Mireille Guiliano, the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat, has released a second book late last year called French Women Don’t Get Facelifts. As someone who is half French, and who has lived in France, I am always perplexed at the rest of the world’s fascination with French women. The main reason why I left France was because I was SICK of being a “French” woman – being a woman in France sucks. Here are a few myths about French women.
1. When we talk about French women, we mean women from France. When we talk about French women, what we really mean is women in Paris. Because, as any French person will tell you, Paris is not France. France is actually quite a nice place. Paris is a city where your looks count for everything, and so you make sure you stay thin and beautiful for as long as possible, because the quality of your life and the way you are treated is DIRECTLY affected by your weight and appearance. That said, if you are beautiful in Paris, prepare to be whistled at, yelled at, and probably groped by random men if you are out on the street past 6pm wearing anything but a boiler suit. It’s basically a lose-lose situation.
2. French women don’t get fat. They do get fat just as easily as normal women, but most of them are scared into staying thin. It’s a priority for them not to be fat, because if they get fat, they won’t get husbands, jobs, and bank loans (I once got a bank loan because I was wearing stilettos and a skirt with a high slit. I can assure you the loan was not granted on the basis of my bank history.) They will basically be shunned from Paris society. Fathers, grandfathers (at least MY grandfather), friends, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, etc… will never hesitate to tell a woman she is looking fat. In fact, I’ve even had a friend whose co-workers (older women) told her she’d never get a husband if she ate croissants. So the pressure is on, and that kind of criticism is enough to make everyone stay thin. Losing weight is hard, yes, and so is staying thin. But you know what is even harder? Dragging yourself out of bed at 5am every day and dealing with kids, work, and taking care of a home and being busy until 8pm. Or waking up five times a night to feed a newborn. Or looking after an elderly parent. Or working a high stress job sixty hours a week. Or escaping a civil war and trying to look after your children in a refugee camp. But those things usually NEED to be done, whereas losing weight isn’t exactly a life or death situation (for most of us.) However, for women in Paris, it almost is. So they stay thin, lose their baby weight fast, and maintain a slim physique by drinking a lot of coffee, taking a lot of weird pills, and eating tiny portions. It works. They are generally quite thin.
3. French women can eat anything they want. Well, maybe this isn’t a myth, and maybe we can ALL eat anything we want, the key word here is PORTIONS. French women eat tiny portions. And yes, they also eat less processed foods than North Americans, but the trick here really is portions. And when they want to eat a five course meal, they will. But that will be literally the only thing they eat for the day. I accidentally put this to the test last summer in Sweden. My mother-in-law basically cooks everything with cream, butter, and potatoes (French style) so I decided not to deprive myself, but instead, to eat smaller portions. I came home and I had lost my baby weight. My friends in Paris all ate cheese, bread, steak, frites, and pastries, but none were fat. Portions, my friends, it is all about the portions.
4. French women look younger for longer. Have you looked at Brigitte Bardot? She doesn’t look like a teenager anymore. Like many French women, she looks her age (and by the way, there is nothing wrong with that.) Sure, they don’t get facelifts but that is because in France there isn’t a culture of being obsessed with young women (only thin women.) You can still be sexy and attractive at age 50, and I applaud them for that! They do take good care of their skin by using A LOT of products and potions, but don’t be fooled into thinking there’s a youth elixir in their water. On that note, French women look stylish for longer, because they still care deeply about how they dress at age 50 or 60, and even 70. And that is certainly something to emulate, as I find that in North America, once you hit your fifties, there aren’t many fashion brands whose aim is to make a mature woman look good. Ironic, since that’s usually when you need the most help, and when you have the most money to spend.
5. French women have it good. One of the most iconic and disturbing photos that sums up the way women are treated in France is this photo of Francois Mitterand’s (ex. President of France) wife and mistress standing side by side at his funeral. For some bizarre, UTTERLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE reason, unattractive French men often have mistresses, whereas their beautiful wives remain faithful. W. T. F. I met and flirted with SO many guys who had girlfriends. Cheating is normal there, it’s not really even called cheating. So, consider the fact that you have to stay thin, you’ll most likely be told you look fat by your husband, then he will cheat on you – and then tell me how great it is to be French. They might have cheese, perfume, Chanel, and the Riviera, but it’s certainly not paradise.