“French women take pleasure in staying thin by eating well, while Americans typically see it as a conflict and obsess over it”
This post started out as a picture that I was going to post as my #throwbackthursday on social media. As I was preparing to post it, I realized that this was more important than a quick social media post. About 10 years ago this book, French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (former CEO of Clicqot), completely changed my relationship with food.
This morning, I realized that there is an entire generation of young women trying to embrace food freedom who may have never heard of or read this book.
Ever since I was a young child I have loved all things food, ingredients and cooking. My mother is a great cook and, although I didn’t recognize it at the time, she lived by many of the tenants put forth in this book, long before it was written. I grew up with a healthy relationship to food and an exposure to many different flavors and cultures through food but then came high school….
Like many teenage American girls, I read beauty and fashion magazines, I dreamed of becoming a fashion model, and I began restricting my food. At 5 feet 8 inches tall the fashion world wanted me to weigh 115 pounds and I was closer to 125. This was also the time that I began working in restaurants, so I’m sure you can imagine my inner conflict.
Going away to college didn’t make things any better….afraid of gaining the dreaded “freshman fifteen” I joined the gym. I have always had a very “all or nothing” personality so it didn’t take long for me to get completely immersed in gym culture. I began teaching aerobics classes at World Gym and at school, I changed my major to exercise physiology and I began hanging around with the bodybuilding crowd. It wasn’t long before I was convinced to compete in my first show. A monster was created.
Competition dieting is not healthy, it is very restrictive and makes you feel that any little slip up needs to worked off with more time in the gym – punishment.
For ten years I worked full time as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor all over Boston. I competed first as a body builder and later as a fitness athlete when the sport was just in its infancy. The entire time I battled an obsessive, unhealthy, guilt ridden relationship with food. I felt like I couldn’t discuss this with anyone. I was a top trainer and instructor in Boston, I was competing at the national level and was doing photo shoots for Muscle & Fitness, Oxygen, Fitbody, Reebok and more. What would people think if they knew? How could my clients follow my advice? I kept it all to myself.
At my last competition, the ESPN Fitness America series (Miami 1999), I was in the best shape I had ever been in. I loved the way I looked, I placed second – losing by one point and I landed a photo shoot with the top fitness photographer at the time but I also began to realize that this sport was not healthy for me. I realized that I could not maintain the diet and overtraining I was doing. I also realized that no matter what shape I came in at, the sport was subjective and anybody’s game on any given day. I decided to stop competing. Unfortunately, my relationship with food did not get any better.
A few years later I got pregnant with my son. Thankfully, I was very aware and concerned about the health of the life growing inside me so my nutrition for those nine months was great. That being said, I was still obsessed with counting, weighing myself and beating myself up mentally over food and exercise choices.
I opened a bakery and cafe and still my unhealthy relationship with food persisted…a constant pull in what I saw as two opposing directions. This all changed in 2008n when I heard about this book and decided to read it. It changed my relationship with food and that changed my life! For the first time since I was a child, my weight and fitness were not in competition with my passion and love for food.
This book is not a “diet” this book is about changing the way we look at food, about enjoying the best things in life. If you have allergies or ethical reasons you choose to eat a certain way this book is still for you. It is about getting to know yourself and being responsible for your health and happiness.
If by sharing this I motivate even just one person to read this book and change their relationship with food I will be grateful. I am hopeful that It can touch many more.
“In the end, the only thing really dividing French and American Women is inertia. For there is absolutely no French trick or custom that you can’t make your own with a little common sense and attention to your individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses—and pleasures.”
~French Women Don’t Get Fat