French Diet Secret: Enjoy Food but Stay Active (cont.)

Another strategy for managing a food nemesis is to gradually cut back portion sizes, says Guiliano. In this way you can trick your body into being satisfied with less.

Savor Food

"Indulgence" in the U.S. has come to mean supersized meals available on every corner and all-you-can-eat buffets. To the authors of indulgent diet books, it's about bringing all the senses to the experience of eating. It means eating three meals a day and not dining while watching television, reading, or driving a car. French women spend time shopping for food, preparing it, and eating.

Moore believes there's still a place for fast-food restaurants. "Many are modifying their options to include small green salads, apple slices, and baby carrots. And in an urban environment, they may be the safest places for children to play. You don't have to order a supersized meal. If you enjoy a Whopper, get a Whopper Jr. without french fries. Listen to the cues your body sends. Become more appreciative of what you're doing instead of taking it for granted."

Exercise Still on the French Menu

French women don't like exercise or gyms, says Guiliano, but they walk everywhere. She recognizes that this aspect of French culture might be hard for American women to emulate. She also recommends stair climbing and sit-ups.

Sanders, whose book was published months before Guiliano's, admits to having "Paris-envy" because the French lifestyle is so conducive to walking. Rather than driving up to the supermarket door, the French woman walks to the bakery shop, walks to another shop for produce, walks to the butcher's, etc.

She personally likes indulgent exercise that makes her look good and requires a great wardrobe. Horseback riding or swimming or dancing are examples. Even walking can be indulgent if it's on a beach in Hawaii, and walking to get somewhere, as French women do, feels urbane and glamorous.

Use the Zipper Test, Not the Scale

The authors advocate getting rid of the scale and paying attention to what your zipper is telling you. Moore tells WebMD this is a sensible approach because becoming more physically active adds muscle, which weighs more than fat.

"I think the message of these books is that you only go around once, so savor the small things that make life enjoyable," she says. "That doesn't have to mean overindulging. It means being selective about what you choose to enjoy."

Published March 7, 2005.

SOURCES: Cindy Moore, MS, RD, director, Nutrition Therapy at Cleveland Clinic Foundation; spokeswoman, American Dietetic Association. Jennifer Sanders, author, The Martini Diet: The Self-Indulgent Way to a Thinner, More Fabulous You!. Mireille Guiliano, author, French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure.

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