As soon as “French Women Don’t Get Fat” hit the shelves it became one of the world’s best-selling books, making Mireille Guiliano an inspirational and in-demand author overnight.
Gaining international recognition after her first book was published 18 years ago, people began asking Mireille for more simple and practical lifestyle tips and advice on how to adopt a balanced and mindful approach, not only to eating well but also to living well.
Having emphasised the importance of good food and embracing a lifestyle that includes daily movement, eating fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as making home-cooked dishes in “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” in her other books, Mireille explores various aspects of French culture, work, etiquette and aging “with attitude.”
We recently had a chat with Mireille about her timeless writing, her fond memories of visiting Greece every summer, and how she travels the world with ease.
What do you think makes your books so popular worldwide?
People have huge weight challenges and are looking for solutions. Most want the fast way, and we all know that doesn’t work. Today there are so many diet books and traps; it’s embarrassing. Alas, the food industry has not done its job either, and people seem to want “convenience” simply over cooking at home. People should look for a simple approach and those who get my lifestyle approach seem to do well. I feel so happy that I’m still receiving emails from women and men who say I changed their lives. It’s the best reward.
What experiences of your own do you think have inspired your readers most?
The fact that I talk the talk, and at 77 feel strong, fit and full of energy. Eating well takes a bit of learning/planning/doing but once you know the basics you can apply it for life, knowing that little indulgences here and there are okay. The fact that it’s not a diet but a lifestyle is appealing, and today the multiple versions of the Mediterranean diet should help, though most people still don’t have a sense of portions, varieties, and seasons. Here in the U.S., I am appalled to see unripe cardboard tasteless tomatoes, strawberries, etc. in January, February, March, and so on. They are expensive and tasteless, and that money would buy some nice greens and fresh, seasonal fruit.
What are some of your tips for staying mindful, healthy, and happy in the year 2023?
Live for the moment, the past is over and alas we have very little control over the future. So, my look at a week of eating/living well at a time like this is more appropriate than ever. It takes a bit of planning but again after a few months of practice, it becomes automatic. The key is also to eat seasonal produce and buy at outdoor markets when possible.
To say healthy also means to move, and my easy and cheap movements can be done by all, such as walking and doing steps. I still do my 225 steps up and down my apartment building when I’m in NYC.
As for happiness, that comes when one is at peace with body and mind. Having daily connections with people is essential, being around family and friends. And doing something good for the world and society no matter how little, is what brings joie de vivre in a world that has so much negativity.
How can we maintain balance and pleasure throughout the working week?
Take some “me” time every day. Stop every hour or so even for just a few minutes to drink a glass of water. Also, add a few movements stretch/aerobics/stairs/rope- they are all good and help stimulate energy, relax and restore the body and mind.
In your book “French Women Don’t Get Facelifts” you share advice on how women can “age with attitude.” What would you say to anyone afraid of aging?
Accepting it is not easy, and we go through phases. Some women feel old at 25, 40, 70. My low point was 75. I had to accept my “more” wrinkles, looking sometimes 20 years older, sometimes 20 years younger, depending on sleep/food intake/stress, and so on.
Each woman has different issues and too many are always complaining about wrinkles, hair, weight, and so on. One needs to choose one’s battles and we all age (gravity) some faster than others, some easier than others. I think maintaining the 3 C’s -curiosity, confidence, courage- is key, but also taking on new and challenging activities, getting involved in communities, or taking care of young children are among the key factors to forget about aging. And just be thrilled every morning to be alive and healthy!
How would you describe your own personal style?
Authenticity is key in a world where so much is fake. I am at ease with the person I am and understand that I can’t please everyone but I do my best to give the most to those who appreciate and/or need it. My personal style has always been about being not about having. Life is not a dress rehearsal and whatever you do, your heart must be in it. Loving and smiling are also key. My mum used to say, “A smile is zee best accessory!”
Being a frequent flyer how do you maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle while being away from home?
For me, it’s not a problem. The one thing I maintain no matter what/where is my yoga first thing in the morning. As well as a healthy breakfast packed with protein/carbs/fat, which may include oatmeal, eggs (made in a variety of ways), and sometimes I indulge in French Toast (my husband makes the best with brioche) or a pain au chocolat, but it has to be really good otherwise it’s not worth it to me. I still enjoy a square of dark chocolate or two after lunch or as an en cas on the plane!
What do you always pack with you when travelling?
A warm cashmere scarf that is starting to fall apart as it has gone around the world three times and all the back-and-forth from New York to Paris. Some good walking shoes- especially for Paris where I can walk 15-25,000 steps a day. My basic cleanser, moisturiser, and sunscreen. I still pack in a small carry-on so I don’t need to check in (except occasionally on those discount European flights) no matter whether I go for 3 days or 3 months.
Speaking of travel, what are some of your fondest memories of Greece?
As a student, I used to go to Greece each summer and stay at people’s homes like many other students in those days. But for me, it was also to practice my Greek, as I was taking Saturday classes in Paris with a friend, so I would visit different islands and people were wonderful to let me stay for free. It was the five dollars a night fare- usually for a mattress on the terrace roof and they would offer me coffee and a shower because I was the only one speaking the language.
One of my favourite moments was with a lovely lady in Crete, who was lonely and offered me to stay for the entire summer but I couldn’t. I stayed for around 2-3 weeks and every night she would tell me stories and I surely improved my Greek! Of course, I have forgotten most now, except when I meet a cab driver in NYC, and say a few words but I love the language and especially Greek writing, it’s so beautiful.
What are some of your favourite spots around Greece?
There are so many. I loved the friends I made in Athens, and discovering the city over time. Picking my dinner of fresh fish at a restaurant in Piraeus and eating along the seaside. I also love the architecture, monuments and little churches I went to with my Greek friends in the Peloponnese. I also love the islands. Particularly Hydra, Poros, Aegina, Crete, Santorini, Skiathos and Corfu.
Lastly, are there any new books you are currently working on?
During the lockdown, I lived in my little village in the south of France (how lucky we were, we cherished each day there) and wrote a book on Provence (unpublished for now) as well as some short stories about women from around the world who had become friends over the years (also unpublished). The latter was aimed at my now 14-year-old goddaughter and they were strong stories about love, life, work, family, and career to show her how each of us has her own story with ups and downs. I may eventually release both as blogs, as the publishing industry has changed so much.
To discover more about Mireille and her books, head to Mireille Giuliano
Images by Andrew French & Tim Knox ©