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I'm usually not attracted to diet books or anything that refers to fat in its title, but this one caught my eye – perhaps because it promised to unlock secrets of pleasurable eating, rather than promoting a dry set of instructions on how to turn mealtime into a calculus course.

Author Mireille Guiliano, a French woman now living in America, is the president and CEO of Veuve Clicquot, which is famous for its designer champagnes. You can imagine how many rich, seven-course, cream sauce-laden meals she withstands on a regular basis. French Women Don't Get Fat is her testimonial of how she does it without gaining a katrillion pounds.

Although French through and through, Guiliano had her first taste of America when she was a teenage foreign-exchange student. She quickly discovered brownies and American eating patterns, and returned home a year later and 15-plus pounds heavier. It took a family doctor and observations about the women of her own culture to learn to enjoy the pleasure of food while staying slim and healthy.

You won't find quick fixes in this book and barely any instruction. Guiliano simply encourages women to unlock their own tactics for developing lifestyle changes. She gently persuades readers to drink more water and eat smaller portions, but this is more cheerleading for common sense than a heroic "diet." Guiliano prods readers to find their own way, while providing friendly hints. One of her best-kept secrets: Cultivate hedonism, yes, but develop a healthy dose of narcissism, and you're more likely not to overindulge.

French Women Don't Get Fat is packed with tasty recipes for things like asparagus flan, zucchini-flower omelet and pumpkin pie with hazelnuts. I was relieved to find butter on the menu and the adherence to bread as the staff of life, even if she recommends just one piece of something special rather than downing a whole loaf of mediocrity before an entree. Uncover your true pleasures while teaching yourself how to truly enjoy them. Also, picture your most beautiful self and strive. C'est très simple.

So put that glycemic index chart and fat gram counter away, and try taking long walks, eating what's in season and indulging in small portions of fine chocolates; just some of the ways to develop what the French call joie de vivre – an impossible state of mind when happiness is measured in calories, I might add.

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure
By Mireille Guiliano

Alfred A. Knopf, 272 pages

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