Dieting with a French accent

It's not true that French women don't get fat, but the best-selling diet book is fun and, who knows, may help some people lose a few pounds.

The other day we came across a yellowing paperback copy of The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet by Dr. Herman Tarnower. It's an interesting artifact of dieting as it was practiced 25–30 years ago. Tarnower's 1,000-calorie-a-day diet was ardently antifat, cutting normal consumption by half. Today, of course, carbohydrates are the forbidden fruit of the diet world. And in nutrition circles, the stress is on separating "good" fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) from "bad" ones (saturated and trans fats). Tarnower was also very strict, detailing exactly what should be eaten during the 14-day weight-loss period and brooking few substitutions.

The diet du jour

Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat is the diet book that's on today's best-seller lists. In some ways, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Like the Scarsdale diet — and every other weight-loss diet we can think of — Guiliano has a program designed to induce you to eat fewer calories. Calorie restriction, however it's packaged, is followed by a looser plan that will supposedly keep off the pounds you've lost.

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