French Diet & American Women

with Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD and Mireille Guiliano

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript

Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, says that French women don't get fat, but they do eat bread and pastry, drink wine, and regularly enjoy three-course meals. Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, chats with Guiliano to unlock the secrets of this "French paradox" -- how to enjoy food and stay slim and healthy. They joined us on March 10 for a conversation, and to answer your questions.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR: Kathleen Zelman, director of nutrition for WebMD, is interviewing our guest, Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure for WebMD Live. Welcome ladies, let's begin.

ZELMAN: In a nutshell why is it that French women don't get fat?

GUILIANO: Because they've learned to eat with their head and they fool themselves.

ZELMAN: What are they fooling themselves about?

GUILIANO: First they eat with pleasure, using all their senses. They also eat sitting down, which is very important, because if you eat standing up, in front of the TV or multitasking, you tend to overeat and want more. You eat on some kind of autopilot and you don't enjoy what you're eating.

ZELMAN: How can we learn how to eat with our senses?

GUILIANO: By making some choices and taking a few meals to start with where you sit down and do nothing but eat. Pay attention to the color and presentation, the portions, the chewing and the eating slowly and you're going to notice you get satisfied much faster and you will eat less.

ZELMAN: What is wrong with the American diet?

GUILIANO: It's first that your relationship with food is different than ours. We eat for pleasure; you eat feeling guilty, feeling food is sinful and following diets that are all about deprivation. Your eating is about one-size fits all, do this, don't do that, eat this, and don't eat that. That doesn't work, it's very stressful and we already have a stressful life.

Obviously if diets worked, everybody would be thin. People eat fast food, a lot of food with preservatives and coloring -- artificial; what I call poison food. My book is a lifestyle book that says: okay, do your little diary or journal and try to pick a few things from my hundreds of tips and apply them to your life. Apply the ones that are easy to do to begin with.

ZELMAN: I totally agree that diets don't work. But another facet of our lifestyles is that we also eat very large portions which certainly add to our weight problems.

GUILIANO: One of the things I'm saying is, that as a rule, we all eat 10% to 40% more than what we need. Unlike diets, I'm not saying eliminate bread or pasta or pizza or ice cream. No, you can have any quality food, but learn to decrease it slowly. If you're eating a pint of ice cream twice a week, learn to eat half of that and then keep decreasing.

If you eat slowly, sit down, and take 20 minutes to eat, you will not need those large amounts. I am getting lots of feedback and email from my readers who say they cannot believe how easy it is and what a difference it makes to sit down for a meal and take time, not rush into it. What happens is that after a few bites you will be satisfied. So, reducing the portions is meant to be done slowly, because if you do it radically, like in many diets, your body will take revenge and you will binge. This way you're learning to change your relationship with food and to learn that less is more.

ZELMAN: I love the practical nature of your advice. The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic is a program from France where we advocate many of the same principles as are in your book. One thing that we advocate, that you do also, is to eat plenty of yogurt. Why is yogurt so important in the French diet?

GUILIANO: French people do not drink raw milk like Americans do. We get milk from custards, warm savory dishes, desserts, cheese and yogurt. Yogurt is one of the best snacks in the world, and for women it's important because it's high in calcium. It's a great breakfast, a wonderful snack, a great dessert, and you can even use it with all kinds of food, like the Greek, Latin and the Egyptian people do. French women eat one or two yogurts a day.

In terms of looking for your balance, let's say last night you had a big meal with friends or at a restaurant and you had a glass of champagne and bread. Eat dessert. The French enjoy it and don't agonize, but the next morning we are not going to have two croissants for breakfast. Yogurt is the perfect food.