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French Women Diet review

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Short-term Weight Loss3
Long-term Weight Loss2.8
Nutritional completeness3.9
Ease of Use3


The French Women Diet is based on the premise that the French women, by and large, remain slim and maintain their figure irrespective of eating sumptuous meals. It is a well known fact that their diet contains a heavy load of saturated fat from dairy products, yet they have low incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Known as the French Paradox, this phenomenon has long baffled the medical world. They typically consume large amounts of carbohydrate-rich breads and pastas too, without any health or fitness issues that could result from a high-carb diet.

Use of wine with almost every meal was once thought to be the secret behind the excellent health enjoyed by the people of this country. Then the focus shifted to olive oil that and to the amount of fresh vegetables and fruit consumed by them. When Mireille Guiliano came out with her book French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, it captured the attention of dieters and nutritionists alike, and the French Women Diet took shape. The idea is to closely imitate the French way of eating in the hope that it will help one maintain a slim figure.

How the French Women Diet Works

The French don’t give much importance to calorie counting; satiety factor of food is more important. Their three main meals are breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they are elaborate sit-down affairs, especially lunch and dinner. They may take anything between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on the company you have. 

French breakfast is simple and straightforward. It can be toasted bread with butter or croissants or chocolate bread with hot chocolate, coffee or tea. Many common breakfast foods in other parts of the world such as muffins, crepes, donuts etc., are considered dessert, so they are never part of breakfast. Hot dog and omelet are lunch items. As you can see, the French breakfast is almost exclusively carbohydrate based. 

Working lunch of the French may be a baguette stuffed with ham and cheese or an omelet accompanied with a fresh salad. Another popular alternative is quiche with bacon and cheese or chicken and vegetables. However, more elaborate lunches are prepared and eaten at home with family and rounded off with a dessert. Sumptuous dinners with liver pate, soup, soufflé, beef Bourguignon moules mariniere etc. are also common affairs. Wine is a common accompaniment, but plain water at mealtimes is considered essential. 

The French Women’s Diet does not insist on dieters following French dishes or meal plans. Any healthy, wholesome food can be enjoyed as long as it is freshly prepared with butter or healthy oils. Salads are tossed in olive oil and vinegar dressing, not mayonnaise or other rich sauces that come off the shelf. Snacking is not very popular since the main meals are taken at regular intervals and they tend to be quite filling. Yogurt and fruit can be eaten if you feel hungry between meals. 

The portions suggested in the diet menu are designed specifically to help dieters take off extra weight gradually, in a gentle way. It is up to the individual to figure out what she/he can eat in moderate amounts without gaining weight.

The author recommends the 50 Percent Solution to determine the right amount. It means dividing every portion equally into two halves and savoring one half of the portion and then checking with yourself whether it has satisfied you. If not, divide the remaining half again into two and have one part. Continue the process with sufficient breaks in between until you feel satiated. 

The main principle here is mindful eating. Every time you stop and think, you become more aware of the pleasure and sense of satisfaction the food provides. It also allows the brain enough time to process the satiety cues from the stomach and provide appropriate responses.

Is exercise involved?

This question brings us to another commonly held idea about the French. You’ve probably heard that “the French women don’t work out.” There’s some truth in that if you associate working out with time spent sweating it out in the gym or twisting your body into impossible poses on a yoga mat. French women, or men for that matter, rarely sign up for exercise programs designed for either weight loss or toning the body, but that doesn’t mean they spend most of their time idling away or slouching in front of the TV. Biking and swimming are common pastimes, and they help them stay fit. 

When you’re following a French Diet, it is imperative that you remain active, preferably by indulging in activities that naturally keep you moving, be it walking to the shops or biking around the neighborhood, rather than driving.

Nutritional profile

The French diet is rich in carbohydrates, protein and fats, especially saturated fats that come from natural foods like butter, nuts, and olive oil. Vegetables and fruits are part of daily diet, and they are taken in sufficient quantities to supply all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber required by the body. Food is expected to provide pleasure as well as sustenance, so nutritional supplements are rarely required or recommended.

When you follow the French diet, it is important to maintain a balance between different types of food. Moderation is the key; no food is forbidden, but none are taken in excess too. The ‘three bites rule’ suggested by Mireille Guiliano is a useful guide for portion control. The French women apparently never stuff themselves with food. The slow pace of eating allows the satiety signals to kick in when you’ve had sufficient amount of food, and they prevent overeating. Carbonated beverages are conspicuous by their absence, especially at the table. Wine takes its place at meals, so does water.

The Cost Factor

French diet consists of fresh produce, mostly locally sourced natural food items. Meat is often bought from butchers and vegetables from farmers’ markets in the neighborhood. Freshly baked bread free from preservatives and handmade cheese made from grass-fed cows’ milk are freely available in their country, but they may be hard to find elsewhere. Their nearest substitutes could be products certified as organic, but they usually come at a premium. 

Do Dieters Lose Weight on the French Women Diet? 

French Women don’t go for weight loss diets because they keep themselves from gaining weight in the first place. But the French Women diet is designed for weight loss until you reach your target weight. It becomes a weight maintenance diet afterwards.

As we have seen, portion control and mindful eating are important for weight loss because the diet hinges on the biofeedback from the brain. But people who habitually overeat may have lost touch with this inbuilt system that naturally puts a break to eating when sufficient amount of food is consumed. They may not see desired results unless strict portion control is exercised. One can actually put on weight on this diet if the old eating habits are not discarded while enjoying substantial meals.

Level of Effort

French Women Diet is not very hard to follow because of its high flexibility with regard to food choices and calorie intake. What is challenging is self assessment and self monitoring of the food intake. Since you are expected to prepare healthy meals from quality ingredients, it may involve time and effort. If you’re currently dependent on prepackaged, ready-to-eat convenience foods straight from the super market shelves, it may be quite hard to make this lifestyle change.


The French Women diet may be useful as a benchmark for healthy eating, but may not be very successful as weight loss tool, especially if you are overweight by more than a few pounds. It should be remembered here that the French have a naturally petite build compared to most Americans. Moreover, they are highly conscious of their figure and make every effort to maintain it. Genetic makeup also determines how our body processes food. What works for the French may not necessarily have the same effect on other people.

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