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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » The Parisian Diet: How to Reach Your Right Weight and Stay There » User review

An American Perspective

  • Jan 16, 2013
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All those of the dieting circle readership have certainly read countless books extolling the beauty and simplicity of eating real food, slowly. The concept is a simple one: urge the participant away from fast foods and snacking while developing an interest in food that actually tastes good, is beneficial as fuel and takes a bit of finesse or technique to create. The optimal objective of this school of dieting is to bring food back to the realm of being a gracious societal human rather than a consumed anteater snorting up the abundance of easily accessible treats while performing ritual tasks like driving your children to school. The "Real Food, Slow Eating" school of thought wants its participants to focus on preparation and wax enthusiastically in the results rather than to eat foods pour out of a drive-thru window, can be devoured quickly and leave room and time to grab for more. (Picture yourself sipping that glass of red wine, while stirring a sumptuous sauce over an enameled stovetop.) Creating a ritual around a meal shifts the focus--you have reentered the society of eating and are no longer a mere "eater." You have graced yourself with new and more charming accolades: you are "Frenchified" or "Mediterranean" or "Top Chef" of your kitchen. You have gained control and reinvented yourself.

Even though Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen in his book "The Parisian Diet," does not overtly sell the mystique of being French or foreign--the stick-creature in a pencil skirt, chic beret, striped top and dark tights, sauntering gloriously down a busy city street--he is doing just that. No one wants to be an overweight dough girl in unattractive sweats or epitomized as an obese American that anyone can see coming for miles. Whatever happened to that American that everyone wanted to be? The person with the easy smile, sporty and jaunty, infiltrated with an fresher American perspective because so much was available and could be his/hers for the taking? New ideas! New world! Gone in a mountain of over-indulgence? Or buried in the competition of politics? How sad is it to think that in order to be thin, we must be something other than what we are. Maybe a Canadian diet? ;)

I suppose Dr. Cohen's book will work for those who want to participate in it--devour its pages similarly to those who read and followed "French Women Don't Get Fat" (FWDGF)and the myriad of other books that follow in this genre. All these diets work. You must follow them and make adjustments to your lifestyle. I myself followed (and still use the guidelines) of the The Dukan Diet because I got the results that I wanted. I found it easy to do because it fit into my world. However, I was not afraid to make alterations. I do not live in a big city and do not have the opportunity or the wherewithal to strut myself down a city street in a pencil skirt. I am American despite my heritage. My opportunities are varied--I can choose to eat Thai or Vietnamese, French, German, Fusion or American if I so desire. Or I can have a protein shake that I make myself with my new blender. Or I can drink almond milk because I prefer it to regular dairy. And I am not ashamed of it. I like my yucky green mush drink--think Rene Russo (looking as sexy as all hell in The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) sipping her morning green tonic. But I must ascertain that what I eat fits into my thinking about myself and what I want to ultimately present as my image. So if that girl in the pencil skirt works for you--go for it. If you want to sip wine by your stove as you create a wonderful dinner of which Julia Child would be proud--why not? Become that person.

Cohen talks about numbers--he comes up with a realistic weight goal based on your historical high and low weights read from a scale that is a good impetus to finally get rid of all those teeny clothes in the back of your closet that you fit in when you were in high school and you are keeping "just in case." Get rid of it--they are all out of style anyway. Cohen is a doctor and that adds validity to what he is saying. He breaks his diet down into three phases, similar to Dukan's process. However, Dukan allows an "all you can eat" protein only jumpstart where Cohen suggests a more FWDGF approach where the protein intake is about 3 ounces of animal protein and the rest is supplemented with 6 ounces of non-fat yogurt. Obviously, yogurt is a French staple--Guiliano suggests making your own and Dukan lists it as an example of good protein in its non-fat form. Nonetheless, a little yogurt goes a long way--it isn't something that I want to eat every day--and I am sure there are plenty of folks who cannot consume dairy at all. So why not follow the guideline, be an inventive American and change it up? Have egg whites instead. Or have a vegetable based protein shake. Doesn't sound French? But, it works.

The other two phases of Cohen's diet--he gives them pleasurable names like Café, Bistro and Gourmet--adhere to the same idea. Much of the protein intake revolves around dairy: eggs, skim milk, yogurt and low-fat cheese. Personally, I find eating fish (not fried) works better for me--I digest it better and I derive more energy from it. In fact, Cohen's soup in the evening idea, does not appeal to me at all. When I get up in the morning, I want to exercise and I need to eat a meal with some animal protein the night before that sustains me. Soup just doesn't do it for me unless it is homemade chicken broth filled with lots of pieces of chicken.

Cohen mandates that once your weight goal is attained, unrestricted meals are re-introduced gradually. I don't think you can ever reintroduce unrestricted meals. You can eat them, infrequently. I think the guidelines are there for you to follow forever if the diet has been successful. You can't go back to eating what you did before and not expect to go back to what you looked like before. It just doesn't make sense.

My suggestion for weight loss is as follows: if you have weight to lose, literally tighten your belt and adhere to a program. Making the commitment is paramount. Once you lose the weight, make a conscious effort to keep it off. Keep to the guidelines. Only 6 ounces of animal protein--no problem, I'm having it for dinner. What about lunch? I'm eating beans. Make better choices. If the selections on the diet menu are not appealing to you--say you don't like dairy--change it up. Don't like salads? Buy a food blender like Nutribullet or Montel Williams Living Well and drink your greens. Be inventive. So juicing isn't considered French or whatever? So what? It works for you. Embrace it. Have a blended juice and fruit drink with your chicken breast instead of salad. Why not? Be inventive.

Bottom line? The Parisian Diet by Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen is yet another offering of the French Women Don't Get Fat School of Dieting. Does it work? Sure. So do other things. Personally, I like the guidelines in the Dukan Diet better. Both are flexible and can be changed up to work for you. However, don't get sucked in by the idea of "French." Its okay to be American! Just because the French eat leeks (no offence to leeks--they are delicious) doesn't mean you have to eat them too. You may not be able to find them where you live. Eat good things that you like--check out the seminal two-volume Eat For Health for some good ideas on what is good for your body and incorporate them into your daily routine. If you are American, take an American perspective and change it up--buy a food blender, invest in some vegetable protein, check out the new exercise stuff on late night TV. ;) Embrace the new and make it work for you. Recommended for those who want to try it, even though it is similar to FWDGF and forgive me for waxing eternal about identity, weight loss and owning it.
Diana Faillace Von Behren
"reneofc"

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About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren ()
Ranked #167
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments.      Usually I review a book or film with the … more
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"Dr. Cohen’s plan is well-balanced and less restrictive than many other popular diets."~Larry Cox, Tucsoncitizen.com

"...France's leading nutritionist Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen shares 150 easy-to-prepare recipes, practical checklists, and addresses the physical, psychological, and cultural factors that impact our ability to control our relationship with food. Through his progressive, holistic three-step weight loss plan you'll get the best-practices of the French way of eating, a new approach to food and a way to celebrate life, helping you look and feel your best." ~San Francisco Guardian

"We've all heard this question before: "How do the French stay so thin?" This book might just help you find an answer. And if a flexible diet is what you're looking for, well, look no further. Featured are tips and recipes galore."~AM New York
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