Book Review
By JULIA REED NY Times Book Review
Published: February 6, 2005, Sunday

The book: FRENCH WOMEN DON’T GET FAT By Mireille Guiliano.
263 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $22.

Woman in the beach

When I was 15, I studied in France, at the University of Strasbourg, for six weeks. On weekdays, my fellow American students and I ate lunch in the school cafeteria and discovered the wonders of braised rabbit and coq au vin, followed always by an apricot tart or napoleon (my first ever!) at the nearby patisserie. On weekends we toured the country by train, fortified by bread and (real!) cheese, along with copious amounts of cheap red wine. Already weight-obsessed, I was sure I’d put on at least 10 pounds. But when I stepped off the plane, the jaws of my waiting parents and my best friend literally dropped. It turns out I’d lost 10 pounds — I’m not sure I’ve looked as good since.

Mireille Guiliano had quite a different teenage experience abroad. As an 18-year-old from a small town in eastern France, she spent a year as an exchange student in the well-to-do Boston suburb of Weston, Mass., where she discovered the distinctly American joys of bagels, brownies and chocolate chip cookies and gained 20 pounds. When her own parents met her ocean liner in Le Havre, they were as stunned as mine were, but for a different reason — her father told her she looked like a sack of potatoes. ”I could not have imagined anything more hurtful,” she writes. ”And to this day the sting has not been topped.”

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