If you live in the United States, you are likely familiar with a common belief that certain European countries seem to have surprisingly “unhealthy“diets yet the populations still seem to be slim and healthy.
For example, Americans often marvel at the ability of the Italians to seemingly enjoy mounds of pasta and bread without gaining weight.
Similarly, French food is typically thought to be very rich and heavy, with luscious cream sauces and fatty cuts of meat yet the French women often appear thin.
While it should be noted that there are fallacies in these generalizations, the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan for weight loss is birthed from this concept.
This nutrition guide will discuss the principles behind the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet, how to follow it, and the potential benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s jump in!
What Is the French Women Don’t Get Fat Diet Plan?
The French Women Don’t Get Fat Diet is a weight loss and health diet developed by Mireille Guiliano, who authored the book French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure.
According to Mireille Guiliano, French women don’t get fat even though they are not constantly dieting, working out four hours in the gym, counting calories, skipping meals, or consuming “diet foods“ or “fat-free foods.”
Instead, the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan uses a concept known as “French Zen,” which is said to replicate the healthy, balanced attitude of the average French woman regarding diet, exercise, and weight management.
As such, the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet weight loss plan is built around the concept that you can consume rich foods as long as you exert portion control.
As mentioned, the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet program for weight loss uses a concept that the creator Mireille Guiliano calls “French Zen.”
Rather than stressing over how many calories you are eating and burning or trying to skip meals to “save calories“ or count calories all day, the notion of French Zen is that you can make peace with your body, eating, and exercise.
By re-examining your relationship with how you eat and see food and calories, you will naturally establish better eating habits that ultimately lead to a healthy body weight.
There are several key principles of the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan for weight loss, which are fashioned after French people’s approach towards meals and eating.
For example, instead of eating on the go or mindlessly, as is often the case in the United States, in France, people sit down to enjoy a meal together, savoring every bite and relishing in the company of others.
Food is prepared at home using high-quality ingredients and savored emotionally and as nourishment.
Even though the French diet includes delicious foods we often think of as unhealthy indulgences because they are high in calories, such as croissants, baguettes, dark chocolate, and cheese, the eating behaviors seem to help most French women evade obesity or excessive weight gain.
People in France do not turn to food for boredom, loneliness, addiction, or habit but rather to eat food for the purpose of food—nutrition.
Note that all of these statements are generalizations in terms of the diet culture in France and are presented by the author of the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet book. They may not apply to every single person in France.
That said, according to the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet program, only 10% of people in France are obese, which certainly points to differences in the diet, eating habits, and or exercise habits in France vs the USA.
According to 2023 obesity statistics for the United States, 41.9 percent of adults in America have obesity based on body mass index (BMI).1Farberman, R. (2023, September 21). State of Obesity 2023: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Trust for America’s Health. https://www.tfah.org/report-details/state-of-obesity-2023/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%2041.9%20percent%20of%20adults
The obesity rates in American women and men are even higher for certain populations.
For example, the obesity rate for African-American adults is currently 49.9%, and 45.6% of Latino adults have obesity based on BMI.
What is the Premise of The French Women Don’t Get Fat Diet?
The French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan for weight loss centers around several key principles, such as the following:
#1: Eat high-quality food but in small portions
High-quality food means “real food,“ not processed food.
You should focus on whole, natural, unprocessed foods, preferably preparing your French Women Don’t Get Fat meals at home rather than eating out or buying prepared, packaged, or frozen foods.
You also should eat real food rather than “diet foods.” Focus on prioritizing food quality over food quantity.
Only drink black coffee and unsweetened beverages.
#2: Eat mindfully
Savor every bite you eat, chew your food well, and think about the flavors and sensations in your mouth, the aromas you smell, the textures you feel, and the nutrients you are giving your body.
#3: Consume a small portion of brie after meals
According to the diet book, the fat in brie cheese helps stimulate the production of the hormone cholecystokinin. This helps give the brain and body a satiety signal and promotes extended satisfaction and fullness after a meal.
#4: Eat regularly
Eat regular meals consistently throughout the day without ever skipping meals or overindulging in one meal so that you do not have an appetite by the time it should be the next meal.
#5: Do not snack
Do not binge at a meal, and do not have snacks. You should be satiated at a meal and then satisfied until the next meal time, eating three meals per day.
#6: Follow the provided food list
Eat at least 30 different French Women Don’t Get Fat diet foods per week to provide your body with a variety of nutrients to prevent deficiencies and food cravings.
Walk for exercise as well as for everyday physical activity.
Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of walking per day, using walking for transportation as well as for exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you cannot walk as much, add cycling instead.
Also, Include strength training in your weekly workout plan.
#8: Mind your posture
Use good posture at all times, whether sitting, standing, or exercising. Be mindful of your breathing and try to breathe properly through your belly.
The French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan for weight loss has four phases:
Phase 1: The Wake-Up Call
This is basically an audit of your current diet, identifying which foods you eat currently to decide what foods you need to remove from your diet and what foods you need to add to your diet per the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet meal plan.
This phase lasts three weeks, and you are just supposed to be paying attention to your current diet.
Phase 2: Getting Started
This phase lasts three months and is an educational phase where you learn about and then implement healthy portion sizes, drinking more water, eating high-quality food, and other French diet practices.
Note that the first two days are very restrictive and involve eating only leek soup and drinking lots of water, so it is basically a fasting diet to kick off weight loss.
Phase 3: Stabilization
In this phase, you continue to implement the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet meal plan and eating practices, and increase your physical activity until you reach your ideal goal weight.
Phase 4: The Rest of your Life
This is the lifelong maintenance phase, where you have created lifestyle habits that promote healthy weight management without counting calories or worrying about exercising for hours to “burn off“ overindulgence.
Rather, you have established a healthy balance and eat real foods appropriately.
The French Women Don’t Get Fat diet meal plan is not restrictive in terms of excluding healthy food groups.
Rather, the focus is prioritizing food quality and eliminating processed foods or “fake foods“ such as diet soda, processed cookies, canned soup, processed meat, “lite ice cream,” low-fat cheese, etc.
As mentioned, you should try to have at least 30 different foods per week in your French Women Don’t Get Fat diet recipes.
French Women Don’t Get Fat diet meals should be built around vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, yogurt, and seasonal ingredients.
Is the French Women Don’t Get Fat Diet Good for Weight Loss and Health?
The French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan can work for weight loss if you are mindful of your portion sizes and are maintaining a caloric deficit.
You can do this by increasing physical activity, removing snacks from your diet, and choosing nutrient-dense but lower-calorie foods as the bulk of your diet (non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, etc.).2Weight Loss Depends on Less Calories, Not Nutrient Mix. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/weight-loss-depends-less-calories-not-nutrient-mix
However, the 2-day fasting with only “magical leek soup” and water is not recommended or safe for most individuals.
Overall, the French Women Don’t Get Fat diet plan uses a lot of sound principles in terms of eating high-quality foods, removing ultra-processed foods, savoring your foods, but being mindful of portion sizes.3National Institutes of Health. (2019, June 4). Eating highly processed foods linked to weight gain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-highly-processed-foods-linked-weight-gain
If you are looking for a diet for weight loss or weight control, consider speaking with a nutritionist or a registered dietitian to help find which dietary plan will work best for you and your needs.
- 1Farberman, R. (2023, September 21). State of Obesity 2023: Better Policies for a Healthier America. Trust for America’s Health. https://www.tfah.org/report-details/state-of-obesity-2023/#:~:text=Nationally%2C%2041.9%20percent%20of%20adults
- 2Weight Loss Depends on Less Calories, Not Nutrient Mix. (2015, May 22). National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/weight-loss-depends-less-calories-not-nutrient-mix
- 3National Institutes of Health. (2019, June 4). Eating highly processed foods linked to weight gain. National Institutes of Health (NIH). https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/eating-highly-processed-foods-linked-weight-gain