dark chocolate
Breakfast – Light French toast with apple slices
Lunch – Turkey sandwich, coleslaw and baked beans
Dinner – Pea soup with grilled lamb and rhubarb
Snacks – Chickpeas and a small slice of chocolate cake
Exercise and Resources
The diet itself is rather simple to stick to as you will be eating a lot of the foods that you love, but in much smaller portions. Not only is it portion control that cuts calories, but you’ll also be staying away from a lot of sugar (outside of fruits) and processed foods. To increase the amount of weight that you lose, you’ll also have to incorporate exercise into your plan, which is a staple of the French Women Diet.
Guiliano says that you can do whatever type of exercise that you want, just make sure that you’re moving everyday. The suggestion here is that you don’t get into a boring routine like you would at the gym, avoiding workouts like jogging and yoga as it can get repetitive. Guiliano also suggests that the type of exercises you do are ones that you don’t have to get dressed up to sweat for. Tennis and swimming are the two exercises that Guiliano says French women love.
What you should avoid doing on the diet (according to Guiliano) is working out too much. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t lose weight despite working out often is that they tend to overeat after hardcore exercise. Burning off too many calories can leave you very hungry, leading to an overindulgence.
As for the resources available for the French Women Diet, you can get pretty much any question you have answered through Guiliano’s official website. There is also an online forum that you can join for free to speak with other people on the diet. The most information that you’ll get, though, will come from the books that Guiliano has written. Obviously, these are going to be added costs, but aren’t absolutely necessary and only cost around $10 each.
Summing it Up
Though it would be nice if there were more of a focus on eating the whole foods that are the healthiest for you, the French Women Diet does teach some good habits. Learning to control your portions without being a slave to calorie counting and the gym is a decent touch, and the plan overall will help you lose weight. It also gets good marks because it’s not a short term fad diet that promises the ability to drop dozens of pounds in just a month or two.
Instead, it focuses on the long term and sets you up with an eating and exercise habit for life that you can actually get accustomed to. It’s not exactly a “diet” like some of the others that we have reviewed on the list, but this is a solid all around guide to eating. Whether you end up looking like a French woman depends on how much work you put into it, but you should be able to get through the plan just fine while learning about how you’re supposed to eat.