If there’s any book that went flying off the shelves faster than “The Da Vinci Code” it was “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” The book explains the so-called “French paradox” — the ability of the French to eat seemingly rich food without getting a case of les grands buttocks.
I could summarize the book by renaming it “101 Ways to Lose Weight Painlessly.” I could, except that it would remind me that was going to be the name of the book *I* had planned to write along the same lines, if Mme Guiliano hadn’t beaten me to it. Oh, but for a little more writing time first thing in the morning…
The book could also be summarized with titles like “Non, Je Ne Veux Pas Fries With That” or “Everything Avec Le Moderation.” However, there are two reasons why it shouldn’t be: 1) To condense the book into a short phrase defeats the purpose, which is to get you to take a more holistic approach to life and eating and 2) The French grammar police would have to arrest me for language abuse.
Personally I always thought that the answer to the French paradox — and indeed other supposedly inexplicable phenomenon like the Mediterranean diet — was fairly obvious. There’s a reason why the French celebrate “joie de vivre” and not “joie de Super Big Gulp.” They, and a lot of other Europeans, try go to for quality over quantity. There’s no French translation for “supersize me,” and if there were, it would probably be fairly literal — and quite telling — like “donne moi les twenty extra pounds sur ma patoot.”
However, given the, er, increasing rates of obesity in North America, the answer apparently wasn’t so obvious. The book has arrived just in time to address that issue, and to provide hope for the no/low carb dieters who are about to fall off the wagon.
Yes, I am predicting that fad is about to end. This is because 1) There’s only so long a rational, right-thinking human being can hold out against the temptation of good garlic bread and 2) Bakers across the land are joining forces to launch a particularly underhanded advertising campaign that will include muffin-scented inserts in popular magazines.
Take heart though: Guiliano offered plenty of practical, easy-to-follow advice, some of which you’ll have heard elsewhere, such as: drink more water, and walk more often. What you haven’t heard is: don’t avoid chocolate altogether, just the cheap, low-quality stuff. Or how about: gyms are more like punishment, disdain them in favour of more physical activity in your life, like sex. You can see why this book has been popular, can’t you?
Some of her advice isn’t practical here in North America — not yet, anyway. For example, she suggests going to the market on a daily basis, and only eating produce that’s in season. I don’t know about you, but with a family to raise and a full-time job, I don’t think I could fit in daily trips to the market. And I live in Canada, where the growing season is approximately 15 minutes long. I couldn’t face a whole winter without at least one green veggie.
But just imagine the profound changes in the economy if the advice in this book was adopted! The market for those made-by-the-millions plasticky cupcakes would dry up, and darnit, wouldn’t freshly made pastries like Napoleon squares and eclairs have to take their place? Gone would be the drinks made with “2% real juice!” and something, a decent chardonnay perhaps, would be required to take up the shelf space. The spice section of your grocery store might finally offer something other than the standard salt, pepper, oregano, and mustard powder.
Women’s magazines would find that they’d actually have to produce editorial copy about important issues, instead of breathless coverage of the latest diet trend. Streets would no longer be littered with extra large coffee and soda cups.
Life would be good. Life would be “A Year in Provence,” well, all year round.
Now if only we could get Mme. Guiliano to write a book called “French Women Don’t Watch TV” in time to prevent a horrible new reality show.