French Diet Secret: Eat Well but Stay Active

French women may have the answer on how to enjoy food without wrecking your waistline

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

When you're being "good," do you settle for cardboard cookies, head for the gym five times a week, and think food is a four-letter word? Eat your heart out, because across the Atlantic French women enjoy rich pastries, loathe exercise, and think food is one of life's greatest pleasures. And they don't get fat.

The good news is that their secret is out, thanks to the best-selling book, French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Mireille Guiliano. There's no counting carbs or calories or memorizing the glycemic index. Losing weight boils down to a few simple principles very similar to those in another popular book, The Martini Diet: The Self-Indulgent Way to a Thinner, More Fabulous You!, by California native Jennifer Sanders.

"These books aren't intended to be diets per se," says Cindy Moore, MS, RD, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. She adds that in some ways they are consistent with the USDA 2005 Dietary Guidelines. "They're about making small changes for life. They're not a quick fix but more about changing your outlook on life, your perspective on food, and being active in ways that you enjoy. If you'll take the time to appreciate food with all of your senses, you won't need to have a lot of it."

And although the authors don't advocate counting calories, Moore says, "The bottom-line message of these books is to consume fewer calories and burn more."