The recent “discovery” that French people are, sacrebleu, actually capable of getting fat if they happen to eat tons of fast food–combined with the hangover that crippled me for 24 hours after my brilliant and beautiful friend May’s wedding–prompted me to buy and read this book, which was lying out on a table in a used book store in Charleston. French Women Don’t Get Fat is still atop the bestseller lists (apparently #3 on the Times list of “hardcover advice books”) and the “French paradox” (in which French women eat cheese, wine and pastries and yet are not disgusting fat people) still crops up in the news with decent frequency. This book, says Guiliano and the rest of the world, has a secret that might as well be made of gold: “the secret of eating for pleasure.”
The secret of eating for pleasure.
What they really mean is: the secret of eating for the kind of pleasure that is slow, intelligent, psychologically healthy, and well-earned by compensatory sacrifices. Which, as far as food goes, is the kind of pleasure that I do personally prefer–but let’s be precise about these words. Pleasure is not only homemade yogurt and halibut en papillote. Pleasure involves lots of things, like finishing an entire block of cheese. When I bury my face in airport Chinese or go to the taco truck at 10:45 AM or cram my mouth with a post-wedding brisket sandwich while my blacked-out boyfriend repeatedly tells me that “that sandwich smells exactly like poop,” that’s pleasure if I’ve ever tasted it.
As far as the actual advice? Like all sensible diet and lifestyle advice, it’s easy and obvious. Don’t binge. If you binge, compensate. Try not to ever be starving or stuffed. Walk more. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Cook more. Guiliano adds a few more-French tidbits that reminded me of how my belle amie Lola did things during Peace Corps: set your table, enjoy the sensory aspects of preparing and eating a meal, serve things in courses, go to the market, talk about your food (but never feel guilty).
Sound advice, all of it, and as such this isn’t really a diet book. But I tire of the fatness thing. There are some reasons for fatness that evoke my sympathy (being extremely poor is at the root of all of the reasons) but the female binge/purge/guilt cycle that this book is aimed at is not one of them. So yeah, are you getting a muffin top? Is your bikini body not on par to be one of Star magazine’s top 100? Move to Houston, where there’s a functioning economy, and walk my dog in the heat at noon. The pounds will melt off. And I will thank you.