The French Secret to Staying Slim: Guest Post – Dinneen Diette

If you are one of the many who enjoyed my two-part podcast interview with Dinneen Diette, you will love her guest post today! Dinneen is a fellow Francophile, mindful eater, and our previous talk on Eating Without Guilt remains a favorite among listeners (and myself of course). If you’ve been flabbergasted at how the French eat and still stay slim and healthy, read on for tips from Dinneen on how you too can get in on the French secrets!



My attitude and outlook on food and eating has been greatly shaped by the years I spent living and working in France.  If there’s anyone who knows how to eat well and eat without guilt, it’s the French.

When people hear that I lived in France, a question I get very often is:  How do the French stay so slim?  They’re curious as to how the French can live on a diet of rich foods and still keep their slim figure.  Not only are the French slimmer than Americans, but they’re much healthier too!  The French have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world, have very low rates of diabetes, and have 300% fewer heart attacks than Americans!  So in addition to being slimmer, they’re healthier.


The How

But it’s not just what they eat — it’s also how they eat.

Though I like to think I eat “the French way,” as an American it’s easy to get caught up in our way of life:  fast and quick.  I recently had dinner at the house of a friend of mine who is French, and it was a great reminder for me on how they eat and live.

So today I’d like to share some insight on how the French eat that keeps them trim and healthy – and how you can easily implement them into your everyday life with simple action steps.

I’m going to focus on four principles the French follow:  relaxed, simple, balanced and easy.



Unlike what often happens in the U.S., when I had dinner at my French friend’s place, we did not eat dinner right away.  When I arrived, we opened a bottle of wine and sat in the living room to talk and catch up on things.  We took the time to unwind and kick back a bit.

I find that Americans often feel the need to eat right away.  I arrive at their house and within a few minutes I’m whisked away to the kitchen or dining room for dinner.  I barely have enough time to get my thoughts together and prepare my mind (and body) to eat.  I just have this “rushed” feeling.

I find the same happens in everyday life.  We come home from a full day at work tired, hungry, and ready to eat — so we quickly pop something into the microwave and eat in a hurried, rushed and stressed state.

The French, on the other hand, take the time to unwind, de-stress and get themselves ready for the meal.  By being relaxed before the meal, you’re more likely to be relaxed during the meal.  Less stress during the meal equals eating less, which is always helpful for the waistline!

Same goes for after the meal.  Once dinner was over the plates were cleared and we stayed at the table talking.  There was no rushing to the living room to watch TV.  It was just a nice, relaxed atmosphere, making the meal an occasion and not just a quick, “eat and run.”

Action Step:
Often, it’s the little things that matter the most.  When you come from work, a day running around doing errands or taking the kids from school to soccer practice, do one simple thing:  take 10 minutes to slow down before getting ready for dinner.  Don’t hurry.  Just 10 minutes can be enough to get you focused, get your heart rate down, and help you de-stress.  This will help you be more aware even when you eventually sit down to your meal.




We started the dinner with salad, which many of us often do.  But my friend didn’t serve us boring, plain iceberg lettuce.  She served here was a nice mix of Bibb lettuce, radicchio, and lambs lettuce (also called corn salad or m?che).  Today, you can find these greens and salad blends easily in the supermarket, often in pre-washed bags.  It helps to experiment with different types of lettuce, not only for one’s taste buds, but also to keeps things different so as not get bored.

For the dressing, it was merely a mix of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a bit of salt and pepper.  Simple, easy, yet tasty!  No bottles of creamy Italian or Ranch dressing here (which, by the way, often have ingredients like sugar, xanthan gum and coloring).  It was the way dressing is supposed to be — to enhance the flavor of the lettuce, not cover it!

Action Step:
Simple doesn’t have to mean boring and tasteless.  But it also doesn’t mean “quick, packaged or microwave food.”  Simple means good, wholesome food.  By using fresh, basic ingredients you can keep things simple and good for you.  Try making your own salad dressing, and keep packaged items to a minimum.  Experiment with different vegetables, fruits and herbs.  Often something simple as adding fresh herbs to a dish can enhance the flavor and give a dish a little kick. Besides, herbs are good for you too! 




Exactly what we had to eat for the main dish isn’t what’s important here, but the fact that there was variety and balance.  The French understand that one’s plate must have a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetable.  You’ll rarely see a meal of only pasta, only meat, or even just pizza.  They make sure that their plate is balanced.

My friend prepared fish cooked in a curry sauce (protein) with couscous (carbs) and mushrooms, chickpeas, and roasted peppers (vegetables).   Simple, easy, yet balanced.

By keeping the meal balanced, we were not only more satisfied, but our bodies are got enough variety of vitamins and minerals.   And by having a good source of protein, carbs and vegetable, we were kept full for hours.

We also had dessert!

In my opinion, there’s always room for dessert if invited to someone’s house for dinner, as it’s a special occasion.  We had a nice, homemade apple “compote”, which is cut-up apple pieces simmered in a sugar syrup and seasoned with cinnamon. It’s kind of like an apple pie but without the crust.  Very nice, simple, good and easy.

Action Step:
Don’t forget to have at least one protein, vegetable and carbohydrate at each meal.  If you’re having pasta for dinner, add in some broccoli and cooked chicken.   And if you want dessert, go ahead and have it.  Just remember two key words:  moderation and portion control.  Also keep in mind that dessert doesn’t have to be something high in fat and calories.  Even something simple as fruit with yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup can be  satisfying at the end of a good meal.


The dinner my friend cooked was no-frills and easy to prepare.  She didn’t spend hours in the kitchen, but nevertheless she was able to make a wholesome, healthy meal.  She understood the importance of using basic ingredients and doing some simple preparation, which created a satisfying and easy meal.

Action Step:
Don’t think that cooking needs to be difficult or labor intensive.  There’s no need to spend hours in the kitchen — you just need to plan.  On Sundays I often plan my meals for the week, check my pantry to see what ingredients I need, and hit the supermarket with a list.  This way I’m not searching the refrigerator for something to eat when I come home from a busy day.



I’m aware that the dinner I had with my friend was a special occasion.  And in my everyday life I don’t spend a lot of time relaxing before or after a meal (again, 10 minutes is good!), but I do keep it balanced, simple, and easy.  And I don’t spend a lot of money on groceries or spend half the day cooking in the kitchen either!

We all have busy lives, spending our days multi-tasking and trying to get things done.   But we can decide to slow down a bit, enjoy our food, and live in the moment.  By following the four basic rules – relaxed, simple, balanced, easy – you can live better, be healthier, and understand a bit how the French eat and stay slim.

Bon appétit!




Dinneen Diette is a certified health coach, intuitive eating counselor and healthy lifestyle expert. After overcoming her own personal struggles with food and weight, she has helped thousands of women around the globe become normal eaters and shed excess weight without dieting, guilt or giving up chocolate. For more from Dinneen, follow her on Twitter.

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