French Women Actually Do Get Fat

french womenOh, the mythical French woman, she rides her bike and dines on wine and cheese, she doesn’t care about the calories because her Frenchness will keep her thin. Bullshit. Sexist and kind of xenophobic bullshit.

The French feminists like Julia Kristeva remain some of the most influential feminist writers, yet we ignore the strides they made and continue to uphold French women as role models of flawless femininity. French women, like all women are complex and not a super slender monolith.

There’s a whole array of self-help books out there aimed at women who want to read their way to that Parisienne je ne sais quoi; books like (paraphrased titles): French Women Are Never Lonely, French Women Never Say Die, French Women Have Perfect Marriages and Children. That strange wave of French How To Guides all started with that viral diet book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. That book and the idea surrounding it have lead women to believe that French mademoiselles are just effortlessly thin. It’s hogwash. It’s not effortless the way we’ve been lead to believe. French women, like all women are subjected to a damaging culture that leads them to put tremendous stock in having the right kind of body.

BBC’s Joanna Robertson wrote a piece entitled “The Perils of Being Fat, Female and French” which exposes what should be obvious: the attitude toward female bodies in France is quite like that in the US and the UK. Robertson spoke to Sonia Feertchak, the editor-in-chief of L’Encyclo des Filles, a health and beauty site for teenage girls about the issue, Feerchak provided even more interesting insight into body culture in France.

She confirms that, duh, French women get fat:

“There is simply no mystery about it. Of course French women grow fat, but the fact is they daren’t, and some will even starve themselves because in this society to be a fat female is to be a failure.”

And are punished if they do get fat:

“Fat women are seen as stupid. Their lives must be out-of-control, they are judged ugly, weird losers,”


Women world wide are still wasting their time contemplating their image in the mirror:

“Women have come so far in France – we have a political voice, good childcare, access to work – but instead of being more confident we are increasingly obsessed with our weight and shape.”

We have come far, but we have a long way to go:

“Coco Chanel freed us from the corset more than 80 years ago – but we have fallen for a mental one instead – a silhouette of supposed perfection that is unattainable and leads to eating disorders and misery. The tyranny of the silhouette, we call it – but it is also a kind of dream because it represents total success.”


French women are just like us! It’s a shame because, wouldn’t it be nice if there was a country where everyone was healthy and happy and had no eating disorders or body image hang ups? Maybe one day women will be seen as more than their bodies.

via BBC//Image via Getty Images

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    • N. N.

      Well, of course do French women get fat. Unless they starve themselves.

      Way back when I was living in Paris, I noticed that all women were superslim – and lots also had bad teeth. Kinda makes you think…

      • Katia

        Maybe they are smokers. I never noticed that though.

    • JennyWren

      I suspect a lot of the “French women don’t get fat” perception comes from people who have visited the more wealthy areas of France, particularly Paris. If you only ever visited central London, you’d probably come to the conclusion that British women don’t get fat, and the same would be true of New York, Berlin, etc. etc. Maintaining a slim figure is much easier if you have the money to spend on a gym or personal trainer and good food, and living in a big city also means you’re more likely to use public transport or walk rather than drive everywhere. And of course, there is more covert pressure to maintain a fashionable figure in these areas. So really, we should say “Rich women don’t get fat.”

    • Meli Pennington

      Not only are chic French women expected to stay thin and beautiful, they’re expected to do it “effortlessly”. So while the official word on French beauty may be “insouciance”, the reality is much more strenuous. The biggest beauty secret that French women have that we Americans don’t? They lie:

    • Katia

      Well to be fair men are slim there too. Is it easier for them? I can’t recall any fat people the whole year I live outside Paris. There was just one time I saw a morbidly obese young woman at a train station and I was shocked because it had been so long since I saw a fat person. There are some fat immigrants but they are usually wearing ethnic clothing… Any ways I’m not sure you can say that it’s worse in France, people there stress and successfully stay slim, people here get fat and stress because being fat often creates health problems and makes it harder to date. Lets be honest, both single men and women are USUALLY more interested in dating/marriage with someone average or in great shape. So does the French stress maybe pay off in reduced stress and hardships in other parts of their life? I’ve seen my French boss diet, her dinner would be whatever veggies and protein is on the table plus the regular after dinner salad without the cheese or with less, and her regular plain yoghurt for dessert. So, pretty healthy food, I’d say.

    • Lara Lizard

      It barely matters what nationality you are – staying lender usually does take some effort nowadays. I have been living in Japan and Japanese women have the same reputation – effortlessly slim. But shops are .loaded. with diet magazines, diet books, diet foods and normal weight women buy them – the pressure def comes from the society. Not saying that naturally slender people do not exist, but for most people (in rich countries anyway) being slim is a decision.