The Art of Eating Well for Pleasure

Countless diet books have tried to steer many of us toward a path of healthy eating and being. But with so many recommendations, it’s often hard to maintain a healthy view of what a diet should look like. An American diet, at least. “Eliminate gluten!” “Try cutting out dairy,” or “Get rid of everything…only to incorporate it slowly back in” are the popular sentiments. In our culture as a whole, it sometimes feels that consuming gluten is a serious infraction, and in its place, the only acceptable substitutes are wholesome foods as well as fresh fruits and veggies. Not surprisingly, we’re the esoteric ones in our diet of elimination and rigid restrictions. But how do other cultures around the world survive? After all, there are a ton of cultures out there that would give the standard American diet a run for its money. And those are some of the ideas–what it means to diet and what it means to eat–that are explored in French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guilian.

One of the things that always appealed to me about this book is its bold refusal to shy away from food in general. This isn’t a diet, nor is it a recommendation to deprive oneself of what one loves the most. Instead, it’s a reflection on a culture that loves eating–and drinking–without feeling remorse or suffering from the consequences.

So what’s the happy medium according to the French?

One of the ideas espoused by Guilian is that women should eat more mindfully and in moderation. The key is not to eliminate only some of the unwanted offenders, but to embrace carbs and fats and a bit of the actual healthy stuff in equal measures. That’s why she proposes the idea of paying closer attention to what we’re eating. Let your mind connect with your gut in ways that it didn’t before. Before making a conscious food choice, ask yourself: Is this really something I want to eat? Is this the best choice that I could be making? By engaging in a more conscious decision-making process when it comes to food, we’re more likely to make better-for-us choices.

Since diets elsewhere aren’t as fixated on elimination as we are here, the second question that arises relates to the diversity of foods that we consume. What kind of variety do you have in your diet? It’s perfectly alright if the elements of your diet aren’t just focused on a plant-based regimen or another hot trend of the moment. What is important, however, is that you switch things up, and that you don’t merely indulge in what you want to be eating at all times. So be more conscious of what you eat, don’t overindulge in any one food, and seek moderation at all times. It is when you do that that you’re able to satisfy your gustatory lifestyle without the seed of negative associations.

And finally, once you have identified the good foods–mixed in with a dash of what you truly can’t live without you can truly pursue a healthier lifestyle. A diet is only good as far as it’s able to meet your needs.Yet if a diet is hard to maintain or is extremely rigid, we oftentimes choose to abandon it.

What this book reminds us, time and time again, is that a good diet is more closely related to mindfulness and (mostly) better choices without the deprivation that can cause many diets to fail and attempts at weight loss to yo-yo.

So the next time you decide to pick up a diet book, ask yourself what lifestyle direction are you truly interested in pursuing, and how you can accomplish it without the stringent elimination process. Life is about food and connections that we make while eating, which is the cornerstone of civilization, so take a bite of your favorite dish and indulge in that conversation you’ve been waiting to have with a friend for a while, as opposed to mindlessly counting your calories at home.