French Women Don't Get Fat Plan
An eating plan that promises to change the way you live, this diet is all about changing your approach to food. If you love French food, this may be a tempting choice.
By Krisha McCoy, MS | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
A self-proclaimed "non-diet book," French Women Don't Get Fat is a popular eating plan designed by Mireille Guiliano, a French woman who gained weight after visiting America as an exchange student. In her book, Guiliano attempts to share how French women tend to stay thin despite sampling lavish food and wine.
"French Women Don't Get Fat is teaching a way of life, trying to bring awareness to what you are eating, trying to teach you to slow down," says Audrey Young, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian in Newton, Mass.
How French Women Don't Get Fat Works
The idea of the book’s eating plan is to abandon the guilt and deprivation that many dieting Americans feel and instead eat smaller portion sizes with more awareness and appreciation of what you are putting into your body. As an example, if you overindulge at a meal early in the day, you would lighten up on what you eat at later meals, explains Young.
Guiliano's plan begins with a semi-fast during which you eat primarily leek soup. Then you learn to slow down and eat for pleasure, keeping a food journal to visually track what you eat. Young says that the French Women Don't Get Fat plan is centered around eating fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, olive oil, and an occasional treat. For exercise, Guiliano favors walking and weight training over sweating it out on cardio equipment at the gym.
To give you an idea of the type of foods you will be eating on the French Women Don't Get Fat plan, one of the recipes in Guiliano's book is Halibut en Papillote, a simple yet elegant dish of fish baked in olive oil, Champagne, herbs, and lemon.
French Women Don't Get Fat: the Pros
The advantages of the French Women Don't Get Fat plan include:
- Emphasizing slow, mindful eating. Young says that the French Women Don't Get Fat principles of slowing down and learning to appreciate food can serve as a valuable lesson. "Americans need more awareness," she says. "People eat really just to eat and they don't eat for pleasure, which is something French Women Don't Get Fat encourages."
- Keeping a food journal. Young also likes the fact that the eating plan encourages a food log: "If you have that food record going, you can stay on track, no matter what bumps in the road you hit."
- Encouraging breakfast. Young agrees with the book’s recommendation of eating breakfast, since many Americans do not get the fuel they need in the morning.
The disadvantages of the French Women Don't Get Fat plan include:
- The leek soup fast. Young says that the leek soup fast included in the eating plan is unnecessary. While fasting can result in quick weight loss (although it is mostly water), it is rare to keep this weight off over the long term. And there is no science behind the notion that leeks act as a diuretic and cause weight loss.
- Possible difficulty adopting a foreign lifestyle. “They just have such different lifestyles; we can’t really copy [their] lifestyles here," says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and author of Diet Simple: 192 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations.
Overall, the French Women Don't Get Fat plan can help you by encouraging a new way of living, one in which you learn to enjoy foods more, but as with any diet, you need to be realistic about how well you will stick with it for it to be beneficial in the long term.