Why French Women Never Get Fat...

  • #1

    Fact: only 9% of French women are obese compared to 23% of Brits and a shocking 31% of American women. Ever wondered why this might be? Cheese, bread, wine, pastries…these are all things we associate with the French, but surely they’re not the secret to that slim figure we all envy?


    Mireille Guiliano’s book "French Women Don't Get Fat" explores the approach French women take towards food, exercise and general healthy living. In my office, here at Ulule in Paris, I work with a waiflike young French lady who seems to eat whatever she likes and is bursting with energy all day long. Sound impossible? Here are a few points I have picked up from Guiliano’s book, and from my experiences living in Paris thus far.

    Crash diets are not the way forward

    French women don’t seem to interest themselves in losing weight the fast way. Everyone knows that diets only lead to temporary weight loss, and in all probability will result in further weight gain when the cravings return in even stronger form. Instead…

    Savour every morsel

    Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, so why not enjoy it? While Americans and Brits have a tendency to bolt down food before they have time to realise they’re uncomfortably full, the French live up to their reputation, deriving pleasure from every mouthful. Paying full attention to what you are eating will help you to consume less and enjoy more.

    Stick to 3 meals a day

    Instead of mindlessly eating for the sake of eating, make mealtimes a special part of the day. This way, you will really look forward to your food, and it’s easier to control the amount you eat. It would be hard to find an office in America or England where biscuits, chocolate bars, crisps and the like are not handed round throughout the day, and consumed for ‘energy’ purposes or to ease boredom. This is simply not done in France! Unhealthy snacking is an incredibly easy way to pile on the pounds, so be French and choose quality over quantity; three balanced, healthy meals a day will keep you satisfied and wave goodbye to the unwanted pounds.


    Cuisses de grenouilles...mmm (???)

    Stay active all day long

    And I don’t mean spending hours on end in the gym. In fact, really going for it at the gym can actually lead to weight gain; exhausted, you feel you need to replenish your energy with food and, having burnt off all those calories, deserve a snack or two, right? French women take a more moderate, and frankly more effective, approach to exercise. They prefer the gentler, more regular forms of all-day movement: the (very) frequent trips back and forth to make coffee, walking a couple of blocks to a café instead of being stuck in the office all day with a packed lunch…it may not seem like much, but there is one key difference: they are energetic, not lazy. The point is to be as active for as many moments of the day as possible. Reap the benefits without the effort.

    So, to sum up, the secret is to really enjoy your food; by favouring quality over quantity you are not only adopting a healthier lifestyle, but happier one.

     Posted on 13 October 2010 at 16 h 49 (6 years, 7 months ago)
     Updated on 13 October 2010 at 19 h 44

  • #2

    I definitely agree - we English always rush our food whilst the French take their time and enjoy the social aspect of a meal. I will make a more conscious effort to take my time and enjoy.

     Posted on 29 October 2010 at 20 h 16 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #3

    I do think this is true but also English people are becoming more aware of the bad side effects that come with packed lunches, chocolate bars, crisps, coke, lemonade etc and are starting to make more time for food in their lives. However it is hard for example as the French make time for lunch while in England work continues. Also another aspect which is bad to the English diet is how much alcohol we consume...

     Posted on 03 November 2010 at 10 h 30 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #4

    I guess I understand why you rush on the food if it's as good as scones with rapsberry jam... Yum yum!

     Posted on 03 November 2010 at 10 h 43 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #5

    Let me assure you Stella, French are also very keen on the alcohol consumption. ;)

     Posted on 03 November 2010 at 10 h 45 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #6

    So true Stella! The French are so civilised with their drinking whereas once I've had 1 glass of wine it just turns into 2, 3, know how it is :s

    And as for lunch, people in England should definitely try to take an hour out to have a proper lunch as it is so revitalising and keeps you going the whole day - probably more work-efficient in the long run!

     Posted on 03 November 2010 at 10 h 54 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #7

    This is totally true miss rebecca sims ! I drink a lot of tea and coffee (and yop) and I just don't understand this noon abomination of simply having a sandwish. Whenever it happens I get depressed :) and I also wish I could eat my good food with fingers, wich makes it even more tasty !

    I guess it's important to take time to be lazy too, to do nothing at all, to hang around in streets, see the shops, feeling your body relax, having a chat with people...

    Trust in you and the rest will follow :) et je suis désolée pour mon anglais approximatif mais je tenais à te dire que pour l'alcool, la règle précédente ne s'applique pas forcément ! :D

     Posted on 04 November 2010 at 11 h 35 (6 years, 6 months ago)
     Updated on 04 November 2010 at 11 h 36

  • #8

    I NEVER have more than one glass of wine - this is how I keep my slim figure!

     Posted on 04 November 2010 at 20 h 37 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #9

    Thanks for the advice Rebecca! Always good to have a French perspective ;)

    Well although the French might drink more frequently (seemingly with every meal...) I think the English have a greater tendancy to binge-drink and get more out of control. I found this interesting (and shocking) article on binge-drinking in England - apparently 'one in 10 people on a night out plan to binge-drink' !

    And John, that's because you always empty your 2nd glass of red wine onto the carpet...;)

     Posted on 05 November 2010 at 16 h 30 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #10

    This has made me want to read the book! Or maybe just spend some time in France to soak up the culture and hopefully lose some weight in the process...

     Posted on 05 November 2010 at 22 h 17 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #11

    Really loved this article. Am going to take a few tips and try to get slim like the French women, I don't remember seeing any of the Parissien Ladies with muffin tops last time I was there. Keep up the good work.

     Posted on 12 November 2010 at 16 h 40 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #12

    This is all so true. I definitely think that the main reason French women all have such good figures is that they only eat at meal times- snacking just doesn't exist in France!

     Posted on 13 November 2010 at 10 h 06 (6 years, 6 months ago)

  • #13

    Wow, definitely never knew that...that snacks are so rare in france. interesting tidbit of information. and i have to say its REFRESHING to see an atricle about health/weight management thats NOT just like all of the other ones. " healthy..." This article has practical facts and interesting ways to attain a weight goal. very unique approach to this over-exploited subject. i love it!

     Posted on 25 December 2010 at 01 h 20 (6 years, 5 months ago)

  • #14

    Glad you find it useful Tiffany ;) Got any tips yourself?

     Posted on 06 January 2011 at 09 h 46 (6 years, 4 months ago)

  • #15

    Theres something to be said for eating several times a day...  

    People who eat lots of times a day (no matter what you eat), eat smaller portions (becasue that not that hungry) and the body is constantly burning that food. thats the real working of all this Jenny Craig and other diet programs, the reason they work is they send you so much food and your forced to eat it every 2 hours, its not the food, its the frequency. 

    ...and probrably dont eat KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), and wine is great in moderation.

    ohh yeah, I lost 150lbs (gastric by-pass surgery), and I dont recommend surgery, it almost killed me, change your rutine, eat more often!!

    best regards,

     Posted on 14 April 2011 at 02 h 15 (6 years, 1 month ago)

  • #16

    Thanks for the tips Maurice, I've heard that too - eating little and often speeds up your metabolism :)

    Wow, that sounds awful about your surgery, but serves as a warning for others to adopt a healthy lifestyle!

     Posted on 14 April 2011 at 12 h 23 (6 years, 1 month ago)

  • #17

    Another secret of Fernch people concerning food : when you eat good products, you tend to have a more reasonable relationship to food. Wouldn't you say ?

     Posted on 24 May 2011 at 10 h 55 (6 years ago)

  • #18

    This is so true! I have noticed the French are more fussy about quality products and just generally good food, so maybe they can get more pleasure out of small amounts of good food, rather than having to eat lots of rubbish food.

    And let's not forget the fact that quality food costs more, so you can only buy so much of it :D

     Posted on 27 May 2011 at 16 h 06 (5 years, 12 months ago)

  • #19

    I only got fat after moving to France.

    Then again, I'm not a woman so perhaps that's why...

     Posted on 05 June 2011 at 20 h 13 (5 years, 11 months ago)

  • #20

    Um, when's the last time anyone had a proper look around France? There are LOADS of fat people. Did you know McDonald's 2nd most profitable country (after USA) is France? The tyrrany of body fascism is alive and well in France- take a look in any pharmacy, where anti-cellulite creams/pills, weight loss shakes, hotchpotch herbal teas etc are sold hand over fist to a desperate and  gullible female public. I don't think France's way of having a "relatively" slim female population is achieved through any other means except by low level  bullying and making women feel bad about themselves.

     Posted on 13 June 2011 at 20 h 30 (5 years, 11 months ago)

  • #21


     Posted on 20 June 2011 at 09 h 45 (5 years, 11 months ago)


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