IMG_8377- close up(Part two) Carol Cottrill is a nutritional consultant with a taste for all things French and author of the book The French Twist: Twelve Secrets to Dining and Natural Weight Management. In addition to being a regular guest on FOX 35 News and The Daily Buzz, she has contributed expertise to CNN, Shape Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, The New York Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Carol is a regular online contributor to and an industry expert for Dr. Mehmet Oz’s social Q&A platform,

Carol worked in the film business for nearly twenty years, first as a principal actor in television commercials, then as an agent for film directors. In the late 1990s, at the pinnacle of her career—while attending the Cannes Film Festival, no less—she decided to switch fields entirely. In 2001 she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in holistic nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health, Birmingham, AL, where she graduated with highest honors. That same year she opened a private nutritional practice in Atlanta.

As a seasoned overseas traveler, her visits to France, and throughout Europe, have opened her eyes to the way other cultures eat—routinely enjoying the best foods, even those considered “decadent,” while staying healthy and controlling weight.

Carol guides readers away from deprivation diets and instead encourages each individual to follow an authentic eating plan based on enjoyment, relaxation, balance and inner cues. With wit and wisdom, she engages us in a new conversation about the importance of eating authentic, high-quality food, and the roles that pleasure and balance play in proper nutrition, metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight.

Carol practices nutrition in New York City and lives in Rowayton, CT, with her husband and two very spoiled dogs.

french-twist-cover-updated-jan18-198x296The French Twist: Twelve Secrets to Dining and Natural Weight Management, Carol Cottrill’s first book, was published by Morgan James Publishing in 2012. For more information on Carol Cottrill, visit: (Website) (Facebook) (Purchase)

“The French Twist is a charismatic revelation of how Americans can learn to live more balanced lives without sacrificing their taste buds!  With a ‘Practicing Your French’ section at the end of each chapter, author Carol Cottrill ensures that readers digest and retain her tasty tidbits of wisdom. Full of positive encouragement and recipes, Cottrill guides readers on a journey to find their inner and outer beauty, free from diets and denial!” — David L. Hancock, Founder, Morgan James Publishing


“It’s a funny thing about life; if you accept anything but the very best, you will get it.”

— W. Somerset Maugham

The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management

AWP: Many of us may have experienced at one time or another external messages that have led us away from developing our true inner self. What’s the secret to guiding us away from a dependence on everything and everyone except our own inner voice?

CC: The way out is in. The path to freedom from dieting, or anything that weighs you down, is to return to your source—to love the self you’re already in. Easier said than done I know, in a culture beset with messages of superficial flawlessness. To move this process along it’s helpful to picture ourselves as young children—to embrace our inner child with unconditional love. And once we’re able to do that, our true center is revealed. A center so radiant, undeniable and truly perfect we will laugh at the notion of trying to improve what is already whole.

AWP: How do French women differ in their approach to weight management from American women, who are often very public about their lives?

CC: In France, weight management is a private matter, to be handled quietly by simply modifying the way a woman eats. Self-discipline replaces panic—this realistic and sane approach seems to be an intrinsic part of the French woman’s behavior—she’s seen her mother and her friends do it. The French woman doesn’t expect life to be an all you can eat buffet, and will stop at a reasonable serving. The American obsession of dieting, binging and excessive exercise has no place in her world. She is much too involved in living and learning, and in enjoying such undemanding and reliably rewarding pleasures as food and sex, to count calories or share diet tips—certainly not in public.

AWP: What is the essence of on est individualiste for French women?

CC: The French woman is her own woman. She cannot be defined in a fashion magazine. And whether a single, career-minded Parisian or mother living in a rural village far from the city, she strives to embrace the essence of a meaningful life.

AWP: You write: “It’s not so much that French women don’t get fat – it’s more that they refuse to. They just won’t get fat.” How young does this start, and how?

CC: For the French, the value of food and formation of taste begins at weaning time. The little ones are offered a rotation of seven or more vegetables. If the baby turns his/her nose up, the same vegetable hits the rotation again on another day—he/she will have the chance to reject the vegetable two or three times before the parent reconciles that maybe the youngster doesn’t like this particular food. But there are six more healthy choices where that came from!

This aside, I would have to say that what I witnessed in the public school lunchroom among younger elementary aged children taught me the most about this subject. Children dine on real china—on heated plates, no less. The chairs are adjustable so that their little bodies are perfectly adapted to the dining table, and acoustic tiles cover the ceiling to create a lovely ambiance. Children eat in courses, and a French chef (who once ran a five star restaurant, say on the French Riviera, and considers it an act of citizenship to feed the children) prepares their food from fresh ingredients that he gathers daily at the open-air market. Lunch lasts for two hours, including some recreational time, and at least once a week, the chef checks in to ask the children how the food they are eating makes them feel. Lunch is more than stuffing the children’s bellies—it’s all about educating them by example on the value of healthy food and its consequences for their palate and their long-term health. And of course all of this is reinforced at home.

AWP: What are les trucs (the tricks), of weight management practiced by the French? Do French women have a system of trucs?

CC: Yes! And at the top of the list is something so simple—water! Since most French women rarely snack, when hunger strikes in-between meals they go straight for a tall glass of fresh water. Vegetables and fruits dominate their meals and they prepare food at home as often as possible rather than dining out. But they never name foods “naughty” or deny themselves something they really want. They just wait it out until they have the opportunity to enjoy the very best of their craving.

AWP: The desire for radiant skin may be the only true fixation of the typical French woman. What are the top ten face-friendly foods?

CC: Dark leafy greens, olive oil, water, ripe tomatoes, berries, salmon, cantaloupes, soybeans, carrots, oatmeal.

AWP: What are the rituals and rhythms of life in France that you’ve observed? Do you find rituals important to good health?

CC: Entertaining at home is a very common ritual in France and not the big to-do we Americans may imagine. The fact is, despite our notions to the contrary, the French are very unpretentious and do a lot less in the way of preparation and ceremony in order to socialize regularly with friends and family. For example, in France the aperitif can be something as uncomplicated as popping open a bottle of champagne alongside a bowl of pistachios and olives. By keeping things simple, the French are more inclined to open their home to friends and gather regularly. This may explain why they seem to be less bothered by life’s hassles, are more resilient in the face of stress, suffer less depression than the rest of us, and are more satisfied with life.

AWP: What is it about the Sunday afternoon meal in France that you found so appealing?

CC: How would you feel if you knew that each and every Sunday afternoon you were to spend time with friends and family enjoying nothing but great company, conversation, good food, wine, music—maybe even dancing? That’s a typical Sunday in France. Whether you have lots of money, or very little, the day is reserved for rest, relaxation, reverence and gratitude. There is no timetable—or any rushing off juggling children from one even to the next. No chores or errands. Sunday is a day to worship, commune and to rejuvenate. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to enjoy an afternoon!

AWP: Enjoying food, life, family, and friends to the fullest: bring us through a typical Frenchwoman’s day: le petit déjeuner, le déjeuner, le goûter, le diner.


Le petit déjeuner: Breakfast

The typical French breakfast, which features fresh bread, is a simple one eaten en famille. The bread most desired for breakfast is the baguette, a loaf about two feet long and two to three inches wide. For breakfast it is cut into tartines, segments six inches long that are split down the middle and spread with real butter and homemade fruit preserves.

A classic French breakfast may also include croissants or pains au chocolat or pains au raisin, again with jam. Croissants are not to be buttered, because they are already one-third butter and to add more would be absurd, even for the French! Fresh fruit and yogurt are also commonly served. A large breakfast is rare, and eggs are eaten more often in the evening than the morning.

As a breakfast beverage, tea is common and hot chocolate even more so, especially for children. But the standard drink is coffee, café, usually very strong; café au lait is coffee served with hot milk, generally in a bowl-size cup. French coffee during the rest of the day is inclined to be strong and enjoyed in small quantities.

Le déjeuner: Lunch

The main meal of the day in France, lunch takes more time to eat than the typical lunch in the United States and for this reason many businesses close between 12 noon and 2 p.m. A leisurely affair, lunch includes several courses. The first, called the hors d’oeuvre, is often a salad; in winter, it might be a bowl of soup. A main dish of meat or fish follows, and the meal ends with a triangle of creamy cheese and a square of dark chocolate, fruit, or sometimes a more complicated dessert.

Le goûter: The snack (the equivalent of English teatime)

Between 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. every day, when the typical American is eating a candy bar, the French are in a café sipping on tea, espresso, or hot chocolate and maybe eating a macaron. Children who have just returned from school might have some bread with jam or chocolate, and a glass of milk. This is a time to rest, regroup, socialize, or just enjoy one’s own company. It is as much about ritual as it is about substance. Le goûter is delicious enough to hold one over until dinner but not large enough to spoil the appetite.

The French tend to snack much less that Americans; instead, they try to eat more regularly. If they do snack, they often have a piece of fresh fruit.

Le diner: Dinner

For many French people, the evening meal is a time for the whole family to gather and talk about their day. Depending on how big lunch was, dinner may consist of several courses (and, for the adults, might be accompanied by a glass or two of wine).

Setting aside half an hour or so before a meal for l’apéritif is a national custom in France. People cherish these moments when they share a drink, a few bites, and conversation with family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues. Kir (white wine with cassis) is popular in Paris, whereas in the South of France pastis (made with anise) is the official aperitif or accompaniment to a dessert. This firmly established social activity is enjoyed by people of all ages and forms an important part of home life, of public and private celebrations, and of café and restaurant culture.

The French drink a lot of bottled water rather than sodas; they consume on average 52 liters of soft drinks per person annually, compared with 216 liters per person in the United States. On the other hand, the intake of bottled water is very high in France (147 liters per person annually) and low in the U.S. (46.8 liters per person).

AWP: Shopping like the French. Tell us about it.

CC: The French shop for food—real food. Not packaged or prepared food. They shop frequently and look for the best of the seasonal offerings. Many of the French women I talked to said that while they may not have the time to shop as selectively as their mothers did (wicker baskets in tow, lingering in open air markets every morning), they are able to streamline a bit without sacrificing quality. They may be juggling more than their mothers and working outside of the home, but they still prefer to buy cheese from the fromagerie, meat from the boucherie and produce from the open-air market. Grocery stores are available for pantry items or when time restraints limit the ability to shop more carefully.

AWP: Was it possible for you to recreate the life you had visiting France when you returned to America?

CC: Absolutely not! We don’t live in France where a leisurely lunch is a cultural norm or where unmodified food is plucked from the ground and soon thereafter served up on the dinner plate. But it is possible to live in this country and learn from our French friends by making small changes that elevate the quality of our daily lives from the mundane to something special. Since my French experience I always take the time to set a beautiful table. This means my best china, silver, linen, etc. Plus, I’m a picky shopper and presentation means a lot to me. A ripe juicy heirloom tomato, sliced and fanned across a salad plate lined with fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is a simple, delicious and exquisite salad course. When even the modest meals are presented with care and reverence it’s easy to slow down and dine rather than just eat. For me, something as simple as setting a beautiful table caused a lingering effect in countless areas of my life. I hold out for the very best of whatever I’m shopping for, whether it’s a bouquet of flowers or a pair of shoes. I choose quality over quantity, and moments over things. In these ways I have recreated the life I had while visiting France.

AWP: When you went from a two-year stint with an overzealous fitness trainer (who talked you into a low-carb regimen), in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, what was the most difficult thing for you to learn?

CC: I had to learn to overcome the fear that my body would betray me; that if I didn’t exercise like an elite athlete and eat like a fashion model, my body would go to hell in a handbag. And when it didn’t, I had to overcome the anger that followed, having wasted so much of my life in deprivation and obsessive exercise unnecessarily!

AWP: Where along the way did Americans’ tyrannical or obsessive exercise routines replace the joy, the fun and the natural stroll, walk, stretch of everyday activities? In moderate exercise, do our French sisters and brothers even break a sweat?

CC: I wish I knew why we Americans believe that we need a “killer” workout, or why we join in “boot camp” military style fitness fads when we lead such sedentary lives. The funny thing is that science proves that working out excessively is not only unnecessary, but also counterproductive to overall health and weight management. Beyond the science, we need only witness the French who have been proving the benefits of moderate activity for years! Whereas Americans seek punitive methods of exercise, the French seek pleasure. A leisurely stroll or gardening fits right into the day without any fanfare or workout gear. There are some wonderful ballet barres and yoga classes in France, and many French men and women engage in stretching and toning using their own body as resistance that these workouts are known for—and maybe a few even wipe a little sweat from their brow.

AWP: What is this American’s “last supper” syndrome: fear that we’re not getting enough food.

CC: The French know that, like history, mealtime repeats itself. In contrast, the American mania for dieting leaves us with a deep-seated fear that we’re not getting enough food, and in response we overeat, devouring what we perceive to be our “last supper” over and over and over again.

AWP: Is obesity on the rise in France, too?

CC: Unfortunately it is. The French are still among Europe’s thinnest people, however 15 percent of the French population is now obese, with the most significant weight gains among those 18-24 years of age. But there’s good news. Guillaume Garot, Deputy Minister for Food, has blamed the junk food industry and is working with food companies to reduce sugar, salt and fat in the packaged food. Even better news: despite the overall rise, the obesity growth rate has slowed in the past year.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, A dinner party: what makes the French so French. On a recent trip to France, Jacqueline Bucar, French teacher and immigration attorney, shares the dinner party conversation at the home of some of her friends—a conversation that was like no other she could ever imagine in the States…

Museum tearooms in Paris. Parisienne Flore der Agopian invites us to visit some of the most enchanting tearooms in Paris: Café du Musée de la Vie Romantique, its courtyard garden a step back into the 19th-century; Café Jacquemart-André, decorated and furnished in late 19th-century style; and La Flottille, in the garden of the Château de Versailles in front of the Grand Canal. Including a list of Museum tearooms, cafés and restaurants in Paris. 

Café Culture in Paris, by Parisienne Flore der Agopian. The café, writes Flore, is a pleasurable way of sitting unbothered for hours on end with a book, with friends, or jut watching all sorts of people coming and going. Le Café de Flore, one of the oldest and most prestigious in Paris, where you can meet or observe its famous clientele among the Parisians, tourists and waiters dressed in their black and white uniforms as if they were still in the 1920s. To Flore, Café de Flore is almost mythical, legendary—a real institution. (French)

Smell and Taste, Sensation and Pleasure, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who explains the “smart” education of the French child who is taught to recognize and describe the flavours, the feeling of taste, and most importantly, what they like or dislike. Hauxaire’s introduction to the world of flavour is all about sensations and pleasure. She urges audiences to “tell what you feel.”

A behind-the-scenes look at French parenting, by au pair Alyssa Glawe who asks, “How do the French have such polite and courteous children without lifting a finger?” For Alyssa, every day leads to new cultural shocks and humorous situations. 

A Woman’s Paris — Elegance, Culture and Joie de Vivre

We are captivated by women and men, like you, who use their discipline, wit and resourcefulness to make their own way and who excel at what the French call joie de vivre or “the art of living.” We stand in awe of what you fill into your lives. Free spirits who inspire both admiration and confidence.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening. — Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971)

Text copyright ©2013 Carol Cottrill. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.