Mireille Guiliano begins her book French Women Don't Get Fat with this story: She went on an exchange to America. She got fat. After returning to France, she relearned how to eat, the French way.
I did the opposite: The year before I was a senior in high school, I went on an exchange to France. I got skinny. When I returned to America, I felt great, looked great, and received high praise. That post-France pinnacle of svelteness is where my troubles with food began in earnest. Any more pounds represented failure, a deviation from "my best self." I began eating emotionally. I gained 10 pounds.
At New Year's I decided to get serious about getting back to the "right" size. In good-student fashion, I read reputable books and magazines and followed all the rules. I was the ideal dieter. I ran and lifted weights. Mathematical tricks of weight-loss became second nature: The calories in an apple (small, medium, or large); which foods satisfy most for the fewest calories (pancakes are great for this). I steadily lost 1.5 pounds a week for eight weeks and was in better shape than ever. My dieting was officially healthy, nutritionally balanced, and utterly obsessive.
BODY-IMAGE TROUBLE seems to be rampant in America: An estimated 80 million people will go on a diet this year, many eating in a literally "disordered" way without realizing it; 80 percent of American women and 45 percent of American men are dissatisfied with their bodies; 24 percent of women and 17 percent of men say they would give up more than three years of their life to attain their weight goals. Diets fail to produce long-term results as much as 95 percent of the time, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.