No Wellness Wankery

85: Why French Women don't get fat: let's discuss

October 31, 2023 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
85: Why French Women don't get fat: let's discuss
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered why French women don't get fat, despite their love of good food? 

Well you aren't alone. There was even a whole book about it.

First published in 2004, "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano has been translated into 40 languages and sold over 3 million copies worldwide.

This book is all about the French's unique approach to eating, which combines a love for satiating full-fat meals, an appreciation for their culinary heritage, a love of cooking and an untainted enjoyment of what they eat.

Sound familiar? 

Focusing on satisfying foods? Cooking at home? Enjoying your food minus the guilt?

Is it possible to enjoy food without guilt and still maintain a healthy lifestyle?

This episode is more than just an exploration of French eating habits. It's another notch in our belt against diet culture, aiming for a healthier and more joyful relationship with food. 

So, are you ready to redefine your eating habits and fall in love with food all over again?

Once you've listened, you'll be inspired to start cooking at home more... so here are some FREE budget friendly recipes for you.

EDIT: No doubt 'Why French Women Don't Get Fat' is 100% a diet book. While eating satisfying foods is something I am a HUGE fan of, there certainly is a lot I don’t agree with in the book. I definitely don’t subscribe or endorse this book or pathetic diet leek soup (which tastes like watery onion nonething-ness).

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Jenna D'Apice:

Hello, this is the no Wellness Wankery podcast, my favorite place to come each week, and I hope you enjoy it too. We're basically just getting into the nuts and bolts of diet culture and how we can rid our lives of it one little day by day. My name is Jenna D'Apice If If you are new here, welcome and I am joined by lovely Lindy. Hello.

Lyndi Cohen:

Hello everyone. It's Lindy here, and today we're talking about a book that, oh my goodness, had a profound impact on so many of us. Did you ever read this book why French Women Don't Get Fat? It came out in 2007 and my mum bought me a copy. Did your mum give you a?

Jenna D'Apice:

copy, Jenna. No, my mum didn't give me a copy, which I'm so shocked about because I actually don't even think I knew of it as like a diet book.

Lyndi Cohen:

Oh yeah, it was kind of sold to us as not a diet book, but it absolutely wasn't.

Lyndi Cohen:

That's probably why I wasn't interested it was essentially the idea of telling us what is this kind of strange thing? The author of the book is Marielle Guiliano. I hope I haven't butchered that. She was a typical French girl of average weight and she went to America as an exchange student and she put on a bit of weight and then she asked the question why does this happen? And she started to look at the diets of her French natives and go, what are they doing and how can Americans are so obsessed with trying to weigh less and how come they are? The opposite is happening, and so the book kind of goes through these principles and I want to talk about it. We want to talk about it because it was kind of there was some interesting insights from it that I don't think are totally silly, and I want to explain why.

Jenna D'Apice:

When I feel like when you actually look into the book now through the lens, a lot of it is the French way of eating is about intuitive eating. It's they're eating to feel satisfied and they're eating variety and they're eating what they enjoy and then they move on with their lives. Like the book is about how French women eat bread, pastry, drink wine and regularly enjoy three course meals. And I'm not worried about dieting all the time.

Lyndi Cohen:

Yeah, they have butter on their croissant and it's delicious. And what she goes on to talk about is because they are not afraid of fat. They actually feel satisfied by these foods. So think about something like cheese. It is a very rich food and because if you're going for a low fat version, I remember when I was dieting I get those like low fat mousses which were like 60 calories of nothing, flavorless things that I would eat.

Jenna D'Apice:

Then you have 14 of them.

Lyndi Cohen:

I'd eat the whole six pack and still feel like eating other things because it was truly unsatisfying. A much smarter move would have been to have the full fat normal mousse that makes you feel satisfied after eating it, and so this is what the author was talking about this idea of going for that full, full fat, non diet option, and how satisfaction is really important when it comes to food, which is a principle I wholeheartedly agree, 100%, and I love how you hear of this concept of French gastronomy, like that's how they eat, and I didn't really know that much about it.

Jenna D'Apice:

And when I looked up the definition I was like this is incredible. It says gastronomy is the study of the relationship between food and culture, the art of preparing and serving rich or delicate and appetizing food, with different cooking styles for particular regions, and the science of good eating. So if you break that down to intuitive eating, it's they're enjoying cooking, they're making cooking a part of their life, they're preparing food, they're having in season food for different regions and it's like exactly really the way we should be eating.

Lyndi Cohen:

There's also the art of mealtime. So when I was 16, I did exchange to France this is even before the book came out. It was cool, yeah, and I spoke no French. Not very useful, anyway, while I didn't understand what anyone was saying, I was super curious about their eating habits and this art of gastronomy and what I noticed.

Lyndi Cohen:

Well, firstly, at my high school that I went to, I would just see that there was meals provided for all of the children, and so we'd go to the cafeteria the government paid for it and you would get a piece of fruit, a yogurt, a hot meal, a side salad, a drink and something sweet. And I remember looking down at this tray of food, thinking, whoa, how are they eating this much food? Firstly, I think they do think that lunch is a really important meal in In France. In fact, my French sister and not that I'm gonna, you know, save this is what you should do, but she was skipping breakfast my other French sister She'd always have breakfast. So it's just, you know, depends on they were very good, intuitive eaters, obviously, but the lunchtime meal was so dependable as the largest meal I get home to my French family they weren't really snacks, provided. There was no, like afternoon tea, and so I'd have to wait until dinner time, and the idea was eat your meal at lunch and make it a good one, make it a substantial one, so that you don't end up feeling so famished by the time you get home from school, and you know what it worked.

Lyndi Cohen:

There was also this art of being able to know that I'm sitting down at this meal. I'm a teenager, I'm not just, you know, playing in the playground and chatting to my friends. We're sitting at tables With this full Three-course meal in front of us, and there was the art of sitting down at a table, talking with friends and Appreciating and enjoying your food. I Think, though, what I really take away from this whole lunchtime experience is eating enough food during the day can help avoid you Rampaging the kitchen and the later stage we talk about. There's a lot on the podcast why you need to eat enough food during the day, and eat enough satisfying food, and it's really this is what I was gonna say eating foods that are satisfying.

Jenna D'Apice:

I feel like all lot of the foods in their diet are the foods that leave people really satisfied, like fat satisfies you and all of these foods and then they can eat the first thing and then move on and probably end up Consuming less food than if you eat Five diet products. And I'm not satisfied exactly.

Lyndi Cohen:

So you might think a paddle pop with 70 calories is the hill for your choice. But as we said, if you have to have four of those to feel satisfied, then that is not the hell. Be a choice.

Jenna D'Apice:

I was gonna also say that they eat a lot of bread in France, a food that a lot of people are scared of. But again, if you're having a big baggett sandwich for lunch with Proteins and fats and vegetables, you're probably gonna be very full for the to get you through until dinner.

Lyndi Cohen:

Yeah, it's a satisfying food. Now, when we have the satiation index, which is a ranking of how satisfying foods are, we find that things like potatoes and bread and pastas can be Incredibly satisfying. So once we're cutting those foods out of our diet, no wonder we are scavenging for the food that we're, you know, in the afternoon, looking for stuff because we haven't eaten enough satisfying food. One of the things that I think surprised me when I was in France is how you know my French mother. She made a Recollect and fashion I'm not sure is it a recollect, but I don't remember the name right now but it was potatoes cut very thinly to create like a galette, yeah, of cheese on top of multiple different cheeses, throughout cream, throughout it was. It was incredibly rich and Incredibly satisfying.

Lyndi Cohen:

And I remember the moment that she dished up how much I should eat on my plate and I looked down at this small portion size of this very rich food and I thought that's not enough, I need more, I need more. Remembering I was very deep in diet culture as a 16 year old, deeply with my eating disorder, was thriving. And here I was going oh, that's not enough food. And yet, as I started to eat it because it was rich and indulgent and I was getting better at intuitive eating. I felt actually I am satisfied, that was enough for me. That smaller portion size is what I needed. I think that is such a nice learning to be able to realize.

Jenna D'Apice:

And I think another thing correct me if I'm wrong with how French eat is they eat according to the season. So if that's more soups in winter and different foods when it's hot, and then you are getting in this winter period of time, you're probably eating a lot more vegetables and cause that's the things that are in season and soups, and then in other times of year where you are having big meals and it's summer and it all kind of balances out, you're not eating the same food every day.

Lyndi Cohen:

Exactly. It's constantly changing and evolving. I think historically this would have been more true of particular French provinces, because you wouldn't have had the huge access to all different types of produce. I think now that it's getting more globalized, perhaps the modern day French person probably has access to food all food, like we all do all the time but there's an idea of constantly changing what we eat is such an important one. Not only does it help you stay excited about eating food, because if you cook the same damn food every single week, it's incredibly boring. Also, it's not very cost effective because you're typically spending more money.

Lyndi Cohen:

Avocados are not in season all the time, and so naturally, varying what we're eating helps us eat more nutrient rich, because food that's in season is more nutritious and it's cheaper, and it's just a really smart way to help your gut microbiome constantly get a varied type of food and fuel to keep your gut feeling its best. That's really kind of an important thing. But they are very good at doing this and I think we could all be a lot better. It does tie into this idea of the fact that you actually do need to cook. I think the French do have this love of cooking. They hold it as part of what it means to be French is to cook and to love cooking and love food, and they're very passionate about the fact that they stand for food, I think that's it Cooking food and also enjoying the process, making it something you enjoy doing.

Jenna D'Apice:

So it's a part of your life. As we've said so many times, food is a part of your life. Whether you like it or not, it's not going anywhere. So cooking good food and enjoying food and making it social on the weekends to cook with friends and family is an exciting way to make food not a scary thing. Amen.

Lyndi Cohen:

And just to sum this all up, I think fundamentally, this book was talking about the fact that Americans and she just talks about America because that was her personal experience, I think all Western kind of countries probably can relate to this idea that dieting is the biggest predictor of weight gain. It is not whether or not you eat bread, whether or not you eat cheese, all these types of things that we think. Fundamentally, though, I think we know that dieting is wrong. She identified it. It leads us to have things like diet foods. It leads us to have to eat foods that are not satisfying and we need to be listening to our body, asking it are you actually hungry? Eating to satisfaction, emotional and physical, not avoiding foods, as this makes us feel crazy around them, and also finding the joy and the love of food. So, cooking at home, eating seasonally, varying what we eat and making it something that we can share with other people and not something we do by ourselves in front of our test.

Jenna D'Apice:

Yes or in secret Ha?

Lyndi Cohen:

ha, ha ha. Everyone, thank you for listening to today's episode. I hope that the French style of eating has given you a few ideas on something that might be useful for you. Thank you for listening to the podcast and we'll see you next week.

French Gastronomy and Intuitive Eating
Finding Joy and Love in Food