Two French Health Secrets? Water and Walking.

Mireille's Tips for Drinking, Eating and Exercising Like a French Woman


Some of you still have a hard time drinking your daily water…as in many glasses a day. The one big glass first thing in the morning is not negotiable. You know why: you are dehydrated and you feel and look like a dry sponge. So add a few drops of lemon juice if you like, but have your water. And continue all day as recommended in my books.

Now, did I forget to tell you that, of course, if you exercise (and with the arrival of warm weather more movement is natural) you’ll need to drink even more…now really 8 glasses a day or more, depending on your weight and how intensely you exercise. Exercise, of course, boosts the body’s requirement for more water. Bear in mind that water also regulates body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells and—last but not least—cushions joints and protects tissues and vital organs. The brain, for instance, needs to be well-hydrated to prevent headache, memory loss or not being able to think clearly. So RESPECT your water needs, and keep drinking.


“French women walk everywhere they can,” as I said in French Women Don’t Get Fat. French women and men have done so for years and it is their preferred sportive activity, ahead of swimming and tennis. It’s also the most inexpensive. It seduces us all. For some of us, going further with randonnées (or Nordic walking) is now well accepted—so much so that 15 million of us are said to be enjoying the sport these days. And the numbers are growing. Ambitous randonnées are for people from all ages and both sexes, and can be tailored to one’s hedonistic pleasure as well. For example, if you love food there are “gourmands” itineraries; if it’s art, you can combine your sport with a watercolor class, and if it’s culture and history, why not go on the Roman church circuit? There are a host of options. Ah, so very French!

As with chocolate, there is an actual fédération des randonnées (now in its 60th year), plus a salon des randonnées. And for the first year ever, there is a festival (see It seems that lately this form of walking is more for reflection than perspiration, and in that realm perhaps the number one walk is the road to Saint Jacques de Compostelle. (This one has been on my wish list since I was a student. The best I managed was to join a Paris-Chartres walk during my time in grad school. Still, it was an amazing experience.)

A final word on Nordic walking: it’s been said that such activity burns 20% more calories than normal walks because one uses the upper-body muscles. It does require expenditures for special shoes and walking canes (here go the added euros) and is best done in groups.