“French women don’t get fat”

By John DiTraglia M.D. - Contributing Columnist

That’s the title of a book by Mireille Guiliano (2005 Alfred A Knopf, New York) that I found in the book box in front of my office the other day and after further remembering that it was a best seller all those years ago and since I was a French major in college I felt I had to check it out, contrary to the reality that I can’t expect to read and critique all the scads of diet and weight loss books that are published.

Madame Guiliano is the glamorous president and CEO of the Veuve Clicquot (Widow Clicquot) brand champagne company. She tells the story about how she was an exchange student in America in 1967 and gained 15 pounds and then after she got back to France following her bad new habits gained another 10 pounds. Her family was scandalized and consulted the family doctor nicknamed “Dr. Miracle,” who helped her regain her former French non-fat womanhood. So the overarching theme is that “it’s the culture stupid.”

To start out Dr. Miracle prescribed 48 hours of nothing but leek soup. I had to google leeks and they are big story for another day. After that it’s just the French joie de vivre.

The “French Paradox” is the conundrum where they eat really good food and, following the subtitle of this book, eat for pleasure and don’t get fat whereas the Americans get fat by eating while standing up whatever crappy food they can find that they never make themselves.

Culture is complicated and there is also a lot of psychological gobbledygook on offer here too but some interesting things that Mireille Guiliano points out include:

– The French have many food/eating traditions and rituals. They eat many courses and use many plates that they have to wash. A meal has many tastes instead of one taste in a big portion.

– They drink a lot of water. Guiliano seems to have a thing about drinking water and worrying about dehydration. The French also eat a lot of soup and drink wine (or champagne) often. She writes (p168), “Baudelaire said that if wine were to disappear there would be a void in human health and intelligence.” But she runs a champagne company.

– The French don’t add sugar to everything.

– They don’t eat bread before a meal unless it is the meal. They eat it along with whatever else.

– “Only the least and most experienced mushroom pickers seem to ever die of poisoning.”

– French women don’t subscribe to “no pain, no gain” and don’t exercise for punishment or atonement or out of obligation. They think it’s a waste of time and money and not fun.

– A 4-year-old laughs 500 times a day. An average adult laughs 15 times a day.

New French words and phrases that I learned:

– menu – means bill of fare but also “little.”

– de tout un peu et de peu pas beaucoup – a little of everything and not a lot of anything.

– il est interdit d’interdire – it’s forbidden to forbid

– fais preuve d’intelligence – use you head

– bouboum – overweight and dumpy

– goûter – afternoon snack

– coqueluche – darling

– trucs – things

– en cachette – in private

– je raffole de chocolat – I’m a chocoholic

– à bout de souffle – short of breath

– On badine pas avec l’amour – don’t fool around with love.


By John DiTraglia M.D.

Contributing Columnist

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper

John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone-354-6605.

This writer’s opinion is their own and not the opinion of this newspaper

John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone-354-6605.