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

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."

'Diet' Is a Four-Letter Word

Guiliano, who is CEO of Clicquot, Inc., says that one reason French women don't get fat is that their sensible approach to eating comes naturally. It's part of their culture.

Adopting their way of thinking and eating will take about three months before becoming second nature. Start by keeping a food diary for three weeks. Record why you want to lose weight, why you've gained weight, and a food inventory so you can identify problem foods that you could cut back on or eliminate. Culprits in the American diet typically include potato chips, bagels, pasta, pizza, fried foods, juices, beer, hard liquor, candy bars, ice cream, soda, and "junky" chocolate.

At this point her approach begins to sound like a diet. For two days, you will eat nothing but leek soup. Hang in. It gets better.

Become a Food Snob

Guiliano advocates choosing a variety of high-quality foods, buying produce in season, and avoiding most prepared foods, especially processed foods. She says that French women know their way around a market and shop several times a week, buying only what they need for the next day or two. They tend to eat more fish than vegetables, more vegetables than fruit, and yogurt twice a day.

Sanders tells WebMD it's important to have a guiding philosophy about food. "If you're not paying attention, it's easy to pack on pounds unconsciously." Her philosophy is expressed in three rules: "Eat only the very best. Eat somewhat less of the very best. Eat the very best only at mealtimes."

"Become a food snob," she says. Drinking soda is childish. Real grown-ups don't walk around slurping sugary coffee or even water from paper cups. And in spite of calling her book The Martini Diet, she warns that real adults don't binge on alcohol. She lists foods to avoid, such as huge, commercially baked muffins, anything that comes in a package of 12 or 24, and foods with silly names, like Tater Tots and Pop Tarts.

Instead, indulge in fresh, chemical-free foods and foods with adult-sounding names, like Veal Oscar and Crepes Suzettes. "Anytime you deny yourself, you'll jump face-first into it," she says.

Moore agrees that it's important to allow yourself to eat foods you enjoy. "Sometimes people get into the mindset when they're being 'good' or dieting that mediocre taste is all they're entitled to. Deprivation doesn't work."

You've heard it before: Ditch the mega-sized bags of M&Ms, and enjoy a single bite of expensive chocolate. The French woman's secret to indulging is feeling satisfied with tiny portions. It's a phenomenon that Moore, who is director of Nutrition Therapy at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, calls "taste fatigue." "After a couple of bites, your enjoyment is diminished with each bite."

"The French don't look on it as a little portion, but as a treat."

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