When this book arrived in the mail, I looked at the cover and thought, “Oh no… a crappy diet book. What have I gotten myself into? Why did I agree to read this?”
The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management
by Carol Cottill
And to be perfectly honest, there are several sections that read like a “crappy diet book”. Sections that talk about BMR and BMI, just moments after the book talks about how unique and different we all are and then it rescinds that a little by talking about how we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) obsess over numbers to be healthy.
The good thing is that the book DOES NOT lay out any kind of diet plan or specifics of how or what or when you should eat in order to be perfectly thin. In fact, in the very beginning it talks about natural weight and has this wonderful line that I’m going to post here directly:
There is a part of me that finds the books that compare our lives to other cultures kind of silly… but there is also an element that rings true to me in these comparisons.
One of the “secrets” is on values. The French culture values sitting down for meals with family or friends and relishing the conversation and the food too. Our culture has turned food into something we feed to our emotions as well as shove in our faces while we’re on the move. We don’t slow down to really experience what we are consuming. When we take our time to truly taste and savor our meals, we may find food that once held power over us isn’t as delectable or as overpowering as we once thought it was.
A quote in the book from Jamie Oliver: “Food is one of life’s greatest joys, yet we’ve reached this really sad point where we’re turning food into the enemy, and something to be afraid of.”
French children don’t need special “kid-proof” menus at restaurants, they are taught to eat anything adults eat right from the beginning. School lunch menus actually serve things like “Butter lettuce salad with smoked duck, baguette with goat cheese, fresh strawberries” and kids just accept that. They don’t need pizza or chicken nuggets or mac and cheese just because they’re children.
Another “secret” is in rituals and how they apply to meals. Rituals can help families bond together. While growing up we very very rarely ate dinner in front of the TV. I remember that my brother and I had these flimsy little metal TV trays that we got to eat our meals on as we sat in front of the TV as a very rare occasion. Most meals were as a family around the table where we actually talked to one another. My husband and I never eat without the TV on, and with the exception of dinner, my hubby will sit on the couch and stare at the tube while he eats his breakfast. I eat my meals at the table, but I’m usually engrossed in a book or a magazine. We don’t have good dinnertime conversations anymore and that’s sad. I don’t want my child to think the TV has to be on in order to eat and I certainly don’t want he/she to gravitate to the couch every time they eat.
There is a chapter that basically denounces “dieting”. The author discusses how she had friends and clients who were deathly afraid of foods and cut out certain groups. Did you know that cutting out an entire group of food can be a sign of disordered eating? Unless there is a valid health concern for that elimination, it really can be detrimental. My own restriction started from cutting out one or two food groups and progressed until it was basically every group. The author mentioned a meal where a friend was trying to lose weight so she decided to eliminate dinner for a few nights leading up to the event. The author asked the friend if she was hungry. The friend said that she was but she would just ignore it. The point-blank question asked by the author is really telling: “So when you have bodily urges like peeing, do you just hold it in?” Hunger is a bodily urge, our very intelligent body telling us that we need something.
I turned off my hunger cues by starving myself and when they started to come back, it scared me. There are times where I still don’t trust that my body is telling me the truth when I feel hunger. And as the book says, “Dieting is the ultimate betrayal. There is no more efficient way to lose touch with yourself and your body’s cues than to restrict your eating.” That’s 100% true.
The author acknowledges at the end that there are other cultures she could have used as a comparison. But the basic gist is that somehow, we as Americans, have allowed ourselves to get far away from the roots of food and how it can nurture us as well as bring us closer together. The flashy cover and the subtitle about “secrets of weight management” are excellent marketing tools, they’re bound to attract people in this quick-fix world. If I were to rename this book I would call rebrand it: “Twelve secrets of getting in touch with your body’s cues and how food is not the enemy.”
Oh… and I would change the illustration on the front cover.